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VFX Artist Samantha Combaluzier believes that creativity requires exploration, which is why she stepped outside of her discipline to tackle 2D character design. Read her breakdown of the Thunder Wolf-worshipping Warlock for insight on taking on a compelling character from start to finish, including:

  1. Research & Development
  2. Silhouettes
  3. Costume Design
  4. Head Explorations
  5. Gesture
  6. Color
  7. Final Glamour Shot

Good day everyone! I’m Samantha Combaluzier. I grew up in the South of France near the Mediterranean sea. I’ve worked in the VFX industry for around 10 years and have had the privilege to work on various films and TV series (Fantastic Beast, Game Of Thrones, etc.). My artistic background comes from graphic design, illustration, conception, and 3D. Creativity is a fuel that needs some guidance and CGMA has helped me improve my artistic skills and techniques.

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1. Research & Development

The first pass of research and development is important to familiarize yourself with your subject. For my character, I selected the “Warlock” as I wanted to depict a magical male figure with the power of lightning (or something else) in his hands.

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As an imaginative backstory, Warlock worships the Thunder Wolf as his deity. His prop is inspired by the Vajra: a weapon of the Indian Vedic rain and thunder-deity Indra.

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Enroll in CGMA’s Character Design for Film and Games course taught by Senior Concept Artist for Sumo Digital, David Paget, and Freelancer Concept Artist/Illustrator, Mathias Osland.

2. Silhouettes

Silhouettes were key to visualizing my character’s figure and presence. I was inspired by werewolves, shaman designs, medieval armors, and magicians. The goal was to create something that feels right for you. My initial sketches and doodles helped me piece together all of my research materials, plus experiment with variations.

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Thinking of the story behind your character will ground him in some sort of reality. And the research phase is extremely important to nurture your designs and find the right shapes.

3. Costume Design

After creating some silhouettes, I narrowed my character down by focusing on the costume design this time. There was still space for development and detailing; it was really a matter of selecting the most interesting sketch.

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The development of shapes was quite promising and it was easier to imagine the character this way. In the end, I selected three possibilities to continue.

Explore CGMA’s Costume Concept Design course taught by Costume Concept Artist Phil Boutte and Concept Artist Greg Hopwood to make your character’s attire more accurate and impressive.

4. Head Explorations

At this point, I did another pass of research for my Warlock’s head. I wanted his face to resemble and share some facial properties of a wolf. With this approach, he was going to wear those distinctive attributes: long hair, big ears, a well-furnished beard (fur), and clever eyes. Among all the references, five actors were the most influential in the design development.

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Playing with facial features was very interesting and fun. The idea was not to copy an existing face, but rather to use it as inspiration to reach a unique design that felt right. I started with a serious expression and then softened it, and gave it more definition.

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I selected three versions and placed each face over a rough sketch of the shoulder pads. In the end, I chose version B with the eyes of C and polished a final version.

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The salt and pepper hair look was a design choice because it reminded me of wolf fur.

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Check out CGMA’s Head Drawing and Construction class taught by Atomic Monkey’s Concept Artist Instructor Christian Nacorda and Freelance Illustrator/Character Artist Mandy Jurgens.

5. Gesture

Finding a gesture for the Warlock was a challenge. Drawing him with this physical awareness made him more realistic. In his action pose, he is not wasting any movement or energy. This fits his character because he is an older wolf that knows what he is doing. I wanted to capture him in while he waits for the right moment to pounce.

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6. Color

Next, it was time to test a few color palettes over the black and white sketch. I used overlays and color layer effects in Photoshop to test some different ideas over the detailed black and white render.

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Read “5 Steps to Create a Narratively-Driven Dark Knight” for another medieval character study.

7. Final Glamour Shot

For the final design, it was a journey to push the rendering as far as possible. Most of the modifications were painted in black and white before applying colors.

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It was a very dynamic back and forth with the instructor to make sure I learned from my mistakes. I followed and re-painted all the design elements that were off, and I used a few photos for texture and detail.

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His armor was implemented with the “Thunder Wolf” theme as you can see from the shoulders pads. From the original designs until the last steps, the improvement was huge.

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Final Thoughts

  • The piece ended up very well for the Warlock and I’m very pleased with the result. The dynamic and flow of the character work because he seems alive.
  • I learned a lot by exploring various possibilities, sketching, rendering, and how to push the quality up into the final work.
  • Finally, I want to thank CGMA for being such a wonderful resource for artists and for teaching us how to improve. I had the chance to learn from their fantastic teachers and I enjoyed their wisdom.

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

Enroll in CGMA’s Character Design for Film and Games course taught by Senior Concept Artist for Sumo Digital, David Paget, and Freelancer Concept Artist/Illustrator, Mathias Osland.

Explore CGMA’s Costume Concept Design course taught by Costume Concept Artist Phil Boutte and Concept Artist Greg Hopwood to make your character’s attire more accurate and impressive.

Check out CGMA’s Head Drawing and Construction class taught by Atomic Monkey’s Concept Artist Instructor Christian Nacorda and Freelance Illustrator/Character Artist Mandy Jurgens.

Read “5 Steps to Create a Narratively-Driven Dark Knight” for another medieval character study.