News » Step by step process for "Aliens in Spaaaaace!"
I've been meaning to do a process blog for years. Finally, I remembered to document my latest illustration as I was working on it in Photoshop, so here it is...
Step 1- Pencil sketch. I drew this while watching TV, just for fun, but will be probably be used as a self promotional piece in the future. I'm calling it "Aliens in Spaaaaace!" for now because I can't think of anything better to call it.
Step 2- Scanned sketch, with some simple alterations sketched over the top in Photoshop. Sometimes I skip the pencil stage and sketch directly in Photoshop.
Step 3- Quick colour test. I wanted to make this fun, warm and vibrant, despite being set in cold, dark outer space. This test gives me a quick idea of how the colours will play together, highlight the most important areas, and balance the composition. Also because I work on an older model Cintiq tablet, the colours aren't often accurate. This colour test gives me the palette to work with where I know that the colours already work pretty well. I set up my Navigation panel on my main monitor while I'm working on the Cintiq so I can see how it's looking in more accurate colours as I go.
Step 4- UFO Lines. I've laid down the background black space, and now draw the outlines. Each in a slightly darker shade of the colours used in the test. I draw each colour on a separate layer for the linework. In fact, every time I put a new colour down it's on a new layer. Layer overkill, perhaps, but I like the control to be able to tweak colours with a quick colour overlay down the line if I change my mind about something.
Step 5 - Flat colours (and additional linework). Based directly off the colours worked out earlier. I don't fill these in with solid blocks of colour, I actually "paint" them in with a specific brush. I like the slight tonal variation that makes it seem less digital. You can see it most clearly in the black background area. It's subtle, and most people will probably miss it, but I know it's there haha.
Step 6 - Lines and flat colours for the space rocks.
Step 7 - Shading. Using a darker shade of the flat colours, or sometimes the outline colour, I draw in shadows over each object. I use a different texture brush for this stage, usually relying on one of Kyle T. Webster's gouache brushes (you can purchase them here). Overall I use Photoshop brushes from several sources, but the bulk of them are from Kyle's excellent collections.
Step 8 - Highlights. Same as shading but with lighter tones.
Step 9 - Background. For an illustration like this I typically do the background details last. The most important elements are the characters, so I don't want to spend heaps of time getting a great looking background and then have to fit the characters around it, which may restrict what you can do.
Step 10 - Finishing touches. Tweaking minor details that aren't quite right. Changed a few subtle colours, added additional shading and texture in parts, redrew the eyes. I have also outlined the UFO and the rock with the other alien on, to jump them out even more. I'm liking this look right now (outlining the most important parts to jump out), but it wouldn't always be appropriate as you don't always want to separate a character from its context (the background) like this.
And it's done!
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of my process.
Feel free to ask any questions you may have.