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Art Director/Concept Artist Timo Peter doesn’t get as much hands-on artistic work in his current job as he’d like, so he stays fresh by picking up new skills and pushing his boundaries! To improve his Blender skills, Timo worked on a story-driven, Akira-inspired scene. Don’t miss out on his process, which includes:

  1. Setting the Scene
  2. References
  3. Set Dressing and Storytelling
  4. Neon Signs
  5. Finding the Shot
  6. Finalizing the Project

First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Timo Peter and I’m a concept designer/art director from Germany. I’ve been in the gaming industry for over 10 years and I currently work as an Art Director at Wooga. Over the years, I’ve worked on various projects, ranging from Mobile projects like June’s Journey and console Titles like Bulletstorm and Gears of War. I like to explore new workflows and tools in 3D Coat, Gravity Sketch, Blender, and so on. I had experience working with 3D, but was inexperienced when it came to Blender, which is what interested me in this 3D to 2D Artist course.

1. Setting the Scene

I choose to go for a night-time, cyberpunk scene with a lot of neon lights, rain, and fog. My main story was simple: a protagonist is looking for revenge. The caption “He can be found at the Kei Kei” helped to add storytelling to the image.

But I did not want to make things too concrete so the viewer can still create his own interpretation of the image and one can ask himself. Who is the protagonist, what motivates her, who is she looking for? Her arch enemy? Her Son? What kind of place is the Kei Kei and so on.

The manga and movie Akira, my all-time favorites, were a huge influence on this scene. I wanted to make my scene a subtle homage to this masterpiece that meant so much to me. So I hid some reference easter eggs (Suit of the protagonist, advertisement sign, and name of the location “Kei Kei”).

2. References

When it came to the reference search I focused mostly on two things. First, the environment and the Mood. I looked for images that depicted the mood I was looking for. Nighttime, rain, and foggy.

Next, I looked for images of Japanese and Chinese cities since they are perfectly suited for cyberpunk-themed cities. Neon signs, packed streets, and buildings were all helpful as a starting point for what I had in mind. I used Pureref to structure and sort my reference images. It is a great tool and I work with it on a regular basis.

3. Set Dressing and Storytelling

I really wanted to add some contrast to the city. For the foreground, I aimed for an older, busy feel while I wanted the background to be mostly corporate-looking with modern high-rises.

I wanted this part of the town (foreground) to look like a shady and older district that was left behind by the rest of the city. The foreground’s older-looking buildings had lots of brick, antennas, and cable to create the sense that this place is outdated and overcrowded. Then the high-rises helped create a feeling of pressure and claustrophobia.

(old buildings in the foreground vs corporate highrises in the background)

When it came to the set dressing, I did a mix of kitbashing and modeling. I used common sources like Sketchfab, but also resorted back to some models I bought previously, plus some free vending machine models from Jan Urschel.

Enroll in 3D for 2D Artists taught by One Pixel Brush Concept Artist Sergio Castaneda, Senior Concept Artist Marco Gorlei, and Freelance Concept Artist Maarten Hermans.

4. Neon Signs

Since I aimed for an Akira-esque cyberpunk feel, Neon signs were irremissible. I intentionally integrated various languages for the signs to create some more storytelling and to convey that this district inherits a bigger range of multicultural residents.

First, I looked up Asian advertisement signs and applied them as a texture on top of the geometry. Then, I connected the texture node not only to the base color but also to the emission dot to make it glow. I then added a Bright/Contrast and a Hue Saturation Value node in between to have more control over the adjustments.

(Set up of neon signs in my scene)

This works like a charm. The result looked great. The neon signs were a perfect example of how great it was to have a well-versed 3D Tutor since he could quickly answer questions and give advice. Special shoutout to Serio Castaneda here for the great advice and help that he provided along the way.

Check out CGMA’s The Art of Lighting for Games course taught by Blizzard Lighting Artist Peter Tran and Lighting Artist/Art Director Omar Gatica.

5. Finding the Shot

After I was happy with the blockout and the overall mood I started to play around with the camera. I had an idea in mind already but 3D gives you the great advantage to easily explore new camera angles. So I played around with various angles and lenses to see which shot helps me the most to convey the story that I had in mind. I wanted the focus to be on the main Building the Kei Kei and the Protagonist.

Scroll to view Timo’s shot variations.

Read “4 Scenes to Enhance Your 3D Skills: From Viking Huts to Nightmare Fantasies” to see more projects from this course.

6. Finalizing the Project

Before I started to finish the project with overpaint and photobashing I did another small exploration to see how I could improve the shot by adjusting the camera angle and lens. The changes are subtle but helped me to narrow down for which shot I wanted to go.

(exploration of the final shot. Subtle camera and lens changes)

I took the final render to photoshop to add more detail and effects ( like rain fog, lens flare, etc.) Working on this project  I spent most of the time in Blender creating the scene (around 90% of the time).

Final Thoughts

  • My current job as an Art Director means managing a big art team (26 artists) which results in very little hands-on work. But since I’m an artist at heart and I really love creating art, I take online courses once in a while outside of work to keep the creative juices flowing. Not to mention, to explore new tools and techniques.
  • I have some 3D background but always wanted to look into Blender and this course was the perfect chance to take a deeper look into the Tool. The feedback throughout the course was very in-depth in terms of artistic and technical feedback.
  • The class environment was also very helpful and supportive so whenever someone asked a question, lots of the classmates helped out and answered questions as well. I really enjoyed that sentiment of a collaborative and supportive environment
  • Looking back at the course, I’m far from being disappointed. It helped me to get a broad overview of many different tools and functions. The Sergio took good care of the students, answered all the questions, and helped out with technical issues
  • I highly recommend this course. It is perfect for any 2D Artist that wants to look into 3D.

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.

RELATED LINKS

Check out Timo’s ArtStation portfolio and store.

Enroll in 3D for 2D Artists taught by One Pixel Brush Concept Artist Sergio Castaneda, Senior Concept Artist Marco Gorlei, and Freelance Concept Artist Maarten Hermans.

Check out CGMA’s The Art of Lighting for Games course taught by Blizzard Lighting Artist Peter Tran and Lighting Artist/Art Director Omar Gatica.