WIP Process: Character Portrait


fb_img_1446491566225A couple of years ago I created this piece as a quick concept art test. Heavily photobashed, I added some vague ideas and never took it too far or corrected any design or anatomy concerns I had.

Lately I’ve been looking at my old work and trying to rework and pull out the ideas I had back then. I’ve noticed more recently that I’ve focused more on my skills (anatomy, rendering, 3D, etc) and not as much on the design or the ideas themselves, so I’m trying to re-awaken my creativity and look at the cool, half-finished stuff from my earlier art days.

For this piece, I started to re-work it by brainstorming a bit about the character itself. Who is she? Originally she was a generic sci-fi girl. Thinking more about it I like her as a non-fighter science fiction citizen or regular woman, maybe a service officer or civilian on a space craft. The sci-fi elements are there but her characteristics are more normal and average, wearing comfortable non-military clothes. I want her to be on-trend, maybe your average 20-30 something with a (futuristic?) Instagram account and cool haircut. Twist: She can have more sci-fi elements, maybe weird accessories or cyborg elements.

This is my initial brainstorm session:


I worked on different poses that better capture her attitude, and found references of more casual futuristic outfits. Many of these are militarized but I still want to avoid that. I like the design of Maya (Borderlands 2) since it’s a bit more fashionable and practical. The runway fashion is a solid example of this, although other personal favourites are Nilin (Remember Me) and the Halle Berry Storm concepts. I’m not a fan of hard sci-fi or heavy military sci-fi, I like the idea of making more futuristic outfits that retain some sort of modern practicality and similarity–why are there never sci-fi t-shirt outfits in concept art? or business clothing?

After this, I made some hairstyle concepts:


I wanted to stick with something fairly practical but fashionable and still a bit 2017-modern. Her old hairstyle was fairly rushed and although the purple was great I wanted something less bland. I went with the “in” hairstyle of shaved sides, I’ve seen that lately on different game characters but it gave some refreshing asymmetry and fit the description of a “cool regular person” in a sci-fi world. It also opens the door for more accessories (earrings, gauges, chokers).

Next was outfits. Since I was still finding the identity of my character I wanted to look at outfits that might apply to her life ranging from official (think a futuristic uniform) to party to casual.

After choosing a pose, I did the following costume concepts:


Keeping with the same colour theme and simple, futuristic feeling clothing, these were my created concepts. I like the idea of a very 2017-modern “rest” outfit (#3) since I am a fan of science fiction that sticks to a somewhat close-to-now, relate-able style. Think Bioware’s Mass Effect and the fact that there are still very standard casual outfits, t-shirts and pants, regular jackets, etc. For outfit #2, my goal was to create a more “out there”, fashion-heavy outfit that would feel more futuristic and function as a party outfit.

My next project was to work on a portrait of my character in the hopes of refining her personality and facial traits. I started with a greyscale portrait and added some quick colour, refining it more and changing the colour tones until I was happy, and rendering further.

I have a process video of my work from greyscale to colour, although it’s worth noting I worked on it further after the video ended:

Here’s the process and final image, and a close up:





Now that I’ve better established my character the next step will be to create final concept art of the character, and maybe an illustration featuring my character.  I will keep posting these posts and update soon with my final images!

Process: Arctic Researcher

Arctic Research Lead Enviro Render Redone Pose Final

This piece was done over a few weeks, in blocks of several hours. It started out as a sketch while I was trying to do more colourful, varied concepts using lines and colour instead of rendering:

I wanted to use an old-school colour palette and create a scientist/researcher who is stationed in the Arctic. For this I used refs of actual arctic researchers but also people in similar cold temperature situations, ie. Mount everest climbers.


My initial rendered concept was very basic, I photobashed and painted a background using some images of arctic ground, general equipment and workers, and rendered a man in the same basic position of my original sketch. I also created a quick logo concept for a fake “Arctic Research Institute” and incorporated that logo into his jacket patch.Arctic Research Lead Enviro Render RestoreHowever, at this point the pose looked too boring and with advice from others I realized it was important to show more what the character was doing through a dynamic pose instead of just rendering like crazy.

Arctic Researcher Thumbs

I did some silhouettes and general poses that I thought would show more about the character, ie. clipboards and books, backpacks, etc. He isn’t a fighting character or in the military so I wanted to show a more book-smart science type. Finally, I picked 4 top poses and rendered them a bit more to see what I connected with, and ended up choosing the 1st pose.

Arctic Research Lead Enviro Render Process

Once I had a better idea of what details were needed I started to render more.. I also overlaid several photos to figure out the best angles of items and features, ie. the book, boots and face.

Finally, after more reference use and rendering I finished my piece! I also added some quick round brush sketches under his feet to look more like snow, and created an optional version with the photobashed background I made earlier.


As you can see from the earlier piece the book and the face changed a lot after re-checking references and moving things around to look more dynamic, ie. overlapping the book and turning his head downwards towards the book.

The next step would normally be to convert to colour but I was happy with this as is, and I think I will move on to different colour pieces instead.  I’m also happy to keep my old colourful sketch as a separate concept, so I have one more realistic and one more stylized.




Character concept for concept Project Crypt_D. She’s a hacker who has been in hiding, suspected as of recently to have relocated to Fireland to serve as second-in-command to the leader.

Character description:
Real Name: Kim, Phạm Kim Huyền
Origin: Keith, SA, Australia
Last Seen: Fireland
Status: ???

Process: Kylo Ren Portrait [Star Wars]

In January of last year I completed a portrait of Kylo Ren, one of the new characters from the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I thought I would briefly go over the process in this post.

Kylo Ren Colorc
“Your son is gone.” Kylo Ren Portrait

Since this was while the movie was still in theatres you can imagine, there were not many promotional images of Kylo Ren, especially unmasked.

Because of this, I had to rely on a combination of Adam Driver pictures, Kylo Ren promotional art and even some fairly blurred screencaps from a variety of sources. The best quality ones of course were of Adam Driver, and it was a pain to constantly imagine Adam Driver without stubble in order to guess his “Kylo Ren” features, ha.

The process was more or less as follows:

1 Lots of studies of random adam driver/kylo ren pictures.

An example of my setup while sketching.

2 Then a standard hard round brush with my wacom tablet to sketch out a general shape, and a rough chalk type brush for a quick background like the “square rough” brush in the Jonas De Ro Brush set (via DeviantArt)

(99% of it was painted using the “square rough” brush in that linked set. Only the outline and highlights were done with different brushes, plus the lightsaber effects)

These are the 2 main brushes I used.

3 Then render in greyscale, so zoom in to small details of the face and paint everything slowly, like one eye at a time. I zoomed out fairly often to make sure I wasn’t messing up too badly!

This was my screen setup for most of the detail work.
This was my screen setup for most of the detail work.

PicMonkey Collage.jpg

4 Stare at it forever and realize the eyes are too close together (check out the bottom row above and compare the left 2 vs. the right 2!) and use liquify to make small changes. Zooming out a lot, uploading to facebook (set to “only me”) or checking on my phone helps me see my mistakes too.

5 Use a combination of effect layers, filters and hand painting to add color.

PicMonkey 2.jpg

6 Check things like the composition, background, etc and fix small details, also adjust values a bit with levels. I decided to also go from a teal to a truer blue, which I changed using Color Balance settings.

7 Add final highlights on the face + effects on the lightsaber.


It took about 2 hours to paint, and one hour of studies and planning.