Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
Part 4 here.
Part 5 here.
Today I'll show you how I create a background! But first, you need to understand how layers work in Photoshop. I don't want to turn this into Photoshop 101 or anything, but I do want it to be accessible to as many people as possible, including those who may not have a full working knowledge of Photoshop or might not be artists themselves. For that reason I want to at least explain the concepts behind some of the tools I use.
Layers are a feature that you absolutely cannot live without as a digital artist. If you look to the right in the the image above, you can see that each element of the smiley face is on a different layer. Notice in the tiny icons how the facial features are on a layer above the black outline, which is above the yellow circle, which is above the white background. On the left, you can see that all of those things overlap to form a completed smiley face. Think about it like drawing on transparency sheets and laying them all on top of each other. The reason this is important is because, well, let's say that this is a painting on a canvas and you decide after you're done that you want the smiley face to be green. You would have to repaint the whole thing, carefully edging around the eyes, mouth, and outline, right? Well, with this setup the yellow circle is on it's own layer, so all you have to do is select that layer and change the color, which takes all of three seconds.
Now that we have that out of the way, back to my Mothman drawing. I tend to make my backgrounds fairly simple, so I've reached the point where I'm comfortable creating them entirely in Photoshop with no need to do much more than a thumbnail on paper. (Unless it's a particularly complicated scene or uses specific buildings, etc.) For this background I want a to draw a bridge with a mountain range behind it.
Since my scene takes place at night, I started out with an all black canvas and used a textured brush to add some very subtle color gradation from top to bottom to give it more depth. (Brushes will be in the next post, so don't panic.) My, isn't that exciting to look at? I know the gradation may seem subtle to the point of useless, but stuff like that really helps, trust me.
In a new layer, I drew a shape that would form the sky behind the mountains. Within that shape, I again created a gradation of color with a brush to give it depth. See how the slight changes in color make you think "sky" rather than just "pointy pink shape?"
I added more layers for more elements of the background, such as the road, railings, stars, bridge support, and the soft light on the edge of the mountains. There's no real trick to adding this stuff in, you just draw it in there with the brush tool, or polygon lasso tool for bigger shapes that you want to fill in quickly.
As much as I like the colors I had in the background, I was still thinking about the fact that brightly colored characters were going to be placed on top of it. For that reason I changed the colors to be much more subtle and muted so that they wouldn't compete with the characters as much. I did this by making a new layer above all the other layers and filling it with a solid color, then messing with the layer's settings and opacity. Think about it as if you have a piece of colored glass that you're looking through, only you're able to control its color and the amount of light that passes through it.
And that's the finished background! Again, there's not as much of a trick to this as you would think, it just takes all the time and work you would expect to put into a nice looking drawing
Tomorrow, the characters.
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