The lineart originally started as a marker pen silhouette exploration on a post-it note, that I sadly can’t seem to find – it would have been nice to do a side by side! From the thumbnail, I blew the drawing up and printed it at about 10% opacity in blueline onto an 11×17″ bristol board, and then set about filling out the various volumes and checking my perspective to create nice tight line art. I worked lightly in 4H, building volumes simply, before adding bevels and curvatures to surfaces to get that pumped up anime look to the mech. When drawing mecha and other mechanical objects, the more technical drawing instruments are your friend, specifically the french curves! Once completed, the artboard was scanned at 400dpi and cleaned up in Photoshop.

The lineart layer was then placed at the top of the stack and set to multiply, and the greyscale under painting was started above a mid grey background layer to flesh out the overall value, structure and lighting of the piece. At this point, the main lighting source was fixed, and cast shadows, form shadows and bounce light were all taken into consideration when describing the volumes. Although a bit long winded, this methodical approach allowed me the chance to explore options and any potential problems that might occur, before I moved on to colour.

Completed value underpainting

After trying a couple of different colour schemes quickly in a separate, low res file (clipping masks and colour layers were particularly useful here!), the palette was picked and flat colours were painted in over the greyscale work using colour and multiply layers.

Colour studies/explorations

Once that was done, the lineart, colour layer and greyscale under painting were merged together, and  the tighter rendering and detailing stage began. Throughout the process, I was flipping my canvas and correcting drafting errors as I found them – a great tip I picked up from class was not to be afraid to change the drawing! If it’s not working, it’s not working; so just paint it out. With this in mind, I also made a couple of decisions to change the design (particularly the rocket pod, that was bugging me all the way through). During this tightening stage, attention was paid to material properties – particularly to specular highlights and the sorts of metals that were being used. I didn’t want to go overly glossy, but wanted to make sure that the metal paneling definitely read as metal. Bounce light was also considered when rendering these, as well as bounced local colour in relections where two panels met.

Base colours added

A stage that’s not featured but was pretty important was the reference that I gathered as I went along – I found examples of other mechanical objects, vehicles and paintings that I particularly liked, and then used parts of them as material reference for the different surfaces. I toyed for quite a while with the idea of placing a back graphical outline around the finished mech (as I quite like that comic book style look), but found after a while that it wasn’t working and so removed it. Always be free to experiment! That’s the beauty of a digital workflow after all!

 Decals designed separately in Illustrator

Towards the end of the painting, I decided some decals and warning stickers would really help sell the design (and also give an indication of scale), so I created an Illustrator file and created a couple of generic warning labels, inspired by jet fighters and heavy machinery. These were then copied across into the PSD and manipulated in place using the warp tool, before being distressed and blended with the overall design so as not to stand out too much.

Finished painting

After that, I pulled the whole thing together with a final detail/tweaks pass, followed by a couple of adjustment layers and a lightly textured background to make the mech pop. A grain layer was also added over the top to add a little more noise and texture, which also acted to unify the image as well.

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