Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I wanna get back to the age when I updated my blog so often that I ran out of titles. Unfortunately since then I've both slowed down in work I can show and expanded my title repertoire.

Because the game industry is so competitive, you have to be a genuinely good and nice person to get in. As a result, once you are in, you're surrounded by the brightest, nicest and quirkiest people you'll ever meet. I noticed when I moved to Riot that overall people seemed nicer, friendlier and smarter than most of the people I've met up to that point.

I already mentioned this on twitter, but it's very important so I'll reiterate: If you don't know what's wrong with your picture/design, use the process of elimination. Paint out every element, one by one, and eventually you'll know what doesn't belong. Picked that up from Maokai Xiao. The hard part is trying to figure out something to replace it.

Interrupt yourself frequently when not doing art. Do not interrupt yourself when doing it.

Separate silhouette from content.

The first difficulty with designing is making cool shapes. The next difficult is making them for a reason. You have to find a way to make shapes cool AND relate to the character/environment.

Here's my process for warming up. Hope it helps:
1. Draw randomly, let your pencil fly and don't even think about what it is. Just explore new things and try to make them look good.
2. Try to make cool shapes. Modify your lines, combine things and make a conscious effort to make things look cool.
3. Design. Draw things in perspective, and know what you're drawing.

There's two ways to expand your shape vocabulary: conscious and unconscious. Unconscious means trying to extract shapes you've seen before by letting your pencil go and seeing what comes out. Conscious means going out and drawing new things! Go on the internet, do a still life, etc. You internalize it for later use.

Since design is all about ratios, any design can be fixed. Usually it's pretty easy to do that by slightly adjusting scales of things and their positions.

Compartmentalize your knowledge. Break it down into small chunks that make sense. Then post them on a blog :D.

To get good at interesting shapes, switch between looking at positive and negative space.

Start out with a simple 3-dimensional primitive, then put your designs on it. Or draw perspective lines. But that usually makes my drawings stiff.

Rely on feeling. After a while you just can't measure certain things and you have to rely on the "feeling" of your drawing in order to make it look correct. Focus on relationships between the main shapes, feel the weight of the object.

Just after you've made a breakthrough, forget that you di. You still need to internalize the information before you can apply it reliably.

Exaggerate your shapes when you design. You can't draw a tank with two strokes, but you need to be able to, in order to generate ideas faster. Thumbnailing is stream of consciousness splurging on the page. Don't let the act of drawing slow it down. Concept/ideas is what's important.

Good design is symbolism. Put shapes of things you want to allude to into your design. Example: you're designing an owl monster. What kind of feeling would putting a horseshoe on him evoke?

Take a bunch of things you've seen before that caused you to have an emotional response and them together in an appealing way.

You can use colour for symbolism as well.

Three important things any design:
1. Distribution of detail
2. Flow
3. Emphasis.

We are subconsciously attributing meaning to certain shapes all our lives (any design that looks skeletal, for example, will seem frail, cold, deathly etc.) Our job as concept artists is to take advantage of that and invoke the right combination of feelings for a cohesive character/environment.

Get your point across as quickly as possible. Make it look compelling with the least amount of detail.

Shape language is as much in the details as the big defining shapes.

It's important to define the theme in your thumbnails. Prototypes for designs should have a similar shape language. e.g. Sharp vs. curved. Often times you only need to design the primary focal point, then it informs the rest of your design. Once you go deep enough into one direction, you'll find everything you need to make a compelling character.

Do not confuse motif with interest. Your thumbnails should have both.

Lock on to your gut feeling. Somewhere inside you know what's wrong with your picture, but your brain keeps covering it up because it doesn't want to fix it.

A fresh set of eyes is infinitely useful for an artist, because I've found that the more time you spend solving a problem, more likely your brain is to say "ok that's good enough, there's no problem there anymore, it's not important." Another person will tell you right away that you haven't solved it, and that is important.

There are two ways to approach design. What looks real and what looks good. Your job is to merge the two. Translate a well-executed two-dimentional contour drawing into a 3-dimentional shape and you will win.

Design saturation and hue in addition to shape!

"Each line in your design tells a story" - Eduardo Gonzalez.


Friday, September 9, 2011

You Are My Cinema

Dunno man, twilight is a pretty good movie to watch. It sorta takes you back to those good old high school times, when life was a lot simpler. Instead of your friends, it's really really attractive people having the same problems you had, with a twist. In the end, it just makes you feel good about yourself because you realize how much of a better person you've become since then, albeit you look different. Maybe it's more compelling for me right now because I'm currently coping with being a grown-up.

Never forget the importance of the colour you're mixing on top of, and it's temperature. The key to raising values in colour-harmonious style is establishing proper jumping off points.

When picking colours, max out your RGB slider values. You'll always be safe. You can tone down saturation/value with your brush opacity. It's the only way of mixing in photoshop without losing saturation, plus you make sure that your colour stays in key (I set my brush sensitivity to very low, so it's very hard for me to fully apply any colour I pick. As a consiquence, most colours I apply will have some of the under colour in them, which will them harmonize with it).

The more steps a task involves, the less likely you are to do it right now. Often the number of steps/time commitment of any given task takes priority over its importance, which is why we the young tend to get lost in the internet for hours at a time. Tabs is the worst invention. So, don't rack the disciprine: Have your sketchbook, pencil, eraser and sharpener out and open at all times. Have music playing if you need it to draw. Get rid of as many obstacles as you can, because you're only a split second away from deviantart.

Sorry 'bout the colours. Will try harder to calibrate.

So as you can see, for a long time i've been experimenting with using mostly a soft airbrush to start out my studies and only coming in with the hard round at the end. You don't commit to a drawing right away, you leave soft edges in areas out of focus and it looks very realistic/painterly. Then, after I started doing concepts, I realized that you can establish values and planes much quicker with the hard round, albeit it's harder to give the object polish and take it all the way to realism. The style of our game sort of forced me to commit to hard edges everywhere, because that's how textures work in 3D. (Though imagine if you could have soft edges in the same way your eye works!!!)

TLDR, a combination of the two is what I decided to pursue. You start off with the soft airbrush and lay in your values and colours, then search for the hardest edges that define your image and put them in with a hard round. Rinse, repeat: Establish the general values/colours with airbrush, tighten with hard round or texture brush.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Scary Monsters

Focus has become somewhat of a luxury in the internet age.

Retweet: Somewhere inside you, your imagination is conjuring up visions more elaborate, more beautiful than anything you have ever seen in your life. It's up to you to learn to harvest these images and reproduce them as authentically as you can learn to do in a lifetime.

I'm almost done moving to LA. Once I get my chair and my desk, I will have run out of excuses not to focus on my art. So many good things happening, though, it is distracting. Randomly got to meet Anthony Jones. Dude is really chill and super smart. You really should go to his page now. Don't read the rest of this.

When trying to calculate the shift of a coloured surface under a different-coloured light, decrease the saturation of the colour you're putting down (the one in the different light) and make sure that the new colour stays in the correct relative hue. Eg. Red surface under a green light: decrease the saturation of the red, and shift the hue into something cooler. Play until looks right. Also, i believe the value of a red surface under green light will be darker than the one under white light. Correct me if I'm wrong.

So..  when you have an area of high saturation on your canvas, desaturating your brush stroke and shifting the hue slightly goes a long way to introducing new colours into the area. I need to do a tutorial about this. Right now these are just notes for myself from the future. There is a tut on form coming next weekend, though. Watch out.

You can either mix colours by trying to get as close to your desired colour as you can, or by using wildly outrageous saturated combinations of colours. Which one do you think yields in more happy accidents?

The easiest opportunity to introduce wild colours into your pictures is in hard edges and fresnel reflections.

It's harder to get grays to look correct together, because the more desaturated a colour is, the more precise you need to be with your RGB slider ratios to get the right hues.

Design isn't about the shapes as much as the relationships between them.

Painting environments isn't about which brushes you use, but how you choose to blend your shapes and how you make them interesting.

Close your eyes and try to visualize it if you can't get it right.

Make everything in your picture cool to look at, but make the focus more prominent.

Find interesting flows in the outline of your design.

If you aren't absolutely certain that your drawing kicks ass, you should make it better, because it likely won't impress anyone else.

Sometimes you have to let yourself do what you want. Satisfy your curiosity for things other than art before you end up watching ponies for two hours instead of reading about space travel.

These are from two weeks ago. Went to life drawing with f'ing Katie DeSousa! Was probably too self conscious so the drawings are meh. Go to her page now. Last chance.