Kickstarter Update #9: What’s in a scene

by AA on 9 December 2012

Over the past two months, Ian and I have continued to refine the method we’re using to create the look and feel of our illustrations. Here’s an illustration from Chapter 2 — where Dom encounters Serapen in Musaion — and the story about how it came together.

Storyboards laid the foundation

In our original storyboards, we selected the scenes we felt captured key parts of the story arc. Those storyboards showed us the characters, environments, and poses we would need to capture in our illustrations, and it also gave us a place to develop a color palette to help differentiate our primary “realms” — Dulai, Earth, and the alternet. (Dulai, in this case, takes on a violet cast.)

Here’s the original storyboard for this illustration:

Sketches set our direction for overall look-and-feel

Early on, we decided based on some of Ian’s exploratory sketches that we wanted to achieve a look that was shadow heavy, as we liked the dramatic simplicity that comes with lots of darkness.

More sketches brought our characters to life

For key characters in the storyboards, we developed the unique look of each character through sketches. Here’s a collection of sketches that led to the final look for Serapen.

Zbrush added the third dimension

The next step — selecting which elements and characters to model in Zbrush — has been the trickiest aspect of the project so far. Three-dimensionality adds a lot of visual interest and depth to a scene, but modeling is far more time-consuming than sketching. Too much modeling also risks reducing the graphic novel quality of the images. Although we like how three-dimensionality evokes the idea of the alternet, we don’t want the illustrations to look simply like a screen capture of a virtual world.

Since Dom’s character appears in so many scenes, and because his physique is so distinctive, he became the testing ground for many of Ian’s experiments in Zbrush, from modeling to posing to shading.

Trial and error, Photoshop, and plenty of elbow grease combined 3D and 2D elements into the final result

The high-fidelity model of Dom allowed us to work on scenes that feature him alongside elements we intended to have a more hand-drawn quality. Here are a few of the elements we combined into the final image.

And voilà!

The final result:

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