Environment concept artist for Treyarch, Jason Louie, takes us through the process and techniques he took to create his image Distant Planet in Photoshop...
First I start with a very small thumbnail, searching for an interesting composition that will tell a compelling story. Even though this is just a small color composition, take your time because this will be the foundation for your entire design. A good tip at this stage is to zoom out so that your canvas is very small on your screen. This way you can pay attention to the overall composition, the big shapes, and the organization of the elements, instead of getting caught up in the details that we will address later on. As a general rule the three things to think about that will determine the outcome of your piece, in order of importance are:
Next, I overlay a line sketch to design all of the individual elements, focusing on correct perspective, dynamic lines, eye movement, and focal point. Once you've decided the story you want to tell, the question is how I utilize everything in the piece to reinforce that story.
Value structure is important, so if a piece is complicated with a lot of layers; it's a good idea to do a black and white study of the basic value structure, deciding how you want to light the painting. In this piece I went with a typical dark foreground, medium in the mid section and a light background.
As I'm designing I will constantly flip the canvas horizontally, which does two things. It gives me a chance to look at the piece with a fresh set of eyes, and in doing so will also help me to see any perspective issues that need to be corrected.
A general composition rule is to divide your canvas into thirds and place your major focal points at any of those intersections. Outside of those intersections, your composition can arguably become flat, less dynamic and promote less eye movement.