Thursday, 22 October 2015


I've been busy with work for quite a while now. So, to keep my sanity a little bit, I've been chipping away at this image on and off for a bout three weeks when ever I got a spare hour or so. Based on photo ref. Hope you like it!

High Res version available here:

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Batman vs Man-Bat Walkthrough

Hi there.

It's been quite some time since a posted up a walk through of my work, so I thought I'd do it with one of my most recent pieces, 'Batman vs. Man-Bat'.

This isn't so much of a tutorial, but more of a step-by-step process of how I created the image and some of the techniques I use.  Before I start rambling I'd just like to say, to anyone who's reading this, to bear in mind that isn't necessarily the 'correct' way of creating digital artwork.  It's just a process I use and it works well for me.  So, if you're aspiring to move into concept art/digital painting, don't assume that you HAVE to do it this way.  But, hopefully, some of you will find it useful and pick up some tips here and there :)

So anyway, this is the image we're going to look at:

The idea was to create a 'key moment' concept for a potential future Batman movie (just to clarify, this is NOT for a movie, it's just a personal piece of art work, nothing commercial...).  The original idea formed while I was away traveling, so I quickly drew a quick thumbnail sketch in my sketchbook.

So this image started off from a pretty crappy 30 second doodle.

I use thumbnails to very quickly generate ideas, vary camera angles, compositional changes etc.  Personally, I think the very first early thumbnails you create, to be honest, are for nobody else but you.  I wouldn't show these to a client if it was professional work.  It's just to help you form the idea and get it down on paper.  My sketchbook is more like a journal of ideas filled with shit drawings like the one above.  To you, this image may not make much sense.  But to me,  I can draw something like this, leave it, come back to it 6 months later and it makes perfect sense as it's capturing the idea I'm trying to create.  You never know when an idea will pop in your mind so, tip number one, always carry a sketchbook around with you.

One I got back from my travels and was sat in front of my computer, I started fleshing out the idea with a couple of of compositional sketches in Photoshop.

Again, this nothing more than a glorified scribble, but it does the trick in terms of establishing the composition.  After this, I generally do a greyscale painting to help establish tone and depth.

I do the exact same thing with professional work.  However, when working professionally, I spend more time on this bit and make the image a lot clearer.  Working on my own personal stuff, I'm the Art Director.  I know the concept in my mind and I know (roughly at least...) where I want the image to go, so I can develop it quickly and cut some corners here and there.  If you're working for a client, you don't have that luxury.  You need to be more methodical in your process and make sure they clearly understand what's going with the image and where you're intending to take it.  Fact of the matter is, when working professionally, it's not YOUR image you're creating, it's THEIRS.  So you need to make sure they're happy with it.  They are paying you after all.

I also create some very quick colour studies just to help generate the mood that I'm after.

It's nothing flash.  Just quickly paint over the top of the black and white image but play around with the layer properties such as 'Overlay', 'Hard Light' etc.  This is pretty much my base painting worked out.

Because I'm dealing with characters in movement within my scene, this creates slightly awkward, twisted anatomy.  I'm also using a very precise lighting from the neon signs.  So I wanted to make sure I was lighting and positioning the characters correctly.  I used DAZ 3D (a free piece of software) and created a very quick mock-up of the scene to help me out.

DAZ 3D doesn't come with Batman or Man-Bat character rigs, but that wasn't the point.  I wanted to make sure that my characters were positioned correctly and I had a good foundation to start painting light later in the process.

I then rendered out a PNG image and aligned it with my base painting in Photoshop.

By this point, I'm pretty happy with the composition and direction my painting is heading.  Time for some research.

I can't stress enough how important good research is.  I find that people tend to assume how something looks in their mind, think it's correct and then paint from there.  9 times out of 10, it's wrong.  Check out images online.  Don't rely purely on Google images, find other resources.  Go out and do some of your own original photography and study what the world looks like.  It helps develop your visual library.

Batman was fairly easy to find research for.  I'm a huge Batman fan.  In fact, drawing Batman from comics is one of my earliest memories, so I have a pretty clear idea of how I want him to look.  Essentially, it's a combination of the 'Dark Knight' costume and the upcoming 'Batman vs Superman' costume.  So, I went and found references for those, as well as some of my own personal tweaks.

Man-Bat was more difficult as I didn't have a clear idea of how he looks in my mind.  I was very inspired by the take Rocksteady took for 'Arkham Knight', however he still looks quite human to me. I always see him a bit more animal-like as he appears in the Batman Animated series.  So I looked at all sorts of ideas, including vampires at one point (but I quickly decided against that route), to get references.  I looked at different body types too.  I imagine the transformation into a 9 foot bat being quite a painful one, putting the body and muscles through quite a bit of strain and contortion.  I needed images of muscles definition, but not large muscular-gym bodies (no Arnold Schwarzeneggers) .  So I looked at long-distance marathon athletes and, unfortunately, people who suffer from anorexia.

I also found reference for the city backdrop as well as the large sign I wanted my characters to crash through.  Though the buildings were not the main focus of the scene, I wanted to make sure it still worked as cohesive world, so I didn't want to look for the first random building I see. Again, I'm a big Batman fan, so I quickly knew I wanted to look for art deco architecture, as well as buildings from New York/Chicago.

Once I felt ready with my research, I started implementing photo reference into my image.

For a lot of beginners, I think this is the bit that shocks them.  "You can't do that, it's cheating!?" I hear this quite a bit.  Well, the answer to this is yes and no.  Yes, I'm using photography/textures.  Yes I'm putting them in my work.  But the answer is, no, it's not 'cheating'.  A lot of concept artists need to produce realistic looking work within extremely short deadlines.  You're talking a matter of hours, maybe a day or two if you're lucky.  And the only way to achieve the high level results that are expected from you is by using photography and textures, incorporating 3D software into your work etc. All these techniques are used to help the artist.  This doesn't mean you should be totally reliant on photos.  God no.  Not everyone likes it, and not everyone uses it.  That's fine.  And you still need to know and practise core fundamentals of digital painting regardless if you want to succeed.  However they are a damn good tool to use.  And that's how they should be seen.  A tool.  A tool to get the job done quickly with good results.

Not every artist does this by the way, but quite a few do.  If you're one of the lucky people who can paint realism very quickly, then good for you, you don't need to use photography.

So, a lot of my early process of the painting involves bringing in photography and textures.  Lighting them and colour correcting them to match my scene as well as painting in the basic form.

Positioning light can help an image immensely. So, for example, Batman's head is being lost within the scene already.  A black costume on top of a black building doesn't help.  So I rearrange the background so that Batman is much more noticeable in the scene, as well to help increase the sense of depth.  I also give the signs a basic lighting pass.

By this point, my process becomes very 'place texture, paint corrections, repeat'.  I also work across the whole canvas so the entire image slowly develops, rather focusing on one area at a time.  Things need to change here and there as the painting develops, so I started playing around with some the elements.  Batman for example was leaning over to much, so I started straightening him up more so he appeared to be more in control.

I also started bringing in more photography into the background buildings and then played around with lighting, colour correction and painting techniques so that they settled into my image better

Again, I just repeated the same method on Man-Bat to develop him further.  I also started using textures for the debris flying towards the camera.

Some further colour correcting and playing around with element positioning.

And then one final pass that I kind of call the visual-effects pass.  So this includes motion blurs, extra effects such as snow, colour correcting the entire, last minute lighting effects, sense flares etc.

And...that's it.

Hopefully this will give you an insight on how to develop an image.  If you're reading this and find it useful, drop me a message.  It's always good to know someone has benefitted from it :)

Again, I hope you find this useful.


Monday, 31 August 2015

Batman vs. Man-Bat

Here's my latest piece of Batman battling Man-Bat.  Hope you enjoy!

Wolverine vs Deadpool: Way Past Words

Here's one of my latest concepts of Wolverine vs Deadpool.  Kinda hoping Mr. Jackman and Mr. Reynolds do this one day for real...

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Project Resurgence: Kitchen Hunt

I remembered to capture the process of how this image was developed. So if you're interested, and once I've finished editing, there'll be a video coming soon showing how this image was made from beginning to end!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Project Resurgence: Warden Gorman

I've had a bit of a break from this project as I was completing some freelance work for a studio, but now I'm back and ready to work.  I developed a new character design based on the list of characters provided to us on the brief.

The Warden is described as someone young, inexperienced and in way over his (or her) head.

With my project being based around a dinosaur zoo/them park/science experiment gone wrong, I altered the Warden idea to a head scientist (or even vet) of the park.  Brilliant in his field, and a young genius, he gets hired.  He soon discovers the genetic mutations that are taking place and is forced to work against his will, despite his objections.  He's young and scared and easily manipulated.  He hides and has survived the events of the last year on the island.

I wanted the Warden to be one of the earlier characters Chloe (the player) meets in the game.  He'd be the guy with the 'plan', helps out with information, tells the player what to do, how to attack and avoid the varying species of dinosaurs etc etc.  So, to stop him from wondering around with the player during the game (survival in numbers and all that)...I broke his leg during a recent dinosaur attack, immobilizing him.  That'll slow him down.

I also named him Warden Gorman after the wonderfully inexperienced and in over his head Lt. Gorman from Aliens :)

Here's some of the early design work, leading up to the final piece:

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Project Resurgence: Chloe

Project Resurgence: Thumbnails

This is quite a large brief, so my first task was to come up with a bunch of ideas that I'd like to do, and then reign these designs back in so they fit the overall brief better.


Project Resurgence

Hello!  I'm currently working away on the next design brief on my Master's course, so a lot of the upcoming work I'm going to uploading here over the next couple of months will be related to that.  So, in order to give it all a bit of context, I thought I'd post this entry about the background of the brief.

The brief is to create a prison designed around 'exotic' creatures.  This a pretty open brief, and it has quite a lot of leeway over what we can do.  There's some basic information about the prison we need to keep and there are a set of character profiles that are also provided.

After whittling down a few early ideas (including a space prison) I've found something I like.  This is a module based around visuals and concept art, so story writing isn't exactly an 'important' factor.  However, I find it useful to have a basic narrative to give the project some focus.  So, brace yourself for a cliche ridden, plot-hole filled story...

Title: Project Resurgence.

Action survival, third-person game.

Government owned "STEM Research Facilities" has perfected cloning dinosaurs (exciting!).  On the exotic, but isolated, island of Isla de la Muerte, a dinosaur safari park has been opened with full attractions and resort.  The park is obviously a very popular destination receiving incredible amounts of tourists each year.

Unknown to the public however, the military are conducting experiments in secret facilities around the island.  They are experimenting with gene-splicing and bio-weapons.

One week, during a tropical storm, the island went dark.  All communication was lost.  No one returned from the island and no one was ever heard from again.

A year passes.  The government has declared the island a quarantine zone with no access by sea or air.  Access is strictly prohibited.

After exhausting every option, an aging billionaire is putting together a small team, including Chloe (you, the player).  Chloe is a veteran photo-journalist.  The billionaire has hired you, and the team, to find his daughter and her children (who were at the park when the island blacked out) as well as documenting what happened.

On the flight to the island, a hurricane strikes the plane, forcing a crash landing.  Chloe and the rest of the team are scattered across the island.

Chloe awakens unarmed and alone on the island.  Using only her instincts, she must fight for survival on this dinosaur invested island as well as facing the genetic horrors that have been created.

Like I say, story writing isn't my strong suit.  And you'd be forgiven if this brought back flashbacks of a particular Steven Spielberg film.  But this is workable enough for me to base an entire project around.

Next up, ideas...

Thursday, 16 October 2014


So I'm currently studying a Masters Course in Concept Art and we've began a new module based around Character and Environment design.  Our first brief (kind of a warm-up brief) was to take Captain Hook and place him in a futuristic style.  He doesn't have to a 'pirate', but still a villain.  So this was my design.

I've also included some step-by-step image to show the progress.

Enjoy :)

Final Design

Some initial sketches:

Progress images: