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Sketching from the Imagination: Thomas Stoop

By Thomas Stoop

Web: https://www.artstation.com/artist/thomasstoop (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 9th May 2017

"Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop: Sci-fi and Fantasy” artist Thomas Stoop discusses his techniques for sketching, where he draws inspiration from and reveals his secret tip for creating dynamic compositions using Replicators...



I'm a Dutch concept artist with a heavy focus on environments, with most of my experience being in digital art. After graduating from my Bachelors in the Netherlands I worked as a freelancer for a short period, and in 2016 I was hired by Atomhawk where I have been happily working ever since.

During September 2016 I did a sketch every day as a challenge along with a couple of colleagues, all images are from that month. This was the first sketch of the month

I have always enjoyed drawing on paper, but it was always merely a hobby to me. When I discovered Photoshop and 3D programs I got more involved. I started spending more time creating art, most of it being quick and rough. It took me a long time before I actually started creating finished pieces; I guess I just enjoyed the quick and rough side of creating art.

Here I applied the same workflow as the previous one by starting out using Replicators in Modo, but afterwards I finished it off by bashing in some photo's to add a bunch of detail quickly

I've always been inspired by the concept art of Guild Wars, which a lot of the time isn't really fleshed out that much. It's very much about the concept and not so much about the level of finish. This inspired me to do the same, create quick artwork that conveys the concept, but avoid spending too much time on it.

I have noticed that in the past two years or so I have started spending more time on each piece and moving away from sketches and rough work. This is probably because I see all this amazing finished work being uploaded on ArtStation and Facebook that I feel a need to do the same. Probably to avoid falling behind or something, but this can be a bit exhausting. To avoid this I try to focus on sketches every now and then. These tend to be a lot more playful and fun. As an added bonus I can quickly generate ideas which I can carry on in my more finished work.

Since I had already made a 3D object for the previous image, I decided to reuse this shape and make another Replicator scene, but in a different climate this time

The "punishment” for skipping a day of sketching during this challenge was to buy doughnuts for the entire office. As a final sketch to celebrate making it through the month I created this doughnut kingdom!

Inspiration & ideas

Like most people, I can get inspired by anything. It could be artwork from other people, crazy stuff nature comes up with, architecture etc. For my personal work I like to mess around a lot. For example, I would photobash a bunch of photos together in an abstract mess and try to find interesting shapes and colours. This keeps the entire process very playful and allows me to explore things I would otherwise never have thought of. The good thing about personal work is that I'm not tied to a deadline or external expectations so I can do whatever I want without expecting any results.

Pretty much all of my work is environment oriented, but I do enjoy making characters as well so for this one I wanted to noodle on a random character. I didn't have anything specific in mind when I started it, like I usually don't when sketching


Modo is very useful to explore different compositions and lighting scenario's (although you can use any 3D program for this) and I then use Photoshop for all the photobashing and painting. I always use Photoshop, even if it's just to do some final colour balancing, but I never just use Modo. I like my work to not feel too 3D so I never restrict myself to just 3D.

Here I took one of my previous 3D renders and cut out a small section which I then bashed all over the canvas to create this... thing

Sketching techniques

My favourite sketching technique would probably have to be the abstract photobashing (which I mentioned before) or using Replicators in Modo. Replicators are a tool that allows you to generate randomised scenes in Modo. This way you can very quickly create different compositions without too much effort and most importantly while keeping it rough and enjoyable!

I can't remember how I approached this one exactly, but I liked the shapes…

For this image I experimented with Replicators in Modo. I created a triangle shape, replicated it a bunch of times and looked for an interesting composition. Afterwards I took it into Photoshop and noodled around with it for a bit

Top tip: Replicator composition exploration

The first image is what the Replicator scene looks like when you zoom out, a mess of random cubes. When you zoom into this mess and start exploring the different angles you can come up with a lot of different compositions which you can then use as a base for a painting. Even using a simple shape like a cube allows you to find a bunch of different compositions within the same scene. I've used a cube just for demonstration purposes, but you can take the model as far as you want which can result in some pretty neat shots!

This is what a Replicator scene could look like using just cubes as a base.

Related links

Check out Thomas Stoop's portfolio
Pick up a copy of Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop: Sci-Fi and Fantasy
Grab a copy of Sketching from the Imagination: Sci-Fi


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