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FANTASY

CARD
ARTIST
Welcome to the world of
professional trading card art
In this special issue we take an inspiring look at the rst 20
years of Magic: The Gathering and catch up with the artists
creating characters for Blizzards Hearthstone. If you want to
break into card art yourself, we have all the training youll
need starting on page 66, including the art techniques of
artists working at Blizzard and Magic: The Gathering. Youll
learn how to paint card art characters and creatures, how to
create great compositions, how fundamental art theory can
help you create professional card art, and much more.

Ian Dean, editor


ian.dean@futurenet.com

FANTASY CARD ARTIST

CONTENTS
GALLERY

Artist showcase

46

Amazing art, insight and interviews


from around the world

FEATURES

20 Games on the move

The art challenges in creating card


art for tablets and phones

24 The art of Hearthstone

Lead artist Ben Thompson shares the


process behind Blizzards card art hit

28 Interview: Laurel Austin

The successful Blizzard artist reveals


all about working on WoW and more

34 Pursue your passion

Crooz reveals what it takes to make


it as a card artist at the studio

40 Aces in the hole

Admire the art of Japanese trading


card game giant Applibot

years of
46 20
Magic: The Gathering
The story behind the card game
juggernauts rst 20 years

INTERVIEWS

54 Anthony S. Waters

How surrealism helped this artist


break new ground in fantasy art

60

60 Sinad Jaruartjanapat

How a bright and fresh approach


to fantasy art proved successful

28
4 Fantasy Card Artist

34

40

March 2016

80

108

WORKSHOPS

68 Paint macabre card art


72 Card game creature art
76 Paint a spectral horse
80 Create a D&D character
83 Great compositions
88 A traditional art look
92 Adapting classic art
98 Better weapon designs
104 Capture light and magic
108 Compose a card hero
112 Capturing drama
118 Using translucent light
122 Rework a card character
124 Tell a story with details
128 Tell a story in an image
132 Using perspective
Paint like Magic: The Gathering

Create a gruesome card art creature


Use reference to create your art
Capture the essence of a hero

Tips to give your art instant impact

Techniques to age your digital art

REVIEWS

128

138 iPad Pro


140 Affinity Photo 1.4
142 Paintstorm Studio 1.5
142 Pixelmator 2.2
143 Fantasy in the Wild
144 Coverama
145 Heavens Hell
145 Guide to Sketching

Is the extra size worth the money?


A subscription-free Photoshop rival

Custom brushes for all art styles

A photo editor adapted for artists


James Gurneys latest book is here
Mark Simonettis collected cover art

A book of fantastic character art

Learn the fundamentals of drawing

Put a fresh spin on classic fantasy art


Paint amazing fantasy swords

Evoke a scene of magical drama

Reimagine a hero for Hearthstone

Painting an epic Tolkien scene

Paint cloud, skin and clothing

Mix inuences in a card painting


Create detailed trading card art

Master the Applibot card art process

How to paint a dramatic scene

RESOURCES

76

142

146 Downloads

Get your free resources, including


more than 11 hours of video training,
custom brushes, step-by-step art and
nished illustrations you can study!

Fantasy Card Artist 5

Gallery

FANTASY

GALLERY
A showcase of inspiring work from artists,
illustrators and designers around the world

Vance
Kovacs
Location: US
Web: www.vancekovacs.com
Media: Photoshop
Vance Kovacs is a typical modernday concept artist: hes worked on
feature films (Narnia) and video
games (Unreal III) but continues to
search for new ways to test his skills.
He acknowledges his influences too: I have
a great respect for past artists, artists that I look
to for inspiration Arthur Rackham, NC Wyeth,
Howard Pyle that whole Golden Age of
illustration, when the illustrators, as far as
entertainment went, were the top guys, he says.
But thats not to say theres anything typical
about his artwork, which is familiar enough to
grab your attention but original enough to take
you on new journeys in colour and composition.
Vance has also worked on an array of card
and tabletop games. He produced hundreds of
character portraits for WizKids titles, including
the sci-fi title Mechwarrior and Pirates of the
Cursed Seas. Hes also done regular work for
Wizards of the Coast and Magic: The Gathering
over the years, and more recently hes been
doing World of Warcraft cards.
Magic cards are nice because I get to explore
things visually. Its not set in stone, Vance
explains. Theyre a little bit more open with the
artists, whereas doing World of Warcraft, they
want you to follow certain design guidelines.
They have to fit in with the established Blizzard
style, which makes sense. I think the games
been a little bit successful

CERTAIN DEATH
For this Magic: The
Gathering card, Vance got
to indulge his own fantasy
painting a dragon.

6 Fantasy Card Artist

Magic: The Gathering Wizards Of The Coast

Artist portfolios

Fantasy Card Artist 7

Gallery
REALM SEEKERS
Mikes oil paintings are
packed with detail but still
clearly legible at card size.

Mike
Sass
Location: Canada
Web: www.sassart.com
Media: Oils
Mike spent over a decade at BioWare
he was the Canadian video game
developers first in-house artist,
where he worked on a string of hit
RPGs, creating everything from
box art and magazine covers to concept art and
marketing illustrations.
In 2009, Mike left BioWare to pursue his
passion for fantasy illustration and oil painting.
Hes since done illustrations for such celebrated
franchises as Star Wars, World of Warcraft,
Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons.
I now work almost exclusively in oils,
Mike says, although he has a substantial body
of digital work behind him. Im at home
combining gaming illustration with my love
for the craft of painting.
Mikes work for Magic: The Gathering
includes some pretty off-the-wall concepts.
Take Clockwork Golem, for example: its a scene
of elves battling a robotic menace in a tomb,
powered by an undead skeletal torso. Reckless
Reveler depicts a satyr setting fire to a Trojan
horse. It was difficult to make that clear, having
two elements of different scale, but Im really
happy with how it turned out, Mike says.
Battlefield Thaumaturge was also painted
for Magic: The Gathering. The client initially
requested a shot from behind, Mike reveals,
but I suggested this alternative pose and it
was accepted.
Aerie Worshippers was Mikes first oil
painting for Magic: The Gathering. Because
of the classical theme, I chose to paint it quite
a bit larger than card paintings are normally
done, says Mike, adding: This painting was
a finalist for the Art Renewal Center salon for
imaginative realist painting.

CLOCKWORK GOLEM
Mike says he really enjoys
painting multi-character,
epic scenes like this one.

8 Fantasy Card Artist

BATTLEFIELD
THAUMATURGE

Magic: The Gathering Wizards Of The Coast

This Magic: The Gathering


card painting was used on
the event deck packaging
for the game.

AERIE WORSHIPPERS
Painted in oils on a panel
at 18x24 inches, this piece is
larger than card art usually is.

Fantasy Card Artist 9

Gallery

Yap Kun
Rong
Location: Tokyo
Web: http://krypt.cgsociety.org
Media: Photoshop
It can take a brave step to take
your art to the next level and find
a new spark of life. For the young
Singaporean Yap Kun Rong, that
vital spark came from his move
to Tokyo. The Japanese influence on his art
transformed him into an up-and-coming
phenomenon in the twin worlds of fantasy
and sci-fi art.
Coming to Japan has opened my eyes
like never before, in terms of style, technique
and subject matter. It is totally different from
the Western influences I have. For example, as
much as I work meticulously on perspective,
the ancient, perspective-free art from Japanese
tradition has given me a lot more insight, says
the artist.
In the process, it brought him into the realm
of game card art. For example, one recent job
that Kun Rong thinks has suited his style is a
set of digital paintings for the fantasy card game
Warlord CCG. His impressionist-like approach
works well when the pictures are seen at smaller
sizes on the cards themselves.
Meanwhile, the medieval theme meant he
could paint heroes, beasts and battles, which
obviously provides a lot of fun for the young
painter, not to mention some particularly
welcome income. I think card art is pretty fun
and definitely much less taxing. For Warlords,
its a medieval world so, yeah, I enjoyed doing
the dirty medieval fantasy art, he says.

ATTACK FORMATION
This is one of several
fantasy pieces Kun Rong
has created for the
collectable card game
Warlord CCG.

10 Fantasy Card Artist

Artist portfolios

Fantasy Card Artist 11

Sony Online Entertainment

Gallery

Kieran
Yanner
Location: US
Web: www.kieranyanner.com
Media: Photoshop

FIRE SEED
A card gaming character
brings forth re in the
game Legends of Norrath.

Born and raised in the far northern


Australian coastal city of Darwin,
Kieran moved to the US at the age
of 20 to pursue his dreams as a
games and publishing artist. He
has certainly turned his hand to a broad range
of projects for a variety of clients. Working at
Fantasy Flight Games, Paizo Publishing,
Wizards of the Coast the list goes on. Some
of his favourite projects were the WARS trading
card game and The Lord of the Rings trading
card game, both published by Decipher. The
former was a sci-fi-based affair, and in his work
for the series he developed a style that combined
painting and photo montage to great effect.
Working on The Lord of the Rings card art,
meanwhile, led him to develop his distinctive
approach to colour. I will say the one question
I get asked a lot about is how I approach colour.
I like strong raw colour. That came from working
on the Lord of the Rings for Decipher and
having to pump the colours of movie stills
for print. Pushing colour for print has stuck
with me since, he says.
Kierans process and approach changes
depending on the project, but his favourite
phase is usually developing thumbnails,
working out the composition and mood of
a piece. If hes working on figurative artwork,
he uses models, costumes and photography to
develop his ideas. Id have the model come
in for a shoot and spend some time explaining
the concepts, he says. Typically by then Ive
rummaged through my costume selection and
have lighting set up. I used to be pretty loose
with costuming, but have grown to really like
that part of the shoot. It feels a little like a scene
from a movie unfolding in front of me.

COVER STARS
When not working on
card art, Kieran paints
magazine and book covers.
Dragons at War was a
front cover for Kobold
Quarterly, combining
detail and action like a
master of D&D artwork.

12 Fantasy Card Artist

Artist portfolios
BUCCANEERS

Paizo Publishing

Kieran painted this image


for the cover of Pathnder:
Pirates of the Inner Sea.

Fantasy Card Artist 13

Gallery

Jean
Sebastien
Rossbach
Location: Paris
Web: http://ifxm.ag/jsrossbach
Media: Photoshop, Painter,
ArtRage, ZBrush
Like many fantasy artists, French
artist Jean Sebastien Rossbach often
creates card art for RPG companies,
including Wizards of the Coasts
Magic: The Gathering series and
others by White Wolf. He treats these just like
any other assignment. Working for card games
or an RPG or for a book cover is the same to
me, he says. Its a good mix of freedom and
direction. Sometimes the brief comes with a
preconceived concept or just a few guidelines,
and sometimes its a story to illustrate.
But would he prefer to be able to give his
imagination free rein? Does he feel constrained
when, as is often the case, the art has to follow
strict character guidelines?
I try to stay as close as possible to the
information, and the freedom comes from
what hasnt been said. I get joy in filling in the
blanks between the lines of the brief.
Of course, card RPG players can often be very
particular about their favourite characters, but
his work seems to meet with their approval, as
JS discovered when he went to his first Magic
event in Birmingham in the summer of 2008.
I was a little afraid to meet the players because
I know how big fans they are, but in the end
they all were absolutely charming with me. It
was delightful to meet all these passionate
people I had a great time.

EDGE OF AUTUMN
JSs rst public card for
Magic: The Gathering,
which was actually
created in 2006.

14 Fantasy Card Artist

Magic: The Gathering Wizards Of The Coast

Artist portfolios

Fantasy Card Artist 15

Gallery

Arthur
Bozonnet

FEMALE ANGEL
Card illustration for
Chains of Durandal,
2012. This was my rst
work for CoD. At the time
we would work from
rough sketches from the
games art director.

DWARVEN TEMPLAR
Card illustration for CoD,
2012. I based all
characters on the same
vanishing point for
better cohesion.

16 Fantasy Card Artist

DeNA C Co. All Rights Reserved.

Looking at some of French artist


Arthur Bozonnets art, you might
think hes one of the endless ranks
who fell in love with fantasy by
scrawling Frazetta barbarians on his
school books. In fact, Arthur found fantasy art
late in life, a year after turning professional.
Prior to that, I was just studying, trying my
hand at anything, he explains. Hes certainly
gone to the source since then. In terms of style,
Frank Frazetta is the ultimate Papa, hands
down. Arthur bought the 2003 Frazetta
documentary Painting with Fire and watched
it on repeat. It feels like hes essentially out
of my reach, which makes me nuts, he says.
I collect his works, I copy some of them, I
scrutinise his strokes, and I toss and turn in
my bed like a fiend over it.
Arthurs influences are actually more diverse
than those of many artists. He lived in Scotland,
Peru, and went to study digital illustration in
China. He later lived in Thailand for three years,
working as an illustrator and concept artist for
Studio Hive, Bangkok. Through my travels and
experiences, he says, I developed a fantasy
style that celebrates the dream world, the
irresistible call of inner and outer journey,
and the exotic appeal of ancient cultures.
When it comes to China, Arthur found his
trinity of digital artists. My teacher Chen Wei
struck me the most, because he was the first
digital artist I met, and hes a pioneer of digital
art in China, along with Zhang Min (AKA
Benjamin), whos another idol of mine, he
enthuses, adding that Singapore-based Skan
Srisuwan is another major inspiration. While
their styles are different, these three belong to
the same first generation of digital artists in Asia.
Theyre troopers they made it happen from
scratch. Its a mentality that I look up to.

DeNA C Co. All Rights Reserved.

Location: Annecy, France


Web: http://ifxm.ag/bozonnet
Media: Photoshop, ArtRage

Artist portfolios
ZOMBIE GIRL
Card illustration, Heroic
Battle, 2012. I tried to
make her creepy and sassy.
I had fun rendering
her ornaments.

Fantasy Card Artist 17

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We explore the fantasy film genres


golden age Andreas Bennwiks
cover homage kicks things off in
style. Elsewhere, Min Yum takes on
a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Simon
Dubuc fills an RPG with unique
characters, and James Gurney
paints a rogue construction mech.

Alvin Lees art of Jinx from League


of Legends heralds our manga
issue, featuring a fresh take on
Katniss Everdeen by Ilya
Kuvshinov, advice from Legends
of the Cryptids artist Laura Sava,
and a sculpture workshop from
the mighty Shiflett Brothers.

A host of top-flight artists help us


to celebrate turning 10 years old.
Ross Trans cover art ushers in the
likes of Craig Mullins, Syd Mead,
Brom, Mlanie Delon, Todd
Lockwood and Allen Williams,
who all contribute workshops.
Plus theres a free 2016 calendar.

Andrew Theophilopoulos paints


Kylo Ren facing off against Rey,
in our spectacular Star Wars
special issue. Also inside are Aaron
McBride, Iain McCaig, Terese
Nielsen, Feng Zhu, Brian Sum and
Hugh Fleming, all revealing their
art from a galaxy far, far away

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18 Fantasy Card Artist

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Fantasy Card Artist 19

TM Middle-earth Ent., Lic. to WB Games

Feature

Fitting everything into that small package


was the challenge facing art director
Michael Dashow and his team at Kabam,
the studio behind free game The Hobbit:
Kingdoms of Middle-earth.

20 Fantasy Card Artist

Games on the move

ARTIST INTERVIEW

DANIEL
GELON

Games on
the move

The D&D senior art director on


moving into the mobile market
How has the move to mobile
games affected the look and feel
of Dungeons & Dragons?
Working on mobile and tablets
has been liberating for the visual
representation of the D&D brand.
We get to explore a variety of
different visual styles that fall
outside the classically illustrated
images of the pen-and-paper game.
The most enjoyable aspect has been
working with some of the most
talented and expert partners in
mobile and casual games. Whether
youre a hardcore fan or new to
D&D, casual and mobile games
enable you to experience the game
on your own terms.

Talk about upwardly mobile! With video games on tablets


and mobile devices still on the rise, we talk to the studios
leading the charge about their new artistic challenges

Kabams Dragons of Atlantis: Heirs of the


Dragon sees gamers attempt to tame the
mythical beast with magical weapons.

ts the fine art of taking the macro and


making it micro. Myriad characters, an
intricate plot and the expansive worlds
they live in all painted on a four-inch
canvas. This is the challenge facing mobile
and tablet video game developers.
Artistically, Michael Dashow says, thats
what its all about. Its fitting everything into
that small package both the screen and
the games download size. It
can be a challenge to cram in
all of the user interface (UI)
elements and make the game
fun and easy to play despite
the fact that your finger will be covering up a
chunk of the screen in order to play it.

Were there artistic challenges?


Modern video games offer visions
more fantastic than the average
person can imagine, and this is
where the challenge comes in. What
the viewer used to ll in on their
own now has to be visualised and
created, and all the things we never
had to think about before are now
basic to creating a wholly visual
experience. Does a beholder blink?
What sound does an orc make? Do
goblins walk bow-legged? What
does that spell look like when cast?

Its challenging to cram in


the UI elements and make the
game fun and easy to play

Kabams game The Hobbit:


Kingdoms of Middle-earth is
set in a time of great turmoil.

TM Middle-earth Ent., Lic. to WB Games

Kabam

Wizards released its


rst iPad game, Lords
of Waterdeep, in 2013.

What can we expect from future


D&D digital releases?
We have fans who dont roleplay
but love reading about D&D
worlds and lore in books. Our
goal is to continue that strong
sense of narrative and fantasy. We
have a variety of different play
experiences available that arent
strictly roleplaying, and were
striving to make all of our offerings
true to the essence of what we feel
D&D is: rich narratives, unique
characters and monsters, and that
sense of heroic adventure.
Daniel is senior art director
at Wizards of the Coast, which
now offers a range of games for
iOS and Android devices.
www.wizards.com

Fantasy Card Artist 21

Valorwares 9th Dawn


brings an old-school RPG
aesthetic to the iPad.

22 Fantasy Card Artist

Valorware

Feature

Its also important that the


overall look, feel and playability
of a game isnt compromised

Avadon 2: The Corruption is part of


Spiderwebs popular RPG series.

According to Ofcom, two-thirds of the


UK population about 43 million people
use a smartphone, and eMarketer estimates
that about 33 million use tablets. In 2010,
smartphone and tablet games accounted
for just five per cent of the total spend on
video games. Games research firm Newzoo
believes that in 2015, global mobile game
revenues eclipsed console game revenues
for the first time. The increase is attributed,
in part, to gaming on social networks and
the rise of the casual gamer. A spike in
female gamers has also been recorded.
Michael is senior art director at San
Francisco based interactive entertainment
company Kabam, which came to some

prominence with Facebook strategy game


Kingdoms of Camelot. He joined Kabam to
help oversee the companys move into the
mobile market. Over a two-decade career,
Michael has witnessed sweeping changes
within the industry, and he thinks he knows
whats needed to succeed in the new era.
You need to plan for a much smaller
screen, he says. If youre playing on a
tablet, and especially on a phone, characters
and UI need to read clearly. Mobile devices
are getting better processors all the time,
and were focused on bringing consolequality games to tablets and smartphones.
What Michael particularly likes about
working on mobile games, compared to
console or PC titles, is the opportunity to
be part of a smaller, tighter team and the
shorter development cycles.
Spiderweb Software also prides itself on
its small, friendly ethos. The Seattle-based
developer is behind cult RPG titles Avernum,
Geneforge and Blades of Exile.
We tend to the needs of oldschool gamers on Windows,
Mac and tablets, Spiderweb
founder Jeff Vogel says. He
see his biggest challenge as

remaking the interface, because theres


a marked difference between a mouse or
keyboard and touch controls.
Its also important, he says, that the
overall look, feel and playability of a
game isnt compromised because of the
platform its created for. Its this stage of
the process that takes up the most time
and care, says Jeff.
Charles Cross, owner of
US start-up indie games
developer Valorware, says
the expanding mobile
market offers great new
opportunities for artists looking to break
into the games industry. One of the
biggest benefits of developing for
mobile platforms is the lower cost of
development and therefore lower barriers
to entry into the market.
His message is that, by pairing with
those with the technical know-how, the
mobile market affords artists the chance
to bring their visions to life without the
backing of big budgets. Its now much
easier to have our content published and
recognised, Charles concludes, even
without strong marketing efforts.

Fantasy Card Artist 23

Spiderweb Software, Inc

Games on the move

Feature

Working on a legend
Ben Thompson, art director on
Blizzards Hearthstone, reveals
what its like to work on the worlds
leading digital collectible card game

ith more than


40 million
registered
players,
there are few
collectible card
games as big
as Blizzards Hearthstone: Heroes of
Warcraft. In keeping with Blizzards
video game roots, Hearthstone is a
digital card game, but that doesnt
mean the artwork is overlooked. Far
from it. As art director Ben Thompson
testifies, the art is the cornerstone of
the series.
It was helpful that we had a physical
trading card game at Blizzard before
work began on Hearthstone, says Ben.
It helped establish the art from early
on. It helped set the tone and build on
the World of Warcraft IP.
When Hearthstone began, the team
was a mere seven staff a small studio,
and particularly small for Blizzard. In
fact, Ben was the first artist hired, and
the scale of team helped. It meant the
team could draw on the resources inside
Blizzard and, as Ben says, youll see a
lot of recognisable artists creating those
early cards, people like Sam Didier and
Luke Mancini.
Key to developing the Hearthstone
art style was to tap into what artists
love, Ben explains: We never
approached game development from a
perspective of what would be popular,
we always approach games from a
perspective of what will we ourselves
want to play or spend hours and hours

24 Fantasy Card Artist

creating art for. Hearthstone as it is


today is and we hope will continue
to be the kind of game that the artists
have as much fun working on and
developing as people do playing it.
And as long as decisions are made
from that perspective, were all going
to have fun. Were grateful for the
success its had.
So what card art does Ben get
excited about? Im always going to
be interested in cards that provide a
visual wow factor, says the artist. For
players, I think they always get excited
when they see something happen,
something like Twisting Nether when
its played in the virtual space, you get
to see pieces of the card get pulled away
into this mega void. Thats a very pulseracing moment for players.

GREAT CARD ART


Because its a digital card game, the
artists on Hearthstone need to think
slightly differently about what makes
great card art, as these are interactive,
animated cards that need to function
on different levels. Ben is clear that 75
per cent of the time Hearthstone card
art needs to look good in the game
space, whether its a character a
weapon or whatever, how it looks in
the play space is the first and last
most important thing because thats
going to affect gameplay.
With that said, adds Ben, people
are going to get invested in these cards
and collect them. Theyll want to put
them into their virtual collection

STYLE COUNCIL
Hearthstones characters
were developed by a small
team of Blizzard artists,
who were familiar with the
World of Warcraft style.

Hearthstone

Hearthstone is
kind of game the
artists have as that
fun working onmuch
people do playin as
Ben Thompgso it
n

Fantasy Card Artist 25

Feature
manager, so you need to make sure that
card looks good. It needs to look good as a
piece of art when its larger.
When talking about creating card art in
general, Ben says you should make sure the
art is readable at both a small and larger size,
present the character properly, and get across
their story in the piece its about being
economical with the details.
When talking specifically about
Hearthstone art of all those things, the most
elusive thing that we need artists to grasp is the
stylistic differences between World of Warcraft
and Hearthstone, says Ben. World of Warcraft
builds on the epic, it builds on the great, and
features over-the-top scale and proportions.
For Hearthstone we want to be about 20
degrees off of that. We dont want to be untrue
to the foundations of World of Warcraft, but
we want to celebrate it in a unique and different
way. We celebrate that charming, that lighthearted appeal that makes World of Warcraft
just a lot of fun for players.

GET IN THE GAME


If you want to get into creating card art, then
its interesting, and a little surprising, to find
out what art directors like Ben look for. The
commissioning process, for example, isnt
as rigid as you may think. Ive been very
conscious of that, having done a lot of card
art myself, so I try to figure out a way to create
descriptions that are evocative and descriptive
to help the artist meet expectations but not too
much, as we want the artist to have fun working
on this art, explains Ben. That said, it does

The most elusive thing that we


need artists to grasp is the stylistic
differences between World of
Warcraft and Hearthstone
need to fit into the world of Hearthstone as
a whole. Its an iterative process. Oftentimes
well be asking artists to experiment with a
style thats not their own but fits into the World
of Warcraft style. There is room to experiment
and try new things.
Dont be put off if your natural style doesnt
fit into the Hearthstone look. Ben actively loves
testing new artists to see what they come back
with, and readily says they have artists from
all sectors creating cards, from concept artists
to 3D modellers. And dont think you need
to be a fan of Hearthstone, either: as Ben
explains, The person who hasnt had a lot of
interaction with World of Warcraft is probably
the one person whos most likely to turn in
something surprising because they dont have
so many preconceptions. So were very careful
not to discount that artist who, as you say,
doesnt have that passion or familiarity with
World of Warcraft. It can be more fun to see
what they come up with and guide them, offer
them some feedback that will keep them in line
with what players will like.

Art for cards must be functional but also


beautiful. Players must want to own and
collect the cards. Its a knife-edge the
Hearthstone team live on.

TRY SOMETHING NEW


It began as an ape on a horse,
but Hearthstones 20-degree slant
from World of Warcaft needed
something more fun a hippo
replaced the horse!

Get ahead in card art


Ben Thompson
shares his tips and
advice for anyone
wanting to break
into the industry
I think a lot of what
makes great card art is
not too dissimilar to what
makes great game art:
shape readability, colour
palette You need to get
across the personality of
the art, explains Ben.
For anyone who
wants to specifically get
into card illustration, Id

26 Fantasy Card Artist

DEVELOPING A CARD

recommend they look at


whats out there, once
they find a style of art that
excites them. Also, do
more art in the style you
love. I always find the best
portfolios to look at are
those done in the style
the artist loves if you
only ever show apples
and then you show
oranges, we question
your ability to draw
oranges [when youre
actually great at apples].
Ben also suggests you
tailor your portfolio to the
company you want to
work for, and always aim
to exceed expectations.

I get countless portfolios


that match the standard
of the work we produce.
The real way to stand
out is to show work that
exceeds what were
doing, says Ben.
Finally, contrary to
what you might have
heard, Ben stresses
the need to show your
process. Show your value
studies, colour balance
tests and sketches
Thats the language
we use on a daily basis
as artists, thats how we
communicate ideas, and
seeing that lets me know
how the artist works.

Hearthstone

olios
f
t
r
o
p
s
s
e
l
t
I get cotunmatch the
tha of the work
standardce. The way to
we produout is to exceed
stand Ben Thompson
it

Fantasy Card Artist 27

Interview
DIABLO III: STORM OF LIGHT
Laurel D. Austins cover art for the
Diablo III: Storm of Light book. Her
work also graces the screens of millions of
gamers the Diablo series has sold more
than 24.8 million copies worldwide.

Art: Laurel D. Austin

THE ART OF

LAUREL D.
AUSTIN
N

We catch up with the Canadian-born concept artist


and illustrator whos putting the buzz into Blizzard
Entertainments illustrious gaming output

STARCRAFT II: LEGACY OF THE VOID

GREEN PARROT DRAGON

Laurels eye-catching poster art for the StarCraft expansion pack


Legacy of the Void, which was released at the end of 2015.

An example of Laurels skilful blending of animal attributes


and anatomies for which shes famous.

Game art is a lot less restrictive than


other areas. Theres more room to play
around and do fun things

ow senior illustrator at
Blizzard Entertainment,
Laurel D. Austin muses: I
was, perhaps like some of the
readers out there, the weird
arty kid in my class. Weird
or otherwise, her dynamic,
energetic style has served her well, winning her
commissions working on big-name trading card
series and numerous blockbuster games titles. It
has seen her grow from small-town Canadian
bedroom artist to becoming one of the leading
concept illustrators in the video games industry.
I was definitely an arty kid, says Lauren.
To the exclusion of a lot else, I think! I was lucky
that my parents were very encouraging. I loved
drawing, and they always made sure I had reams
of paper and buckets of crayons, pencils and
markers at my disposal. I was interested in a few
subjects from an early age animals of all sorts,
especially dinosaurs, mythical creatures and the
worlds they lived in. My parents told me they
knew Id be either an artist or a scientist.
Sciences loss is the concept art worlds gain,
though, and after a multidisciplinary art course
at NSCAD University in Nova Scotia, Canada,
Lauren embarked upon a career in the games
industry with the London-based Splash Damage
(creators of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Enemy
Territory: Quake Wars, Dirty Bomb and more).
Lauren was eventually let loose on the studios
first original title, BRINK. Under the stewardship
of art director Olivier Leonardi, she flourished:
It was a small team, but full of great talent, she
recalls. I learned a lot from artists like Georgi
Simeonov and Tim Appleby. I was incredibly

Fantasy Card Artist 29

Interview

LEARNING FROM THE BEST


Seeing what pro artists were posting
online, what careers were possible
and what working to a professional
standard meant, gave me a clear
target to hit and showed me
the resources I needed.

LORDS OF WAR: DUROTAN


The most enjoyable episode for me to work
on... she says. I love me some wolves. And
she adds: I cant help but feel more connected
to Durotan as a character after drawing him
so much. Funny how that happens, really.

SIGVARD THE VICTORIOUS


A character concept Laurel
created for the online Game
Artist Academy.

LORDS OF WAR:
GROMMARSH
One of Laurels concept
animation pieces of
Grommarsh Hellscream,
the legendary World of
Warcraft character.

HEARTHSTONE
The Hearthstone, Heroes
of Warcraft expansion is
one of Laurels favourite
games and features many
of her character creations.

lucky to have my first few years in the


industry at such a unique studio.

MORE THAN A GAME


Video game art seems like a calling to
Laurel, and her passion for the broad
imagination and creativity required
to create whole worlds of believable
characters and environments is evident
when she talks about the nature of the
work. This isnt an artist whos simply
treading water. Gaming development
and art is her lifeblood, it seems.
Since video games are such a young
medium, the art surrounding them seems
a lot less restrictive than other areas of
entertainment, Laurel explains. Theres
just more room to play around and do
things that are fun.
The way I look at it, the art for video
games does three basic jobs. The art is
certainly not the only aspect that can
tell the games story, but its the medium
that does the lions share of the job of
communicating mood and background
to the players. In games like Portal and
BioShock, you actually get tableaus in

30 Fantasy Card Artist

the environments that describe events


in the game words scrawled on walls,
and bloody trails leading to locked doors,
for example fleshing out the story and
hinting that things may not be what they
seem. The best examples of this are when
the writers and artists work together to
make truly engaging stories. Separately,
it never works as well.
The second aspect is in enabling the
gameplay. Art can have a real impact on
how fun a game is to play. Its frustrating
when icons arent large or clear enough,
or important objects blend into the
environment too much, or you just cant
tell where to go next because theres no
environmental cues to guide you along.
Like the story, this is achieved best when
designers and artists are working very
closely together to get the best results.

THE ARTISTS JOB


Finally, art sells the game. The first
moment anybody sees any media about
a game, the thing were most likely to
respond to is the art style. If we like the
art style, were more likely to investigate

LAUREL D.
AUSTIN

VITAL STATISTICS
The one-stop-shop for info on Laurel
Current location
Southern
California

Sketchbook or
canvas?
Sketchbook

Favourite artists
Too many to
count! Some
particularly
important
influences are:
James Gurney Dinotopia
was a revelation to me as a
kid. Ilya Repin theres just
so much feeling in every
story. Sebastian Krger
nobody paints a better
craggy face.

Favourite food
Candy. But as for
real food Im
spoiled by the great
vegetarian food in
southern California.
Irrational fear
Reanimated terror birds
Best holiday destination
Anywhere with a good
natural history museum and
good local food.

Favourite music
Do podcasts count
as music?

Cake or pie
What kind of monster would
make someone choose?!

Brush or pencils?
Pencils

Website
www.laureldaustinart.com

Art: Laurel D. Austin

SMAUG
SCULPTURE
Laurel sees sculpture as an
excellent complement to 2D art
After stumbling upon a Peter Konig
tutorial on an art forum a decade ago,
Laurel decided to try sculpting. He
made this fantastic gliding monster
and gave a super helpful rundown of
all the materials and steps involved,
says Laurel. I tried it out and loved it.
Its a nice break from the computer
without taking a break from art. Theres
something about having an object in
front of you thats extra cool. Plus you
get a toy for your desk at the end of it.
You cant lose!
Its not a main focus for Laurel. She
produces a couple of pieces a year
at most. But working in 3D is a nice
complement to 2D, she says. It helps
me understand 2D forms a bit better
composing a sculpture that looks great
from all angles is very challenging.

Giving people
warm fuzzes
and them saying
Holy crap, that is
awesome! goes
a long way

THE DRAGONS IN THE DETAIL


Laurels sculptures are highly detailed, as the scales
on this model of Smaug show. It was created for
Gallery Nucleuss 2013 Out of the Shire show.

Fantasy Card Artist 31

KNOW THY MUSCLES


Being at an interdisciplinary school helped
me improve my gure drawing skills, and the
absolutely stellar anatomy classes meant
I understood the underlying structures in
the human body. I can still name
obscure muscle groups
as a party trick.

THE LEAGUE OF EXPLORERS


This is an advertising piece created
for Hearthstone, Heroes of
Warcraft another area that
Laurel oversees at Blizzard.

THE BUZZ AT
BLIZZARD
Laurel on being the driving force
behind Blizzards concept art
Blizzard Entertainment has been rocking the
world of gaming since 1991, producing hits
including The Lost Vikings and the Diablo
and StarCraft series. So whats the best thing
about being senior illustrator there?
The great people I work with, Lauren
says. The entire creative development
department are exceptionally skilled artists
and storytellers, and working alongside them
has made me a better artist. I cant emphasise
enough how important it is to get out of your
own head and spend time with other artists
you respect. Getting their feedback will help
you become a better artist.
At Blizzard I get to work on all of the IPs,
which provides a ton of interesting challenges
and variety. Most of my work is focused on
making supporting story art for the games,
and learning more about visual storytelling
is one of the biggest perks to being here.

PLATYBELODON
Laurels knowledge of
animal anatomy is
astounding and extends
to prehistoric beasts.

DRAGON DEMO
A piece that Laurel created for a talk at
Gnomon, to demonstrate different material
rendering possibilities for creatures.

32 Fantasy Card Artist

Art: Laurel D. Austin

ANTELOPE RIDER
A new concept piece
from Laurel. Even her
rougher painting style
captures the drama and
movement in the scene.

more. This is true not only with the public,


but also internally with the other developers on
your team. As artists, its our job to inspire our
teams with how insanely cool the game were
making together is going to be. Giving people the
warm fuzzes and getting them to say Holy crap,
that is awesome! goes a long way.
And with Laurels art and the games which it
drives, there are a heck of a lot of holy crap
moments. Take Hearthstone, for example, which
on the face of it is an online turn-based card game
from Blizzard. Where it differs from most online
card games is its depth of characters and classes
of hero. Each character is much more than the
traditional warlock or warrior, being given
fantastical names like Garrosh Hellscream and
Magni Bronzebeard, complete with detailed
backstories and oddball character traits. These
enable Laurel to draw upon each characters traits
and histories, and create figures with far more

There is a ton of
decisions to make, but
always think about
what you want your
viewers to feel

depth of character than traditional online games.


In terms of artistic style and technique, its these
fictional personalities that Laurel begins with
when working up a new piece. When Im starting
an illustration the right way which, being by
nature somewhat impatient, I dont always do I
start by thinking what the point of the painting is.
I view illustration as communicating a story of
some sort: a big one or a small one, or a little piece
that hints at something larger, or the climactic
moment of a great epic, Laurel says.

SEEKING THE STORY


And this story is key, she believes: Whatever
it is, you have to decide what your story moment
is, and then figure out whats the best way to
communicate it. A lot of considerations go into
this, like angle of view, aspect ratio, character
pose, lighting, and colour. There is always a ton
of decisions to make, but always keep at the front
of your mind what you want your viewers to feel.
Do they identify with the characters? Which
ones? Do they pity them? Do they feel empathic?
Are they frightened for them? Frightened by
them? And every choice you make, make it in
the service of that goal.
Laurels creative process has a strong sense of
empathy about it. I tend to start with black-andwhite, working out the basics of the composition.

Whats the feeling, what are the characters doing,


what are their faces doing, and only then go into
colour, she reveals. If I can get it working at the
stage, the rest of the process is just expanding upon
the idea and making sure to preserve what was nice
about the sketch which doesnt always happen.
Sometimes it may take more than one attempt
to capture in a final piece what you liked about
a sketch. It can be pretty frustrating when a piece
just isnt working, but sometimes it takes a fresh
start to really nail what you liked about a sketch.
Where does she think shes managed to nail it?
Asked what are her own favourite pieces, Laurel
replies: Ill count as a favourite any piece where
Ive managed to have an effect on a viewer to tell
them a story and make them feel what I hoped
theyd feel. Thatll always rank high in my books.
For illustration and concept art Laurel almost
always uses Photoshop with a Cintiq. But she uses
physical media in her process too. When I sculpt,
I generally use Super Sculpey Firm [modelling
clay] and acrylic paint, though Ive been meaning
to try out sculpting wax. I keep a sketchbook with
me to do pen drawing, though it never seems like
I have enough time to do that much these days
usually just small drawings of animals or
dinosaurs I toss on my Instagram. Overall, I much
prefer to work digitally. Ctrl-Z is the best thing to
happen to art since the brush was invented!

Fantasy Card Artist 33

Feature

Pursue your passion!

HEL
The CROOZ
art style,
particularly
for Deity Wars,
is a rich and
distinctive
mix of colour
and detail.

SVAROG
Even when depicting
dark gures, CROOZs
artists manage to create
a beautiful design.

PURSUE
YOUR
PASSION!
CROOZ is an expanding Japanese online
games company and its on the hunt for great
artists, so portfolios at the ready
ith an enviable track record
in Japan and ambitions to
spread its distinctive brand
of artwork-driven social
gaming to every corner of
the globe, CROOZ is hungry for fresh illustrators.
With headquarters in Tokyo, CROOZ has a
branch office in San Francisco for marketing
activities focused on North America, but of
course it makes use of contributing artists based
just about anywhere around the world.
Since entering the social games market in
2010, the company has rocketed into the top
three games developers on Japanese platform
Mobage, boasting more than 20 million
registered users. But its sights are firmly set
on the number one spot, and you could help
it achieve that goal.
CROOZs most popular game is Ragnabreak,
which is better known to players outside Japan

W
DARK ARTIMA
Can you paint characters like
those of CROOZs art team?

ASTERIA
Deity Wars features some striking
anime-style character designs.

Fantasy Card Artist 35

Feature

ART CLASSES

PHARAOH

Each character is designed to t a class,


such as an archer, priest, wizard, knight
or lancer. All the details in the artwork
have to contribute to the story.

Deity Wars features an imaginary world


with three spaces Heaven, Earth and Hell
and loads of great characters, like Pharaoh.

as Deity Wars. With more than 3.6 million


players across the globe, its renowned for the
superb quality of its original artwork.
The games art director Daisuke
looks for a broad range of skills to
ensure that everything from the
emotions on a characters face to
the overall world of the game is just
right. And with overseas expansion plans high up
CROOZs agenda, his selection criteria for new
artists include broad global appeal.
Characters such as Succubus and Pharaoh are
good examples of characters popular worldwide,
he says. However, he continues, the Japanese
anime-style is also very popular, so were looking
for illustrators that can adopt the good points of
Japanese style, too.
In addition to individual art style, Daisuke
explains that the fundamental skills of drawing
anatomy, realistic clothing and accessories are

all crucial to make it in this field generally, and


to catch his eye in particular.
Deity Wars is set in the three spaces of Heaven,
Hell and Earth separate dimensions that are
colliding. Players collect character cards, discover
new powers and battle for supremacy. Where

Players must
feel they want to
evolve the card to
the next stage, so we
always create
attractive levelledup versions

DAMIEN
Japanese anime-style art is popular around the world, so CROOZ is
looking for illustrators who can adopt this style into its art process.

some games put considerably more creative


energy into a games rarer cards, for CROOZ
quality and attention to detail is paramount
across the board again putting the onus on
a consistently strong roster of talent.
Each character has several iterations to be
developed. Cards in Deity Wars evolve by four
steps, and have three extra levelled up versions
in addition to the original one, says Daisuke.
We must make players feel they want to evolve
the card to the next stage, so we always make the
effort to create attractive levelled-up versions.

ARTHURIAN LEGENDS
Another illustration-heavy game in CROOZs
growing catalogue is Knights of Avalon, an
original browser-based fantasy RPG based on
the classic Arthurian legend. As one of Arthurs
knights, players fight against the notorious traitor
Mordred on the floating continent Avalon,

ANDROMEDA
Illustrator: Mirei Kobayashi
An illustrator on
CROOZs successful
Deity Wars social roleplaying game, Mirei
Kobayashi shares her
card art process
I begin by
examining the
brief and deciding
on what to create.
I wanted to draw a
female character
wearing a beautiful
piece of clothing in
a sea of stars.

36 Fantasy Card Artist

Now I must plan for how


the art will look when its
a card. So I zoom out a bit so
that theres more space for
the character when I fit it into
the card frame.

With my idea developing, now is the time when the


shapes of the characters body, hair, costume and all
other objects in the illustration are finalised.

Pursue your passion!


BACKGROUND ART
Great card art needs to tell a story
in one image, so a rich background
can be just as important as a
characters expression.

Now I
begin to
make a final
pass of the
illustration,
giving it that
polished sheen
thats consistent
with the general
CROOZ style.
Im looking to
enhance the
overall feel of
the piece, so
I add the
materials that
change the
characters
silhouette.

With the composition


set I begin to finish
the character, giving her a
sparkling and glittery look
because shes the Protector
Queen of the galaxy.

Fantasy Card Artist 37

Feature
VIVIAN
Illustrator: Yoshiro Ambe
Another member of the CROOZ team, Yoshiro Ambe guides
us through the creation of a piece of card art for Deity Wars
I start by
sketching my
ideas. In this stage
I think about the
composition and all of
the aspects required
in the character
illustration. I like to
create a number of
sketches to work
through my ideas,
before choosing one
to take through to
the final artwork.

I start drawing based on the most


attractive of the sketches shown
in the first step. This is the most crucial
step because the image I have here
directly links to the final art.

SUCCUBUS
Characters such as Succubus, shown here, are good examples
of characters who are popular worldwide with fans of
CROOZs Deity Wars.

I look at the balance of the whole


illustration. I make sure that the
shape of the characters body looks
fine and theres no unnatural space in
the illustration.

HELIOS
The Deity Wars art cards have wellbalanced proportions that, says Daisuke, Japanese
people would recognise as beautiful and cool cards.

I finish by adding precise details


and effects, and making the
character blend into the background
by adjusting the colour of light and the
usage of space.

38 Fantasy Card Artist

When adding decorations and


effects, I make sure the character
doesnt become obscured by these
visual enhancements. Notice that the
broken sword has been repaired.

explains game director Max. Like Deity


Wars, the game is available on Mobage. Over
a million people subscribed in the first five
months, putting Knights of Avalon in the top
10 on the platform.
Beautiful fantasy art remains at the core of
Knights of Avalon, where players form a team
and enjoy real-time battles and CROOZ has
plans to add many more characters and features
to the game, so there are plenty of opportunities
for talented artists to get involved.
A medieval realm of swords,
shields and suits of armour brings a
different set of challenges compared
with Deity Wars. Jun is the art
director overseeing the game and,
like Daisuke, he stresses the importance of great
artwork: Creating a large variety of characters
that attract players hearts is our mission, he
smiles. Its up to the player whether he or she
chooses a brave, courageous looking character
or one with a more bewitching look, adds Jun,

Pursue your passion!

IDEION
Cards in Deity Wars evolve and level-up, so each new
card level needs to feel special and stunning. Will you
be one of the artists to develop CROOZs card art?

CROOZ is actively seeking new


artists to bring their skills to new
games and cards
First prepare a portfolio of
four or five of your strongest
(not necessarily favourite) pieces
of art. This is the optimum number
of images to really get the art
directors attention.

Visit crooz.co.jp/en/ and


click Recruit in the top bar.
Fill in the form that opens, and
provide a link to your online
gallery. If you dont have one, then
make sure you provide an email
address so CROOZ can contact
you for your portfolio images,
potentially giving you the
opportunity to become part of
this talented illustration team.

so its exciting to see your character moving


within the game, and becoming popular.
When briefing an illustrator for a new
character, he allows a healthy amount of creative
freedom to ensure that individual style has a
chance to shine through. At the same time, of
course, its still important to maintain unity
throughout the game, and consequently artists
must be receptive to art direction from CROOZ.
First, we give the illustrator a written direction
sheet with a basic plot and characteristics,
begins Jun. We want them to use their
imagination, and so we dont give detailed
restrictions or requirements at this point.

GUIDANCE AND DIRECTION


There are two main feedback stages with the art
director: first comes the rough draft, where basic
composition and design is discussed, and any
changes are requested; and then theres the
colouring stage, where overall details such as
the background or effects used are considered.

EXPANDING ART APPEAL


CROOZ intends to expand
Avalons character roster, features
and in-game elements and needs
new artists to take on the
illustrations. Will you be one?

Its clear that CROOZ nourishes the talent of


its illustrators, providing the guidance and art
direction required to get exactly the artwork it
needs. Its company motto is to create Cool and
Fun, which speaks volumes about what its like
to work as an illustrator on CROOZs books.
So what kind of illustration talent is Jun
looking for, and how do you impress him? First
up, you need the skills to wow him instantly:
The illustration must have a strong, high-impact
look at first glance, he explains. This requires

Creating a large
variety of characters
that attract players
hearts is our
mission

skills in sketching, designing and decorating,


and drawing beautiful faces.
Its also about style. Knights of Avalon sits
between the thick-layered colouring style and
the anime-style often seen in Japanese
animations, says Jun, adding that a balance
between realism and fantasy is important, too.
So if you think youre up for the challenge
and can bring a can-do attitude and a strong set
of illustration skills to games like Deity Wars
and Knights of Avalon as they continue to grow
their international fan-base, CROOZ would
love to hear from you.
If youre successful, youll be expected to
spend up to a month on each illustration,
depending on the level of detail required
although as both Daisuke and Jun make clear,
every character counts.
First visit the CROOZ website, provide your
contact details and a link to your portfolio,
and before long you could be part of the talent
roster thats at the heart of everything it does.

Fantasy Card Artist 39

Feature

ACES
IN THE
HOLE
Japanese online card game
company Applibot has
spared no expense in
employing the worlds best
digital artists for its
products. We showcase
some of the stunning
imagery theyve produced

or a moment, at the tail end of 2012, it looked


like Applibot was taking over the world of
online digital art. Every striking fantasy
character and sci-fi action scene posted online
seemed to bear the mark of Galaxy Saga or
Legend of the Cryptids the two app card games that Applibot
offers for free download.
Theres more to the Japanese company than a big wallet,
though. Art director Shogo Takeda is adamant that art was the
companys starting point, and this bears scrutiny. Download
the Legends of the Cryptids, and the opening animation
features beautifully crafted pieces of art in lavish gold frames.
Our goal was to create a game with the highest-level
artwork, so we got the top artists from around the world,
says Shogo simply. He also knew well enough to trust the
talent: Our briefs were kept simple, rarely more than a
name and a one-line description.
Behind this open approach was a simple fact: Applibots
sudden, blanket commissioning around the world sped up
output, helping it in the race to the then-untapped global
market for Japanese-style social card battle games, says Shogo.
The plan worked. It hit number one in Japans app store
top sellers list, and number two in the US. Since then, Shogo
admits, its not been easy to sustain the momentum. Similar
services have come out in the meantime that are earning
10 billion yen monthly. The fact that our earnings have not
kept pace has been disappointing.
However, with undisclosed plans for new projects, and
more art to be released for the existing games, Applibot may
yet regain the top spot. Until thats resolved, we still have all
this amazing art to enjoy!

40 Fantasy Card Artist

MICHAEL
Remarkably, Crowgod uploaded his rst piece of art in
December 2011, and by July 2012 he was working on
Legend of the Cryptids, creating the characters Lucifer,
the Masters of Belial and Michael, shown here.

XU CHENG
(CROWGOD)
Maybe its because we cant play online
card games like Legends in China, but
I think physical card games will always
have a strong fan base around the world.

ODIN
Odin, the chief god of Norse mythology, crops up in
Legends of the Cryptids, battling the giant wolf Fenrir in
Ragnarok. In myth hes destined to lose, but thats where
the game and mythology diverge.

CLINT CEARLEY
Applibot doesnt describe a characters
appearance. The rst one I did, Lady
Paradoxia, was the princess daughter of the
Queen of Light and a fallen angel.
Artistically, thats quite a jumping-off point.

Aces in the hole

Fantasy Card Artist 41

Feature

KERA
Most of the work I get nowadays
is for online card games, geared
for mobile devices. Its always a
challenge to create something thatll
look great full size and on a
4.5-inch screen.

HADES
This painting of Hades was created for Applibots
sci- adventure card game Galaxy Saga, and offers
artist Keras unique take on the chthonic character.

X-7 DEADWALKER
An upgraded take on the
Demon Droid. All Iwo had to
work on was that this guy liked
to inict pain. And thats
plenty, he says.

IWO
WIDULINSKI
I think that in my time well see people more often
duelling using their tablets, and tournaments being
held on big touch screens.

LUMINA
Lumina is the rst piece
Daren did for Applibot.
I used my wife as a
model wearing a bed
sheet. I made her younger
and prettier. Shes lovely,
of course, but not quite a
space princess!

DAREN HORLEY
Mobile phones are pretty much compulsory in
the developed world, so it makes sense to create
games for them. I collected bubble gum cards
as a kid. This is the 21st century equivalent.

42 Fantasy Card Artist

Aces in the hole

Fantasy Card Artist 43

Feature

WHITE BELLATOR
This is an example of
a card that Maxim
suggested to Applibot,
which was picked up on.
Its cool when your ideas
become alive in a game,
says the artist.

MAXIM VEREHIN
Artistic freedom doesnt just mean room to
move Ive also suggested my own characters,
and have three sets of my own creations
in these games.

QUIESCENT GREENMAN
This is the evolved version of Quiescent
Greenman. Here Mike makes the character
more dominant and imposing, while still
rooted in nature. Because the brief didnt
specify whether it needed to look human, I
went more abstract and elemental.

DARK QUEEN GUINEVERE


Brad worked on Dark Queen
Guinevere and designed everything
about the characters and her
environment the only caveat being
that she was a vampire and a queen
and had to be in a forest setting.

BRAD
RIGNEY
MIKE CORRIERO
The brief was a humanoid being that
guarded the forest and its animals. I had a
lot of fun playing around with the elemental
look of the original version of this card.

44 Fantasy Card Artist

The two versions of a character is


my favourite thing about this genre.
The idea of a seasoned version of
the same individual opens new
ways to establish narrative. I totally
geek out on stuff like that.

Aces in the hole

SHENHUA
My take on Shenhua was
someone who was capable
of altering machines at
will. I wanted to merge
my inuences and make
something that feels
Japanese by its design
but Occidental with its
graphic feel.

SIMON
GOINARD
THE WHITE KNIGHT LYDIA
This is the advanced version of
Rupid79s The White Knight Lydia,
Onyx Beast Master, with added
black cat support.

Applibot is trying to get new online


cards out there regularly, so the gap
between creation and publication is
as short as possible, making the art
responsive to the present moment.

LEE JUNG MYUNG


(RUPID79)
It seems everything can be downloaded
nowadays, temporarily fullling our sense of
possession. But to have something rare, peculiar
and precious! Thats what these cards offer.

Fantasy Card Artist 45

Feature

DEATHPACT ANGEL
Jason Chan produced this image for the Gatecrash
expansion pack released in 2013. With its landscape
size, its also been used in posters.

46 Fantasy Card Artist

Magic: The Gathering

In 1993 a new collectible card game was


released. No one knew it then, but it
would entice generations into a complex
fantasy world and inspire the greatest
fantasy artists working today
rad Rigney is carefully
describing what makes
Magic: The Gathering
unique. As a life-long
fan and player of the
collectible card game
(CCG), not to mention a phenomenally
talented and widely admired digital artist,
his passion is palpable.
Magic fans spend a lot of time with the
cards in their hands they get attached to
them, they have memories associated with
each card in their deck, Brad
says. They may hate what
a card does and dread seeing
it played on the battlefield,
or love a card and relish the
experience of slapping it down and saying
Eat it! to their opponent.
Mirroring the companys history, the
games simple concept players taking the
role of Planeswalkers, moving through the
Multiverse, battling other Planeswalkers
with cards becomes as multifaceted as
the people that play it. There are thousands
of cards to choose from, all with various
powers and meaning, so your deck is
unique. The game can be played with two
people or 2,693, as in 2013s Pro Tour.
You get a lot of laughs and thrills in
Magic games. Cards get flipped over and

All images Wizards of the Coast LLC

the rush of victory or sting of defeat


follows, says Brad, and it can be your art
that immediately broadcasts that. Players
see the art and know what the card does.

A COLOURFUL PAST
Its been over 20 years, and Magic: The
Gathering is still the most popular CCG.
Its morphed and shifted, expanded,
embraced digital art, developed huge
multi-tiered tournaments, and changed
scoring systems. Theres also one other
thing that makes it stand out.
Magic was the first CCG to be released
and its never given up the advantages that
head start gave it, says Peter Venters, an
art director whos been
involved with Magic since the
beginning. CCGs survive
through a thriving player
base. If people cant find
anyone to play a game with, they stop
buying the cards and the game dies.
A strong tournament scene has been
Magics life source, keeping the fans
engaged. It also helps, says Pete, that
the people behind the scenes know
what theyre doing. One of the secrets
to releasing a CCG is that by the time
you have a set released, the next set
better be on the way to the printers

Cards get flipped over and the rush


of victory or sting of defeat follows, and
it can be your art that broadcasts that

Fantasy Card Artist 47

Feature

DARK CONFIDANT

SOR
RCERERS APPR
RENTICE
Sometimes even suspicious parents cant get in the
way of a childs passion for playing fantasy games
Jason Chan has been a playing fan
of Magic: The Gathering since high
school, even though the game was
unceremoniously banned because
some parents complained that the
school was allowing black magic to
be practised.
Jason was not put off, and a few
years of hard graft later he was
creating art for the game. My first

PACT OF NEGATION
Jason Chans rst card for Magic
displays his budding talent
although the artist feels hes
come a long way since then.

48 Fantasy Card Artist

two cards were done simultaneously,


he says. They were Nimbus Maze and
Pact of Negation in the Future Sight
expansion in 2007. The artist was
24 years old. I definitely think that
my work has changed since then,
says Jason. My working process is
completely different, for one. Im my
own worst critic, so Im always trying
to improve my work.

Popular artist
Scott M. Fischer turns
completely to digital
methods to produce
this charming chap.

VAULT SKIRGE
Heres Brad Rigney's rst
card for the New Phyrexia
expansion. A common
card, it introduced
another recognisable
talent to the franchise.

and the following set should be at


the art assignment stage.

MAKING MAGIC
Creating artwork for Magic is tricky. Youre
tasked with conveying a character, a skill, or
perhaps an evocative environment. And that
art will then be shrunk to cover a fraction of
a playing card. Yet people like John Stanko,
Donato Giancola and Scott M. Fischer jump
at the chance of a Magic commission.
Whats the process? Its a
secret, says Jason Chan,
a Magic player since high
school. A very well-planned
secret. Proceedings are

Magic: The Gathering

VET
TERAN PLANESW
WALKER
Magic: The Gatherings story is inevitably tied up with
various artists stories. Artists such as Peter Venters

MEINS OF WEEPING
Anthony Waters: They
wanted an environment full
of sadness and morbidity.
Yay, my bread and butter!

British artist Peter Venters was on his


first trip to America in 1993, when he
met the Wizards of the Coast guys at
the Philadelphia Comic Con. A friendly
chat ensued, and within a month he
was producing card art for the packs
Antiquities, Legends and The Dark.
Ive done over 280 pieces for Magic
over 17 years, he tells us, in traditional

and digital mediums, and Ive got


my favourites in both mediums. In
traditional Id go for Megatog (good
comedy value), while in digital itd be
Lys Alana Huntcaller, because I went
to town on the textures for that. I used
Corel Painter watercolour layers to
create stippling to simulate motes of
golden light in a magical forest.

MEGATOG
The Magic art of the
1990s had more room
for humour. Below
right, Peter proves hes
a digital dab hand.

fittingly clandestine. The artist receives


an email with the image description. This
is what a lot of fans dont seem to know.
I dont know a thing about what a card
actually does until I see the finished
thing, he says.
In fact, the names of characters
usually change before theyre printed.
This prevents me, or anyone snooping
through my studio, from getting any real
information on the game, he says. This
may sound paranoid, but you have to
remember that this is a multi-milliondollar franchise, and Magic or its parent
company Wizards of the Coast doesnt
want to give the competition an inch.

BURDEN OF GUILT
This is the follow-up to
John Stankos Gruesome
Discovery card, where a
wife nds her husband
dead. Here, years later,
shes unable to move on.

For Brad, a Magic commission is a chance


to embody not the card character, but the
card player: I ask myself, who would play
this card and why? What is the fantasy? I get
into character with it, try to place myself in
the gamers head and tap into the fantasy.
Really the only bridge there regardless of
play style is the art.

Magic wouldnt have


been nearly the success its
become without the art
Surprisingly, the importance of art
in the game is a topic that splits artist
opinion, and changes depending on the
era youre talking about. Anthony S. Waters
has worked on Wizards of the Coasts
Dungeons & Dragons and
Magic since 1997, and hes
clear on the point. Magic
wouldnt have been nearly
the success its become
without the art, but that said, the
mechanics are distinct from the art. You
dont need the art to play the game.

HANNA, SHIPS
NAVIGATOR

TO THE VICTOR, THE SPOILS

Terese Nielsen returns to


a character, Hanna, that
shes painted before, this
time with the aim of
making her appealing.
Job done!

The game today, like the artwork, has


changed fundamentally since 1993. The
first winner of a Magic Pro Tour got a
trophy and a handshake. Today theyll

CHANDRA
One of the iconic pieces
of Magic art! Jason
Chan puts his humble
debut behind him,
displaying a dramatic
style thats all this own.

Fantasy Card Artist 49

Feature

SERRA AVENGER
Scott M. Fischers most
popular image is an oil
and mixed media piece
on canvas, released in
2013 for Time Spiral.

RAMAZ
Brad moves on from
killer ying insect
creatures to crazy-eyed
cave men with this fella.

get around $40,000. The evolution


of the game has affected the fan base, says
Anthony. Magic had greater casual appeal
when it first appeared, but its been shaped
since then to meet the desires of a very
competitive audience, and that audience
isnt nearly as interested in the art as in days

The list of great artists who


have participated in making
the Magic: The Gathering
cards is so impressive
TREASURED FIND
Jason Chan produces silky
smooth skin textures and
dramatic lighting to bring
this card to life.

50 Fantasy Card Artist

past. Ive found mostly older players like the


art and game equally. Younger players are
more engaged by the game itself.
Stephan Martinire doesnt see it like
that: I would say the art is what makes
Magic so popular and
enduring. The list of great
artists who have participated
in making the cards is so
impressive. The trading
market of these cards and the high values
on some of them has also added to the
popularity of the game.
Depends on who you talk to, offers
Brad. There are some gamers who can take
or leave the art. Then there are gamers who
make decks actually based on it. You can
play the game so many ways.
One certainty is that the tiny image
of the card translates, whether creating a
buzz on an art forum, adorning magazine
pages, or being sold for a stack of cash.
Christopher Rushs Black Lotus, one of

CRYPTIC ANNELID
Anthony S. Waterss worm
beast is an almost abstract
creature, pushing the limits
of whats considered the
Magic style.

the most iconic Magic cards, sells for


thousands of dollars.

EVOLUTION IN ART
In the early days artists worked for relatively
small sums. The art fees for artists were so
small, says Pete, that Wizards included
stock in the company to help entice artists
to work on the game!
That has all changed. The art became
increasingly sophisticated and an

Magic: The Gathering

CASTING A SPE
ELL
Terese Nielsen shares the original commission for the
Silverskin Armor card art, and how she brought the magic
After pondering the brief
description I received from
Magic, I do a few very rough
thumbnail sketches. I then find
and shoot the appropriate
reference for my idea, and ask
my photographer friend Scott
Harben to take some photos of
Jamie Reed-Kovac, the model
and former American Gladiator.
After that I create a rough
composite of some of the
elements using Photoshop.

Art description
VECORDIAN
PRIMORDIAL
Another card, another style:
Stephan Martinire swaps
sci- landscapes for this
hellish fantasy vision.

I then draw on top of this with tracing


paper parchment, adding additional
design elements. This sketch is then submitted
to the art director for approval.

increasing familiarity with the game and


how the cards looked when printed helped
artists push the boundaries of card-scale
compositions. More story-driven card
assignments, style-guides and full worldbuilding followed. A more honed product
meant more revenue, which resulted in
higher art fees, and that enabled artists to
work longer on pieces. A cycle of success.
Magics look therefore evolved at a much
faster rate than Dungeons & Dragons,

After the sketch is approved


I print it out, wet-stretch it and
begin painting. The final size of this
piece is 9.75x7 inches. It's painted
on Epson Velvet Fine Art paper
using acrylic, oil, ink, gold/silver
leaf and embossing powders.

Title: Flesh Foil


Colour: None (artefa
ct)
Location: Your choice
Action: We see a fem
ale bluealigned human (neuro
k) in the
process of installing
her magical
armour. The armour
consists of
form-fitting chrome
pieces that
extend tendrils of me
tal into
her flesh that connec
t with her
bones (bloodlessly).
Focus: The chrome arm
our with
its endoskeleton anc
hor points.
Mood: Let those filth
y Phyrexian
try to pry this off me
.

Although much of the


art for Magic can look
great blown up across two
magazine pages, their
natural habitat is a few
inches on a playing card
and they still look great.

Fantasy Card Artist 51

VISIONS OF BEYOND
For this 2010 card, Terese Nielsen
was given the island location and
the mans thoughts as the main
focus, with this note: Don't show
him in the lotus position.

THRILL-KILL
ASSASSIN
Tyler Jacobsons carnival
killer is gleefully psychotic,
a common trait in many of
his Magic pieces.

BOG MAN
Anthony S. Waters has produced over 110 cards for
Magic since 1993, although his rst batch never
saw the light of day because the project was shelved.

MA
AGIC: THE ART BOOK
There was rumour and conjecture about an ofcial Magic art
book for years. The original artists couldnt wait any longer
Amazingly, 20 years of magical
artwork did not result in any
official Magic: The Gathering art
books. Forty-one of the original
artists, including Jesper Myrfors
and Pete Venters, thought
theyd test the waters with
Magic fans and started a
Kickstarter project. It flew past
its $32,000 goal, with 1,500
backers pledging just under $150,000.
The artists who worked on Magic
in that first year are kind of a tight-knit
group, as we all experienced the same
rock stardom of being attached to the
hottest game of the 90s, says Pete.
Most of the artists have done a new
piece for the book, often revisiting one
of their classic Magic cards.
The goblin piece by Peter, pictured
here, is a mash-up/homage to the
artists many years of goblin paintings,
and his Legends card Hellfire.

52 Fantasy Card Artist

MORROX, DEMON PRINCE OF GOBLINS


Pete created this piece of art exclusively for the
Magic art book, working in ArtRage.

SENSE OF SCALE
Scott M. Fischers art gets
the Magic card treatment.
Even at two-thirds of
the cards surface area,
the character still jumps
out at the player.

while always existing in the left


field of traditional fantasy art. Its a flavour
that has even sustained the massive
streamlining of its look and feel in 1997.
Weve had eight or nine distinct settings
for Magic since art director Jeremy
Cranford began pushing for every set to
represent a standalone world in 1997,
says Anthony.
Digital artwork changed things, too.
Id say that its put the art on steroids,
says Brad. Quicker turnarounds meant
more commissions, and more money
made to pay the increasingly sought-after
art superstars.

Magic: The Gathering


ANCIENT HELLKITE
Jason Chan: Wizards has released other
side products like novels and video games,
but the core of the IP is still the card
game. That will always hold true.
Everything else is icing on the cake.

Some people art directors, creative


directors and a few higher-ups were
against the use of digital art in Magic
However, the 1997 shake-up nearly
nipped this digital boost in the bud. Back
then there was a meeting to discuss some
finished paintings for Stronghold that had
been created digitally, reveals Pete. Some
people art directors, creative directors and
a few higher-ups were dead set against the
use of digital art in Magic. They felt that the
game benefitted from traditional media
and that digital works belonged in games
like Netrunner. How times have changed!

DIGITAL UPS AND DOWNS


Nowadays, many accuse digital of reducing
the diversity of Magic art. Where it initially
meant more money for artists, it seems
things have gone full circle. The downside
of digital is that everyone thinks that doing
digital art is easy, so the pay has gone
down, the deadlines have shortened and

the nitpicking has gone way,


way up, says Brian Despain.
And the upside? Digital
allowed a new wave of
talented artists to emerge,
says Stephan, to explore different
techniques and bring a new richness to
the game. And, as far as the artist whos
so identified with visions of the future can
foresee, digital will play a part in the story
of Magic for some time to come.
I can imagine the cards becoming more
interactive online with 3D, sound and
animation added to it, offers Stephan.
I can also imagine holographic cards a
little bit further in the future: the scene
would come to life and even interact with
the opponents card similar to the Star Wars
holo-chess I wonder if the players would
need paper cards with that technology?

CACKLING FIEND
I remember the
description calling for a
creature whose manic
laugh echoes through the
pipes of the world, recalls
Brian Despain, for his
rst Magic card art.

SPITEFUL
SHADOWS
Artist John Stanko:
This is one of my
favourite Magic cards.
I enjoy its simplicity
while it still touches
some complex themes.

Fantasy Card Artist 53

Interview
NIM GROTESQUE
This is the last example of my
collaboration with artist Cara Mitten.
Im hoping well get to work together
again, since I think we complement
each other well, says Anthony.

Art: Anthony S. Waters

THE ART OF

ANTHONY S.
WATERS
An image should do more than tell you what a monster
looks like. It should forge a gut connection with the
subject. Discover the visceral style of Mr Waters

F
Hidden City Games LLC.

inding a path to fantasy art


takes many forms. Anthonys
was a gradual transition, and
probably a route familiar to
many. I remember it being
a steady progression from
wildlife art to sharks, to
dinosaurs, to dragons, he says. Its not
such a big leap from dinos to dragons, I
suppose, nor sharks to dinos.
Its almost a logical progression, but the
catalyst was fear. My interest in sharks was
kindled by the lm Jaws, which traumatised
the living daylights out of me, Anthony
explains. Exploring his reaction, Anthony
reached for pen and paper, and sharks have
been battling this smear on their character

ever since. Maybe drawing about sharks


helped me to chew up some of that fear.
Dungeons & Dragons happened next,
introducing Anthony to the work of Errol
Morris and Jeff Easley (which, he says, had
a particular inuence on him) and Frank
Frazetta. Frank led me to Pyle, Wyeth,
Wrightson, Parrish and Kaluta. A whole
world of possibilities was opened to me.

ARTISTIC IMAGININGS
While the evolution of a fantasy artist can
be traced easily enough, Anthony nds the
original creative impulse is harder to pin
down, and admits that hes unable to point
to any one moment of his life when he
decided that he wanted to be an artist.
Theres some indication of an early
tendency to make use of crayons, but Anthony
plays the modesty card by suggesting his
artistic talent simply lls a void: Its a good
thing Im able to make a living as an artist,
since I stink at most other stuff!
The most other stuff that people are
so often obsessed with is very often what
theyve been conditioned to want. On the
other hand fantasy, by denition, requires
an exercise of the imagination. As Anthony
puts it: An image should do more than tell
the viewer This is what a monster looks
like. It should forge some form of gut
connection with the subject.

BACK AND FORTH


SKIN STRIP
Heres a piece I did for Hidden City Games, explains
Anthony. I was asked to envision what a spell that
stripped you to the bone would look like.

So Anthony spent most of his childhood


learning how to draw, attending the odd
class here and there. His family moved
around a lot when he was young, so
teachers werent always easy to come by,

THE ARTIST
Conceptual designer for video games and illustrator for WotCs Magic: the Gathering
card games, Anthony Scott Waters is an autograph hunters favourite at conventions.

Fantasy Card Artist 55

Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Interview

PUMP STATION
Wizards of the Coast is just one of many well-known companies that can call Anthony a contributor. This is an image
from that series of ve environment pieces I did for Wizards of the Coast, says Anthony.

and the connection was forged directly


between artist and medium.
I love drawing with pencil or pen, says
Anthony. Thats usually the way I start, by
noodling around until I get a solid idea and
a good composition. The rough gets
scanned, resized and printed, then: I do a
quick trace-off from that rough, and then
work up a nice tight underdrawing to work
from. This becomes the basis of a painting.
The process is interesting for the way it
moves back-and-forth between digital and
analog. In a similar way to squinting, or
closing one eye repeatedly, it serves to
develop a balanced picture of your subject,
adding poise to the nal image. Poise is

his art at college. I had a pair of amazing


art teachers, one of whom, Paul Sparks,
taught me as much about writing as art,
and I grew a great deal during that time.
It wasnt until later that Anthony began
attending art schools: Looking back on
it, Id recommend searching out a good
art college if arts what you want to make
a living from.

SECRET AMBITIONS
When Anthony is not busy providing
visual magicianship for the likes of WotC,
Lucaslm and EA, theres a hint of plans
afoot, although he remains pretty cagey: I
try to hold most of my personal goals close

ART IN FOCUS
What the surrealists did for us

I try to hold my personal goals close


to my chest; if you talk about it too much
you often end up not doing it at all
one of those qualities you may acquire as
you go along, agrees Anthony, but its a
harder thing to seek out as a hallmark.

EMOTIONAL LEVEL
What really counts is storytelling. Its a
key issue in my approach, says Anthony.
Artists are visual storytellers. A painting,
he believes, should be more than the sum
of its technically accomplished parts.
You should be left wondering what just
happened, or whats about to happen.
To generate this reaction the artist needs
narrative skills. When Im doing more than
straight concept work (for a client or myself)
I aim to create an image that engages on
some emotional level, says Anthony. He
developed his own narrative skills alongside

56 Fantasy Card Artist

to my chest; if you talk about a thing too


much, you often end up not doing it at all.
Thats understandable, although most
people nd it difcult to hold a poker face
for too long. Anthony is adamant, however.
Its better to set a schedule and start babbling
when you have something to show, he insists.
Eventually, though, he relents a little. Ill
provide a teaser. Ive got two projects in the
works thatll end up in book form. Anthony
S. Waters novelist, screenwriter, director?
Im busy at work on the rst two!

STYLE IN CHECK
In the search for narrative, Anthony believes
that style cannot be allowed to rule over
substance, and he almost has an allergic
reaction to the suggestion that he might

Stalking Vengeance is a
spirit made from those
whose deaths were unjust
a paranormal juggernaut
made of bone and
tombstones, bound
together with raging souls.
Anthony S. Waters is the
man that supplies the
magic in Magic cards.
Given the limited space
on a Magic card, every
element of a creature must
be carefully conceived. I
used insectine wings to
suggest the eventual ight
of the soul, once justice has
been done, says Anthony.
In developing his
approach to painting,
Anthony doffs his hat
to the great Zdislaw
Beksinski. The Polish
Surrealist helped him
understand that you dont
need to have obviously
human forms to make
statements about the
human condition.

So here, a high-key red


background generates a
foundation for the images,
the rage of the dead,
personied. Built upon
that base are staggered
multiples of elements
associated with the Stalker:
nested pairs of jaws,
embedded skulls, bundles
of gravestones collecting
to form legs, Anthony
reveals darkly.
Anthony wants to
conjure a reaction in his
viewers, not just draw
them a picture, and, he
says, theres a slim but
crucial difference between
pointing your nger in the
general direction and
grabbing the viewers
head to make them see
your intent. That being
the case, he continues:
The degree to which
your art is successful rests
on how little dictation is
taking place.

Art: Anthony S. Waters

ARTIST TIP
Big brushes
save blushes
I owe this tip to my
buddy Todd Lockwood.
He once advised me:
Always use a brush that
seems one size too big for
what youre working on.
Itll keep you from getting
too precious with
whatever youre painting.
Hes spot-on about that.
(Hes spot-on about
damn near everything.)

PHARAOH HOUND

Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

I did this several years ago for a


now-defunct game company. It was meant to
be a promotional piece for its game Universe.
A group of peasants watch as a God pours
forth his wrath upon some poor bastards,
muses Anthony. This piece was executed in
Painter, before I switched to using Photoshop
damn near exclusively, he adds.

CYTOSPAWN SHAMBLER
Heres one of Anthonys classic Magic: the Gathering cards.
Never one to miss an opportunity for an irreverent take on his
art, Anthony explains what it is: Its a blobular blobthing made
up of lots of blobby blobness. Sorry for all the technical jargon.

Fantasy Card Artist 57

Interview
FEROCIOUS CHARGE

Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Heres a Magic piece I did in


collaboration with my compadre and
fellow artist, Cara Mitten, reveals
Anthony. She did the sketching and
underpainting, I took it to a nish.

ARTIST TIP
Give your mind a workout
This tip is part technical, part artistic process.
Always try to push beyond the rst thing that comes
out of your pen. Sometimes the rst notion you have
is the best. More often, though, youll benet from
cranking through a dozen or so variations (or twodozen, or three). The minds an organ, but treat it
like a muscle. Work that sucker out.

DREAD SLAG

Art: Anthony S. Waters

Another classic Magic:


the Gathering card from
Anthony. Im happy with
this one, he beams.

THREADS OF DISLOYALTY

have a style of his own. I


honestly dont think Ive got a style,
he says. Its not something Ive been
crafting consciously. I just see my answer
to a given visual problem.
To Anthony, style is something quite
separate from art. Style can even get
in the way of your art, by causing you
to develop, and come to rely on, visual
shortcuts. It becomes, he adds, a
shorthand for laziness. You stop taking

Youre at the fun part, generating the


ideas, and thats when the meaning of
what youre going for is hanging right
in front of you.
But as a particular piece of work
progresses, he adds, its easy to become
distracted. Its when you start thinking
about colour choices and rendering that
you can lose track of that underpinning
value: what youre trying to express.
Anthony believes this to be the last big

Style can get in the way of your art,


by causing you to develop, and come
to rely on, visual shortcuts
the time to gure out how morning light
falls on snow, or what a night-time scene
in a village should look like.
Instead of getting out there and
joining up the gaps in your skills, he
goes on, you start relying on what
knowledge you have in your head to
make a stab at the challenge, and use
style to gloss over the ignorance. This,
he believes, is the enemy of promise.
From that standpoint, style scares me.
That said, Anthony admits that he
doesnt actively avoid having a style, but
adds that the creative demands of being
a concept artist encourage him to nd
alternative ways to frame his work. The
main thing, he says, is to try and make
sure I dont get caged.

HOLD TIGHT
Given such potential pitfalls, how can
the artist remain focused? Anthony is
clear: The main thing to keep in mind
when youre creating a work of art is,
what are you trying to say? If youve
gone to the trouble of devising a story,
he believes it only makes sense to let it
do the work it was born for giving your
image a purpose, a life.
I try to hold on to that thought
from start to nish, he adds. At the
beginning the connections pretty clear.

obstacle an artist has to overcome. Once


youve managed to get technique tucked
comfortably under your belt, you can get
lost in the act of painting, he says. You
no longer penetrate the surface of your
work, you become a technician, and you
lose track of what you were trying to say.

FAVOURITE THEMES
So just what is Anthony trying to say?
He gives us a cheery selection of the
subjects that go towards inspiring him:
Alienation, isolation, anger aimed
inward and outward, love, sacrice and
loss. Those things interest me most.
Essentially, these are the ingredients of
the human condition, the raw materials
of a sweeping novel by the likes of
Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. Sometimes I
wonder if Im actually a Russian, muses
Anthony, somewhat wryly. Or maybe
its the Viking blood in me.
In truth theres not really any need
for him to try to explain. These are some
of the themes which art has attempted to
address since humans rst start drawing
on the walls of caves. Im less interested
in blood and thunder than in those
things that pull us apart, explains
Anthony. How much of that is a
reection of my own inner turmoil,
Im not sure.

Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

This is a Magic: the Gathering card,


from the Kamigawa Block which was
released some years ago, says Anthony.

ANTHONY S.
WATERS

VITAL STATISTICS
The one-stop-shop for info on Anthony
Place of birth?
Omaha, Nebraska.
Date of birth?
3 January, 1969.
Current location?
Washington State.
Favourite music?
I cant narrow it
down to one specic
type. I dont care for most
mainstream music its so
overprocessed that listening
to it is like eating a candy
bar: it temporarily lls the
void, but leaves you wanting
something truly substantial.
Favourite traditional artist?
John Singer Sargent. Hands
down, full stop.
Favourite digital artist?
Another hard one. Dave
McKean wins out, but there
are a host of folks who
deserve the title.
First memory?
Hard to say. I had a weird
nightmare thats stuck with
me since it happened,
around age eight or so.
Any pet hates or phobias?
Im scared of heights if Im in
a building, but I love ying in
one- and two-engine planes,
especially stunt planes.

Most prized
possession?
The Buddha gure
my friend John
gave me means an
awful lot. The lions
tooth I got from
my brother means
a lot, too.
Average time spent on
each image?
It depends on the subject
matter and size of the image.
Ive had some take as little
as a few hours. Others, like
the big landscapes I did for
the Ravnica card set, took
120 hours.
Single most important
piece of professional
advice?
Do what you love.
Everything else follows
on the heels of that.
Left- or right-handed?
I was born right-handed. My
mum and grandmum trained
me to be a lefty.
If you were an animal, what
would you be?
Maned wolf! Unless were
talking mythological
creatures, in which case itd
be a dragon. (One of my own
design, natch.)

Fantasy Card Artist 59

Interview
GODDESS
Created for the Devacurse
trading card game. She
comes from a myth in
Thailand. Her duty is to
take care of all plants.

Art: Sinad Jaruartjanapat

THE ART OF

SINAD
JARUARTJANAPAT
The Thailand-based illustrators bright and colourful work
is an extension of the artist himself theres no room for
gloominess in his beautiful pieces

inad Jaruartjanapat is wellknown for his colourful,


loosely anime-inspired style
of high fantasy. I like to
create work in this style
because I feel comfortable
doing it, and its very much
how I imagine it in my head, says Sinad.
But as we all know, the future is not
certain Who knows, we might see my
work become darker!

Ultimate Fighting System editions) and


numerous Thai-based games.
The moody, gothic pieces of many
European concept artists are not for Sinad.
Nor is the typically tortured metal-inspired
look thats a favourite of many a young US
illustrator. His images exude enthusiasm
and energy, and its no surprise to find
that this is a reflection of the artist himself.
My main inspirations are the feelings of
joy I get from each job, and the challenge

The part I enjoy most is really putting


my all into a job. I want everyone who
looks at my work to feel good
For some time now, Thai illustrator
Sinad has quietly been building up his
portfolio of fabulously detailed and
graceful pieces both personal works
and card game art. Resolutely upbeat, his
images often feature beautiful women with
elven faces although if he needs to paint
a burly man with a big weapon, he can do.
The girls in particular have been a big
hit on CGSociety, but youve probably
encountered his work elsewhere: his art
features in books such as Digital Painting
2, and he is also an active member of the
prestigious Imaginary Friends Studio
network. Meanwhile, his card art has
featured in series by Tenacious Games
and Sabertooth Games (particularly the

behind it, he says. The part I enjoy most


is really putting my all into a job. I want
everyone who looks at my work to feel
good and enjoy it Thats what I intend
for every piece.

CREATING A WORLD
Thats not a particularly fashionable ideal,
at least not in Western markets, but Sinad
doesnt seem to care about any concept of
being cool. As a child, he discovered he
enjoyed creating characters and props in
particular: When I designed those, it made
me feel like I could create my own little
world, he says. And like many artistic kids,
he was later delighted to discover that he
could actually do this for a living.

THE GUARDIAN
Created for the book dartiste Digital Painting 2, which was released
by Ballistic Publishing in 2008 and features a wealth of artists.

Fantasy Card Artist 61

Gundam is a registered trademark of Sotsu Agency Co. Ltd.

Interview

GUNDAM
Sinads unofcial
Wing Gundam fan art,
inspired by the Mobile
Suit Gundam Wing
anime series.

While he was at university, Sinad


would often use watercolours as a basis
for his work, but these days he has largely
abandoned traditional media in favour
of a digital workflow aside from an
initial pencil sketch, that is. I feel more
comfortable doing it that way, and Im
used to it now, he says. Also, I like to
let the line art be a part of the work,
and have it work together with the
colour and composition.
Sinad says his style and approach
have evolved so that working digitally
feels more natural. I feel that doing
background and other composition is
much easier than before. I think its
because I can see the whole image by
zooming in and out that way I can see
clearly what Ill add or cut, if somethings
not necessary for the image. Also I can

edit throughout the entire process,


without making the paper dirty!

ON THE CARDS
Inspiration can come from anywhere,
although obviously jobs such as card
art require a more specific image
particularly if the game is well
known and fans expect a certain
style. Sometimes when Im first
assigned a job, I can imagine it immediately
and sometimes I hardly know where
to start, he explains. In that case Ill go
and find more information in a magazine,
or books, or even on the web, so I can
gather ideas. The important step for him
is to get it straight in his head before he
even begins drawing. Then Ill start with
the sketch This method can help me a
lot in cases like this.

WAREFOX
One of the character
races Sinad designed
for the Thai version
of online RPG
Perfect World.

SHY GUY

SINAD
JARUARTJANAPAT

VITAL STATISTICS
Myself today, much better than yesterday
Full name
Sinad
Jaruartjanapat.
Date of birth
8/9/80.
Current location?
Thailand.
Website
sinad.cgsociety.org.
Favourite artists?
They include Tatsuya
Terada, Ayami Kojima,
Tomasz Jedruszek and
Bobby Chiu.
Favourite music?
Theres no specific song. Id
say that I love pop and jazz
music equally.
What really scares you?
When the project

manager says:
Sinad, we need
you to fix some
things on the
(name of work),
blah, blah, blah.
Whats the
greatest piece
of advice that
anyones ever given you?
Myself today much better
than yesterday. That was
advice from the teacher
who helped me the most
while I was at university.
Average time spent on
an image?
The fastest that Ive ever
done is one day, but mostly
Ill take two to three days.
The longest Ive ever spent
on a piece is one month.

HUMAN
Another design for the Perfect World RPG.
This is Sinads Human Male character model.

62 Fantasy Card Artist

Card art takes up much of his time, and


as his reputation in that field has grown he
has found himself being offered more and
more work. Networking helps the series
of card images he produced for Sabertooth
Games Ultimate Fighting System came
about through Imaginary Friends
Studios, for instance. That was really
fun work, and Im very proud of it.
But even for someone as clearly
optimistic as Sinad, its not always
smiles and effortless mouse strokes.
Sometimes it can drive me crazy too!
he laughs. Mostly it depends on
which pieces Im working on.
Occasionally I have a habit of
having so much fun while
working on something, or getting
too serious with the details, so I spend
far too much time on them.
Is he ever tempted to take on a full-time
position at a studio and relinquish the
freedom of being a freelancer, then? Sinad
is undecided. Enjoying my freedom is
good, but taking on a new challenge by
working with studio or company is fine
too, he muses. It doesnt really matter
what comes along so long as I can still
work at the things I enjoy doing. He does
later mention a vague plan to become a
full-time employee and stabilise his career
somewhat but I need to improve my
spoken English first!

So we ask Sinad, do you play the card


games yourself? Actually, to tell the truth,
I used to think Id like to play the card
games, but Im too shy! he says. Not
that he adopts a fire-and-forget approach,
moving straight on to the next job once one
is out of the way. I do really need to see
my work after its been released as a final
product. I need to check that the colour is
the same as in my work, for instance. Also,
sometimes I want to see how the character
Ive designed looks in place.
Artists such as Sinad and fellow Thai
Skan Srisuwan (fiduciose.cgsociety.org),
although hes now based in Singapore, have
done much to raise the profile of Thailand
as a country producing vibrant new fantasy
artists. That hasnt always been the case;
Sinad points out that even while he was
university, some years ago, Rangsit was the
only major institution in Thailand that
really focused on digital work and
multimedia in its art curriculum.

OVERSEAS BIAS
The situation, he believes, has improved
since then: Now, we have more companies
and studios in this field, which is a good
sign for the industry. Difficulties arise
not because the world regards Thai artists
as somehow inferior, but that the

MATSURI
FESTIVAL

Art: Sinad Jaruartjanapat

All the fun of the Japanese fair


gave Sinad this cover design
Unusually domestic for Sinad, this image
was created for LETS magazine, which
bills itself as a Thai monthly original comic
magazine. Originally, the magazines
commission had permitted Sinad to
produce any image he wanted a rare treat
for any illustrator but, as it turned out, not a
very practical one. That idea had to be
scrapped because some readers noticed
that the covers werent matching with the
stories inside, Sinad explains. So Im proud
to be the first artist to do a cover image
that connects with the scoop inside!
In this case, the cover story was about
a Japanese festival or matsuri. When I was
first assigned to this topic, the first things
that came in my head were goldfish bowls,
fish in those small water-filled plastic bags,
takoyaki (octopus balls) and so on, he
continues. Before I started on the sketch,
I decided to create the image adhering to
the Japanese illustration style as closely
as possible. That style actually gives
inspiration to most of my work anyway,
so this was a chance to really refine it.

KEEP YOUR HEAD


Try to concentrate on the work in front of you,
and try to get all other problems out of the way
so you can really concentrate on the job.

Interview

ANGEL
KNIGHT OF
THE RUNE
The image that marked Sinads
rst step into the pro art realm
Although Sinad created Angel Knight of
the Rune many years ago, its still one of
his favourite pieces, for various reasons.
It was one of his first serious attempts at
combining three of the elements he likes
the most: angels, armour and subtle use
of colour. He completed it just after he
graduated. Perhaps more importantly, it
was the first image he posted on CGSociety
way back in 2005, which gave him the
worldwide exposure he was looking for.
Understandably, then, it represents
something of a milestone in his career so
far. This was the first step for me to get this
job, he explains. While I was working on
this piece, I tried not to think about it too
much. I just did the best I could at the time.

USE REFERENCE!
When youre not sure about how something
looks, go and nd more information about it.
It makes all the difference and its so simple.

Art: Sinad Jaruartjanapat

MYSTIC ALRAUNE
I want to change my
habits because I use the
Selection tool too
much, says Sinad.
This is the result.

countrys consumers themselves


think this way. Most people in my country
think that products or work that have been
produced abroad are much better than
things produced in Thailand, Sinad
explains. So theres a very serious situation
here in that no sponsor wants to invest
heavily in this field, because they see it as
being too risky. Im talking about comics,
animation and illustration. And since there
are no sponsors, theres little new hiring, or
maybe just low wages for work. I hope that
things will get better soon.

FISHING
A saucy, unofcial fan art
image inspired by the Final
Fantasy XI characters and
their universe.
Final Fantasy is a registered trademark of Square Enix Co, Ltd.

No matter which style you have,


everything you create is all your own,
and you should be proud of it
Given those conditions, Sinad can be
doubly proud of what hes achieved. In his
30s, he feels hes still too young to be giving
other artists advice, but he does admit to
some self-directed words of wisdom for
when the going gets tough. I would say,
no matter which style you have, everything
that you create is all your own, and you
should be proud of it. Of course, you
shouldnt forget to make it work as a client
wants too, if youve been commissioned!
Bold, direct and undeniably truthful
much like Sinads work itself.

Fantasy Card Artist 65

Workshops

104

Contents

112

118

WORKSHOPS

68 Paint macabre card art


72 Card game creature art
76 Paint a spectral horse
80 Create a D&D character
83 Great compositions
88 A traditional art look
92 Adapting classic art
98 Better weapon designs
104 Capture light and magic
108 Compose a card hero
112 Capturing drama
118 Using translucent light
122 Rework a card character
124 Tell a story with details
128 Tell a story in an image
132 Using perspective
Paint like Magic: The Gathering

Create a gruesome card art creature


Use reference to create your art
Capture the essence of a hero

Tips to give your art instant impact

Techniques to age your digital art

Put a fresh spin on classic fantasy art


Paint amazing fantasy swords

122

124

Evoke a scene of magical drama

Reimagine a hero for Hearthstone

Painting an epic Tolkien scene

Paint cloud, skin and clothing

Mix inuences in a card painting


Create detailed trading card art

Master the Applibot card art process

How to paint a dramatic scene

Fantasy Card Artist 67

Workshops

In Depth Macabre card art

Painter & Photoshop

MACABRE
CARD ART
Dave Kendall takes you through process of completing
a typical Magic: the Gathering brief
he brief for this workshop was to explain
the process of producing a Magic card.
I took this a little literally and decided
to play on the idea of an enchanted
deck of cards. I had a dream that I noted in my
sketchbook a couple of years ago in which I saw a
demon illustrating a deck of playing cards. When
I was asked to do this workshop, the idea came
back to me. I changed it, however, to muse upon
what would happen if these cards were used.
A typical Magic: the Gathering brief would be

Dave Kendall
COUNTRY: England
Dave is an
illustrator who
started off in
comics in the
mid 90s. He
worked on Metallicas
comic and Brian
Lumleys Necroscope.
Recently hes produced
comics for America,
England and France and
illustrations for books
and trading cards. He
produces his work in a
mixture of traditional
and digital techniques.
www.rustybaby.com

GET YOUR
RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

something along these lines:


Show the results of the negative aspects of addiction or
power when using an enchanted deck. At the end of
their owners life the cards have decided to claim the
final payment. Emphasis is on the fear and expectation
of whats about to happen.
It can be daunting, but is also liberating to have
such a blank canvas to work upon. I have decided
to base this illustration in a modern-day setting.
Although not strictly Magic, for the purposes of
this illustration it only reinforces the other-

Shuffle

I can produce countless


doodles and ideas before I finally
settle on an outline. I tend to work
in a couple of sketchbooks: a
moleskine for rough concepts and
thumbnails, and a larger, heaviergrade sketchbook for the fleshedout idea. This enables me to flip
through numerous pages without
interfering with the production of
the final sketch.

worldliness of the demon kings.


Most illustrations, irrespective of client or
purpose, start with thumbnails and sketches.
In brief, an old man has drawn a diabolical
full house. Three sixes and a couple of kings.
However, the kings have gone missing from
the face of the cards and are looming in reality
behind their victim. I chose hearts and clubs
as I could see the potential for creating rather
scary, violent creatures. Hopefully the
illustration is self-explanatory.

The deal

When Ive nailed the final sketch,


Ill add some colour before sending it to
the client. This makes the go-ahead with
the final image a much smoother process.
With card art youre looking for clear
communication and good contrast
between the elements after all, the art
has to be reduced to a small size.
Although this illustration is not as
restricted by those considerations, it
always helps an image to obey these rules.

To seal the deal, Dave adds colour to


his final sketch, drawing on his vision
of the final illustration in his mind..

Draw out

I enjoy working up a highlyfinished pencil drawing. I try to nail a


lot of the design elements and emotions.
Somewhere in the future theres the final
image and Im referring to this picture in
my mind as I draw. Always try to have an
emotional attachment to your work. Itll
really help create reality in your work
and not just physical realism. I believe
that this old man is really about to be
claimed by Hell.

Fantasy Card Artist 69

Workshops

Save often
Save often and make
good use of Painters
Iterative Save feature.
This feature will save
consecutive versions
of your image. If your
computer crashes while
saving, chances are your
image will be corrupted
beyond repair; at least
this way you will have an
earlier version available.

Opener

Early position

After scanning the pencil drawing into Painter I use the Simple Water brush to remove
the white background and add a rough colour scheme. Im thinking of an evening with the sun
setting through the window. The sun doesnt worry these demons. Dusk always seems spookier
than any other time of the day or night.

When working digitally, I use


the same process as if I was using
real-world paints. I work up to
highlights and down to shadows
from the previously applied midtones. I also work from background
to foreground the rooms
environment followed by the kings,
with the old man and table last. I
create Alpha Channels of these
separate elements. You can use the
Lasso or Pen tool to achieve this. I
find Photoshop has the better
selection tools and it may pay to do
this before working in Painter. I dont
adhere to these selections religiously
as I want to avoid any cut-out feel.

70 Fantasy Card Artist

Chips are down

Two of a kind

I find that my greatest inspiration


comes from looking through photography
books. I find the work of documentary
photographers such as Don McCullin and
James Nachtwey to be especially useful.
When trying to capture emotion and
mood, real life situations carry the
greatest gravity and the aforementioned
photographers are masters of this craft.

I wanted Clubs to be a hulking


figure and Hearts to have the bearing of
a surgeon. These creatures are dedicated
to their craft. The King of Clubs is
dedicated to violence, with his hands
forever bound to his weapons. The King
of Hearts resembles a very dark onion
seller. I also remember a biology lesson
where I had to dissect an ox heart. I used
this memory to depict the Red Kings
face. I found that the artist Holbein
was a great source of inspiration for the
clothing and decoration. It really helps to
have the widest, most diverse influences
in your research.

Pot

I find myself using quite a


limited number of brushes when I
work. Mastering just a couple of
them enables you to concentrate
fully on the task you have in hand,
which is simply painting an image
without worrying about which
brush does what. The brushes that
I use most are Simple Water, the
customised Scratchpen tool, a
couple of Palette Knives and a
Spattery Airbrush that acts just like
a toothbrush. This last brush is very
useful for texture and noise. It acts
on a separate layer, so its very
adjustable according to the effect
that you are aiming for.

Hold em

Whenever youre painting, remember that your characters exist in


time and space. Feel the surfaces, lighting and textures as you paint. Make
photographs and sketches and look, touch and feel different materials.
This should all be feeding into and enhancing the final image. In your
painting, make sure you differentiate between metal, fur, cloth, skin, wet
and dry. I find it useful to study paintings in galleries and museums to see
how other artists solve these problems.

In Depth Macabre card art


(Left) Dave reduces the size of the old mans head to
bring it into proportion with the overall image.
(Below) Its important to pay attention to the skins
texture when building up the facial features.

see you
13 Ill
I took a weeks break while
Photographic
memory
Take real or mental
pictures of everything
the light to the dark. Even
stuff like road kill can
create the most bizarre
ideas. Avoid becoming
road kill yourself, though,
and ignore all the strange
looks and dodge the men
in white coats.

10 Fossil
Next, I concentrate on painting
the head. I slightly reduce the size of it.
Using my Palette Knife and Scratchboard
tool, I build up the structure of the mans
face. Pay careful attention to the feel and
texture of the skin, and remember that
wrinkles and veins are part of its
structure. Too many beginners depict
them as separate entities, snaking over
the surface. Pay careful attention to areas
of high and low blood flow. The ears,
cheeks, nose and lips will be warmer and
look fleshier than the forehead and bony
areas. The area under the eyes will be
cooler as veins will be close to the surface.
Use the Spattery Airbrush tool to build up
noise and texture. Using opaque paint on
top will help model the flesh similar to
using glazes in traditional painting.

11

Marked cards

I decide to use real scanned


playing cards. I arrange them face down
on the scanner, and remove the images
of the kings in
keeping with
the storytelling.
I take my image
into Photoshop
and, with the
cards on a
separate layer,

I use Edit > Free Transform to make the


cards adhere to the perspective of the
table. I then spend some time in Painter
adding scratches, folds and stains to the
cards so they tie in with the overall image.

producing this image to be able to look at


the card art with fresh eyes. I felt I needed
to push the old man forward and work a
little more on his coat and posture.
Personally, I would probably go back and
re-tweak large areas of the whole image,
but its not always realistic in the world of
deadlines and commercial pressures. Still,
I will take the image back into Painter and
address the issues I feel are most critical
for me to be happy with the image.

deck
14 Stacked
I think about the kings originating from the cards and decide
to apply some crumpled paper texture to their base. I then do an
observational painting on top of their robes using a luminosity layer.
This improves the visual contrast between the kings and their victim.

12 Help
To add more atmosphere
to the kings, I use a fitting, custom-made texture of some stagnant
water that I photographed. Experiment with the blend and
transparency options until you achieve the desired effect. I make
sure the kings are masked for this process. It doesnt have to be exact
as it can unify an image to have texture seeping into foreground and
background. You want the make photographic elements appear
subtle so they act on a subconscious level. Im usually searching for
a Goldilocks effect just enough, not too much or little. This is a gut
feeling that youll develop, rather than using strictly defined settings.
This can be applied to everything you do in art.

15 Showdown
I take the image back into
Photoshop for the final colour adjustment
and add a little separation to the kings. I
add a peach-filled layer set to Soft Light
to lighten the background. There is a
hard opaque mask over the old man and
I lessen its strength over the kings to
strengthen the contrasts in the piece.

Fantasy Card Artist 71

Workshops

Photoshop

PAINT A
CREATURE FOR
A GAME CARD
Dave Allsop takes a simple card art description and
turns it into a gruesome, demonic painting

Dave Allsop
COUNTRY: Scotland
Glasgowbased Dave
is a fantasy
illustrator for
Wizards of the
Coast, Nightfall Games
and White Wolf, among
others. He also works in
video games.
www.daveallsop.info

GET YOUR
RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

eremy Jarvis, the art director on


Magic: The Gathering, wants
me to paint a new version
of a card illustration I did
several years back Archdemon
of Unx. Its a personal favourite, and its
great to revisit the design and bring a
new dimension to the card concept.
When you work on paintings for
collectable card games you have to take
several things into consideration. The
final painted art is going to be shrunk to
just a few centimetres in size, so you need
to balance your abilities with the images

constraints. The painting needs to have


exciting character design and plenty of
mood and impact, but it cant be too
busy. Creature-based cards like this
typically have just one character in them,
which makes things a little easier, but you
still need to make it visually stimulating
in concept or dynamic in pose.
Here, Ill take you through
the process of producing
a Magic: The Gathering
card until we have an
illustration ready
for submission.

The art commission

The process always starts with the


art brief. Show us an enormous, winged,
black demon-lord with a wicked grin on
its face. Its easy to get lazy on this, so
channel your inner 14-year-old boy and
make it awesome! By lazy, the art
director means he isnt looking for just
a traditional view of what a demon looks
like. He wants a cool new design that the
audience isnt expecting.

The sketch phase

Because Im working from a preexisting design, I dont need to spend time


creating a new look for the creature. I dig
out my original version and start drawing
a different pose. The original art was
painted almost entirely in side profile,
which is looking a little dull. This time,
I turn the demon design into a threequarter-angle portrait so well see more of
the creatures form and body details.

72 Fantasy Card Artist

Going grey
Doing a preliminary
greyscale version of the
image is also good for
preparing you for
troublesome areas that
lie ahead, and helping
you to better plan the
final colour painting.

In Depth Paint a creature

Fantasy Card Artist 73

Workshops
Hide marquee

Ctrl+H (PC) Cm
d+H (Mac)
Select someth
ing with any
Marquee tool
and then hid
e
the selection
outline to
colour in are
as without
crossing the
lines.

Greyscale mock-up

Im fairly pleased with the sketch,


but its just a line drawing and theres no
way of telling how well it will reduce to
card size, so I do a tonal study in blackand-white. This is really just a mock-up
to check that the overall illustration is still
legible at 10 per cent of its normal size.

Background time

The picture is beginning to take shape and Im eager to start


shading the demon, but I need to get the background painted first,
as the light, shadows and colours of the environment will dictate
how the creature is lit and rendered. The most important thing when
I come to painting the actual character is that it doesnt slip into the
background. Im careful not to make the background too dark or too
bright, because this may challenge the tonal range of the demon.

Special features

At this point, I want to start picking


out important regions of the demons
body in colour, including the bare skull
in pale yellow and the screaming faces in
blood red. I go to the appropriate layer,
select it with the Marquee tool, and then
hide the Marquee outline. I can now use
a broad brush type and rough in the new
colour details without crossing the lines.
The creature is starting to be recognisable
as the demon I painted before.

74 Fantasy Card Artist

Sharpen up

All of the early broad stroke and


prep work that goes into my painting is
now complete, and I commence the
longest stage of the illustration process.
It involves going closer into the features
of the character and sharpening them up.
I do this by picking out lighter areas and
tightening the form and curves, then
deepening the darker regions of the body.
Its during this stage that I can really see
the painting coming together.

PHOTOSHOP

Build shapes

STANDARD BRUSHES

I start the painting by blocking in


the base colours and shapes, making sure
I keep all the elements on separate layers.
At this stage I dont concern myself with
colours or shading I just want to define
the forms. Every aspect of the painting is
treated as a separate, defined element.

Taking shape

Add shadows

I may want to revisit the


background later, but theres now enough
information there for me to move on to
rendering the actual demon. Right now,
I just want to focus on bringing out the
form of the creature and avoid getting
bogged down in fine details or complex
lighting. I pick a dull purple/grey colour
and rough in large blocks of shading
with a similar approach to before. It
looks untidy, but itll all tighten up as
other layers go on top of it.

The image is lacking depth, so I set


about adding some shadows. I create a
new layer, pick a deep blue and apply it
like an ink wash (switching this layer to
60 per cent Opacity) across the underside
of the demon. By applying the shadows
like a wash, you can achieve the darkness
you need while retaining the detail that
was produced in the previous stage.

I dont really use custom


brushes all that much, as
most of my work relies
on Photoshops default
brushes. If I need to
create something
specific, such as clouds,
Ill occasionally switch
my brushes to the
Scatter preset.

orb
10 Fiery
Before I can do more on the
demon, I need to finish the external light
sources. The distant, gloomy light behind
the characters back is looking fine right
now, but I havent started the burning orb
above its head. Ill do this in three stages:
rendering the heart of the fire with deep
reds and orange; adding lighter strands of
flame rising up the outside of the orb; and
placing a bright Soft Light yellow layer
above it, to create a warm glow.

In Depth Paint a creature


11

Add intense
light and texture

Now that Ive established and completed


my two main light sources, I can continue
with the creature. Im following a similar
approach to Step 9, but this time the
highlights Im adding have colours
that correspond with their nearest light
sources warm colours beneath the fiery
orb and cool colours towards the ghostly
light in the background.

there
16 Almost
The paintings nearly complete now,

eyes
12 Evil
Most of the work on the body of
the demon is now done, so I focus on
one of the most important aspects of the
painting the eyes. When you look at any
character portrait, youll inevitably be
drawn to the eyes, and their colour,
lighting and expression convey the entire
mood of the scene. Here, the demons
eyes are sharp, beady and utterly evil.

drool
15 The
I want the demon to look gruesome and ravenous, as though
it forever hungers for fresh souls. I create the long strings of saliva
hanging from its jaws by using the same fine brush as before to paint
in the basic shapes in a light yellow hue. Once this is done, I reduce the
Layer Opacity down to 5-10 per cent to give it some transparency. I use
a finer brush and a paler yellow colour to create a thin, tapering line
around the outside of the initial layer, giving the saliva a watery gleam.

details
13 Extra
Some areas of the demons outline
are still looking a bit too simplistic,
particularly those beneath the neck and
along the lengths of the arms. I choose
a fine brush setting and add a few extra
details, including strands of hanging
flesh, to make these regions appear a
little more interesting.

Check
readability
Remember to zoom in
and out of the image
throughout the course
of the painting and
keep checking that its
readable at print size.

so its a matter of making a few tweaks. I


like how the background looks, but Id like
to add a little more aggression, so that the
environment matches the demon. I add a
few forks of lightning across the skyline to
help make the monstrous realm a bit more
foreboding. I want the demon to stand out
from the backdrop without looking stuck
on, so I add a few wispy banks of smoke
along the base of the image and among
the wings and arms of the character. This
helps to draw the whole picture together.

the image
17 Revisit
Heres our completed Archdemon
of Unx part two! Im quite pleased with the
end result, but Im still musing on whether
theres anything left to do. At this stage, its
best to leave the finished art for several
hours, or ideally a day. If you take a break
and return to the picture afresh, youll see
the art with a new perspective. I decide the
picture is looking a little murky and could
do with being lightened up a fraction. I use
Levels to brighten the painting slightly
dont push the slider too much, as this can
end up making things look a bit patchy.

fect
Inkwash ef(PC)

N
Shift+Ctrl+
N (Mac)
Shift+Cmd+
er and set
lay
w
ne
a
Create
r cent to
pe
60
to
y
Opacit
s with a
ea
ar
er
ov
t
pain
.
dark colour

throne
14 Screaming
Ive decided I want to make the mound of earth that the demon is perched on a
little more interesting. This time, Im adding screaming faces that correspond with those
on the demons neck. This new approach gives the overall painting a more infernal
mood than the previous version of the card.

Fantasy Card Artist 75

Workshops

Painter & Photoshop

PAINT A SPECTRAL
HORSE AND RIDER
Matt Stawicki makes use of several photo references and a pumpkin
to produce a striking fantasy composition featuring a powerful steed
n this workshop Ill show you
my process of creating the
characters of a demonic
horse and its unearthly rider.
Ill work with photo references for both,
and use them as drawing guides for the
horse, hopefully creating a dramatic pose
thats based on several pieces of reference
material. Ill use a more direct photo

Matt Stawicki
COUNTRY: US
Since starting
his career in
1992, Matts
created many
images for a
range of products and
clients, including book
covers, video game
covers, collectible card
images, collectors plates
and fantasy pocketknives, to name but a few.
mattstawicki.com

GET YOUR
RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

In the beginning

I take the approved sketch and


use Photoshops Color Balance, Hue/
Saturation and Brightness/Contrast tools
to create a sketch on a tinted ground
thats roughly the colour and value that
I want. I then start laying in the basic
values using a normal opaque colour and
a Multiply layer, producing a translucent
tone that doesnt totally obscure the sketch.

paint-over method for the figure. This is


the basic approach that I use on most of
my card and cover work. Keep in mind
that the methods are interchangeable
and can be applied to different elements
of a piece, depending on what the goal
for that element is.
For example, in this piece I dont want
the horse to look like a photo, but to have

a more painted, stylised and iconic pose,


rather than a more realistic one such as I
might produce through working with one
specific piece of reference. For the rider, on
the other hand, I want to work with all the
information that the photo reference has
to offer and edit as needed. Im keen for the
folds of the cloth, overall form and the pose
of the figure to have a more life-like quality.

Horse reference

For this horse, one of the first


things I do is gather photos or other
sources of reference that I think will be
helpful. Heres a look at a selection of
different shots Ill be using as the guide
for this. I usually keep my reference files
on my second monitor, so that my main
screen remains free for the piece itself
and the palettes.

Starting the horse

Change of head

I take a simple brush tool with


a hard edge and start drawing the horse.
The process is a corrective one for me.
Im constantly referring back to my horse
reference file, looking at the legs on one,
the neck on another, and so forth. I scale
the brush size up and down constantly.

Keeping a method
to the madness

I like to keep the starting point for a


particular session on the Background
layer. I duplicate the layer and usually
name it Image. On top of that, I start
another layer named Detail, on which
I start working over the image. I try to
keep the adding of Detail layers to a
minimum, and then merge them when
Im happy with the result even merging
them to the Image layer once in a while.
When I feel that the piece has progressed
enough Ill resave the document, usually
with a letter or number. In this case
Headless Rider a will become Headless
Rider b, and so on. This gives me a safetynet copy to refer back to.

76 Fantasy Card Artist

I start a new layer and patch out


the head. I want to give it more of a profile
view to show off its silhouette. I want to
get the iconic look of a chess-set knight,
especially as the rider doesnt have a face.

In Depth Paint a horse & rider

Fantasy Card Artist 77

Workshops
Change
brush size

Ctrl+} or { (P
C)
Cmd+{ or { (M
ac)
Increase/dec
rease brush
size. This wo
rks with
many tools.

Once I have a fair amount in place,


I move the piece to Painter. Im looking to
take the linear, drawn edge off it and give
it a more painterly look. First I simplify
the layers by merging as many of them
as I can in Photoshop. I start in Painter
by creating a new layer on top. I use the
Blenders brush set to Just Add Water and
about 40 per cent Opacity, and begin
smoothing out the image. I think that
this helps to knock the obvious look of
the Photoshop brushes down into a more
painted start for the background. Once
I get to a point Im happy with, I take the
image back into Photoshop.

First image flip

Now that the horse is basically laid


in, I still have a few problems to work
out. To see these more clearly, I flip the
canvas horizontally. I do this regularly
while painting, and I also find this helps
to break patterns that I tend to develop.

Smooth and simple

Make the most


of digital art

Im not concerned with the figure


at this point in fact, Im patching most
of it out as I work. My figure reference
will dictate his placement later.

78 Fantasy Card Artist

I lasso the figure from the reference


and put it on its own layer for now. I erase
the negative space and head, leaving only
what I need. As before, I duplicate the
figure layer and hide it. I start making
adjustments to the pose of the figure by
lassoing the boot and rotating it until I
like it. On a new layer, I draw the rest of
the neck and head, and make a few other
changes. This is now my basic reference
layer for the rider.

a headless model, I need to make some


value and colour adjustments. I go into
Quick Mask and make a mask for the
shirt, using the brush tools. I then take
it out of Quick Mask and duplicate the
figure layer, before inverting the selection
and deleting everything but the shirt.
Now I can make value adjustments using
Brightness and Contrast as well as colour
adjustments using Color Balance. I take
the same approach on the trousers. Now,
my figure is dressed in dark clothes.

Surrounding colours

Forward thinking

Placing the reference

adjustments
12 Mask
Now that I have what looks like

I now start laying in the


surrounding colours and start to get
more of a feel of how this palette is going
to evolve. Another advantage of having
the new detail on a separate layer is that
I often like what Ive done but find it just
a bit too strong. To counter this, I reduce
the opacity of the new Detail layer down
to about 60 or 70 per cent before I merge
it with the main Detail layer.

11

Try to keep an open


mind as you work. One
of the plus points of
working digitally is the
ability to make bold
moves based on how
the piece is developing.
The other thing Id
recommend is to
constantly hit Save.
I also back up all my
finished files to CD.

figure reference
10 The
Now its time to get the photo
reference for the rider into the piece. I set
up the lights so they match the lighting
on the horse and note the camera angle/
eye level I want. For this piece, I just need
a body in some period costume. After
shooting several poses, I select this one
because of how I think it will work with
the pose of the horse.

In Depth Paint a horse & rider


details
18 Figure
Its time to start adding some
details. I refer back to figure reference and
start adding studs and so on to the horse
and riders outfits. I also start defining the
distant background. At one point, after
flattening all of the detail on the Image
layer, I duplicate it and set the layer to
Color Dodge at an opacity of between 10
and 15 per cent. This heightens the value
and brings out the highlights a touch.

drawing
13 Figure
I duplicate and reorganise my
layers, and start a detail layer to further
correct the figures edges and costume.
I also start to add the saddle detail and
the pumpkin. At this point Ive started a
file of various Jack-o-lanterns. I also want
to shroud a cape around the main parts of
the figure. I constantly make corrections
to the size of the figure and saddle while
theyre still on separate layers, and rotate
the piece using the Rotate View option.

Further corrections

14 I now want to start working on the


anatomy of the horse again. I have some
problems with the front legs, so I check
my horse reference file and rework them,
continuing to add detail. At some points,
I lasso and select an area of the horses
head and apply the Transform tool. Once
Im happy with the lassoed area, I merge
it back to the Image layer. I dont worry
about seeing the edges of the cut-out
section, as Ill go on to reshape and
smooth these out later.

rim lighting
16 Selective
I continue to detail the figure and horse, adding the light from
the Jack-o-lantern as I go. I could have shot the figure reference with
this rim light, but I want it to appear only in very specific places. I use
a variety of textured brushes, playing around with the settings each
time usually the Scattering and Texture options. I also refine the
drawing of the tree in the background.

up
17 Tidying
Now that the piece is starting to
take shape, I go back into Painter to deal
with all the little bits of photography that
are left in the figure, as well as to soften
the maple leaves and background, again
using the Blenders brush. To add details
back in at this point, I use the Oil Pastel
Brush set to Chunky Pastel, and the Oil
brush set to Fine Camel Hair. Once Im
happy, I go back into Photoshop to draw
in some more environmental details.

horse head
19 New
The head of the horse needs to

RESOURCES

PHOTOSHOP
CUSTOM BRUSHES:
MAIN DRAWING 1

Great for straight lines


with pen pressure on.
Press Shift to connect
the line between points.
MAIN DRAWING 2

Select colour

Alt (PC & Ma


c)
Switch betw
een a brush or
drawing tool
and the
Eyedropper
by holding
down Alt.

Ive set up this brush so


that strokes trail off and
look more natural with
pen pressure turned off.

be more animated. So I find a reference


shot thats closer to the pose and position
I want. For this I bring in the photo
reference of the new horse head and
leave it on its own layer. I adjust the angle
by transforming it and begin to redraw
the head as well as other figure details.
When Im satisfied, I delete the horse head
reference and resave. I then take the image
into Painter for some final tweaks.

the light
20 Pushing
I want to increase the light effect
from the Jack-o-lantern. On a separate
layer I use a Radial Gradient tool to create
a circular gradation over the light area, set
the layer to Color Dodge and reduce the
opacity to about 15 per cent. Then I set a
layer to Darken and work out the negative
space behind the tree and around the
figures upper body. Once Im happy I
flatten and add a detail layer for finishing
touches. I add a more detail to the horses
tack and some blowing leaves, which help
bring more of the orange colour into the
piece and add some more motion.

TEXTURE

This is handy for adding


a texture and detail
without over-rendering
certain areas.
SCATTERED LEAVES

Adding the background detail

15 This is the point where I start to use a wider assortment of brushes. I use the
Maple Leaf brush in a scattering effect to lay in the leaves, and adjust the colour until
Im happy with it. I also set a layer to Color Dodge to add some lighter background
values and enhance the glowing effect that I want to achieve in the back.

Im sure that you can


figure out what this
arboreal-themed brush
is good for!

Fantasy Card Artist 79

Workshops

Photoshop

CAPTURE THE
ESSENCE OF A
D&D CHARACTER
A strong D&D image is always a crowd-pleaser.
Dan Scott takes aim at a classic character class

Dan Scott
COUNTRY: US
Dan is a
freelance
illustrator who
produces art
for book
covers and interiors,
trading card games,
video games and comics.
www.danscottart.com

GET YOUR
RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

magineFX contacted me,


wanting to know if Id like to
create an image focusing on
Dungeons & Dragons imagery.
Im a big fan of the magazine, owning
every published issue, so I was excited
to work with the team. I was also
comfortable with the subject matter,
having played my fair share of D&D
through the years and painted several
interiors and covers for D&D products.
The art brief was for a female Elf
Ranger in a snowy setting with some sort
of red and green colour scheme, because
this was for an issue coming out at
Christmas. My main goals were to make
her beautiful, powerful, confident and
hopefully have some connection with
the viewer. I also know that a red-green
colour scheme could easily look garish
or cartoony if handled too harshly. With
these aims in mind, I set out to create the
best image I could muster.

Gang of
four
I submit four rough
thumbnail sketches.
These are just quick,
loose sketches,
conveying general
pose and composition.
Im not too worried
about what shes
going to be wearing at
this point. I also keep
the background pretty
sparse, because I want
the image to focus on
the character.

80 Fantasy Card Artist

Down to two
I usually do a tight sketch and add greyscale
values before I start working in colour, but
the art editor wants to see two of the rough
sketches in colour before deciding on which
of the images to go with. This image,
featuring the Elf Ranger in an action pose, is
eventually rejected on the grounds that her
body angle would look awkward on the
cover. In addition, the snowy background
might obscure the text that will eventually
be superimposed onto the scene.

In Depth Paint a character


How I create

Light it right
The face is the most important part
of the image. Its what sells the
character and compels someone
browsing the newsstand to pick up
the magazine. Its important to make
sure the lighting looks realistic and
believable, so I do a lot of research
for images with similar lighting.

Feeling of
texture
I dont use texture overlays
much, but I do use a lot of
texture brushes. In this closeup you can see Ive used
different brushes for the fur,
the leather, and so on.

AN ELF
RANGER

Surface
tension

I now apply colour to my tight


sketch. All the linework can still
be seen and the basic colour
scheme is all intact. I cant mess it
up too badly at this point, so its
now time to render out all of the
different surfaces and details.

Face the
facts

I start defining the face. I spend


a lot of time trying to get the
lighting and expression just
right. Other parts of an image
can be less defined if need be,
but the face is whats going to
grab the viewers attention.

Get a grip
Once I have the official
go-ahead, I dive into all the
fun details that Ill be cursing
myself for adding when I get
to the rendering stage. I
originally wanted to have my
archer with an open grip, just
to try something different, but
eventually this got changed to
the traditional closed grip so
it wouldnt be confusing.

Scaling it up

All the rendering is now


done. At this point, I step back,
look at the piece as a whole and
see what areas need tweaks in
values, colour, detail, and so
on. I try a version with dragon
scales in the background, as
if shes standing in front of an
enormous red dragon that
shes just conquered. The art
editor likes this version and
decides to go with it.

Fantasy Card Artist 81

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82 Fantasy Card Artist

Artist insight Great compositions

MAKING GREAT
COMPOSITIONS
Dan Dos Santos

Dan Dos Santos shows you his favourite tricks for strong
compositions that are guaranteed to have instant impact

COUNTRY: US
Dans work
spans a
variety of
genres
including
novels, comics and film.
He has worked for
Disney, Universal
Studios, Wizards of the
Coast, Dark Horse
Comics and DC Comics.
www.dandossantos.com

GET YOUR
RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

trong composition is crucial


to a successful piece of art.
Its what will attract a viewers
eye from across the room, and
what will hold their attention once they
take a closer look. It can mean the
difference between an action-packed
piece of art and a more contemplative
one. But how do we make a composition
convey the mood we want, and what is it
that makes a composition successful?
There are a many long-standing rules
about what makes a good composition,
such as the Golden Ratio, the Golden

Spiral and the Rule of Thirds. But they


arent really rules at all. Think of them as
suggestions or better yet, as optional
templates. Traditional methods like these
are just one answer to a problem which
has an infinite number of solutions.
Ultimately, their purpose is just to offer
a simple method for an artist to use to
make a more pleasing image. In this
workshop Ill discuss some of these
traditional techniques, but more
importantly Ill explain why they are
successful and how you can use that
knowledge to make a better image.

To begin, all you really need to know


is this: a good composition is nothing
more than a pleasing arrangement of
shapes, colours and tones. Thats simple
enough, really. Chances are, most artists
with any experience can produce a good
composition with their eyes closed. But
we dont want good compositions, we
want great compositions! We want to be
masters of composition, bending it to our
will, so that we can make the viewers eye
do exactly what we want it to do. In order
to do that, we first need to understand the
basic properties of composition.

The basics

The root of all composition lies in


relationships. Look at the image above (the
two black squares). Although its technically a
composition, its not a very successful one. The
viewer doesnt know where to look, nor is there any
sense of flow to the image. By altering one of these
squares, even slightly, Ive created a much more
successful composition in the second image below.
As simple as the image is, it already has a sense of
motion and depth. How? Through relationships.
By causing a disparity between the shapes, Ive given
the viewer a means by which they can compare
those shapes. This one is bigger, that one is lighter.
The grey square appears to be moving and receding
only when compared to the black square. The
process of comparing these shapes requires that
the viewer moves their eyes repeatedly around
the canvas, and therein lies the true goal of a great
composition: controlling that eye movement.

The Golden Ratio

Lets look at the Golden Ratio. This was devised by the ancient Greeks, in pursuance of the Platonic
concept of ideals. This holds that all things, both tangible and intangible, have a perfect state of being that
defines them. The Greeks also felt that one should always strive toward achieving this ideal state, be it in
mathematics, ones physique, politics or aesthetics. Greek mathematicians, after repeatedly seeing similar
proportions in nature and geometry, developed a mathematical formula for what they considered an
ideal rectangle: one whose sides are in the proportions of 1:1.62. They felt that all objects that exhibited
these proportions were more pleasing, whether it was a building, a face or a work of art. To this day, the
proportions of standard sizes of books and even credit cards still conform to this ideal.

Fantasy Card Artist 83

Workshops
3

Implied lines

These are probably the most important aspect of a composition, because you
notice them first. When youre painting realistically, theres no actual line around a
subject. The illusion of a contour is a result of different values and colours contrasting.
But even the impression of a line is strong, and our eyes will go to it and follow its
length until it ends or until it meets another line, which well follow again. A great
composition makes strong use of this natural attraction to lines.
By creating strong lines for the eyes to follow, we can decide what path we want
people to take and where we want that path to end. In this painting you can see a
strong contour that follows along the cape, down the womans arm, to our subjects
face, down her arm, and then back up to the cape. This creates a circular current that
keeps the viewers eyes flowing around the composition, holding their attention. That
current also brings their eyes past every key element of the painting, one at a time.
And dont forget, whether youre working for print or for websites, the borders of
your composition are an implied line, too.

By creating
strong lines for the
eyes to follow, we
can decide what
path we want
people to take

84 Fantasy Card Artist

Reinforcing those
focal points

As well as using implied lines to draw the


eye all around a composition, you can use
the same method to make someone look
immediately at your chosen focal point.
In fact, you can do it repeatedly, from
multiple directions. This is particularly
useful when your image is a portrait or
a pin-up, and the characters face is the
most important element. To bring more
attention to a particular character, try
to make surrounding objects, such as
arms, swords and buildings, point to
your subject. You can also use implied
lines to frame the subjects face, locking
the viewers eyes in place.

Artist insight Great compositions


Background

Middle-ground
Foreground
5

The Rule of Thirds

This principle states that if you divide any composition into


thirds, vertically and horizontally, then place the key elements of
your image either along these lines or at the junctions of them, youll
achieve a more pleasing arrangement. But does it work? Lets look at
Edmund Dulacs painting, The Little Mermaid: The Prince Asked Who
She Was. Dulac was great at using empty space to his advantage, partly
because he tended to abide by the Rule of Thirds. Here Dulac has
placed the column and the horizon line perfectly along a line of
thirds. But what if he didnt? With the column and horizon line in
the centre of the image (below right), the result is less successful. The
column dominates the image, stealing focus away from the figures.
The viewers eye is now glued to this strong shape that bisects the
canvas, instead of wandering around the image like it originally did.

Threes are everywhere

Imbalance of values

Balancing three elements seems to work its way into most aspects of picture
making, and value is no exception. When constructing compositions, I tend to think
in general arrangements of foreground, middle-ground and background. To heighten
the relationship between these three depths, I try to restrict each to a range of value,
favouring black, white or grey. For instance, you can let the background predominately
be white tones, the middle-ground predominantly greys and the foreground
predominantly black tones. Of course, any arrangement of these three values will
work. By restricting your values in these areas you reinforce your images sense of
depth and make the silhouettes very easy to read and that legibility is important.
Muddy values hurt the viewers ability to discern shapes, especially at a small scale.
Thats why youll see this technique used so often in trading card art. When your
image is just a few inches tall, high-contrast compositions work especially well.
Tripartite value schemes like this are readily apparent in the works of the Old
Masters, particularly in the engravings of Gustave Dor. His paintings all show
different arrangements of black, white and grey to emphasise the difference between
foreground, middle-ground and background.

How the rules work

The Rule of Thirds works because it demands that the artist


makes one element more dominant than another. This dominance
creates an imbalance, and an imbalance of any sort will always attract
the viewers eye because it implies dynamism. Bisecting an image
perfectly in half creates the least amount of interest, because everything
is equally balanced and static. Look back at those black and grey
squares on the first page. The first composition is boring because its
too balanced. Making one area of your composition more dominant
creates tension, and therefore adds interest. It also makes your eye move
around the canvas more to compare all of these relationships. The fact
that a composition is divided into precise thirds is really of minimal
significance. You could divide a composition in fourths, fifths or even
tenths. So long as theres some sort of imbalance, the composition will
exhibit tension. As youll soon see, this concept of imbalance applies
to many aspects of composition, including value and colour.

Looking at Dors engravings, you can observe that not only has he divided his
composition into three obvious layers of depth by using three ranges of value, he also
creates an imbalance in the proportions of those values. For instance, he may use a
large amount of grey, and a small amount of white, but rarely equal amounts. This
reinforces the importance of imbalance to create tension. By letting the composition
be dominated by grey, the small accents of white and black garner more attention
and draw the viewers eye towards the subject.

Fantasy Card Artist 85

Workshops

THREE DEGREES
OF SEPARATION
The rule of threes also applies to colour
Try breaking your composition down into three distinct temperature
ranges: warm, cool and neutral. Just like value, restricting certain areas
to a temperature will create a more legible composition and a greater
sense of depth. You can arrange these temperatures in any order. Use
tripartite schemes for colour temperature and value for maximum
effect, ensuring focus and legibility in even the busiest of compositions.

Start off simply

When sketching out a concept,


think in terms of the simplest structure
possible: background, middle-ground
and foreground, then key each depth
to a simple value range of either black,
white or grey. If you can already tell
whats going on in an image with this
little detail, your composition is strong.

Reinforce your
idea

Once youve decided on the basic


value structure, reinforce it with
three distinct colour temperatures.
In this case, I chose to make the
background neutral, the middleground warm and the characters
of the foreground cool.

Values and
tones

When painting the image,


incorporate different values
and tones into each of these
areas, but be careful to squint
at the piece often, making sure
the general impression of each
area still falls within the chosen
temperature/value range.

The benefit of contrast

Black and white are inherently powerful tones. If you use them
sparingly, and right next to each other, you can draw the viewers
attention to a particular spot with ease. When painting, try reserving
the purest whites and blacks for your focal point. For instance, if your
main character has very pale skin, try placing something extremely
dark on them, such as black hair or black clothes. This is one of the
easiest and most successful ways of making your subject really pop.
In my painting Blood Divided, I did just this to make sure the heroine
sat apart from the background.

Black and white are


inherently powerful tones.
Use them sparingly and right
next to each other to make
your subject really pop
86 Fantasy Card Artist

Artist insight Great compositions

LIGHTS,
CAMERA,
ACTION!
Whats your angle? It
can change everything
Imbalance can not just create
a more exciting flow to your
composition, but it can also
add drama. The next time you
feel that your painting isnt
exciting enough, try tipping
the camera angle. Even the
slightest tip to the horizon line
can turn a mundane scene into
a cool action shot. Experiment
with the psychological
impressions that different
camera angles create.
Straight, the painting below
lacks real excitement. The
bricks, rain and hair all create
simple vertical lines and dont
do much to enhance the
drama of the piece. Tipping the
image gives it a whole new feel.
Suddenly it appears like the
woman is being thrust against
the wall. Theres also more of a
sense of weight to their poses.
The slanted eye level adds a
sense of action, and helps your
eye slide through the image.

magic
10 Making
Colour is an extremely powerful
tool, and can inject a piece of art with
mood and light. But its also a strong
compositional tool. Just like implied
lines and contrasting values, colour can
be used to draw the viewers eye anywhere
we want. As mentioned before, disparities
draw the viewers eye. So, if your painting
has a colour scheme in place thats
predominantly red, then any other hue
(particularly a complementary green)
draws attention to itself. Or you can create
a disparity between levels of saturation,
such as a mainly grey or muted painting
with high saturation in a small area. The
greater the disparity, the greater the
attention it receives.
I often use this method to create the
illusion of magic or dramatic lighting.
You can make a colour appear intense
simply by making the rest of the
composition relatively desaturated, and/
or complementary, in comparison. My
painting Soulborn is primarily red and
purple, yet everything besides the
similarly hued magic element has
been slightly reduced in saturation.

Just like
implied lines
and contrasting
values, colour can
be used to draw
the viewers eye
to anywhere
we want

11

Putting it all
together

A good composition is one where


the artist controls the movement of
the viewers eye to a beneficial result.
We can do this by a number of
means, such as reinforcing the focal
point with the Rule of Thirds, implied
lines, contrast of value and selective
colour saturation. Putting all of
these tools into action in a single
piece, Jean-Lon Grmes Duel
After a Masquerade Ball is the perfect
example of using all compositional
devices to your advantage.

Fantasy Card Artist 87

Workshops

Photoshop

GET THE LOOK OF


TRADITIONAL ART
Daren Bader takes us through his bare-bones approach to image making
and explains how to beat up an illustration so that it looks traditional
or this workshop I was asked
to do a classic fantasy piece.
For me, classic fantasy is
pre-digital, pre-Star Wars,
around the early to mid-70s. I grew up
on Tarzan and Conan comic books, Ray
Harryhausens Sinbad movies, Godzilla
and King Kong, and of course Frank
Frazettas paperback and magazine
covers. Stories where a giant bat could
hold his own as The Monster, as opposed
to a parasitic alien who bursts from your
chest and grows into a creature unlike
any wed seen before. With this as my

Daren Bader
COUNTRY: US
Daren is the
senior art
director for
Rockstar San
Diego, where
he recently finished Red
Dead Redemption. At
the weekends he keeps
himself busy as a
freelance illustrator for
trading card games and
publishing companies.
darenbader.com

task, my goal is to paint something that


feels wholly traditional while using nontraditional tools.
When working digitally, I use a
Cintiq pressure-sensitive monitor with
Photoshop. I tend to use the same basic
tools: the Brush tool in Normal mode
(although sometimes I use Overlay mode
to intensify colours and contrast, or
Lighten or Darken modes), the Dodge/
Burn tool, for quick contrast manipulation,
the Eraser and the Scale/Rotate tool.
The brushes that I use tend to have
heavy texture, which brings an organic

looseness to the overall image. I dont like


a slick digital look, so I try my best to kill
it by not using soft or clean-edged brushes.
In fact, I enjoy having to beat up my
image, to bruise and scar it, eliminating
that cold, digital feeling. Ironically, its
because Im working digitally that Im able
to do so. The best (and worst) aspect of
digital painting is the countless number
of directions one can explore so easily and
quickly. Whats more, of course, there are
no brushes to clean or toxic splatters of
turpentine to wipe off the walls. And
thats a good thing!

GET YOUR
RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

PHOTOSHOP
CUSTOM BRUSH:
KHANG BRUSH
TEXTURE 1

This brush (a Tool Preset)


is a chunky textured
brush that lays down lots
of random noise when
used lightly, but will
become solid with added
pressure. Varying the
size will give you a wide
variety of uses.

Thumbnail sketches

I start with multiple thumbnail sketches exploring various ideas. These are pencil
on paper and are about 1.25 x1.75 inches. Because Im going to be painting this image
digitally, I dont worry too much about the details. I know I can always manipulate the
image to my hearts content. If I were going to do the painting traditionally I would do
a lot more reference work for the figure and the bat before committing to canvas.

88 Fantasy Card Artist

Scan the sketch and


set up the file

The thumbnail sketch is small, so I scan it


at 1,200dpi. I then duplicate the sketch
layer and set this new layers properties
to Multiply. Next I create what I call a
painting layer and place it below the
sketch. This enables the sketch layers
darks to always be darker than the colours
Ill be applying, while the sketchs whites
dont affect the colours at all. I also create
a quick palette to colour-pick from.

In Depth Get the look

Fantasy Card Artist 89

Workshops
Quick
navigation

Stylus butto
ns
Set the stylus
button to
Move, so you
can grab
and scroll aro
und
while working
.

Quick colour block-in

Refine colour and value scheme

Even at this high resolution (1,200dpi) the sketch is still relatively small. I like
to keep it that way so I can quickly block in colour and value without having to worry
about the brushes chugging. This is a fun stage to explore colour and value ideas, and
with the Sketch layer set to Multiply, its just like a page from a colouring book where
no matter how much you colour, you dont lose the original drawing.

I constantly reduce the image on my screen drastically, which is similar to


walking across the room while working traditionally. This makes it possible to stay
focused on the image as a whole, instead of getting lost in a single spot theres plenty
of time for that after the foundation has been laid. Eventually, after trying out various
colour and value schemes, I refine it all to something that feels like the right direction.

New layer over good work

When I get to a stage where I like what Ive done, I collapse my


paint layers and just create a new layer on top, but still under the sketch
layer. While I work on the new paint layer, I constantly turn it on and
off to make sure the new painting Im doing is better than what I had
previously. If it isnt, I can easily erase the new work to reveal the old,
better work below.

Have no fear

Gently intensifying
the image

One digital tool that I particularly enjoy


using is Dodge and Burn. Although its
easily abused, I like the way itll bring in
high chroma and value into the painting,
creating new colours and pushing the
richness. But as I said, it can be easily
overused. To me, what makes digital
work cold is super-clean airbrush, too
much detail and the Dodge and Burn
tool. Use with caution!

90 Fantasy Card Artist

Dont let intimidation


hinder your progress.
You have the chance to
explore directions and
ideas when working
digitally, so follow your
instincts to see where
they may lead, time
allowing of course. Just
save your image, create
a new layer and dive
right in. Even if what you
learn isnt applicable to
your current piece, you
might find something
thatll spark other ideas
or be useful for a
different image.

Opaque lights

I try to work below the sketch for


as long as possible, to retain the looseness
and spontaneity of the brushwork
without fear of losing the drawing, but
eventually its time to paint on top of the
sketch. I create a new layer over the sketch
layer and continue to work opaquely.
Occasionally, Ill also change the sketch
layer to sepia or play with its opacity to
get rid of the colouring book look as well.

In Depth Get the look


the body
10 Refine
I continue to use the new brush
as I refine the details of the barbarians
anatomy and belt. The hand in particular
needed extra attention, because I hadnt
worked out how he was going to be
holding the sword. Yes, this is something
that should have been worked out way
back in the sketch stage, but working
digitally gives me the latitude to rework it.

I have the image reduced to about the size


of a postage stamp on my monitor, is that
the rock under the bats left wing seems a
touch too dark, pulling the viewers eye to
a sort of black hole in the image. I brighten
the area with the Brush tool set to Lighten.
I also paint out some remaining colouring
book lines in the far background with the
brush in Lighten mode.

Bat details

Before I begin with the details, I


resize the image to its final resolution of
9x12 inches at 350dpi. I begin to refine
details, alternating between the bat and
the background. Some people love to
jump right into their focal point when
they begin this stage, but I like to put in
more time before I get to the focal point.
Hopefully this way Ill be more in tune
with the painting and the focal point will
get the best I can offer.

Character details

Im finally ready to start on the


barbarian. I begin with his face and for
the first time I zoom into the image,
alternating between 66.67 per cent and
100 per cent. I also use a different brush
in this area. Although this brush still
has a decent amount of organic noise,
it has a velvety-smooth feel to the paint
application, contrasting nicely from the
earlier textured brush. This new brush
allows for much more control over the
details and colour blending, while
maintaining an organic feel.

brightening
13 Minor
One of the problems I notice, while

the progress
14 Assess
I feel like Im finally achieving my

11

View it small
Because most of my
illustrations are usually
viewed from a distance
(like a book cover on the
store shelf) or printed
very small (like an
illustration on a gaming
card), I constantly view
my work at a small size
on my screen. It helps
to maintain an easily
readable image
essential for success with
this type of work.

Efficient art

Tablet butto
ns
Work faster by
setting
buttons to siz
e the brush up
and down, th
en one as
Undo and on
e to
Color Picker.

New collapsed layer

While I almost exclusively


use Normal mode for brushes, Ill
occasionally use Lighten or Darken
mode as well. This mode doesnt work
well on layered files because it only
considers the values and colours on the
layer youre working on. For this reason,
I select the whole image and copy it
(Ctrl+Shift+C), then paste as a new layer.
Now I have the whole image as a single
layer and the Lighten and Darken modes
work as expected.

goal: a noisy random looseness mixed


with some tight points of detail in the
focal areas. The composition and flow are
still intact from the original thumbnail
sketch. Its time to consider if this thing is
done. I fill the screen with the image on a
black background, remove the Photoshop
palettes and examine the image.

refinement
12 Further
As well as reducing the image on
screen regularly to see how things read at
a distance, I also turn the current painting
layer on and off to make sure Im making
the picture better instead of worse. I begin
to refine the shield and the scabbard as
well as the barbarian, working out the
lighting on the planes of his torso.

15 Monitor
compensation
After a little more noodling around I add
some falling debris and call it done. Now
I have one last thing to do. Because I know
that my monitor is too dark, making my
digital work appear washed-out on other
monitors, I have to compensate with an
Adjustment layer to tweak the Levels of my
image. (Layer > New Adjustment Layer >
Levels). Although this makes the image
too dark on my monitor, I know itll look
better on virtually everyone elses.

Fantasy Card Artist 91

Workshops

In Depth Define textures using acrylics

Acrylics

ADAPTING
A FANTASY ART
CLASSIC
Tired of the same old approaches to fantasy icons, Kev Crossley breaks
out the acrylics to put a fresh and inspired spin on painting a unicorn
his is an interesting brief, as it brings
together two subjects with very specific
fan bases that you might not expect would
cross over. When you think of unicorns
youll no doubt think of a beautiful white stallion
with a noble gait and a sparkling golden horn jutting
proudly from the forehead. The clichs attached to
these mythical creatures are often a bit kitsch or even
twee, with soft colour schemes to match.
Zombies on the other hand couldnt be more
different: mindless, rotting, putrescent every new
film or TV show seeks to present ever more disgusting
make-up and special FX to make their zombies as
grim as possible, and zombies have never been more
popular than they are right now. So, lets combine the
two, to paint a zombie unicorn
The strong aesthetics attached to each subject are
tough to ignore, but I decide right away that I want to
do something a little different from what might be
expected. To this end I look to the heavy working dray
horses of yesteryear as a starting point for my unicorn.
These beasts are thick-set and heavily muscled with a
sturdy frame as would befit an animal bred for heavy
hauling and hard work.
Their physique also resembles some of the horses
that feature in the classic fantasy paintings of people
like Frank Frazetta, and having some stylistic
resonance with such great art is a welcome bonus!

Also, rather than going for an action shot, I opt


to create a static image, somewhat akin to the old
engravings or illustrations of prize animals. I want
the unicorn to be the core of the image, and excessive
movement or suggestion of narrative would detract
from this.
A unicorn needs a horn, of course, but there will be
no pretty, corkscrew spike for my version. Instead I
plan to bestow it with a gruesome, heavily deformed
weapon, bristling with spines and scales. I want the
horn to look like its been used to monstrous effect.
When I produce a piece of fantasy art, I try to
create something that catches the eye and encourages
the viewer to linger a while. To this end I utilise
beauty, composition tricks and horror. This painting
will rely heavily on the last of these, so I might have
loops of innards hanging from the animal. The
addition of a few weapons driven into the spinal
area will serve an aesthetic purpose too: arranged
in a spoke formation they will serve to draw the eye
into the focal centre of the image. Now, turn the
page and well begin painting!
Kev created comic art for 2000 AD and others
before writing numerous art books. In 2012 he
illustrated Ian Livingstones 30th Anniversary
Fighting Fantasy title, Blood Of The Zombies,
shortly before his second book was published by Ilex:
101 Top Tops From Professional Fantasy Painters.
www.kevcrossley.com

MATERIALS Paints
Winsor & Newton
Galeria Range:
Phthalo Green,
Sap Green,
Pale Olive,
Cadmium Yellow
Medium Hue,
Pale Lemon,
Naples Yellow,
Crimson,

Raw Sienna,
Burnt Sienna,
Raw Umber,
Burnt Umber,
Ivory Black,
Mixing White,
Acrylic Glazing
Medium DalerRowney

Cryla Range:
Rich Transparent
Red Oxide,
Phthalo
Turquoise,
Vandyke
Brown Hue,
Prussian Blue
Hue, Titanium
White

Fantasy Card Artist 93

Workshops

USING PENCI
LS

A 2H is usefu
l for fine
lines. The HB
is great for
strengthenin
g 2H lines.
2B to 6B are
soft, dark
grades used
for filling
in areas.

The sketch

Pencil: finishing
touches

I use an orange Col-Erase pencil to draw a rough outline for the unicorn,
before using an HB pencil to add detail such as protruding ribs, a skeletal aspect and
a broad head that is in part inspired by a pit bull terrier.

I continue refining the posture and


exaggerated muscles, using a 2H pencil
with the orange to boost the shading and
add a sharper edge to some lines. I use an
electric eraser as a sculptural tool to carve
away areas of pencil with precision.

94 Fantasy Card Artist

Scaling up

The canvas board


I use is about 1.5 times
larger than the sketch,
so for scaling up I use a
blue Col-Erase pencil to
draw an inch square grid
over my sketch, and an
orange pencil to draw a
1.5-inch square grid
onto the canvas.

3D texture

3D texture sets traditional


work apart from digital. Mixing
White acrylic paint is blobbed
around the edges of the art board.
A small piece of card is pressed onto
the paint, and leaves cool veins and
ridges when lifted away.

Keep
acrylics wet
Use a spray-nozzle
bottle of water as
needed to keep the
acrylic wet on your
mixing board.

Using the grid

Tone painting: wash

I use an orange ColErase pencil and an HB pencil


to sketch the unicorn onto the
canvas art-board, with the grid
making it easy to keep the
proportions correct. A
Prismacolor Jet Black pencil
helps enhance the darker tones
and add dimensionality to the
block shadows.

A tone painting is a greyscale


under-painting, which picks out the
shadows and light areas. I use Ivory
Black acrylic paint mixed into plenty
of water to build the shadows up and
develop the details. Repeated washes
build the tones.

In Depth Define textures using acrylics


7

Tone painting: shading

Background: defining the unicorn

I apply thicker paint in some areas that require darker tones. The 3D textures
come into their own too, with dark tones settling between the ridges and veins to create
terrific effects. The pencil is then strengthened with black pen, with Titanium White
acrylic providing light tones.

The unicorn needs to be defined, so I paint the background first. I apply


Van Dyk Brown, Red Ochre, Yellow Ochre, Olive Green and Lemon Yellow over the
tone painting, with lighter hues framing the unicorns body. Next, I develop the sun
and mountains dramatically in the distance.

Colour glaze

I create a thin glaze wash of Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and a


touch of Red Oxide. I apply this in the same way as I did the tone
wash before, finishing with a bit of toothbrush spatter. This rusty
base colour will underpin the finished painting.

moving into
10 Background:
the foreground
As the background is refined, I begin to enhance a few areas on the
unicorn itself, as well as the ground it stands on. The emphasis is on
the animal, so I deliberately leave the brushwork loose and underworked on the creatures and the stony ground beneath the unicorn.

Fantasy Card Artist 95

Workshops
BRUSH SIZE
S

Sizes 3 to 6 ac
rylic or
watercolour
brushes are
suitable for th
e painting
work. Sizes 00
to
0000 are go
od for
the fine detai
l.

11
Colour tips
1 Use Photoshop
to paint over your
scanned underdrawing to work out
what colour schemes
to use when you
begin painting.

Background:
texture detail

And now you can see how that 3D texture


I added earlier generates what I call
random prompting. I allow myself the
freedom to work around the ridges and
patterns in a completely intuitive way.
Without premeditation, I just daub paint
wherever it feels right!

the skin
12 Painting
For painting the texture on the
zombie skin I use Pale Olive, Flesh
Tint, Sap Green and Pale Lemon, with
Van Dyk Brown and Titanium White
for darks and lights. I apply dabs and
strokes of colour onto the animal,
working around the scarred and
veined details.

Unicorn
13 Detail:
I use a smaller brush to refine
details. I add shadows, blending tones
and evolving textures. Lemon Yellow and
Titanium White reinforce highlights and
lighten the colours across the back and
upper haunch, and I give particular
attention to the metal discs scattered
behind the mane.

2 Light conditions
in your studio can
affect the way mixed
colours turn out, so
paint in a bright,
well-lit space.
3 Scan traditional
painted art into
Photoshop to subtly
tidy up any mistakes,
and then adjust the
colour balance and
tone quality.

random
14 Detail:
noodling
The painting feels mostly done by now,
but there is always time for a little more
noodling. So, I have some more fun
playing with the background textures,
and continue to add bold brush strokes
alongside finer details.

96 Fantasy Card Artist

15 Finishing
In the final painting, there is a balance between loose brushwork and finely
rendered modelling. The reddish under-painting permeates the colours on top of it,
holding everything together, while the 3D textures offer shifting patterns of shadows
depending on the lighting conditions.

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Workshops

ENHANCE YOUR
WEAPON DESIGNS
Dan Scott reveals his thought process and painting techniques for
depicting the weapons of his fantasy characters. Draw your swords!

Dan Scott
COUNTRY: US
Dan has been
a freelance
artist for
several years,
creating
illustrations for books,
magazines, comics,
trading card games,
packaging and dabbling
in concept art.
www.danscottart.com

GET YOUR
RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

ve had the opportunity to


paint plenty of weapons in
my day. I still have a lot to
learn, but Ive picked up a few
tips over the years that could help you
out. In this article Ill get you thinking
about ways to improve your approach
to weapon painting in your work.

There are a lot of things to consider


when painting a hand-held weapon. What
type of weapon is it going to be? Whos
wielding it and how do they use it? How
did they acquire the weapon? How was it
originally created? What special abilities
does it have? How does it fit into the
composition and does it help lead the

viewers eye to the focal points or create


distracting tangents? Is it shown from an
interesting and natural-looking angle?
Asking yourself some of these
questions at the outset can help you in
creating a weapon that adds to the story
of its owner and makes for a more
interesting painting.

1 OFFENSIVE MATERIAL
Whats the weapon made of? Its
an important consideration when
approaching rendering. A shiny
metal weapon should have a high
level of contrast and reflect some
of the surrounding colours. A
leather grip might be duller in
contrast and have some frayed
edges. A rough-cut weapon may
look like its made of stone, with
many cracks and crevices. Perhaps
a weapon has a magical aura or
parts of it are partially transparent.

2 POINTS OF INTEREST

3 GOOGLE IS YOUR WEAPON

Weapons can be a great compositional tool,


leading the viewers eye around the painting
and calling attention to the focal points. Strong
diagonal lines created by weapons can make
an image more dynamic, while a curved blade
may keep the viewers eye on the page. Even
something as simple as a whip or lasso can be
an effective compositional aid.

The internet is one of the quickest, easiest and most thorough ways to
search for references. For example, it could help me design a unique
sword hilt or come up with an interesting colour scheme. One tool I use
that helps a lot in weapon perspective is SketchUp and Googles 3D
Warehouse (3dwarehouse.sketchup.com). The basic version of SketchUp
is a free program and there are several great designs for free download in
the 3D Warehouse. As with any reference, be sure to make it your own
and dont just trace someone elses hard work.

98 Fantasy Card Artist

Artist insight Weapon design

4 EVIL NEVER
SLEEPS

e e eents
elem
Ornate sculptural ele
p al
cann help conveyy how speci
and powerful a weapon is.

One of the most fun parts


of getting to do concepts
for the Warhammer Online
game was designing
weapons for Chaos.
Those familiar with the
Warhammer universe
will know that Chaos is
the epitome of evil, and
the only limit when
designing Chaos weapons
is your imagination. Here
Ive done my best to
experiment with different
material types, themes
and effects. In general my
goal was to make them
organic, twisted, and just
generally demented.

g t wayy to
a e a grea
uneses are
Run
add an interestingg desiggn
your weappons.
elemeentt to yyo
he p ggive a
They can help
mystical feel to them.

Chaos is the
epitome of evil and
the only limit when
designing Chaos
weapons is your
imagination
Fantasy Card Artist 99

Workshops
ROUGH
N READY
When painting a rough-cut
weapon like this I use a more
hard-edged brush with a
texture applied to it. I also
tend to mix in more brown
and red tones to indicate
dirt, rust, and blood.

5 ITS A TRAP!
Poorly composed weapons can
fatally damage your composition.
Tangents are an easy trap to get
caught in with weapons. A
tangent occurs when lines from
two different objects appear to
touch each other. This can cause
confusion and depth problems.
Another pitfall is when your
weapon is too vertical or horizontal
and divides the image in half.
There are exceptions to this rule
when youre making an iconic
symmetrical composition, but
in general it should be avoided.

Always try to add at least


a little tilt and foreshortening
to your characters weapon

6 STRIKE A POSE
One giveaway of amateur work is
when a weapon is shown exactly
symmetrical and parallel with the
viewers perspective. This can make
a weapon look static and pasted-in.
Always try to add at least a little
tilt and foreshortening to your
weapons. Rotate them or
obscure parts of them for added
believability. Its extra work, but
adds a lot to the piece and can help
make an image more dynamic.

100 Fantasy Card Artist

7 MASS EFFECT
Consider the size of the
weapon in relation to the
wielder. When doing
personal work youre free
to create whatever type of
weapon you think works
best, but when producing
art for clients you always
have to be aware of what
type of setting the weapon
is appearing in. Some
properties are more
historically accurate, with
realistic weapon sizes and
designs. In contrast, most
fantasy settings go over
the top with unbelievable
(and sometimes unwieldy)
designs and oversized
weapons. Always take this
into account when working
on a piece.

Artist insight Weapon design

t nt in
ta
m is impoorta
Symbolism
e gn. It can be
weappon desig
used tto ggive a weappon a
mood and meaning.

ettee iin mind


eep silhouett
Keep
while designningg. These
nicallyy
techni
words are all te
sword
t g but have
amee thin
the sam
very different shapes.

8 PRODUCE GOOD
WEAPON DESIGN

In contrast to Chaos, the


Empire faction is much more
orderly, and rife with strong
religious overtones

In contrast to Chaos, The


Empire faction is much
more orderly, and rife with
strong religious overtones.
The weapon designs are
more symmetrical and the
symbolism is very different,
with crosses, eagles, skulls,
fire and laurels dominating
the look. Gold and crimson
accent the colour scheme.
But even though these
weapons are much cleaner
than the Chaos versions,
there are still signs of wear
and tear from battle.

Fantasy Card Artist 101

Workshops
10 GET THE KILLER LOOK

SHINY BUT
DEADLY

Try to keep in mind how a weapon


is used. An ornate magic staff of a
high wizard would need to look
pristine, with a high level of polish
and very few blemishes. A crude
hatchet wielded by an orc would
probably be terribly grungy.
Chunks of missing metal, large
scrapes, dirt, rust and blood
splatters really help sell the effect.
Texture brushes and/or texture
overlays can help tremendously
when trying to get this kind of look.

For a smooth, shinier


weapon I tend to use a
brush that simulates a real
paintbrush and use less
texture. Notice the subtle
variations in colour
throughout the blade.

Chunks of missing metal,


scrapes, dirt, rust and blood
splatters help sell the effect
9 HOW CHARMING
A good way to make a
weapon interesting is to
add a magical effect to it. It
could be a flaming weapon,
shooting some type of
spell, or simply be glowing.
When adding these effects
I work with textured and
smooth brushes. Try not to
overuse smooth brushes or
the image can start to look
overly digital. Having magic
weapon effects gives you
the opportunity to utilise
interesting lighting effects.
These can be used to help
define an edge, pop a
focal point or just add
some interesting
colour contrast to
the image.

RESOURCES

PHOTOSHOP
CUSTOM BRUSHES:
HARD STRANDS BRUSH

This is one of my
favourite brushes, not
just for weapons but for
just about anything. It
has a nice natural look
while still offering plenty
of control.
LIGHT GRUNGE BRUSH

I cant remember how I


came across this brush,
but its really good if you
want to add a subtle
grunge to weapons.
COARSE TEXTURE
ROUND

Just a good brush for


adding random texture
without having to visit
the Texture checkbox.
SQUARE WITH
TEXTURE

A good, all-round brush


thats perfect for detail
work and has some
texture. I use this one
quite often when painting
jagged weapons.

102 Fantasy Card Artist

11 BACKGROUND
INFORMATION
Details are an important part of
weapon design. An ornate weapon
could have a flowery filigree pattern
or harsh zig-zagging runes. It may
have either tiny detailed gold
intricately woven into the design, or
big clunky pieces of stone or metal
welded to it. Perhaps the weapons
owner has tied a charm to the hilt,
wrapped a favourite bandana
around the grip, or used notches
crudely carved into the blade to
denote each kill. All of these details
add flavour and interest to how the
weapon is portrayed.

Artist insight Weapon design


f tion
Sometimes func
Havingg
follows foform. H
f
o an for
a sculpted wom
a hiltt mayy nnott be
t ble
o ffoforta
the most com
grip, but it looks cool!

12 SNEAK ATTACK
These Dark Elf weapons
are yet another visage of
evil. The designs have an
angular intricacy to them,
with patterns that are more
geometrically complex.
The metal even looks to be
forged differently and has a
purplish blue hue to it. You
can tell from the slender
forms that these weapons
are designed more for
stealth and subterfuge than
direct mle combat.

e t with
Experiment
symmetrical and
y metrical
asym
etimes
desiggns. Someti
des
the best solution is a
combination of both.

Fantasy Card Artist 103

Workshops

Photoshop

CAPTURE LIGHT
AND MAGIC
Winona Nelson makes the most of a real-life reference model, then
demonstrates how the right light can evoke a scene of magical drama

Winona Nelson
COUNTRY: US
An avid gamer
and reader
as a child,
Winona grew
up dreaming
of designing game
characters and painting
fantasy and sci-fi book
covers. She freelances
in concept art and
illustration, and works
on Warhammer covers
and card art for Magic:
the Gathering.
winonanelsonart.com

GET YOUR
RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

hen a painter captures light


well, its magical. It takes
a two-dimensional image
into the realm of threedimensional space. Good light creates
such strong mood and emotion that it
takes you away from your thoughts
and worries, and grabs your mind for a
moment in the world of the illustration.
Painting light well enough to really
connect with your viewer requires close
observation of the real world, but you
cant simply stand in front of a mirror

When shading near dark


areas I want to preserve,
I set the Brush mode to
Darken. This affects only
colours lighter than the
one youre painting with.
Lighten mode does the
opposite and is useful for
removing unwanted dark
areas such as line work
showing in a scan. Color
mode is great for making
temperature changes
without changing value.
Note that the Brush
modes dont work on
transparent areas.

104 Fantasy Card Artist

lighting scheme as well as you can, is an


investment that pays off in a major way.
Painting digitally can tempt you to try
a lot of fancy effects and tricks. Dont let
it control you. You need to commit, and
to make every decision consciously.
Experimentation and exploration can
help you generate ideas, but at some
point you have to nail your piece down
and take the time to make everything
work together or the light just wont look
right. Thats why I keep my files simple
and use effects judiciously.

Initial sketch

The value arrangement in your


sketch is what indicates your lighting
requirements. Ive decided to surround
my figure with light so that shell stand
out from the rest of the image, but I want
another light source in front of her to
place her into the space. In the sketch Ive
imagined this as a glowing cauldron, but I
feel it needs more drama to illustrate her
power, so I end up changing it to a fire.

Brush modes

and summon a glowing dragon. We


illustrators need to be crafty to create and
light scenes of magic convincingly. No
matter how otherworldly the subject of
our paintings, we can use real-life tools to
make our work dynamic and powerful.
The best weapon in our arsenal is the
camera. Getting good reference is the first
step in taking a sketch and turning it into
a fully realised scene. This doesnt require
anything too fancy, but spending the time
and effort to have a friend model for
you, and replicating the costume and

Reference shots

I ask a friend to model for me


shes more than happy to pull faces in
front of the camera. With my sketch in
hand, I replicate the lighting scheme by
having the model stand where shell be
posing later, and arrange my lights around
her. I use a tall lamp for the back light, and
a second lamp on the floor for the light of
the fire. You want bright light bulbs,
especially if your camera isnt fancy.

Costume elements

Costumes dont have to be perfect.


Most of the time I use a bit of fabric and
safety pins. I ask the model to tie her hair
back so that her face isnt obscured. I also
take separate shots with her hair down
and combine the photos later. The
same goes for capes and other costume
elements. Dont attempt to make one
perfect shot. Get your elements separately
and combine them in Photoshop.

Sense of motion

To introduce a feeling of motion and


life in the reference, I usually start out by
talking to the model about the character
shes portraying. I use my sketch only as
inspiration. I look for things that look
good when the model is in front of me. I
try posing the model myself, and ask her to
feel and remember where her limbs are. I
have her relax, and then move quickly into
the pose and take the shot in motion.

In Depth Capture light and magic

Fantasy Card Artist 105

Workshops

Switch
foreground
and
background
colours
X (P
C & Mac)
Great for dig
ital inks
and sketchin
g
silhouettes.

Time for some improvisation

Assemble a montage
of photos

After Ive got a selection of good shots that are close to my initial idea, I ask my
friend to try a lot of different motions. To obtain good facial expressions, I then tell her
to go ahead and make noise, because its hard to fake an expression without making
sounds. You can also take video and use still frames for reference. This way you have
a lot of options that you can piece together digitally.

I go through my photos and select one


Im going to start with. I may pick a photo
with a head I like and then grab arms
from another. I select the areas I want
and drag them into the reference image,
while being careful to keep everything in
proportion. I use the Polygonal Lasso tool
and Free Transform a lot at this stage. You
can move the pivot point to make Free
Transform easier.

Keep it simple

I usually work on a single flat layer. It feels and looks more like
traditional mediums this way, and it enables me to paint with my
brush in different blending modes. I add layers of flat colour at times
and change the blending mode to explore glow effects, but I dont
often separate the layers out to more than a few at a time.

RESOURCES

PHOTOSHOP
CUSTOM BRUSHES:
<3

This is my all-purpose
brush thats good for
sketching, laying in big
areas of colour, and
rough rendering.
<3 CHALK

Its face time

With the reference image open I


begin rendering. I often start with the face
because it gets me excited about the work,
and because it usually takes a few passes
before Im happy with it. I want the
sorceress to have exaggerated features, so
I apply the darks liberally around the eyes
to give her the look of dramatic makeup.

I use this in a similar


fashion to my <3 brush,
but it gives a little more
texture. Chalk Dual is the
same brush with extra
texture, but can be a bit
slow. Its used in the
paintings fabrics.

Introduce texture

I trace some of the lines lightly for


placement, print it on watercolour paper
and paint on it with acrylics. I go quickly,
using bristle brushes and a dry brush
effect, and I dont worry about keeping it
neat messy is good. When Im done, I
photograph it, open it in Photoshop and
crop the image to the final dimensions.

106 Fantasy Card Artist

I use simple brushes like a hard-edged


Round brush with the Opacity set to Pen
Pressure. I keep the light source in mind
at all times. In the reference, the light
source is a regular light bulb, not fire, so
it doesnt have the hot glow that fire does.
This means Ive got to change the colour
of the light as I paint.

<3 HARD LINE

This is a hard, fully


opaque brush with the
Spacing setting under
10 per cent. Its smoother
than the default Hard
Round opaque brush.
I used it for hard
highlights in the eyes
and the sequins.

from the fire


10 Light
As I render soft areas such as flesh,

<3 SOFTIE

This is a soft-edged
brush with Flow set to
40 per cent. It comes in
useful for blending soft
areas and painting light
blooms. I use it in the
skin and the magic glow.

11

Temperature changes

For firelight, the brightest areas


tend to be hot orange or yellow, with
reds in the middle to lower values and
the shadows cooler. I keep the values and
saturation highest in areas close to the
light source, and let them taper off as it
gets further away. Especially when I have
a brightly coloured light source, I dampen
the saturation or change the temperature
in some places, so that the painting
doesnt get monochromatic.

In Depth Capture light and magic


12

Think in planes

When rendering form, think about


your subject in planes, and the direction
that the planes are facing in relation to the
light. The planes that are perpendicular
are going to be the brightest, with the
light falling away as the form turns and
as planes become further away from the
light source. Once you start to get the
form right, it seems to pop into 3D, and
then you can push and pull it with value
to make the shape look even more solid.

13

The wiggle

To really check if my forms are


turning right, I close one eye and wiggle
my head back and forth. It might look
crazy, but closing one eye will turn your
vision from stereo to mono, and wiggling
your head keeps your brain from locking
down and getting a handle on what youre
looking at, so its easy to trick yourself
into converting the screen into a window
and your painting into a whole threedimensional space.

add rim light


16 Finally,
I also have a backlight to deal
The Window
Menu
In Window > Workspace,
you can save your
window configuration
and hotkeys. If youve
ever had Photoshop
freeze and reopen in
the default window
arrangement, this will
save you lots of time.
Also, check out Window
> Arrange > New
Window for [filename].
You can have multiple
views of your image
open at once. I like to
keep one Im working
on and one at a smaller
view to keep everything
organised in the
composition, and one
on my second monitor to
check colour differences.

with another area where a little goes a


long way. The rim light is so much fun to
paint that sometimes you want to put it
all the way around the figure! You have
to be careful and pay attention to your
reference. The rim light can tell us a lot
about the form in the way its sharp in
some places and soft in others.

17

Polygonal
Lasso step ba
ck

Backspace (P
C & Mac)
Undo an inacc
urate click
with the Lasso
tool
without losing
the selection.

and use it well

Just as with the other light source,


the rim light will change in brightness
depending on how far the surface is from
the light source and on the angles of the
planes. At the edge between the shadow
and the rim light, a little hot red will
really make the flesh look convincing.
In some spots, you can make the
background just a little darker in value
so the rim light pops rather than blending
into the background.

it right
14 Get
Because Ive lit my figure from below, its a challenge to make the face look both
realistic and attractive. Underlighting can make people look otherworldly, which is
why Im using it, but it can also make them look monstrous. In addition, Ive chosen a
rather complicated facial expression. Understand where the biggest challenges in your
painting are, and hit them hard! Nailing the tough spots makes your work sing.

marry the
15 Dont
reference shot
Some things look fine in a photo but
wrong in a painting. So, the shadow on her
upper lip is important to the expression,
but paint it too dark and she has a
moustache! Painting the highlight under
her nose too bright makes her nose
disappear. I simplify the wrinkles on her
cheeks, nose, chin and corners of the eyes,
but I retain enough to keep the expression.

Fantasy Card Artist 107

Workshops

Photoshop

COMPOSE A GAME
CARD CHARACTER
Craig Elliott reimagines World of Warcrafts Lady Sylvanas for Blizzards
card game, explaining his colour and composition choices as he goes
ainting trading card images
for Blizzard is a challenge
similar to the ones I face
when Im designing for a
Disney or Blue Sky movie: I need to
create a compelling image, that fits
with the style already established by
the studio, but at the same time has
something new and unique about it.
Juggling these seemingly contradictory
elements is the hidden part of designing
for other people and companies. When

Craig Elliott
COUNTRY: US
Craig is a
freelance
concept artist,
illustrator and
character
designer for animation,
TV, games and films.
Hes worked for Disney,
DreamWorks and
Warner Bros., among
others. A book of his art
has just been released by
Flesk Publications.
www.bit.ly/craigelliott

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RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

youre working for yourself these things


dont matter you can paint whatever you
want. This is also one of the big factors
that can separate a professional artist
from an amateur or non-professional.
Its essential to remember that youre
performing a service, trying to get into
the head of the people who are paying
you to give them what they want.
Sometimes they dont yet know
what they want, and you have to make
suggestions until they feel comfortable

Feeling sketchy

The first thing I like to do when


painting a figure is create inspirational
snippets of hands, facial expressions,
composition ideas and suchlike, without
worrying about getting a final sketch
down on paper. Here Im really just
experimenting with things, gaining a
feel for what its like to shoot an arrow
and trying out possible poses, facial
expressions and shapes. I like to pick my
favourites and clean them to show them
to an art director. I choose a direction I
like and begin to flesh it out with darker
values, refining the characters anatomy
and pose as I go.

with a direction. Other times they have a


clear idea, and you need to tease every bit
of that idea out of their head before you
start. If you leave scraps of their idea with
them and dont draw it out of them, youll
be surprised when you show the painting
and theres something important missing
which the client wanted! This is the
hidden side of concept art. In this article
Ill try to show how this works with the
technical part of illustration that we can
all see with our eyes.

Adding colour

I finish off the sketch with


coloured pencils on brown paper by
adding some white to give myself the
range of values and an idea of the two
main things I want to focus on in the
final composition: the arrows and
Sylvanas upper body. I like to make
alterations in Photoshop and try slightly
different directions. Im adding a new
background configuration and rock
formation, as well as a better cape in this
case. Photoshop also enables me to boost
the contrast with Dodge and Burn to help
get the sketch closer to the final levels of
contrast that the painting will have.

Preserve
transparency
/ (fo

rward slash
Mac & PC)
Lock transpa
rent pixels in
the layer your
e working
on, so you aff
ect only
pixel conten
t.

108 Fantasy Card Artist

In Depth Compose a game card

Fantasy Card Artist 109

Workshops
3

Setting up for painting

I tint the initial sketch so Im working in a colour space thatll


be close to the final painting. I make corrections to the image that the
art director asked for, such as having the bow and arrows come at the
viewer more, to place arrows in a quiver behind the figure and add
the armour to the legs and shoulders.

Dont sweat
the small stuff

RESOURCES

PHOTOSHOP
CUSTOM BRUSHES:
LOOSE ROUGH BRUSH

I use this brush to block


in most things and to
give realistic brush
dragging on canvas
effects, seen in the art of
some traditional painters.

Decide on the colours

Here I paint out the old arm and


bow and sketch in ones that point more
at the viewer. I also change the head
position to match the new direction of
the bow. Im painting some of the armour,
testing and balancing the local colours of
the warm purple and white gold armour,
as well as the hair. I keep fine-tuning
these colours in a few small spots like
this until they look like theyre all lit with
the same colour and intensity of light. In
this case the light is a cool lavender-blue.
I choose this colour so her skin, the light
itself and the environment are all in
harmony. Contrary to popular belief,
shadows arent always cooler than the
light side especially when the light itself
is cool. This is best seen in this painting
on the purples in her armour where the
cool light is desaturating the purple in
the light side, making it greyer.

MEDIUM ROUGH

This is my workhorse
brush, used for painting
detail all the way up to
atmosphere. It has a
touch of texture in it
that keeps the strokes
looking natural.
STREAKED BRUSH

I use this brush alongside


the others, usually to give
a nice brush stroke feel.
Its also great for
anything made of fibres,
such as hair or grass.

110 Fantasy Card Artist

Focus on the final composition

Always keep an eye on


your whole painting as
you work never let
yourself get too lost on
one section or detail. The
ability to zoom in and
out makes it easy to step
back quickly. But its also
a trap, because you can
zoom in and get lost in
a single rivet on your
characters armour for
an hour.

Its important to always keep the whole painting in mind, and what youre trying
to achieve with it. To this end, I go back and make some changes to the composition to
work with the new figure pose better, adjusting the overall lighting and focal point to
be closer to what the final will be. I also change the cloak to be a bit more energetic and
more complementary to the curves of Sylvanas figure. I sometimes spend half my time
on an illustration just getting these little rough things right, so that when I put my foot
on the gas and start making things look real, everything is in the right place, in the right
colour and is drawn correctly.

Starting to bring
things together

Here I further fine-tune the values in the


background so the figure and arrows (not
in place yet) will be the two things that
stand out most. I also begin to tint the
previously monochromatic legs with the
colours that her armour will be in the
end. I always try to jump around catching
things that arent matching the level of
finish that other parts have. This ensures
that I have a pretty good idea of where
the painting is going as a whole, and I can
make composition changes if I see things
drifting off the rails. If I were to focus on
just painting the legs, for example,
finishing them first, I might find they
are totally the wrong colour, or the shape
isnt pleasing compared to the ones I
paint later. It would be frustrating and
a waste of time. Working up the image
as a whole avoids these costly mistakes.

Final colours
and shapes

I work up most of the figure, and her


arrows, into what I consider a mid-stage
block-in. All the local colours, like the
purple armour, the maroon cape and hat,
black leggings and bluish skin, are finally
right. I add highlights and begin to render
some parts more finely, like the metal on
her top. I block in her face as well, using
the colours that work well in her belly
area. This is one of the rare times I use
layers (other than to separate the figure
and background). I find many more
layers just slow me down. I might paint,
say, a weapon on a separate layer, so I
can focus on that. But after Im done with
that element Ill almost always merge the
weapon onto the layer the figure occupies.

In Depth Compose a game card


11

Final touches

I add, mostly very subtle, fixes and


refinements all over the painting, finding
little things and fixing them. I add more
colour variation to parts of Sylvanas, like
her cloak, armour and skin, with the same
Color or Hue mode brush as I did in step
9. I also add a magical glow around parts
of her body that are exposed, so she seems
more like the magical being she is.

Realistic art
Im often asked, How
do you paint something
that looks so real? Its
knowing how to draw
any basic 3D shape, first
in line, then lit from any
angle or angles. You
merge these shapes until
you get something that
resembles what you want.

Zoom in and
out
Alt+-

and Alt+= (P
C)
Cmd+- and Cm
d+= (Mac)
This is a grea
t way to
check that yo
ur whole
painting is co
ming
together.

Missing pieces

I paint in the final missing piece: a maddeningly complicated bow. Im given


reference shots from various angles by Blizzard, but the models used in the game are
relatively low resolution, so theres a lot of guesswork and invention with something
like this. Thankfully, theres a vinyl figure of this character with her bow, so I go and
buy one. With some plasticine and tape Im able to set up the vinyl figure next to my
monitor and add some light from my lamp illuminating it from the same angle as it
is in the painting. I paint each piece over my initial perspective sketch as if I were
painting a still life. It doesnt matter if Im painting a bowl of apples or a vinyl figures
bow its the same procedure.

A raft of refinements

Digital brushes have a tendency


to create the same level of softness
when you use them, so this needs to
be countered. Some edges are softened
further, and others are sharpened. I spend
a good amount of time doing this in the
background. This variety adds to the sense
of realism in the final background and
makes it look more like its done with real
paint. I also add some colour variation. I
do this by changing the mode of my brush
to Color or Hue and picking a colour thats
slightly different from the one Im trying
to put variations into. I use the HSB sliders
on the Color palette when I work, so I can
tweak the Hue or Saturation to achieve
this kind of colour variation.

card image
12 Final
The final trading card shows how the art directors at Blizzard
crop the image to best explain the action described on the card itself.
I always like to give them more art than they need so they have the
freedom to choose how to crop things. This also enables them to use
the bigger image later for a banner, box cover or poster, if they want.

up
10 Softening
I soften the bowstring, the overall
outline and things like hair and feathers.
The softening around the figure avoids
that cut-out look and makes the figure
look part of the world shes in. I also add
armour and clothing, as well as more hair
and bits of detail everywhere. Here again
I jump around trying to keep the whole
painting at the same level of finish. I
also refine the face and expression. Her
expression was a little wooden and I want
her to have a wry, superior and confident
expression while still being sexy. I also add
a bit of bounce light from her red eyes, to
give her a slightly more evil touch.

Blizzard Entertainment

Fantasy Card Artist 111

owyn The J.R.R. Tolkien Estate Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Workshops

112 Fantasy Card Artist

In Depth Capture the drama

Photoshop

CAPTURE THE
DRAMA IN A SCENE
The tense showdown between owyn the shield-maiden and the evil
Witch-king in Tolkiens Return of the King is visualised by Nacho Molina
RR Tolkiens work is famous for
its richness when describing
a characters feelings and
the emotion of a scene. His
sensitivity for storytelling makes it possible
for readers to imagine his heroes, villains
and locations in great detail. Whether its
the majestic eternal clash between good
and evil, or a classic home-loving scene
from Hobbiton, the authors work is a
never-ending inspirational source that has
set a precedent in both fantastic literature
and the world of illustration.

owyn versus the Witch-king may be


one of the most intense and frequently
depicted encounters from The Lord of
the Rings. In this workshop Id like to do
my own version of that particular scene
while explaining my painting process.
Ill cover technical and composition
aspects, and touch on techniques related
to storytelling.
Art is about interpretation, and so
its always possible to adapt the source
material to achieve a better visual result.
However, its important to respect the

Nacho Molina
COUNTRY: England
Nacho is a
freelance
illustrator and
concept artist,
originally
from Spain. Hes created
art for movies, video
games, card games and
book covers for Blizzard
Entertainment and
Londons Moving Picture
Company, among others.
www.bit.ly/ifx-nmolina

basics of the story, because this in turn


will enable the viewer to recall the
emotion they felt when they first read
Tolkiens vivid prose.
As well as researching armour, swords
and aspects of medieval life, I encourage
you to read up on the Lady of Rohan
and the Witch-king, as well as study the
chapter from The Lord of the Rings in
which these two characters famously
meet. After doing this Im sure youll
come up with some cool ideas of your
own. Okay, lets go to work!

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RESOURCES
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Basic considerations

Initial sketch

These four sketches are simple


tonal schemes in which you can see the
different relationship between the figure
and the background. Because my image is
outdoors and owyn will be wearing dark
clothes, I choose the first one. Notice how
the darkest shape on the bottom creates a
base for the figure, which pops out of the
light background and gives it a cleaner
outline. Despite looking basic, its a good
indication of the direction I intend to take.

I start with a simple line sketch


to place the main figure and elements.
It doesnt need to be perfect because itll
be lost at some point. I look for a cool
composition and pose that connect to the
story behind the scene. I try to find an
engaging silhouette for the main character
that combines diagonal elements. I also
think about what Im going to paint in
the fore-, mid- and background.

Establish the images


general tones

During the painting process, bear in mind


that the illustration must work as a whole.
Avoid concentrating on a particular area
before youve decided on the general
tones, lights and shadows. To create the
scenes dusty mood I paint some blurry
colours in neutral brown tones. This helps
to get rid of the blank canvas, and gives
me a sense of an epic battlefield.

Fantasy Card Artist 113

Workshops
4

Creating masks

I set up some masks that enable me to select different areas


of the picture quickly and easily. I then start to add some colour
variations in green to pop the main character out. Now I need to think
of a cool costume design. For that, I recommend using references to
make it more credible. Different materials such as metal, leather and
fabrics, in conjunction with skin or hair, will create visual interest.

Try to be
organised
My illustrations usually
end up with more than
100 layers. Thats why I
try to separate them into
groups, such as Figure
or Background. It will
save time and make the
painting process easier.

PHOTOSHOP
CUSTOM BRUSHES:
CUSTOM BRUSH 1

This brush is useful for


depicting objects that
have little texture.
CUSTOM BRUSH 2

owyns portrait

Every illustration has a focal point


that grabs the viewers initial attention,
such as a bright area or the face of the
main character. Get this right and youve
won half the battle. The general look of
the painting seems okay so far, so its
time to start with the main character. Put
yourself in owyns situation. Facing up
to a Nazgl is anything but fun, so our
shield-maiden should look scared, but
still beautiful. With this in mind I depict
her face with a wide-open mouth, big
eyes and slightly raised eyebrows.

Plunging into the battlefield

If youve read the Battle of the Pelennor Fields chapter, youll know that its
a horrifying location where the elements play a key role. I decide to paint some
smoke and clouds, and having her clothes and hair blowing in the wind achieves
a nice visual rhythm. Notice how all these elements lead us to the main focal
point: owyn. Checking out romantic painters such as Turner may help you here!

I use this brush to paint


here and there on top of
an existing texture.
CUSTOM BRUSH 3

Good for implying dirty


textures. I used this
brush on the shields.
CUSTOM BRUSH 4

One of my regularly used


brushes thats ideal for
painting skin and robes.

Environment elements

Its time to introduce the elements on the ground. Using the Clone Stamp tool,
I duplicate some weeds and stones from a real photo, making sure that they match the
perspective and light direction. Then I paint some objects in the foreground, for three
main reasons. First, itll create more sense of depth in the image. Second, because Im
painting them in dark tones itll settle down the composition. Third, it gives the viewer
more information about the battles ferocity.

114 Fantasy Card Artist

In Depth Capture the drama

Visualising the armour

Painting metal is tricky and it usually gives some coolness to an illustration.


To achieve a good metallic surface you should remember that it reflects surrounding
colours, as well as highlights and shadows. I start by setting up a few tones that match
the light scheme. Then I continue painting with a Soft brush to blend the colours,
before adding some texture in a medium opacity Soft Light layer. Finally I paint over
the armour to make it look more arty.

11

Hide select
ion

On to the sword

Painting swords and spears is ideal


for creating obvious diagonals that will
fit the composition nicely. I introduce a
design in the hilt that makes reference to
Rohan (the two horses that are facing
each other). As for the blade, I select the
area and then paint some gradients.
Rotating the canvas and using Shift with
the Pen tool while painting with the
Photoshop blending brushes enables me
to easily achieve a decent sword effect.

Rendering the background

The same is true for the background. The atmosphere is made up


of air and dust, so an objects contrast is reduced the further it is from
the viewer. Try to be subtle and paint the sense of something rather than
the thing itself. For painting distant mountains, scattering and colour
dynamics options come in useful because they may provide you with
pleasing colour variation effects. Dont try this approach everywhere,
though, and consider the general appearance of your painting.

Ctrl+H (PC)
Cmd+H (M
ac)
Keep pain
ting within
a
selected ar
ea without
seeing any
distracting
lines or gu
ides.

Witch-king
10 The
When painting any kind of beast
you should think about real creatures.
Nature is the best designer and gives us
brilliant references. The Witch-king rides
a nasty and slimy flying creature, so I
need to understand how animals such as
reptiles, birds or even fish look. The rider
is the secondary figure in the background,
so I avoid detailing him too much and
keep his contrast levels down, otherwise
hell appear too close to the viewer.

textures wisely
12 Use
Just as with your colours, hues and saturation, you should find
a balance in your textures. A repetitive texture element may lead to a
boring image. To counter this, try to combine different finishes. For
instance, metal is usually strong and rigid, which implies sharp edges.
In contrast, hair or robes are fluffy and delicate, which necessitates
painting them using softer brush strokes. Notice what happens with
the sky and the ground when I do this.

Fantasy Card Artist 115

Workshops
coat of arms
13 owyns
Minor elements such as coat of
arms on a suit of armour or a shield can
actually tell us more about a character.
Because owyns shield isnt facing the
viewer, the one thats lying on the
ground is an alternative area in which to
paint some heraldic elements. So I start
designing a simple silhouette thats
reminiscent of a horse. Then I transform
and match it with the shields perspective.
Finally, I select that shape and paint it on
a new layer using a custom brush that
imparts a dirty, irregular texture.

attention to
14 Pay
those details
Small details can make the difference
between a rather good illustration and a
magnificent one. How far to go with them
is a personal decision, but remember that
sometimes less is more. To depict details
and polished surfaces Id recommend
zooming into the image and out of it
regularly, checking that your detailing
is working up close as well as from a
distance. In addition, I use the Lasso and
a low opacity brush (between 15 and 20
per cent) to achieve clean shapes with
sharp edges. This will give the sense of
a more finished illustration.

persevering!
15 Keep
Detailing may be the toughest part of the painting process, but if you bite the

Select a layers
contents
Ctrl-click (PC)
Cmd-click (Mac)
nail
Click the layer thumb
s
to select its content
automatically.

bullet itll be worth it when you print out your image. I keep working on the chain mail,
shoulder pad and hair, trying to make these elements visually richer. This wont be too
difficult because theres a good base in place. Thats why its important for emphasising
the general look of the image. It also enables me to find different nuances without
losing the sense of unity.

the
16 Enhance
atmosphere
Finally, I add some small details like
blood and dirt to make the scene more
believable. I use a Soft Light layer and
paint in a dark red colour around the
shoulders, chest or cheekbones. I then
strengthen the highlights on a new Soft
Light layer, but this time using bright
yellow. This gives the impression that
owyn is illuminated by divine golden
light, which will contrast with the evil
creature in the background.

The Golden
Spiral
Have you heard about
the Golden Spiral? Its
a visual proportion
technique thats been
used throughout art
history. Try to set up
your composition using
it and youll soon see
how your art looks more
aesthetically pleasing.

116 Fantasy Card Artist

colour adjustments
17 Final
When youve been busy working on an image for a lengthy period of time, its
sometimes difficult to see things that arent quite right. I recommend leaving a painting
for a couple of days before continuing to play with light and colour adjustments. I use
Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Selective Color during the final stages of my painting
process. It may reveal a completely different aspect to your image. Try it!

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Fantasy Card Artist 117

Workshops

118 Fantasy Card Artist

In Depth Using light

Painter

USE LIGHT AND


TRANSLUCENCY
Fantasy artist Howard Lyon explores clouds, skin
and clothing as he takes you on an artistic journey
ve worked for quite a few years
now as an illustrator and Ive
been lucky enough to work
with some great clients, such
as Blizzard and Electronic Arts, and on
products including Magic: the Gathering
and Dungeons and Dragons.
The painting Im sharing today comes
from an idea that has been bouncing
around in my head for some time. This
piece is about the journey we all take as
we leave home, taking some knowledge
with us while we seek out experience
and wisdom of our own. Art is very
much like this too. We gain some light
and knowledge from our teachers, but it
isnt until we set out and paint our own
ideas that the real learning begins. Art is

so fulfilling because as we gain more


experience, we can see more that we
want to do. Its a never-ending cycle of
learning, challenges and fulfilment.
I think youll find my approach to
digital painting fairly simple. I dont
work on many layers and I use only a
few brushes. Instead I focus my energies
on direct painting and composition. I
approach my digital paintings in nearly
the same way that I develop my work
with traditional media. That is: first a
sketch, then drawing, colour wash and
a finishing pass.
Ill focus here on my techniques for
rendering tricky, part-translucent and
part-reflective surfaces such as clouds
and flesh. Time to get painting!

Howard Lyon
COUNTRY: US
Howard
studied
illustration
at Brigham
Young
University. After 13 years
in the video game
industry he now focuses
on illustration and fine art.
www.howardlyon.com

GET YOUR
RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

Fantasy Card Artist 119

Workshops

Take your time


You wont win any
commissions by telling
your clients how fast
you work if the work
isnt all that great.
Most pros I know dont
work particularly fast
they just work with
confidence from
experience and at a
steady pace. Accurate
rendering is a cycle of
these three steps:
observe, record, correct.
If something is off
artistically, then you
probably need to spend
more time observing.
This will help you make
the right corrections!

Thumbnail

My paintings start out as small


thumbnails. Often theyre of no use
whatsoever to anyone but myself. Even
my wife, who has seen more of my rough
work than anyone, often cant tell what
things are at this stage. In this case, it was
a scribble on a sticky note and scanned in,
with a little more work done in Painter.

Drawing

Once my basic composition is resolved, I move on to a more


detailed drawing. For this, I gather reference and if there is a figure or
figures in the painting, I find the right model and schedule a photo
shoot. Nearly all of the artists that Ive admired from the past either
had excellent photography (Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and
Tom Lovell come to mind) or they used live models.

RESOURCES

3
PAINTER
CUSTOM BRUSHES:
SMEARY ROUND

This is a variant of one of


Painters standard Oil
brushes, with Dab Type
changed from Camel
Hair to Circular.
SMEARY ROUND JITTER

The Smeary Round brush


is tweaked by introducing
jitter and colour variation.
These are my two mostused brushes.

A word about
reference

I used to think that I should be able to


draw anything accurately without any
reference. It led to a lot of frustration
over the years. When I started to shoot
my own reference and learned how to
use it (Norman Rockwell: Illustrator is the
second best book on illustration I have in
my collection), my work really started to
move forward. That being said, dont
follow your reference with rigidity. Its
only a guide youre the artist making
the decisions, not your reference!

Anchor the idea

Back to the drawing. Parts of it are


more developed than others. I dont need
to draw every cloud or blade of grass, just
enough to solidify my ideas and give me
an anchor as I paint.

120 Fantasy Card Artist

Change
brush size

[ and ] (PC &


Mac)
Using these
keys to chan
ge
the brush siz
e helps
you stay focu
sed on
the painting
.

Colour wash

Painting clouds

Brushes

The first thing I decide is the colour or temperature of the light in my painting.
There are multiple sources, the torch and the sun, and the temperature of the light will
be warm on the right-hand side, where the sun is, and then shift towards cooler colours
across the landscape. The torch fire will provide a second warm light on the girl in the
foreground, providing a colour contrast against the cooler background. The colour at
this point is simple, but its a key point in any painting. With digital tools its easier to
make a course correction, but its still better to try and start out on the right foot.

Clouds are so versatile. You can paint them almost any colour, dark or light, and
just about any shape theyre a compositional wild card. Clouds can also be tricky to
paint, though. You have to keep in mind that they have form. If you struggle with
clouds, remember this: they have a light side and dark side. Theyre also reflective and
translucent at times. As artists, we can use this to great effect when creating motion in
our compositions.

My favourite brush in Painter is


the Smeary Round, which is found
among the Oil brushes. I change the Dab
Type from Camel Hair to Circular and
thats about it. I then make a variant of
this brush by adding a little jitter and
colour variability. I save the variants out
as My Smeary Round and Smeary Round
Jitter. I use these two brushes to paint
99 per cent of my painting. Ill use the
Airbrush a little, the Glow brush when
called for, and sometimes add texture
with the Chalk. Beyond that, not many
other brushes get used.

In Depth Using light

Layers

I dont have many layers. If I should need to make a new selection and lift
something out of the background, it doesnt take much time. And I find working with
the edges much easier when the different elements are on the same layer. Here, on the
horizon, once I merged the sky and landscape layers, getting the right blending and
mixing of colours is much easier. This usually means I work back to front, and have
three layers: background, middle-ground and foreground. I collapse them as I work.
By this point I have two layers: the figure in the foreground and the background.

Rotate canv
as

R (PC & Mac)


Hold down th
e R key and
drag your sty
lus to rotate
the canvas qu
ickly to any
angle conven
ient for
the moment
.

Course correction

11

Painting flesh

12

Finishing touches

My approach to skin is much the same as my approach to


clouds. Remember the form, observe the opacity, translucency and
reflections, and youre going to be on the right track. The more time
you can spend painting from life, the better youll understand how
to paint flesh. Make slow and studied observations when you do. No
human is all one colour. There are many different shifts across the
body where theres more fatty tissue, or thinner skin, or stubble. Be on
the lookout for those changes in the temperature of the skin and your
figures will be all the better for it.

Once I finish a painting, I like


to let it sit for a day if I can. I find I come
back to it with fresh eyes and renewed
energy. In this case, I see that my colours
have been too saturated and are stealing
attention away from our protagonist.
I also feel her pose could use some
adjustments. Small changes and little
pockets of detail go a long way towards
the finish. A few little flower blossoms,
hints of grass blades against the rock,
and defining the edges of a few stones
here and there go a long way towards
convincing the viewer that theres lots of
rich detail. On to the next painting!

Grey is your
friend
Grey makes colours pop
and flesh tones lively
and bright. When
surrounded by a more
saturated colour of a
similar value, itll take
on the properties of the
colours complement.
Grey next to orange
looks bluish, by yellow it
will appear purple, and
with red itll look green.
Use grey to make skin
seem full of colour.

I realise that my sunset is going to steal the show away from my protagonist and
her nifty torch. The bright yellow sunset is too strong. So it has to go. While the colours
still stay warmer on the right, I knock the sun down with some clouds and change the
colours. As the painting progresses, youll see how important this change was. It isnt
always easy to make big changes, but if your gut keeps nagging at you, then do it.

fabric
10 Painting
Painting cloth is all
about patience. Slow and steady
observations get me where I
want to be. When I start to rush,
things get out of hand. You want
to be aware of the folds and the
form at the same time. When you
do this, the wrinkles and creases
and folds will help you describe
the forms underneath.

Fantasy Card Artist 121

Workshops

Photoshop

REWORK AN ICONIC
CARD CHARACTER
Aleksi Briclot mixes fantasy, manga and mech tech to produce an angelic
figure who looks equally good scaled up or on the front of a card

Aleksi Briclot
COUNTRY: France
Aleksi creates
concepts and
illustrations
for video
games and
comic books. Hes also
co-founder of DONTNOD
Entertainment, which is
behind the sci-fi game
Remember Me.
www.bit.ly/ifx-abriclot

GET YOUR
RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

he chosen subject for this


workshop is a female warriorangel character. ImagineFX
asked me to produce an iconic
standalone picture that looks equally
good at card size and at larger dimensions
such as a magazine cover. I decided that a
straightforward, graphic approach to the
composition will work better than an
image that has a busy background and
distracting perspective.
A female angel is an iconic, eyecatching and seductive figure who usually
appeals to a large audience. I think of this
artwork as if its part of a new set of an
established card game. The character
needs a strong visual design because shes
a huge part of the storyline behind the
game, and will be setting the tone of the

new product. I want to combine peoples


expectations of traditional angels with a
distinctive, refreshing and modern vision.
My aim is to develop a mix of popcultural references, dark fantasy elements,
manga and mecha. In essence, she needs
to appeal to a 16-year-old female who
loves fantasy art.
For a backstory, I imagine theres a caste
of female heralds who have pale, albinolike skin, and who are each linked to a
particular fantasy archetype: the classic
armoured warrior, steampunk huntress,
fantasy angel, manga icon, and so on.
All of them lose one arm when they
become a herald, which is replaced by
an oversized artificial limb.
Okay, this is my starting point lets
see where it takes me

Persistence
is key
Always keep an eye on
When people ask me for
a piece of artistic advice,
I tell them that the key
word is perseverance.
You also need the ability
to look at your work
with fresh eyes, and to
analyse your creative
process and always
learn from it.

Sketches and notes

I usually begin in my sketchbook. After reading the client brief, I fill pages
with notes and quick doodles. Making connections, keywords, references this is
the fun part for every project. I like developing original ideas at this stage, and in
doing so avoid suffering from creative block while sat in front of my computer.

122 Fantasy Card Artist

Identify key elements

Sketch for approval

My goal in this rough sketch is to


quickly nail the main elements of my
composition an angel on a neutral
background. I want to finalise the look
of the wings, the light values, a big
mechanical arm and the beginning of
the mood. I realise itll work better with
high key lighting and that a close-up on
the character is best.

I send this colour sketch to the


ImagineFX team. Because the image has
to work as a cover, I keep the magazines
layout on the top of my layers, so I can
check how its working as a whole. The
final goal isnt only to produce a full-page
illustration but a magazine cover, which
has to work with typographic elements. We
choose to zoom in, so that the character
occupies more space in the frame. The face
is now bigger and acts as a focal point.

In Depth Rework a character

Graphic elements

To make the suit of armour


more believable I add some graphic
elements, such as logos, marks and
text. The process is similar to putting
small stickers on a model kit to give
it a more realistic feel. Curves and
round shapes will also help to
strengthen the composition.

Concept art

Ive had to create a new, strong


character design for this angel, so I need
to spend time blocking in the look and
the concept itself, before thinking about
lighting and effects. I try to solve the
formal aspects of the armour and the suit
with a detailed render. As a concept artist,
this image is close to what Id give to a
modeller for 3D rendering. I keep a few
hard shapes on the metallic feathers, but
for the most part I use round and curved
shapes on the lighter parts of the armour.

up
9 Finishing
The picture is pretty much

Body gestures

I want to depict a strong character,


so I make the most of the angels front
profile. I use three-quarter framing to
add more dynamism, and play with some
diagonals. To help define the characters
movements, and because the anatomy is
hidden behind armoured elements,
I paint in some red guidelines to follow.

The face

I spend a lot of time on


the face, and it takes time to get a
satisfactory look. I should have used
photo references Never mind! On
magazine covers people respond
better to close-up faces than any
other subject. Its the only instantly
identifiable aspect of this image.

complete, but I spend some more time


on the final details and rendering. I paint
a halo, in the form of magenta graphic
lines, to add a hint of complementary
colours. I take a risk and add a lens flare
to the right of the face. I have to manage
the intensity of the two light sources to
achieve an effective cover image as well
as a realistic piece of fantasy art.

Polishing

After Ive blocked in the design


of the character, I refine the details
and polish the rendering with the light
coming in from top left. I add a few cyan
values in the shadows. Some warmer
tones to the face help to highlight the
main focal point and give more
humanity to the character.

Workshops

Traditional skills

TELLING A
STORY IN
THE DETAILS
Volkan Baga explains how he creates narrative
compositions in his detailed trading card art
he trading card game Magic:
the Gathering is based on
a sophisticated concept and
universe. The design team
creates a detailed world for each set
with far-reaching background and
narrative depth.
Each of my paintings refers to this
world, shaping it with my ideas into
a coherent composition of story and
pictures. The players want to dive into
Magics atmosphere, they want to feel it,
experience it.
Therefore, its extremely important that
each of my paintings is not only beautiful
to look at, but also communicates to the
viewer. At best, they even have the ability
to tell a whole story with just a simple
portrait, in which the viewer wants to
stay for a while.
That adds value to the painting and it
shouldnt be underestimated. A perfect

Volkan Baga
COUNTRY: Germany
Volkan lives in
Wrzburg,
Germany, and
has been
nominated for
several Chesley and Graf
Ludo awards. As well as
personal projects,
Volkan regularly paints
card art for Wizards of
the Coast.
www.volkanbaga.de

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RESOURCES
See page 146 now!

technique by itself doesnt make a good


artwork. It would remain a soulless
image. The viewer can realise this without
necessarily being a professional. He sees
it, feels bored, puts it away and forgets it.
You have to give content and a
statement to the painting to make it
gain in quality and longevity. So I invest
a lot of time in the initial stages of the
development of the art piece. I think over
the briefing and Magics style guide, until
I get a good feeling for the current set.
As this feeling becomes gradually
concrete, I take my sketchbook and start
to roughly capture my ideas while I think
about the briefing and different ways to
translate it into art. Sometimes these are
only fragments, such as a hand or head
pose, or they can be complex scenes with
people interacting with each other. All
still very vague, but always with the goal
of creating a narrative composition.

Getting that feeling

Now that Ive thought through the


briefing, I start to find ideas. I now know
the character to be depicted, and have
developed his past, present and future.
Next, I look at different photos to assign
that character a visual aesthetic. This helps
me to see whether he would feel at home
in a precious marble interior, for example.
When I flick through images I find an easy
entry into the visual realisation.

124 Fantasy Card Artist

In Depth Tell a story

Bringing the mental muddle to paper

Meanwhile, my head produces a countless number of vague


images. Thats the moment when I open up my sketchbook and
start to sketch. I do this without thinking about it, and just focus
on visualising my emotional impulses. The feeling that has been
growing needs to be brought unfiltered to paper. In my experience,
good narrative artwork touches the viewer directly. I use this
technique to capture pure and genuine emotions that are constantly
developing in my mind unedited. This sketching process enables me
to recognise which of these visual elements will successfully deliver
my raw emotions on paper.

Fantasy Card Artist 125

Workshops

Sketching out
each element

After Ive filled some pages in my


sketchbook, I look at the individual
sketches, make a selection and do another
series based on them. My character is a
noble and wealthy Spymaster. Such a
person sends secret messages, and
homing pigeons are best for that. Hes
an inconspicuous loner who may have
to defend himself, so he needs a dagger.
He carries out assassination jobs, for
which he uses a poison ring. Hes also an
observer, so he needs binoculars, maps,
and other equipment that characterise
him. Such details tell parts of his story.

Compiling
your portfolio
Trading card games
show a variety of
subjects: humans,
monsters, animals, odd
creatures, landscapes,
items and suchlike. You
need to be versatile and
show examples of each
in your portfolio. And
select only the best
ones. Quality is more
important than quantity.

Adding symbolism

To emphasise the personality of my


character, I often like to use symbolism.
This is a good and easy way to give the
painting depth of content. The main role
of the spy is to observe, to have his eyes
everywhere. Therefore I choose the eyesymbol that I want to incorporate into his
clothes. A good place for this is the belt,
because placing the eye on the chest
would be too obvious.

Choosing the right


background

Now I ask myself what kind of


environment would a Spymaster be
best presented in? I keep thinking of
the narrative value of the scene. His job is
to observe, and his influence covers the
entire city possibly even beyond that.
Therefore, he has a good view of the
events in the city. He sees the harbour
and observes the incoming and outgoing
traffic, the travellers and businesses.
Essentially, he feels the pulse of the city.

Merging the
composition

All my individual elements and


character ideas are now finalised in
my mind. Next, I bring them together
in a roughly sketched final composition.
The confident posture, the elegant gown
and the rest of his clothes suggest that
the Spymaster is of noble origin. Hes
surrounded by a range of ornate
equipment that characterises him and
his day-to-day actions. At this point in
the creative process I can usually see if
the individual ideas work well together
and tell a coherent story.

126 Fantasy Card Artist

In Depth Tell a story

Colours are
not the same

Collecting reference materials

Drawing in detail

The degree of realism that I strive for in my paintings relies on photo material
which I can reference while Im painting. Meanwhile, I know my Spymasters character
and his story. The photo serves as a basis for the preliminary drawing, which I refine
until it fits my imagination. A Spymaster who doesnt look like one would ruin the story.

Based on my rough composition


sketch and my reference materials I create
a detailed preliminary drawing. At this
point I make sure that all the narrative
details, such as the dagger, the homing
pigeons, the message in the hand, the
poison-ring, the map and so forth can
easily be identified. They need to be
obvious to the viewer.

Choosing my colours

Colours have a direct effect on the


viewers emotions and instantly develop
an association. Thats why I pay a lot of
attention to the choice of colour. My
Spymaster is a wealthy nobleman and the
blue colour symbolises nobility. The use
of gold decoration gives the painting the
impression of wealth and class. I also opt
for a bright, clear light and colour mood.
My spy is a master in his field. He doesnt
need to operate in the dark.

I use Schminckes oil


colours. Each consists
of individual pigments
and mediums and
therefore their painting
behaviour differs one
from another. Some are
more transparent or
have other properties.
Red is not always red.
Try to find benefits from
their unique abilities.

and review
10 Painting
After I finish the painting, I put it aside for a few days and
then have a fresh look at it. I check again whether the expression,
ambience and narration are good and consistent. I retouch some areas
to optimise them. Then I look at the painting and the character, and
Im glad to see he begins to tell me his story of the legendary and
notorious Edric, Spymaster of Trest

Fantasy Card Artist 127

Workshops

128 Fantasy Card Artist

In Depth Tell a story

Photoshop

TELL A STORY
WITH AN IMAGE
Applibot illustrator Crowgod lays out the process he uses to create
artwork for the online card game Legend of the Cryptids
ne of the things Ive learned
from working on Applibots
Legend of the Cryptids line is
the importance of being able
to tell a story through an illustration.
With Applibots appetite for success, the
art has to appeal to a wide audience who
may be unfamiliar with the Cryptids
brand, which in turn might be the push
they need to try out the game.
Therefore, before drawing even a rough
sketch, I read the description of the scene
carefully and imagine whats happening
to the character. The premise of the scene

Crowgod
COUNTRY: Japan
Crowgod, aka
Xu Cheng,
graduated
from Central
Academy of
Fine Arts in Printmaking
in Beijing, where he also
taught himself digital
art techniques. He is
now an in-house
illustrator at Applibot.
crow-god.deviantart.com

is that a young warrior is desperately


seeking out a miracle cure thats
somewhere at the top of a giant tree,
in order to heal his sick mother.
I want to make the figure as heroiclooking as possible hopefully hell
become an iconic card character. To tie in
with the tree theme, hell wield an axe
rather than a sword. Picturing him midway up the giant tree, high above the
clouds, will increase the feeling of peril
and drama in the scene, which should
further engage the viewer.
Okay, enough talk lets get to work!

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RESOURCES
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Quick sketch

I draw a quick sketch of a giant tree


reaching up into the sky. I consider the
diameter of the tree, how it grows and its
appearance. It should be a solid structure
that can be climbed without using ropes.
My character is a young warrior, and
I decide to depict him bare-chested after
seeing some reference photos of rock
climbers. As well as being dangerously
high up the tree, theres added drama
from the small dragon thats attacking
him. The scene will be well lit because
it takes place high above the clouds.

Monochrome sketch

I draw the character, monster and


objects in the background all in blackand-white. Darker colours on the edges
of the image and lighter colours towards
the centre help to create the focal point,
which is where the struggle in the sky is
taking place. I use greyish colours on the
background because I want to soften the
contrast between black and white. As a
result, I make this grey area the most
eye-catching area in this illustration. I
use the strong backlight to help make the
atmosphere perspective pop off the page.

Colour process

I create a Multiply layer and choose


a base colour by using the Gradient tool.
Then I apply this using the Paint Bucket
tool. Next, I create an Overlay layer and
use a light colour to highlight the
differences between the objects.

Fantasy Card Artist 129

Workshops
4

Raising the contrast

I now create an Overlay layer, then


add colours to the dark side of objects and
bright side of the background because I
want to accentuate the contrast between
them. Then, on another Overlay layer
I add the reflected light on the dark side
of objects. I repeat this stage, but this
time reduce the Opacity to 36 per cent,
to achieve the right amount of contrast
between the duelling characters and
the background.

Levels
Ctrl+L (PC)
)
Cmd+L (Mac
eful for
This tool is us
e proportion
tweaking th
ite
of black, wh
and grey.

Grand vision

Colour sketch

Colour tweaks

I create a new Multiply layer and


choose the Gradient tool and Paint
Bucket tool to paint the base colour.
Then I create an Overlay and Color Dodge
layer to highlight the basic colour of the
character and background. Using these
layers boosts the base colour, so to control
the brightness of this colour I adjust the
Opacity using a soft brush.

Building structures in
fantasy art are often
grand affairs. But when
your evil queens castle
looks more like a drab
block of flats, its time
to take one of these
approaches to the
composition. First,
ensure that the
perspective is correct
by using grid lines on
a separate layer. Then
place people or other
recognisable objects to
give scale to the scene.
Finally, add details where
appropriate, to help give
those objects a palpable
sense of volume.

You could also adjust the colour using the options within a
Fill or Adjustment layer. I choose Vibrance from the Create new Fill
or Adjustment layer pop-up to tweak the saturation. I also use the
Selective Color menu. I set up my colour palette as HSB sliders its
a quick way to adjust the purity of colour and saturation in the image.

130 Fantasy Card Artist

Take your time


with colours

Its not easy to create an image with lots


of elements and keep them in balance.
I advise being patient and thinking before
making your next brush stroke. I always
search for reference images for depicting
the texture of objects, and then use
different light spots to unify all the
various elements.

Character accessories

At this point I need to think more


about the characters clothing. I decide
to give him some protective gear the
sharpened metal plates around his legs
and lower arms but Im mindful that he
still needs the freedom and flexibility to
be able to climb the tree. This is why I
choose to clothe him in fabric trousers,
with leather belts included for visual
interest. Elsewhere in the scene, I pay
attention to the gradation of colours
on different layers.

In Depth Tell a story


9

Adjust the
atmosphere

and volume
12 Depth
I add gnarly details to the tree
trunk in the mid-ground to show its
almost menacing bulk. Then I create
more layers and paint a range of different
elements such as clouds and the land
far below, which enhances the depth
between the background and foreground.

I copy the character and the dragon using


the Lasso tool onto the new layer. After
that I create a new layer based on the
original one. This enables me to use the
Paint Bucket tool to paint, as well as
adjust the overall Opacity. The result
is that I enhance the depth of the tree
thats in the mid-ground.

elements
13 Additional
I add more details and a pattern
to the axe. Then I adjust the edge line of
character and foreground to accentuate
the volumes and the depth within the
painting. Highlighting the edges and
painting reflected light also helps to
bring out the volume of objects.

design
10 Detailed
I always think that a well-thoughtout design aids the storytelling in the
scene. Here Ive indicated the interaction
between the young warrior and the
dragon, which enhances the feeling of
movement. The figures pose is offbalance and his muscles are tensed, which
shows hes ready to strike the dragon. The
direction hes facing also adds to the sense
of threat in the situation.

Auto Color

Ctrl+Shift+B
(PC)
Cmd+Shift+B
(Mac)
Use this tool
to quickly
adjust the ba
lance of
colour in your
image.

11

Reading the scene

People are used to reading from left


to right, top to bottom and near to far.
Therefore, the viewer should be able to see
a strong, powerful anti-clockwise curve
thats produced by the twisted giant tree.
This curve matches the movement of the
axe. The dragons facial expression is a
clear indication that it knows its about
to get a lot shorter

up
14 Finishing
I decide that I want to make my
warrior look even younger, so I adjust his
face accordingly. Finally, I introduce a
beam of light that picks out his body,
and tweak the highlights in the scene.

Fantasy Card Artist 131

Workshops

132 Fantasy Card Artist

In Depth Create drama

Photoshop

USE PERSPECTIVE
TO CREATE DRAMA
Sara Forlenza uses beams of light to help portray a cathedral interior,
as she paints a scene from history Thomas Beckets final moments
he beauty of digital art is that
there are many approaches
you can take to painting a
scene, especially when it
comes to enhancing ambience levels
and creating atmosphere. The ease with
which youre able to draw perpendicular
or parallel lines, just by holding down
Shift, makes it possible to create complex
perspective scenes relatively easily. This
means you can concentrate on developing
the feeling of the scene.

Sara Forlenza
COUNTRY: Italy
Sara is a
freelance
illustrator
living in Italy,
working
mostly as a book cover
artist on digital card and
role-playing games.
http://ifxm.ag/s-forlenza

There are many 3D programs you


can use to create locations, but for an
illustrator its vital to be familiar with the
fundamentals of perspective. That said,
painting a scene in a cathedral becomes
much easier if you apply some tricks. In
this workshop Ill share some of mine.
I start by studying the subject. Thomas
Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury
and Lord Chancellor, and was murdered
in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. At this
stage in the medieval period, the Gothic

style of architecture was commonplace


throughout Europe. In 1174 the cathedral
was damaged by fire, and some parts were
replaced. For this reason Ill be using the
cathedral only as a general reference
source for my environment.
There are a lot of medieval miniature
models available that depict the murder
of Thomas Becket. I like the idea of using
those miniatures as references, posing
Thomas in front of the altar as hes about
to be attacked from behind.

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Liquify tool

(PC)
Ctrl+Shift+X
(Mac)
Cmd+Shift+X
ct small
Quickly corre
s with the
imperfection
Liquify tool.

Sketching a
thumbnail
Laying down a small
sketch with a few
touches of colour before
starting on the painting
itself enables me to think
clearly about what kind
of image I want to paint,
what kind of light and
colour combination to
use, and how to balance
the composition of the
whole scene. When Ive
clarified these points,
painting the artwork
becomes much faster.

Exploring different solutions

I sketch a couple of options. The first one focuses on the


characters, their poses and their expressions theres just a hint
of the environment. The second one opens up the scene. The
characters are smaller in the composition and theres more space
to show off the cathedral space. This second approach would
enable me to enhance the solemnity of the image.

Sketching perspective

When I working on a complex environment I usually


create a large file and work in the central area. I choose a
perspective with two vanishing points, and this means Ill be
able to show off the stained glass windows and play with the
coloured light they cast. I roughly sketch my characters and
architectural elements.

Fantasy Card Artist 133

Workshops

The best view


To choose the most
suitable perspective in
an illustration we must
take account of many
factors. In this case I
choose a doublevanishing-point
perspective, which gives
the image a natural look,
and more importantly it
looks less static. It also
gives me the chance to
show off the stained
glass windows and play
with the beams of light
shining through them.

Create the line art

Adding texture

Constructing the window

The line art step is very important, because its here that
I define the characters and their poses. I try to make them as
natural-looking as possible, keeping in mind the wonderful
medieval miniatures references. For the background architecture
I draw the Gothic features: the distinctive high columns and
pointed arches that frame the stained glass windows.

Time to colour!

Main and reflected light

Designing stylised figures

I lay down a blue colour that becomes very dark towards


the top of the image. This creates the feeling that the columns
continue up beyond the frame edges. Another feature of the
Gothic style is the darkness from where the impressive stainedglass lighting emanates. To help the viewer take in the characters,
I place a red carpet under their feet.

RESOURCES

PHOTOSHOP
CUSTOM BRUSHES:
BACKGROUND BRUSH

I use this brush mostly


for laying down colours
in the early stages of
my illustrations.

I move on to painting the columns and the floor. To


make the cathedral more realistic I add a rough texture,
cracks and imperfections that give an idea of its stone
nature and aged appearance. For now I just paint the
characters with a dark flat colour, and then proceed with
the background.

I finish the columns highlighting blocks, which helps


me to emphasise the shape. Then, on a new Color Dodge layer,
I paint the windows and the light thats cast on the floor with
a desaturated light blue. This cold light is dominant in the scene:
it illuminates the floor and columns, and creates a reflected
ambient light that I give a warmer tone to, for contrast.

CHAIN MAIL BRUSH

I paint the knights chainmail with this brush on a


dark flat colour.
PAINTING BRUSH

This is my favourite. I use


it to define characters
and details.
ROUGH BRUSH

I use this brush to add a


rough texture to stone
and metal, and also for
skin and leather.

Now that I have a rough background, I work on the


stained glass. I consult some reference sources and then create
a new layer. I choose a Hard paint brush and draw a rectangular
structure topped by a pointed arch. I divide this structure into
several other rectangles and add decorations to the top part.
Here is my stained glass frame, ready for colouring.

134 Fantasy Card Artist

Saints and clerics were often depicted in stained glass


windows. With the same Hard brush, but at a smaller size, I
paint a figure for every vertical sector, based on my reference.
I draw the important features of saints: tunics with accentuated
folds, halos, and hands posed dramatically. The stained glass
window is now ready to be coloured.

In Depth Create drama

Colouring the glass

I create a new layer, place it under the stained glass frame


and began to paint. I choose saturated colours because I know
Ill be blurring them later on. At the top of the glass I add simple
splashes of colour. I dont need to pay too much attention to
those colours because theyll be indistinct in the finished image.

11

Adjust the Opacity and add blur

I do the same thing for the other stained glass windows


and the light thats cast on the floor, always paying attention to
perspective lines. If the results are too bright I can soften them in
one of two ways: either by darkening the window, or by playing
with the Opacity and Fill options in the Layers palette. I also
apply a Blur filter to the light on the floor.

colour layers
10 Merge
I merge the colour layer with the black line art and I set it
to Color Dodge in the Layers palette. Everything that was black
becomes transparent and everything that was colourful becomes
bright, but also with a hint of the dominant picture colour. Now
its just a case of editing, transforming, distorting and adapting
the frames shape to my perspective lines.

Merge layers

Ctrl+E (PC)
Cmd+E (Mac
)
Merge your
working layer
with the one
below. This
makes it easy
to use
blending mo
des.

the main character


12 Tackle
Now I move on to the characters. I begin with the doomed Thomas
Becket. Hes mostly in the shadow thats cast by the column, so I paint him with
desaturated and darker colours. Hes lit by the ambient light, except for the bright
beam thats projected on to his knees from one of the windows. To accentuate the
brightness of the beam, I add some reflected light under Beckets eyes, and on his
nose, hands and tunic.

A perfect floor

knight
13 Medieval
I give the knight attacking Becket a simple chain-mail
tunic and helmet. Hes placed in the cast shadow too, so he looks
darker except for the light reflected from the floor behind him
and the blade of the sword thats in the stained glass light. This
makes the knight seem more menacing.

touches
14 Finishing
I give a touch of colour to the knight in the background
and were almost done. I add the beams of light coming from
the windows and I stress the luminosity with an additional
Color Dodge layer. Finally, I paint small dabs of paint in a very
light blue, which simulate the effect of dust hit by the light.

I create a square pattern,


taking care to delete the
space between tile joints.
I lay down the pattern on
a new layer of my image.
Then I set the layer mode
to Overlay and go to Edit
> Transform > Distort to
make the pattern follow
the perspective lines.
As a final touch I add a
3D effect to the tile by
double-clicking the layer
thumbnail and adding
Bevel and Emboss from
the Layer Style menu.

Fantasy Card Artist 135

TAKE YOUR DIGITAL ART


SKILLS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
LATEST ISSUE OUT NOW!
AVAILABLE IN PRINT AND DIGITAL
VISIT US: HTTP://IMAGINEFX.CREATIVEBLOQ.COM

Reviews Contents
138

143

140

142

REVIEWS

138 iPad Pro


140 Affinity Photo 1.4
142 Paintstorm Studio 1.5
142 Pixelmator 2.2
143 Fantasy in the Wild
144 Coverama
145 Heavens Hell
145 Guide to Sketching

Is the extra size worth the money?


A subscription-free Photoshop rival

144

Custom brushes for all art styles

A photo editor adapted for artists


James Gurneys latest book is here
Mark Simonettis collected cover art

A book of fantastic character art

Learn the fundamentals of drawing

Fantasy Card Artist 137

Reviews

iPad Pro
TURNING PRO Apples newest iPad is aimed at digital
creatives, but is the extra screen size worth the money?
Price From 679 Company Apple Web www.apple.com

hen you first lift an iPad Pro,


a couple of things become
apparent. First, and in
predictable Apple style, its
a solid-feeling device. Its not heavy,
but feels substantial at three quarters
of a kilo in a reassuring way, rather
than cumbersome. Secondly, its big.
Almost comically so.
The effects of its size soon wear off,
although the benefit of spending the

The new iPad Pro is designed and marketed as a viable alternative to


your laptop but most artists will want to purchase a stand too.

138 Fantasy Card Artist

extra on a good stand will be evident.


Which raises another issue. A device
this size, aimed at the pro market, really
doesnt fulfil its brief without the Pencil
(79). And this brings the sub-700
price closer to a thousand. But even
with the extra costs, its still decent
value compared to other options
on the market, such as the Cintiq
Companion 2 (1,200) or Microsofts
Surface Pro 4 (starting at 749).

Art tools Hardware


ARTIST INTERVIEW

DAVE
BRASGALLA

The new iPad Pro has


all the connectivity
options and sleekness
of design weve come
to expect from Apple.

The artist reveals why and how


he uses Apples latest tablet
What drove your decision to
buy an iPad Pro?
Ive loved nger-painting on the
iPad from the very rst model, but
as I return more to traditional art
as well as digital, Ive found myself
craving that feeling of a pen or
pencil in my hand. Theres a
denite difference in mark-making
between using ones nger and
using a stylus. The combination
of the larger screen Pro with the
promise of the Pencil was
irresistible. I knew after watching
the introductory presentation for
the Pencil Id be getting the pair.

Artists and designers


will probably want to
splash out on a Pencil
too, but despite the
cost the Pro is still
decent value compared
to other options.

Is there anything else you use


the iPad for?
I sometimes prop it up and use it to
display reference next to my easel
when Im painting traditionally. But
I always worry Im going to smear
it with paint. Ive used it a few times
at life-drawing classes, which was
fun. Although I prefer a simple
sketchpad and pencil there to
keep life simple.
What apps are you using with it?
I use Procreate almost exclusively.
The team is so obviously dedicated
and is responsive and engaged with
the users, which is a huge factor.
But the app itself is perfect: robust,
elegant and simple. They just keep
making it better! Dropbox is also
on my iPad, which is really useful
for shifting les around.

The extra screen


real estate makes a huge
difference to the artist
from the iPads port is
ungainly and far too easy to
snag, risking damage to either or
both devices. Its a useful option when
stationary, though.
As a first foray into what could be a
new market, the iPad Pro is promising.
Existing iPad users may not feel the
need to upgrade, instead looking at the
mini or Air. But for professional wanting
the creative abilities theyre used to
from a workstation or desktop OS, its
an exciting development.
The key to the iPad Pros success will
be when developers have had time to
exploit iOS and release new pro tools,
enabling creatives to be truly portable,
working with tools that are powerful,
adaptable and productive. Apple could
be the perfect delivery system for the
next wave of content creation tools.

Are there any things you would


particularly like to see in
updates, or standout features
you already love?
I really feel that the promise of
the original iPad as a tool for artists
is now being fully realised with
the Pro and Pencil pairing, along
with the amazing job being done
by the Procreate team. These
three elements together make
a very winning, very portable
combination that easily produces
industry-standard output, and Im
very pleased with the purchases!

Features
Q12.9-inch
Retina display
Q A9x processor
Q Four high-fidelity
speakers
Q 6.9mm thick
Q Up to 10 hour
battery life
Q 32 or 128GB storage
Q Wi-Fi standard; top
model Wi-Fi+Cellular
QM9 motion
coprocessor
Q8MP iSight camera
Q1080p HD video
recording (30 fps)

Rating

Painting by Dave Brasgalla

Its interesting to note that Apple has


kept its Pro offering based on iOS. This
limits the apps available, but ensures
that the options on offer feel slick. This
may become a blessing for users, as
the development community for iOS
apps moves rapidly and responsively.
There are existing iOS apps that
serve the creative markets, from digital
painting to video editing and even 3D
sculpting. These feel great in use, with
the extra screen real estate making
a huge difference, Pencil or not.
Procreate and SketchBook both
run flawlessly and, when paired with
Apples keyboard stand and Pencil, feel
like a real alternative to a laptop.
One design oddity is the charging of
the Pencil. Although charging on the
go is a good option in theory, having
the length of the Pencil protruding

Dave is a Stockholm-based
illustrator and designer, as
well as a partner and senior
designer at The Iconfactory.
www.pixelhuset.se

Fantasy Card Artist 139

Reviews

The Afnity Photo


interface is similar to
that of Photoshop, so
its easy to pick up.

Affinity Photo 1.4


ADOBE ADVERSARY This subscription-free image editor is being
heralded as a Photoshop killer. We find out if such claims are true
Price 40 Company Serif Web www.affinity.serif.com

erif has recently mounted


a major challenge to
Adobes dominance of
creative software. Its first
release, vector tool Affinity Designer,
was aimed squarely at pro users of
Illustrator. Now its second, raster tool
Affinity Photo, is aiming to take on
the might of Photoshop.
So what does it have to offer digital
artists? Well, if youre a Mac user and
Photoshop is part of your workflow,
the answer may be: quite a lot. Thats
because Affinity Photo doesnt just
ape Photoshops interface and features
in a way that makes it easy to pick up
and run with. In many ways, it offers
better performance. Apple named it
Mac App of the Year in 2015.
The most striking difference Affinity
Photo offers is speed. In Photoshop,
you often have to wait a few seconds

Adjustment Layers include Hue/Saturation,


Black and White, Posterize, Channel Mixer,
Exposure, Curves, Gradient Maps and more.

140 Fantasy Card Artist

Art tools Software


ARTIST INTERVIEW
You can work in a range
of colour spaces,
including RGB, CMYK,
LAB and Greyscale.

PAOLO
L
LIMONCELLI
The artist and brush designer on
his time with Afnity Photo so far

Daub Brushes has created


12 free blender brushes to
download for the software.
See http://ifxm.ag/aff-daubb

Whats Affinity Photo appeal?


Afnity Photo is solid enough for
professional work, so I gradually
started moving some projects there.
I still need Photoshop because its
the standard. But honestly, licence
costs are becoming barely tolerable.
How does Affinity Photo fit
into your workflow?
I use Adobe, Afnity and Celsys
apps. Learning new tools and
seeking new design strategies help
you to stay ahead of the game.
What do you like best about
Affinity Photo?
Flexibility. No matter whether your
project is for digital media or print,
vector or pixels, you can work
directly in 16-bit per channel or
CMYK awlessly, even exporting
vectors natively if needed.
And what do you like least?
Not all of its tools are top-notch
yet. Some of them are still young in
terms of options. Right now, Afnity
Photo is rough and rugged.

Its a young product, of course, but


new features are being added all the
time and, for now, updates are free
for a changed setting to take effect. But
using Affinity Photo on an iMac, every
time we made tweaks they appeared
instantly. In practice, that means youre
likely to get more in the zone as an
artist, without having your creative buzz
interrupted by spinning wheels, frozen
screens and the like.
We also love Affinity Photos nondestructive scaling, something absent
from both Photoshop and cheaper
rivals such as Pixelmator. Even if you
downsize an image layer, Affinity
Photo still stores its full resolution, so
you can increase its size again later if
you change your mind. This is handy,
for example, when adding objects to
images in illustrations. Theres also the
much-vaunted million per cent zoom,
which is breathtaking to see in practice.
Its a young product, of course, and
not quite as feature-rich as Photoshop

it lacks the latters animation and


3D printing smarts, for instance. But
new features are being added all the
time and, for now, updates are free.
Panorama stitching, for example, was
absent from the first release but has
arrived in version 1.4.
Affinity Photo uses its own file
format, but you can also import and
export a range of file formats, such as
PSD, PNG, JPG, TIFF, GIF, PDF and so
on. As such, its more sensible to think
of Affinity Photo as a companion to
Photoshop than an alternative to it.
With a low price and no subscription,
it isnt a big financial burden, and its
speed and unique features will save
you time and effort with some tasks.
A few clients might get nervous about
you not using the industry standard,
but as long as you choose the right
export options, whos to know?

Features
QClone tool
Q Dodge and Burn
brushes
Q Sponge and Smudge
brushes
Q Blur and Sharpen
brushes
Q Colour Replacement
brush
Q Healing brush
Q Blemish removal
Q Inpainting (similar to
Content Aware Fill)
Q Frequency
Separation editing
Q Liquify toolset

System
Requirements
Mac: OS X 10.7 or later,
Core 2 Duo CPU,
2GB RAM, 630MB free
disk space

Rating

Whats exciting in version 1.4?


Custom ramps for brush dynamics:
a very specic feature, but one thats
useful for illustrators. The response
of jitters available in dynamics is
driven by a customisable curve and
this helps to produce more usable
and expressive brush strokes. You
can shape your brush behaviour,
cut-off pressure levels, invert or
linearise. A great control over
pressure/dynamics sensitive devices
that Photoshop doesnt offer yet.
Would you recommend artists
buy Affinity Photo and Affinity
Designer, or just one of them?
It depends on your working habits.
If youre doing vector illustration,
Afnity Designer is the best choice.
But the raster tools in Afnity
Photo are far more complete. Id say
get both: no subscription, shared
le format and seamless user
experience. And Serifs developers
listen to their customers.
Paolo is an Italian artist,
illustrator and brush designer.
Hes probably used every art
software ever produced.
http://ifxm.ag/paolo-l

Fantasy Card Artist 141

Reviews

Paintstorm Studio 1.5

Painting is very responsive and its easy to use,


even when youre just painting with your nger!

MICRO-MANAGER A dream for artists who want to


customise brushes, but are there too many options?
Price $19 Company Paintstorm Studio Web www.paintstormstudio.com

aintstorms key selling point


is the huge amount of
control it gives you over
its brushes. There are so
many that upon launching the
program for the first time your screen
will be overwhelmed with panels of
options, obscuring the majority of
your canvas! Fortunately the panels
are customisable, so you can scale
down the interface and make them
less opaque and more tolerable.
Once youve got the UI under
control, youll find the surfeit of
customisable options available to you
in Paintstorm is a blessing and a curse.
Its an unusual experience to have to
organise a workspace in a painting
program before you can start painting.
It also feels odd that despite the
appearance of the tabs, you cant nest
them behind each other as you would
in Photoshop. The lack of intuitive
controls is problematic when youre
offered as many options as you are
here. The absence of tool tips is
another small frustration.
On the other side of the coin, the
ways you can customise your brushes
is staggering. Paintstorm gives you

Features

This screenshot doesnt scratch the surface of the


number of customisable options at your disposal.

considerably more options to alter your


brush behaviours than Photoshop, and
often a category will have numerous
subcategories within it, which you can
also edit, giving you complete control
over the brush engine. With this in
mind, we strongly recommend that
you view the tutorials from within the
program, so that you can make the
most of the plethora of tools available.
If youre the kind of artist who loves
tinkering with custom brushes to see
what fun results you can achieve, then
Paintstorm is definitely worth trying
out. However, if you prefer to open a
program and just start painting, this
one probably isnt for you.

QCustomisable
brushes
Q Stroke correction
Q Customisable
dynamic interface
Q Close Gaps function
ideal for flat colouring
Q Customisable panels
Q Brushes can bind to
perspective
Q Seamless brush
blending
Q Intuitive hotkey
assignment

System
Requirements
PC: Windows Vista, 7
or newer, Core i3 CPU,
2GB RAM, 100MB hard
drive space, nVidia
GeForce 8800/
Radeon x1900 or
higher
Mac: OS X 10.7 or
newer, Core i3-4150,
2GB RAM, 100MB hard
drive space, nVidia
GeForce 8800/
Radeon x1900
or higher

Rating

You can alter the look, opacity and scale of the UI so


that it doesnt obscure your view while painting.

142 Fantasy Card Artist

iPad

Pixelmator 2.2
BRUSHING UP A
powerful photo editing
app that paints well, too
Price 3.99
Company Pixelmator Team
Web www.pixelmator.com
RATING
Pixelmator 2.2 is quite frankly
a joy to use. Its marketed as a
powerful photo-editing tool for
mobile apps, which it absolutely
succeeds as it includes level
and curves adjustments, colour
corrections, blurs, cloning, filters
and suchlike. But Pixelmator is
also a fantastic painting app.
Its a triumph in user interface
design. Anyone whos ever used
an iPad will intuitively know where
everything is and how to use it. The
sign of a great mobile painting app
is not how satisfying it is with
something fancy like the Apple
Pencil (which is fully supported,
alongside the iPad Pro, by the way),
but how well it works with just your
finger. And Pixelmator delivers
wonderfully. The pressure sensitivity
is great and theres no noticeable
lag. Brushes are gathered up into
collections, each one represented
by an accurate thumbnail, so
despite there being over 100
of them to choose from, it never
feels excessive.
Pixelmator enables you to import,
edit and export Photoshop files, so
you can work on your iPhone or
iPad and switch back to your Mac
or PC whenever youre ready. At
only 3.99 this is an absolute
bargain for your iPad.

Art tools Software


Everyday excavators
provide James with
inspiration as he works
out how his robot gure
should be constructed.
In Fantasy In The Wild, James Gurney
shows how real-world observation helps
him paint fantasy images you can believe in.

Fantasy In The Wild


LIVING THE DREAM Artist and illustrator James Gurney shows how
the outside world can take your fantasy art in unexpected directions

Understanding how ambient


light affects hue means that
James is able to make the car
feel like it belongs in the sky.

Publisher James Gurney Price $25 (DVD); $15 (download) Web www.jamesgurney.com
ow do you follow
Watercolor In The Wild
and Gouache In The Wild,
James Gurneys previous
two titles in this series? Coloured
Pencils In The Wild, perhaps? James
has other ideas: with Fantasy In The
Wild, he both stays true to the series
concept of creating art outdoors and
greatly expands the territory he
could cover in future instalments.
James presents two projects in
which he uses his surroundings as
both inspiration and reference, adding
fantastic elements to otherwise
ordinary scenes. As an exercise, its a
test of your painting skills, because you
have to interpret the light and colours
you see and apply them to forms that
exist only on your canvas. Its also a
great way to generate new ideas that
you probably wouldnt have devised
otherwise. And, above all, James
makes it look like a lot of fun.
The first project sees James adding
a flying vehicle to a suburban street.

Topics covered
QGenerating ideas
and back stories
Q Making a visual grid
Q Painting from
reference
Q Using toys and
maquettes
Q Merging fantasy
and reality

Length
71 minutes

Rating

Youll see how Jamess knowledge of


perspective enables him to make the
floating car look natural in the scene.
In the second, more expansive,
project, an excavator becomes a
robotic digger. There are a few changes
of tack along the way, and its these
changes that are the heart of the video.
Imagination mixes with observed reality
to send James down unexpected
paths, and what started as a smallscale study becomes an epic tableau
in which a giant robot inadvertently
causes chaos in a small town.
The real world has another role to
play, too. Being outside gives James
the chance to meet people with their
own areas of expertise to contribute,
lending the scene extra authenticity.
Fantasy In The Wild doesnt offer the
depth of technical detail that you might
expect if youve seen any of Jamess
previous videos, but its full of both
practical guidelines and creative
inspiration that could see your daily
commute firing up your imagination.

ARTIST PROFILE

JAMES
GURNEY
James specialises in painting
realistic images of scenes that cant
be photographed, from dinosaurs
to ancient civilisations. Hes also
a plein air painter and sketcher,
believing that making studies from
observation fuels his imagination.
James taught himself to draw by
reading books about Norman
Rockwell and Howard Pyle. He
received a degree in anthropology
at the University of California, but
chose a career in art.
James has written the
instruction books
Imaginative Realism
and Color And Light.
www.gurneyjourney.blogspot.com

Fantasy Card Artist 143

Reviews

Coverama: Alternative Worlds


WORLDS APART Cover king Marc Simonettis collection of stunning
and varied art gets the large format showcase that it deserves
Author Marc Simonetti Publisher Milady Price 39 (27) Web www.milady.fr
ans of the sort of art that
adorns Terry Pratchett
jackets will love Marc
Simonetti, a French painter
and concept artist whos illustrated
a range of notable fantasy and sci-fi
books. And even if you arent sure,
this incredible collection could very
well convert you.
As you leaf through this crowdfunded hardback, youll discover
covers for books youll want to own,
concept art for video games youll
want to play, and sketches that will
send your head spinning in multiple
inspirational directions.

One of many book


covers that Marc
worked on this is
2011s The Gilded Rune,
published by Wizards
of the Coast.

144 Fantasy Card Artist

It all kicks off with some thrillingly


panoramic interpretations of George
RR Martins Song of Fire and Ice. Youll
be knocked sideways by Marcs unique
(if unfinished) vision of The Iron
Throne, which takes the idea of epic
to a whole new level, as well as his
passionate defence of why he feels
this to be the definitive version.
This sets the tone nicely for the rest
of the 258, large-format pages, most of
which are dominated by single, framed
images, giving the art free rein to
capture our imaginations.
Were taken on a journey through
the Discworld universe, where Marcs inyour-face illustrations capture the innate
ridiculousness of Terry Pratchetts
popular imaginings. Then its on to the
horror and madness of HP Lovecraft,
conveyed through grimly evocative
scenes of darkness and desperation.
The ensuing chapters explore, first,
a series of legendary worlds, then a
collection of brain-tingling futurescapes.
Along with way, youll find both
published and unused work; clever
parodies such as an apocalyptic Gone
with the Wind poster and a MiddleEarth version of the Abbey Road
album art; plus occasional forays into
other genres such as hard sci-fi and
20th century war. But generally this
is a book of noble warriors, magical
creatures and misty landscapes, all

Marc Simonetti brings to life a motley collection of


characters from Terry Pratchetts Discworld books.

executed brilliantly by one of the most


accomplished names in the business.
The bulk of the book is taken up by
art, each chapter introduced by only
the briefest of paragraphs. But over the
final 24 pages, Marc shares more of his
vision and process, in an original and
unusual way: reprinting his discussions
with clients over how to interpret their
work visually. These idea-generating
back-and-forths with authors Sam
Sykes, Emmanuel Chastellire and
Terry Pratchett accompanied by
work-in-progress sketches add a
surprisingly honest and fascinating
dimension to a masterful collection.

RATING

Inspiration Books

Heavens Hell: The Art Of Anthony Jones


CHARACTER CREATION Now this is what we call deviant art
Discover the twisted afterlife world of a master artist
Author Anthony Jones Publisher Design Studio Press Price $25 Web www.designstudiopress.com
ackers of this Kickstarter
project may have expected
just a nice collection of
their favourite artists
work but theyve got much more
than that. In this deliciously deviant
volume, concept artist, illustrator and
educator Anthony Jones unleashes
his demented visions of the
afterlife in a stunning series of
mainly monochrome paintings.
Not quite telling a story, Heavens
Hell nonetheless introduces a string of
horrifying and melancholy characters

One of the sternlooking Sisters of


Haliled. Anthony Jones
reveals her as someone
who nds pleasure in
the demise of love.

that get right under your skin. Inspired


by extreme high concept fashion
design, black-and-white photography
and monsters, theyre quite unlike
anything weve seen before. And by
giving them full space to breathe, it
thrillingly conveys how much emotional
power can be elicited by an artist
willing to go with their gut instinct.
With the lions share of the first 77
pages handed to the art itself (while

tossing out pithy backstories for each


demonic personality), the remainder of
this 130-page softback devotes itself to
tutorials. These arent full walkthroughs,
but they do offer a series of valuable
insights into the Photoshop techniques
Anthony used to create and finesse his
provocative and unsettling creatures,
right down to individual brush presets.

RATING

Beginners Guide To Sketching:


Characters, Creatures And Concepts
CORE SKILLS You dont have to be a beginner to learn
a lot from this guide to the fundamentals of drawing
Editor Jess Serjent-Tipping Publisher 3D Total Price 17 Web www.3dtotalpublishing.com
ans of 3DTotals CG training
books have long been
asking for one focusing on
old-school graphite. Well,
now that call has been answered.
In this 206-page book, 10 pro artists,
including Rovina Cai, Justin Gerard,
Nick Harris and Rebeca Puebla, take
you through the fundamentals, from
gesture drawing and finding simple
shapes to mastering line quality and
shading. The cover doesnt make it

Rovina Cai's 14-page


article covers how to
depict a winged fantasy
creature using pencils.

obvious, but the books mainly geared


towards the creation of concept/
fantasy art and thats fine by us!
The artists explain how and when
to use different sketching materials,
share top tips, show you how to draw
everything from hands to an alien
slave, and set practical exercises.
There are also master projects that
show how it all gets put together
how to progress from early concepts,

through poses, designs and costume


elements, to a completed scene.
Despite the title, novices might find
much of this too challenging. Yet artists
ranging from students right up to
advanced level should find much of
value here, both in terms of refreshing
your core art skills and raising your
fantasy concept art to the next level.

RATING
Fantasy Card Artist 145

Downloads

VIDEO
TUTORIALS,
CUSTOM
BRUSHES &
MORE!

RESOURCES

To download your free resources, from how-to video tutorials to useful


custom brushes, simply visit www.creativebloq.com/card-artist

Learn how to age your fantasy art

Paint a creature for a card game

Enhance your weapon designs

Download the video walkthrough, custom


brushes and step-by-step images.

Get the step-by-step images and video


walkthrough to follow along to this training.

Access the website to download your unique


custom brushes and artwork.

Capture light and magic

Compose a game card character

Capture the drama in a scene

Follow the training with our video tutorial, and Download the custom brushes, step images
download the artwork, brushes and step images. and the final illustration for this tutorial.

Get the resources to replicate our artists


workflow, including the video training.

PLUS

FANTASY

CARD
ARTIST
EDITORIAL
IAN DEAN EDITOR
ian.dean@futurenet.com
NICKY GOTOBED ART EDITOR
ALEX SUMMERSBY PRODUCTION EDITOR
CONTRIBUTIONS
Dave Allsop, Daren Bader, Volkan Baga,
Aleski Briclot, Kev Crossley, Crowgod,
Dan Dos Santos, Craig Elliot, Sara Forlenza,
Dave Kendall, Howard Lyon, Nacho Molina,
Winona Nelson, Dan Scott, Matt Stawicki
ADVERTISING
SASHA MCGREGOR advertising manager
sasha.mcgregor@futurenet.com
+44 (0) 1225 687675
CHRIS MITCHELL account executive
chris.mitchell@futurenet.com
+44 (0) 1225 687832
IMAGINEFX
BEREN NEALE EDITOR
beren.neale@futurenet.com
DANIEL VINCENT ART EDITOR
CLIFFORD HOPE OPERATIONS EDITOR

146 Fantasy Card Artist

Final artwork and


custom brushes

PRINT & PRODUCTION


VIVIENNE CALVERT production controller
MARK CONSTANCE production manager
NOLA COKELY ad production manager
NATHAN DREWETT ad production co-ordinator
MICHELLE ROGERS operational purchasing manager
LICENSING
REGINA ERAK licensing and syndication director
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FUTURE PUBLISHING LIMITED
RODNEY DIVE group art director
MATTHEW PIERCE head of content & marketing,
photography, creative & design
NIAL FERGUSON director of content & marketing
ZILLAH BYNG-THORNE chief executive
Printed in the UK by William Gibbons & Sons Ltd
Distributed by Seymour Distribution Ltd +44 (0) 207 429 4000
2 East Poultry Avenue, London EC1 9PT

ImagineFX is the registered trademark of


Future Publishing Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
CONTACT US
PHONE +44 (0)1225 442244
EMAIL mail@imaginefx.com
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WEBSITE http://imaginefx.creativebloq.com
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POST ImagineFX Magazine,
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The Ambury, Bath, BA1 1UA, UK

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RESOURCES

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Non-executive chairman Peter Allen
Chief nancial ofcer Penny Ladkin-Brand
Tel +44 (0)20 7042 4000 (London)
Tel +44 (0)1225 442244 (Bath)
2016 Future Publishing Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine

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Workshop resources
from this special issue
are organised according
to tutorial name.

Download what you


need, and learn from
our workshop artists!

Applibots a
share therirtists
amazing a
on page 40rt

9001

FREE! 11 HOURS OF VIDEO

CREATE AMAZING CREATURES


Paint fantastic creatures for
card art with our pro artists

Its alwayscraeate
challenge gto thatll
somethin full siz e
look great 4.5-inch
and on a Kera
screen

PAINT LIKE BLIZZARD

Craig Elliott reveals how to paint


Lady Sylvanas for Hearthstone

MASTER STORYTELLING

Applibots Crowgod explains how


to tell a story in your card art

PAINT A CARD CREATURE

Dave Allsop shows you how to paint


a monster for Magic: The Gathering