Here is a step-by-step process of a Super Mario concept art I did for practice. Including some dirty Photoshop tricks.
Concept art smarts used:
- Photobashing for quick character ideation.
- Liquify filter for quick shape correction without repaints.
- Custom brushes.
- “Selective Color” adjustment for quick color correction.
Alright, step one: Proportions and pose.
There are plenty of ways to play around with proportions an poses. From thumbnails and silhouettes to fast sketches. Sometimes you just want to grab the right reference from a stock library you can use. However, with stylized characters like this, a few tweaks are in order. Using just super quick and dirty lasso moves I shortened and thickened the arms and made his hands huge. No need to worry about ugly edges right now, they will be overpainted later.
To properly capture the plumber’s iconic likeness, I just pasted part of an official promotional artwork on top of my Frankenstein creature.
Step two: Drawing on top.
For now, I’m happy with my character build. Maybe I change stuff later, but I’m ready to go to the next phase. Always keep in motion and do what comes to you first. Anything can be tweaked later.
I reduced the build layer opacity to like 40% so that black lines on top are easier to read and started drawing on top of my custom anatomical reference. Using “overlay” in a layer above, I separate different grey values, using different shades of grey. Note how you can still see many snippets of the photos below, but pants, skin and shirt are separated by value.
Now, I fill in my drawing with grey tones where needed. Mainly using the color picker here and grabbing shades from the photobash layer below. A moment later
Step three: Painting high priority details.
Now, I’m starting to get anxious about nailing down Mario in a AA context, so I need a benchmark for the painting. I need to paint a part of this layout to get familiar with the level of detail and quality I’m aiming for. So let’s paint the head. While I can draw plenty of support from the shading data from the photobash – using the color picker – this step is just plain and simple painting. Sorry, no secrets here, just practice and patience.
Step four: More tweaks and first paint layer.
The current state of the head tells me where I want this painting to go. I can now fill in all areas of the layout with the necessary layers of paint to move on. What it also tells me is where I need to tweak the pose and shapes. The more I work on a painting the more I’m able to see and fix. For the first steps I was really able just to go with the flow, knowing tweaks can be done later and now is the time to get serious about some stuff.
Lasso and repaints are used to reposition his arms, while the filter>”liquify” was used to sculpt the painting of the head into something more round full. Here is a comparison gif for the before-and-after. Note how I did not repaint anything for the new fuller shape, just moved things around. Oh yeah, and a second ear helped (which I literally just copied-pasted from his left ear):
More detailed painting. Just working myself through all the areas of the layout. For the sledgehammer I used a photo reference, to get it right. The Bob-Ombs and painted within a circular selection, to get the spherical shape right. The smut on his arm is made with the first use of a custom brush in this piece, only regular round hard Photoshop brushes until now.
Step five: Coloring.
Now that I’m happy with the value painting, let’s add color. I pulled up official Mario Promo art, to have quick access to offial colors via the color picker tool. The colors are painted on a new layer, set to “overlay”.
Step five: Final Retouch.
Finally, some retouching… Same stuff a photographer would do to spice up their shots. Color correction via image>adjustments>selective color. I added some cyan and magenta to the blacks, making things more vibrant. Fire is painted using custom brushes again. Super thin blue rim lights add the final crispiness.
I hope this was a fun insight into how I sometimes work. Keep practicing and show your stuff. Bye.