Concept Breakdown: Exterior Training Modules

published Monday, 11 July 2011, 14:00 by Cotta

Let me take you through the step by step process of creating an environment concept from start to finish in this DevBlog (my first) featuring a new piece I just finished.

This is a pretty standard process for concept artists throughout the industry, but that does not mean that I stick to it each and every time. It really varies a lot, depending on the type of piece that I am doing. Sometimes I will skip steps, or go back and forth between them as I see fit. Other times I get a screenshot of a 3D model to start out with, and other times, I will rely heavily on photo-reference. It is a very fluent and shifting thing really. Whatever gets the job done, anyway lets begin with the final result:

 

Final Result

An final environment concept depicting the modular building blocks used inside the top secret ITO training facility.
An final environment concept depicting the modular building blocks used inside the top secret ITO training facility.

 

Step 1: Blockout/Thumbnail

Usually when I begin a concept, the first step is a thumbnail blockout. These are based on a loose description of the piece from Kim, and whatever mood boards and reference photos he has ready for me. I try not to concern myself with the particular small details of the image, but rather making something that works as a whole.  I start by fudging around with blocks and shapes and colors until i have some interesting compositions. I usually make a bunch of these before settling on a direction that I feel is good for the task at hand.
Usually when I begin a concept, the first step is a thumbnail blockout. These are based on a loose description of the piece from Kim, and whatever mood boards and reference photos he has ready for me. I try not to concern myself with the particular small details of the image, but rather making something that works as a whole.

I start by fudging around with blocks and shapes and colors until i have some interesting compositions. I usually make a bunch of these before settling on a direction that I feel is good for the task at hand.

 

Step 2: Perspective Grid

The next step is to make a perspective grid. This will be my framework for the image.
The next step is to make a perspective grid. This will be my framework for the image.

 

Step 3: Line Drawing

Then I make a line drawing. At this point, I sit down with Kim, and talk a bit about his ideas about design and the actual elements that make up the the piece. As you can see, the perspective grid provides a valuable framework for my line-work. I don't always do a linedrawing, because I automatically commit a lot more to the end result somehow, and that can really restrict creative impulses. But in this particular case it made sense.
Then I make a line drawing. At this point, I sit down with Kim, and talk a bit about his ideas about design and the actual elements that make up the the piece. As you can see, the perspective grid provides a valuable framework for my line-work. I don't always do a line drawing, because I automatically commit a lot more to the end result somehow, and that can really restrict creative impulses. But in this particular case it made sense.

 

Step 4: First Color Pass

Now it is time to make the first color pass. First I make a layer containing the background, then I start filling in the buildings and the platforms and other elements. At this point, I concern myself with the larger shapes, and try to establish the overall color palette and feel that I am going for.
Now it is time to make the first color pass. First I make a layer containing the background, then I start filling in the buildings and the platforms and other elements. At this point, I concern myself with the larger shapes, and try to establish the overall color palette and feel that I am going for.

 

Step 5: Adding Details

At this point I start to concern myself a little more with the details and design. This particular piece was pretty straightforward, but at this stage, I might decide to make some pretty radical design changes, which can take a lot of time.
At this point I start to concern myself a little more with the details and design. This particular piece was pretty straightforward, but at this stage, I might decide to make some pretty radical design changes, which can take a lot of time.

 

Step 6: More Details and Refining

At this stage, I have a pretty good idea of what the final image will look like. I am populating the image with details such as paneling and decals, in order to make it look like a realistic setting.
At this stage, I have a pretty good idea of what the final image will look like. I am populating the image with details such as paneling and decals, in order to make it look like a realistic setting.

 

Step 7: Rendering

At this stage, I am refining all the details and edges, and concentrate on balancing out all the different elements in the image. It's a bit of a two steps forward, on step back process, where I am constantly zooming in and out, and flipping the image to see whether my changes actually work in the larger context of the image.
At this stage, I am refining all the details and edges, and concentrate on balancing out all the different elements in the image. It's a bit of a two steps forward, on step back process, where I am constantly zooming in and out, and flipping the image to see whether my changes actually work in the larger context of the image.

 

Step 8: Final Pass. Adding mood light

Now that all my rendering is done, and my elements are in place, I try to add some lights and shadow to inject some drama into the image and make a nice framing. I also play around a bit with the contrast and color values a bit, to see if I can add a little punch to the image that way. Also, I usually add a slight sharpening effect to the image to make it pop a little more. Finally I add my signature, sit back in my chair, take a sip of coffee and I am done. Cheers
Now that all my rendering is done, and my elements are in place, I try to add some lights and shadow to inject some drama into the image and make a nice framing. I also play around a bit with the contrast and color values a bit, to see if I can add a little punch to the image that way. Also, I usually add a slight sharpening effect to the image to make it pop a little more. Finally I add my signature, sit back in my chair, take a sip of coffee and I am done. Cheers

I hope you guys found this little breakdown interesting. To tell you the truth, I have only covered my work process in the briefest and most general way, and I could talk for hours on end about every little decision I make along the way, contradicting myself a million times and probably talk myself into confusing loops and circles, ending up with some ridiculous philosophical statement about how everything is really nothing and how cool it would be if the zombie apocalypse actually came to pass.

So instead I will just quote the wise words of my old ZPS colleague and good pal Shaun: "I just wanna draw stuff".

 

Semper Fi
Cotta


Comments

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3 years, 1 month ago

Nice! I would have guessed you started out with something coming from Sketchup!:)

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3 years, 1 month ago

Very cool! Always been a big fan of anyone who could do good concept art like this... maybe because my own drawing skills are so aweful ;)

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3 years, 1 month ago

I had a college professor open up class with these words: "I've been thinking, and here's why I think the zombie apocalypse will fail."

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3 years, 1 month ago

That was a great explanation of these steps involved.
Now I have a better idea of how I can even apply this kind of concept art creation in my own line of work. Very enlightening.

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3 years, 1 month ago

That looks really jawsome! I simply love your concept art! And thanks for the breakdown, I´m sorta trying to get into it myself.

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3 years, 1 month ago

Thank you for sharing parts of your work with us. I really enjoyed reading it.

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3 years, 1 month ago

This is a very interesting update and beautiful concept art. I really like the modular design of this military installation. Great job von Cotta :-)

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3 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the comments guys.
What I love about this porduction is the fact that it is so transparent, and that you guys play such a vital part in it's development.
It is not some big secret thing that is happenning behind closed doors, but a transparent process where everyone is invited.
And as an artist it is super motivating to recieve such a nice feedback from you guys.

@AdaptiveMass - I keep hearing good things about Sketchup, and have been meaning to pick it up myself. But so far I seem to have mannaged without. Maybe some day.

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3 years, 1 month ago

Great work, would like to have it in the game :)

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3 years, 1 month ago

it contains many elements that i call "generic modular scifi angled design". Id like to see something to make me think this could actually stand a chance of being made at some point.

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3 years, 1 month ago

@Cotta - The fact that I thought it was Sketchup just proves your awesomeness ;)

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3 years, 1 month ago

Well done!
I want this as wallpaper, maybe in this resolution 1920x1080 :D

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3 years, 1 month ago

Looks really nice.

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3 years ago

Looks epic

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3 years ago

Wow, great stuff. I work in social media and love the way that you guys are engaging with and giving back to the IM community you have built. Taking us through the development process must be quite time consuming.

Thanks!

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3 years ago

Nice!

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3 years ago

ses trop coll se jeu ses veu dire un 7:10par se ke on peut pas parlez deja et on peut pas faire ote cose ke sa

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