Silhouettes In Concept Art
I know that it’s been almost two months since I’ve posted anything, so instead of the what I’ve been working on articles that I usually post, I’m going to get my butt in gear and share a little bit about one of the techniques that I use.
This time I’m going to show the kind of work that you can do working up from a silhouette. The process starts as a silhouette and then you go back and add the details. This is a relatively new process for me (I’ve only been at it about 5 weeks) but it is quickly
becoming one of my favorite techniques. When you start with a silhouette you get to work from a large over-all shape down to the smaller details. This gives you an over all direction in your design and helps you to not get bogged down in the little bits of the image. Starting from a silhouette also lets you define the the shape of the item or character that you are working on, and sometimes that can be just as important as the finer points of the rendering. The outside shape of an item is something that should always be considered from a design perspective.
I’m currently using Adobe Photoshop CS 5.1, but I’m sure you could do something similar in Painter or other raster graphics programs. What I’ve done in this particular case is a set of guns in multiple forms, we’ve got a compact sub-machine gun, a pistol, and a bull-pup rifle of some kind. You can tell that from just looking at the initial silhouettes at the top of the page. Even with a total lack of detail each of these weapons has a character too it. They are unique from one another and each would be suited best for a different task or individual. All you need is the basic shape to tell your viewers brain that. These outlines are pretty polished up, and in fact they all started as random scribbles. I made some big black lines and came up with an over all shape that looked like it flowed well to me. Then I went back and cleaned those images up and giving them a more polished look. On these I added some interesting little details to push myself later on like the large bulky piece on top of the rifle. I had no idea what it was going to be but it made the weapon look unique. This is also a good time to decide that you don’t like cretin items. On this gun I decided that the forgrip was too much and removed it from the final design. Above you can see how the rough drawing and the finished silhouette differ:
Now that the basics are out of the way the fun part really begins. I’ve copied the sils six times and I go back and add dependent layers for each one to paint on. This way if a stroke goes beyond the silhouette PS will not show it. I’ve done almost this entire project in gray-scale. This will let me go back and color over the top of it later with out losing any of the details in this original rendering. I did three sets in more realistic renderings and three more sci-fi-ish ones (Energy, Steampunk, and Space). All we’re done in the same way with additional color and patterns added on the sci-fi items. Here is a look at the finished product:
As you can see these weapons all have the same over all shapes, but the details can be very different. Each one looks like it would operate in a different way, but because the over all shape works, they all look good from a design point of view. This gives the overall project a good well thought out feel, and since I’ve done multiple version of each weapon it would be really easy for a client to say I want this piece from gun A and this piece from gun B. This took me a lot longer then I was hoping for it to take, but once I was done I realized that I had actually designed 18 unique weapons, and with that in mind each gun only took me between 15-45 minutes to create. It should be noted that you’ll want to think about how you item/gun/character works throughout the whole process so that both the silhouette and the details work for your finished vision. Also remember you can always go back and make changes to the silhouette, nothing is set in stone and a good idea should always be perused.
That being said this is not the only way to come up with concept art, but it is one of many good techniques you can use. I do think though that silhouette work-ups like this are a great exercises to help you think about how shapes work together and how the details of an item can be defined by it’s shape.
As always please let me know what you think, or share any experiences or work you’ve had with this technique. This is the first kind of post I’ve done like this and I’m interested to know if it was too long, too short, not enough pictures, whatever. Or if there is something specific you’d like to see you can post that here or shoot me an email via the contact page.