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Master Concept Design In Photoshop - Tutorial
NOVEMBER 05, 2012

Here is a new tutorial by Adam Smith from Photoshop Daily - Master concept design. Learn how to quickly define form and base lighting using this example.

The most important brush of all
Photoshop is a great and powerful tool in the battle of creating images. Here however, we have started with the most powerful tool of all, the pencil. We were quite detailed in our pencil, giving ourselves quite a well-designed, fleshed-out starting point.

Master Concept Design In Photoshop - Tutorial

Eliminate the white
One of the first things we do after scanning in our image is to eliminate the intimidating base of a white background, done by painting darkly on a layer set to Multiply. Be sure to remember, it’s always about the mood of a piece, and starting with something dark and gritty can be an early idea generator.

Master Concept Design In Photoshop - Tutorial

Light things up
On the same Multiply layer, we begin using our first brush, a simple round brush with soft edges. Since our initial pass on this layer was a very dark grey, selecting an only slightly lighter grey and painting it over the drawing will lighten it up. Imagining the creature is lit by a soft upper light, we paint lights loosely.

Master Concept Design In Photoshop - Tutorial

Bring it down a notch
Now that we’ve set a pretty general local tone of our image, dark and looming, it’s time to dig a little bit deeper and start rounding out our forms. Again using the soft round brush set to Opacity: Pen Pressure, we begin applying the darker tones to our piece, in the places where the shadows would be the greatest. It’s important to keep this step independent of the last step, because if you mix them up, you will end up with a piece that isn’t quite balanced, or organised.

Master Concept Design In Photoshop - Tutorial

Quick Tip:
Tired of selecting areas and having the pesky selection lines get in the way of what you’re trying to see? Is the same true with highlighted text, or transform warp tools? Hitting Cmd/Ctrl+H will hide any technical queues, highlighted texts, selection dots, or transform boxes.

Draw the focus
Let’s take a minute to talk about something very important: keeping your focus where it needs to be. Near the top of the image, we rely on heavy points of contrast, which are bright lights, next to dark shadows. The shadows have sharper edges than the shadows that are further from the light, which are more diffuse and less contrasted. This gives the painting the illusion of being lit by real light, which is the most important thing in these types of paintings.

Master Concept Design In Photoshop - Tutorial

Achieve some separation
Next up in our process we need to keep our lights bright and our darks gloomy. This is very methodical and there is a philosophy that says things in the light will never be as dark as things in the shadows and vice versa. The same holds true here. Another important thing to remember is that since it is early in the painting, you’ll want to pick two tones that are relatively close together in value, not too dark that you can’t make it darker, and not too light that you cant make it lighter.

Master Concept Design In Photoshop - Tutorial

Explore the dark and light
Now we see why the last step was important. Since your darkest darks that you set were not fully black, but only about 15% black, you can paint into them with a darker black and round out your shadow forms. Never add light to a shadow, but work in reverse and make it darker. The same is true of the lights, as we add subtle light to the brighter areas. Keep in mind we only want to add enough light to make the forms seem round, not to add highlights.

Master Concept Design In Photoshop - Tutorial

Add some texture
One of the most important things in selling the believability of an organism is giving it a wealth of very complex and different textures. Using a Scattered Line brush (included on the disk), we go on top of the tooth of this creature to add some texture. Using the Selection tool, we want to first draw an outline of the tooth. This is very important when adding texture, because it enables you to be sloppy and paint outside the lines, which gives you an even better sense of the object itself becoming real.

Master Concept Design In Photoshop - Tutorial

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