Scenario: Office Stress Part 01

Easter Week 02

During one of our team skype meetings over Easter we divided out the scenarios that each of us could work on. I took the stress focused scenario that we had thought of and I also took the task of developing a mood and style painting of the star gazing scenario.

For the stress focused scenario we had thought of a scene that focused on William being stressed working in his office and Julie looking in on him. I started by making some thumbnails exploring how the different possible office layouts/designs and camera angles could influence the composition and clarity of the concept. However, while drawing this I struggled to visualise a version of this which didn’t fall into the stereotype where William is the hard working male and Julie is the passive housewife standing worried, looking in the door. I ended up only including William in the shot.

I found that trying to make this piece work was an awful time black hole that week. I went back and forth a lot between different local values, different light spreads and intensities and different colour palettes. These were the versions that were somewhat acceptable at the end.

Aidan and Sorcha gave some helpful feedback on this piece, pointing out that William’s arms looked slightly out of perspective and unnaturally straight and also that the office looked too neat and organised (inorganic and over-planned maybe?). Poor quality figure drawing aside, I think that the composition was the biggest let down of this piece in the end. I think I tried too hard to break the focal point between the window and William as I liked the idea of seeing the rain (possibly animated) through the window. I revisited this piece a few weeks later, which I will blog about soon (yup you’ve caught me, I’m posting these into the past with the wordpress time machine). I tried looking through Jeremy Birn’s book, Digital Lighting and Rendering (2013) that week for some inspiration to fix the lighting. The best alternative solution that I could think of was to perhaps make a more apparent/interesting divide between the light from the city outside and the light from inside.

Looking back, I think that I missed an opportunity to get feedback on my early thumbnail drawings that may have saved me a lot of time later in avoiding poor composition. Sometimes in an early drawing I feel reserved about showing anyone as I think it’s missing what I truly want to express in that piece. I need to remind myself though that even at the roughest stage of a piece, the initial elements of a shot should still work without any polish. I worry that I can’t express the potential of a shot in it’s early stage (also dependant on the observer to a degree) so I guess that this is an area of communication plus technical skill in which I need to improve upon.



Environment Concept: Student Flat

Easter Week 01

Jonny had expressed in a meeting that he wanted to see the happier side of their relationship in our concepts also so I tried to keep this in mind even for a concept of a room. I took positive feedback that Gareth had given on Sorcha’s student kitchen/living room concept and developed from the ideas that Sorcha had created e.g. the exposed red brick, the fairy-lights and the skyline open and visible through the window. I had also thought of including patterned wall hangings so Sorcha researched some patterns that I could use as inspiration.

I had put time into drawing vanishing points but still made perspective mistakes in areas like the TV. I had considered blocking it out in 3D as a base for drawing over (as Alec suggested) but at the same time I wanted to have the challenge so as to improve my drawing skills with no base. For this piece, I put time into planning the local values as part of my process which is something that I’ve often not put enough focus on. I had almost left this painting at the stage where it still had the black line art. I’m really glad that I didn’t now as it had a very murky and unwelcoming effect on the piece.

Rew Day (2012), which I talked about in an earlier post (link), was a great source of inspiration for the initial colour palette and also for the foreground framing elements. Throughout painting this piece I tried to keep a traditional media feel in the textures like in Rew Day (2012) and Le Gouffre (2014) (blogged about here: link). I ended up painting most of the colours on a hard light blending mode in order to retain the paper texture. Haha I’m not even sure if I could replicate this process as it’s not something that’s easy to control.


House Plan: 3D Sketching

Easter week 01

When designing the layout of William and/or Julie’s student apartment I thought it would be a good idea to sketch in 3D for ease of being able to make accurate measurements. I wanted to get a feel of how real space related to measurements in 3D so I did a layout of what I thought the approximate measurements of my own house is. I had thought that I might be able to develop the birds-eye view floor plans into something more detailed like these images that I pinned on Pinterest: link. I eventually found that it was more useful to make painted concepts for the time available as I could also push the style and mood in this medium.

The red rectangles indicate the placement of doors or wardrobe doors.

Stargazing: Balcony Design Research

Easter Week 01

For our stargazing idea we had initially thought that the setting could be their balcony so I had started to gather inspiration for this.

Image sources on my Pinterest board iglu: environments and colour  and from the books, The Edible Balcony (2011) by Alex Mitchell and The Art of Big Hero 6 (2014).

I got excited about the idea of making Pascal Campion-esque/abstract plants in 3D as well as creating interesting practicals in-shot with round paper(?) lanterns as well as out of frame lighting e.g. hard edged light cutting from the doorway. I worry that some of the designs that I contribute would slide too much towards an idealised romantic world. Gareth and Jonny did initially pitch the brief as something like the You’re the Worst (2014) tv series which deals with the realistic and cynical side of life also (in a comedic way).


Looking back, I feel like I could  have presented these ideas better to the team if I had of kept up-to-date with my blog and presented to them through posts like this (particulary during Easter when we were apart). I think in general that I need to improve my ability to sketch and present ideas quickly.

Male Figure Drawing Practice and William Concepts

Easter week 01 (21st March)

These are some studies I did using references that I talked about in a previous post (link).

When drawing in my sketchbook I initially made the mistake of using the head’s initial construction circle as a unit of measurment rather than from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin (silly mistake). This resulted in my sketches being a few heads shorter than I realised which became very apparent to me when I resized them in photoshop to match head sizes:

I tried sketching different body types also. Sorcha pointed out that I had drawn the pectoral muscles too high so I was able to keep an eye on this when I started on the digital sketches (the second one below):

I then used these as a basis for drawing outfits, facial features and hair styles for William. I definitely feel that I need to develop my gesture drawing skills also as I might have been able to get more of William’s character across by drawing him in more interesting poses. I admit that I found making concepts for William was especially challenging as I usually draw characters from punk, fantasy, sci-fi or Halloween settings.

I asked my sister for some advice as she owns a clothes shop and she advised me that typical clothes for guys in their twenties would be brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Superdry, Hollister, and GStar Jeans. I made a small Pinterest board of these for inspiration (link). There’s still something lacking in these concepts and I wonder how useful they really are without seeing William in a characteristic pose with a simple environment. I see these kind of line ups done a lot in concept art but with these few that I’ve done so far I haven’t been able to jump up and say ‘that’s William!’.

I also sketched some new facial and hair options. Some of the feedback on my early head sketches (in my sketchbook) was that he looked too scruffy and thin so I tried to avoid this. I also tried to give him a warmer neutral expression/kinder eyes. Sorcha commented that she also liked he idea of William going through different hair styles. For some reason a lot of the programmers that I’ve met have had long hair tied back so this style has stuck with me. Maybe William could have long hair when he’s younger and then cut it short when he’s older? Or would that be too similar to Julie? Maybe his hair just gets thinner or the hairline changes/recedes.

Male Figure Drawing

Easter week 01 (March 21st)

For the start of Easter I agreed to focus on William so as to help finalise his design for use in our concepts. This was the first time during the project that the responsibility of developing the characters (on paper at least) fell my way. I found that I haven’t been practicing my figure drawing enough and I wanted to have a strong anatomical foundation from which I could develop William. Because of this, I spent some time trying to refresh/improve my abilities in constructing the male figure and proportions. I’ve been a follower of Loomis’ teachings for a while now and I like to go back to his books when I’m having problems.

Andrew Loomis (1943) Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth

I came across this huge database of character design references on Pinterest also:

Character Design References

It has a lot of useful collections for different anatomy types and demographics. This pin which I found on the male anatomy board was particularly useful as we had discussed the changes that William could go through over the 10 years (keeping them subtle):


Image by phobus-romulus on deviantArt. Found on Pinterest here: link


Le Gouffre Proportions

Week 08

We were questioning the level of cartoony to realism that our designs have so far. We had agreed that we liked the character design in Le Gouffre (blogged about here: link) so I thought it would be worth while to study the proportions of the characrers’ faces in this. It might also be useful to reverse engineer a 3D model into a simplified 2D concept so as to see how our own 2D concepts will translate into 3D.  This is sometimes difficult to imagine for me.

These studies might not be exact due to perspective in the screenshots. I did learn that the eyes are not as big as I expected even though they are still large and appealing. I also realised that I was constructing heads with the ears possibly in the wrong place so I need to reconsider how I go about doing this.



New Focus: Emotional Scenarios

Week 08

After re-thinking the script for the gameplay-trailer-animatic that we had been working on, Jonny realised that demonstrating other aspects of the game and it’s team of creators would be more important for creating the pitch video. After our meeting on week 08 Jonny and Gareth shared a document of feedback with us on our concepts so far and detailed a list of the most important requirements:

  • Concepts for scenes focusing on each of the emotions: Happy together, her being angry with him, both looking bored, affection, stressed/worried, positively shocked or surprised, negatively shocked/surprised, guilt/shame. Each scene should also consider the place and mood and the agreed upon final characters.
  • Character development: What will William and Julie look like over the 10 years, both a facial close-up and a long shot of their body/clothes. These concepts should be usable in a timelapse video showing the changes/development of the characters.
  • Environments: Living room, kitchen and bedroom of their student house and William’s house in 2017.

Sorcha and I came together on St. Patricks day and discussed the different stories that we could use to depict each scenario. We also discussed the different methods that we could use to realise each concept. Seeing as my sketchbook notes from that meeting were so messy, I made out a google slides presentation afterwards organising our ideas to share with the team: link

During our meeting on St. Patricks Day we tried to set deadlines for completing certain tasks so as to speed ourselves along. Sorcha and I agreed to try to complete a character each and finalise the layouts of the two houses/apartment during Easter-week 01. This didn’t go completely to plan but I felt that the team deadline was very helpful in keeping me focused on progress. Aidan and Molly were not able to make the meeting that day but we eventually organised a skype team meeting later during Easter in which we were able to discuss the scenarios more and divide the tasks up.


Book Research: Interior Design

Week 07

We made a shared google drive folder for research that we found in books. I really like this method of sharing research and would like to do it more often. There’s so much treasure to find in the library that’s not on google search. Sorcha and I raided the interior design section for environment concepts in particular but I’m sure that there’s much much more to find.

Book scans shared folder


Introduction to Substance Painter

Week 06/07

After finally getting Substance Painter to work on my laptop, I watched this tutorial on digital tutors Introduction to Substance Painter. I felt like I got a lot out of this tutorial as I haven’t painted using channels like this before (at least knowingly haha). Hopefully now I can test to see if Substance Painter is good for our needs.

These are my notes for reference.

02 Creating and Saving a Project

A texture set is created from a material I.D. Apply different materials to the sections of the creature/object which you need to isolate for ease of painting. This will create separate texture sets for exporting which can be combined in Photoshop. When importing maps, make sure that the root name is the same as the corresponding texture set name. e.g. textureSetName_mapType. You can manually plug in maps in the document settings. For the normal map settings, make sure you’ve chosen the right one by checking if your detail is moving in the correct direction.

03 Getting around in substance painter’s interface.

In the document setting: base color, height, roughness and metallic is a basic pbr set-up. ‘Viewer settings’ pertain to the viewport. The image based lighting can be changed from here. The environment can be hidden through ‘opacity’ but still display lighting information. Height force applies to intensity of normal map.

04 Overview of the painting workflow.

The brush uses an alpha: like a hole which the paint gets pushed through. Choose a brush shape and then the material to paint with. The material will be painted into all 4 channels by default. The channels e.g. height can be remapped to e.g. base colour. You can view each channel separately by clicking solo in the view settings. Use ‘c’ to cycle between views. You can remove the material from your brush (under the material tab) and go into substance material mode to make a custom material. You can use ‘shift’ to rotate the lighting sphere and see how the shifting light behaves on the material. Right click on the brush preview to save your tool, brush or material settings. Look at layers as containers for channel information; base color, height, roughness and metallic. You can change the opacity of each channel on each layer from the dropdown.

05 Painting the worm’s mouth.

Create and name a new layer. Is is a metal? If for example not, set the slider to black. Will it be rough? Will this layer have height information? Start with a darker value and gradually layer in the lighter values. Don’t jump into high contrast too soon.

Screen Shot 03-05-16 at 01.34 PM.JPG

06 Painting additional roughness in the worm’s mouth.

Enable pressure sensitivity with the little circle beside flow.

Create a new layer for painting roughness. Under the material tab, turn off the color, height and metal channels so that you’re only painting into the rough channel. You can adjust the slider from black to white to adjust the degree of roughness. By not painting into all the channels, the data can never be recorded. Instead, for the layer settings, disable the channels that will not be used.  This way the strokes will be recorded in all channels but will not be visible. Use roughness to make a shiny surface appear less wet. Preview your strokes on the solo viewer/’c’.

07 Projection painting and the worm’s body

M key for material view. The projection tool is found next to the brush on the upper tool bar. Start by thinking of the channel properties that you want your material to have. Choose an image for your base colour. Crop the image into a square before importing. Go to file>import image and load the image into base colour. Cycle to the solo base colour. Hold down the ‘s’ key to modify the stencil image.  Keep a look out for texture stretching when you paint near borders. Add a white mask to your layer and paint in black with a hard brush for cleaning up edges that transition to different colours/materials.

08 Painting and masking the worm’s body.

09 Colour correcting textures.

Click on the bubble icon above the layers to add a substance effect/filter of a levels adjustment.

10 Adding additional height information for the body.

To add more height, first create a fill layer with black to cover what’s underneath, ‘heightReset’. Create a new fill layer above and fill it with a material.

11 Painting additional roughness for the body.

You can copy layer masks using the pencil icon.

12 Painting textures for eyes.

The brush is 1 and the eraser is 2. Eyes are very wet and therefore you want your roughness to be smooth. Black = less of a strength. White = more. Therefore use a blacker roughness value for the eyes to make them appear wetter.

13 Finishing the eye textures.

The geometry decal tool can be used to fill areas. Select the colour to be black. Select the selection mode and then e.g. select the UV shell from the 2D viewer. You can also create a mask by using the decal tool to make a quick selection of faces.

14 Adding texture to the teeth.

You can add a substance effect to a mask to reveal an underlying material with a textured shape. You can then plug a map into the position to only have the masked texture appear in certain areas.

15 Adding texture to the sewer platform.

Think of a material in terms of layers e.g. the base material, the paint overlay and rust. Think about where the wear would occur. Create selections of faces, etc and fill.

Note: To create a traditional paint effect, how could we use layering of materials and masks to create textured reveals?

Experiment with the different brushes and also their settings. Remember to watch out for paint stretching on borders. You may be able to use one of your maps as a mask. This mask can be adjusted e.g. with levels and inversion. Remember that each channel’s opacity can be adjusted in the layers panel.

17 Texturing the sewer grate.

18 Texturing the bolts

For revealing paint underneath a rust layer you have two options. You can reveal the underlying paint by masking the rust above. Or you can paint rust above by, but change the height map from the underlying height to something like roughness.

19 Adding wear to the platform with particles.

Emiters and receivers are included in the particle brush. In the tool panel, look at the physics rollout so see the emitter and receiver. Paint into the mask of a fill layer. Expand physics with advanced settings. These are good for weathered/aged effects. The particles will naturally pool in crevices so this can be useful when combined with a rust mask on a fill layer.

20 Baking texture maps out of Substance Painter.

Go to file>export. You can upscale the size of your texture map without loosing quality. Uncheck the maps for height, all PBR diffuse.., Unity 4 and Unity 5. Set the export path. Png 16 bit max. In photshop, combine similar files into one using masking e.g. all the base colours.