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Narrative tutorial: Versus by Juan Martinez

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Date Added: 1st November 2017


Freelance 2D artist Juan Pablo Corredor Martinez explains how he created his sci-fi image "Versus" from a flash fiction narrative...


What are the important elements from the text to focus on?
It seems to me that the main points to take into account are very clear - tension and dynamism - we are reading a confrontation between people that have been training together for a while and probably became friends in the process which is creating a very difficult moment where they need to choose between their feelings or their goals. At the same time, we can see how they are getting ready for the standoff by checking the abilities of their future teammates.

What goal are you looking to achieve with the final piece?
I feel that my goal is to bring together different factors in order to communicate a dramatic and at the same time dynamic mood. I would say that the lighting and the composition will be the main issues to address at first. I want to make a scene with tension and a lot of movement.

Idea and reference

Set your goals: what do you want to communicate to the viewer? Define the mood. Never start a project without inspiration; check your favorite images, it doesn't matter where they come from, could be from a movie, a painting, or a music video. That said, build a moodboard using all the images that inspire you and be sure to have fun from the beginning.

Always get reference as a first step


In order to have an interesting result you need to let your brain run with no obstacles. Thumbnailing will allow you to put different ideas out without worrying about detail and rendering, just set up a Photoshop file with different spaces to use as artboards (5 x 5 cm, tops) use a 100% opacity brush and paint different composition ideas using gray. Don't spend more than 10 minutes per thumbnail.

Keep it simple

Drawing lines

Once you have decided which thumbnail works better you can think in a more specific way regarding the construction and proportions of your subjects by making a basic line art on a new layer on top. In this case I'm going to need a good anatomy reference for my characters (which can be hard to find sometimes). In fact I use a software called DAZ 3D to pose a 3D model and use it as reference.

Clean your thumbnail

Basic color setting

Jumping directly in with color I'm setting a basic color scheme, not compromising with detail and keeping it very rough as this is just a starting point that allows me to picture the whole scene. Using a solid brush with an 80-100% opacity, I define the local colors and some of the light sources.

Establish an overall color scheme


I strongly recommend to place the elements of your scene in different layers or even groups of layers to have complete control over the composition. I will be working with 4 characters therefore each one of them will have its own folder. It's very important to define the light sources and their respective colors, and keeping that in mind I will be switching back and forth between hard and soft brushes to get different edges and define the volume.

Defining the volumes


This is probably the longest part of the process - rendering and details. Alternating between brushes, I'm giving a finished look to the elements in my composition using different materials and contrast points. I strongly recommend having in mind which parts are the most important for the scene and work at better rendering them. This will give the viewer a solid focal point and in this case will reinforce the leadership of the two main characters.

The level of detail will tell the viewer where to look

Vector shapes

I decided to add some extra elements to this piece that can make it feel more interesting, as a former graphic designer I also use Adobe Illustrator to create solid shapes and graphic elements more precisely. For example, I designed some tech shapes and a logo that could help to bring the image together, and then I place all of them within Photoshop and add some layer effects like "outer glow."

You can improve your painting with additional vector shapes

Final touches

The image is almost done. After I'm finished painting I use color correction to vary the final look, to be more precise I add a layer completely filled with black in Color Dodge mode and start to apply some colors with a very smooth and transparent brush, intensifying the light zones. I also create an adjustment layer with Color Balance and change some of the shadows and highlights. Finally, I add some flares for a dramatic final effect.

Some general adjustments can bring together the final image

Related links

Juan Pablo Corredor Martinez's website
Juan on ArtStation
Juan on Instagram
Juan on Facebook
More flash fiction for inspiration
Flash fiction turned into art

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