Alright, well, due to being asked numerous times about my current style, which is simply working with silhouettes, I decided to finally live up to my word, and make a tutorial/guide. Maybe more so a guide that shows my process, but I’ll try to explain what goes through my head as much as possible, so people interested can understand, and take what they will from it.
This is only part 1 out of two others I have planned for mechanical/technical silhouette drawing specifically.
- The tools
This is all preference. Personally I use a large, round brush, set at about 80% hardness, with no opacity or flow modifications. Totally opaque black. Make sure you’re using a pressure sensitive device, or settings. I use Photoshop CS5, or the Groupboard for all of these.
- The process
To be honest, I don’t know what I want to draw until I get started, and that’s just how I think. I don’t know how it’ll turn out, nor what shapes I want to use. Everything starts from a blob, just a random scrawl on the page, but I have the basic idea of what I want, and that was a tank. I then either add to it, or take away, like refining the shaps of a sculpture, or working with clay. Eventually I’ll find a shape I like and that I think I can work with. Keep in mind even though I have no idea what I’m doing design-wise, I’m thinking of pose, silhouette, and perspective, which aren’t too hard to think about on the fly if you like what you see. Otherwise add more, or take away more until you find a shape, design, and pose you’re happy with. This is just the tip of the process, and can take as long as you like. The more time taken exploring shapes and silhouettes, the more variations and options you end up with. You can fall back on previous designs to work with new parts, etc. It becomes a mix-and-match game essentially.
Eventually you’ll come up with a final ‘base’ silhouette you’ll want to begin tweaking and molding to your liking. This is the process I went through, over the course of an hour, though shortened into 7 images or so, mainly where parts of the silhouette changed.
As you can see, most of my process this time around was changing the turret. I didn’t feel it was bulky enough for the body at some points, or just looked odd, therefore I kept changing it until I was happy. This is a simple process of erasing, blobbing, erasing parts out of that, and if still unsatisfied, repeating the process as much as necessary. Some of the changes are very subtle.
- Lighting Process
This is the part I share a love-hate relationship with, because it can either make the design, or it can break it, and this depends on how comfortable you are with the silhouette. If you’re not comfortable, chances are you’ll wank to tweak the design more, which is perfectly fine at any stage, as you’ll see later on.
I start out not with a shade of gray, but with a thought of where exactly I want the light to come from. Since we’re dealing with silhouettes, I want some parts to stay completely in the dark, and simply imply other forms by use of subtle shades. This is also just how my style works. Some people who use this method prefer to use the silhouette as a basis for a full value drawing, but I find the lack of details in some places, and the highlighting of important areas in the design to be more lively.
For this piece, I specified the the light as coming from behind, meaning it would highlight the sides of the tank too, and fad off, blending a bit into the front pieces.
*Notice how I changed the design on the fly as I went. There’s ALWAYS room to change ANYTHING at almost ANY POINT in the process.
The one hard part about all of this is the comfortability level, once again. During the silhouette stage, I am just working to define an iconic shape and form, and have no idea what’s going on inside, which means I have to really be in tune with what I’ve been drawing, and not so much -think- about it, but -enjoy- it.
I personally never look at any of these as finished. The design could change again and again and again, and that’s what I enjoy most out of doing these.
For the people wondering about reference use. Yes, I use reference. This is the reference sheet I used for this particular piece. Note that I have a lot of pieces in there that aren’t even vaguely close to looking like a tank, but it’s not about the subject when using reference. It’s about the details and other little bits. Think of everything as disassembled and laid out on a table when using reference for mechanical purposes.
- Professional Thinking
As a concept artist, it’s important that I find my middle-ground, and a recognizable, flexible style where I can simply turn the dials. Working with silhouettes, I can get as detailed and as simplistic as I choose, all while making good time, and churning out multiple different designs, and it’s completely adaptable to other methods. Most importantly, it’s a workflow that -works- for me. Basically, it was just finding a balance where I could still work professionally, and have fun at the same time.
I was also kind of buzzed when I did this… Just sayin’.