ImagineFX|July 2020

Max Ulichney takes a simple idea of a boy listening to music, and uses Procreate’s brush, colour and lighting tools to ramp up the storytelling
Max Ulichney

Artists are often taught to focus on design and technique, but it’s also important to consider character motivations and storytelling. Characters deserve an inner monologue and desires of their own. This workshop will teach you how to create a fun, nostalgic scene of a boy listening to his older brother’s records in the warm, late afternoon light after school when he should be doing his homework or tidying his room. The image will also include good storytelling details such as his cat and a poster of his idol.

The workshop will cover basic brush techniques, as well as the creation of a new gouache brush. You’ll learn how to paint in Procreate in an expressive way that reinforces the subject’s playful energy, using a combination of analogue-influenced techniques and digital flexibility to create an image that looks rich, warm and traditionally painted, while embracing the strengths of Procreate.

In addition, this workshop will guide you through some complex perspective tricks using Procreate’s drawing guides, which make scene construction easier than it’s ever been in digital painting.

1 Set up frames for your thumbnails

Use QuickShape to draw straight lines from corner to corner, creating an X as a guide. Next, use Options> Canvas>Drawing Guide to create your frames. Enable the drawing guide and tap Edit Drawing Guide below that. The 2D Grid settings are perfect. You can enable Assisted Drawing by clicking a layer and selecting Drawing Assist. Draw vertical and horizontal lines for your frames using the diagonal lines as guides to keep your proportions true.

2 Sketch more engaging ideas

On a new layer below the frames, start sketching using the Sketchy Sarmento Pencil. The initial idea was a boy lost in the music; however, this was lacking emotion and storytelling. To iterate on your first thumbnail idea, duplicate the layer, then use the Transform tool to move the new layer to the next frame. Sketching the boy playing his air guitar makes him more active, which leads to the idea of adding the cat swiping at his fingers.

3 Paint the colour roughs

Copy the last thumbnail sketch to all of the frames and flatten them by pinching all four layers together. Make the Background colour layer grey by tapping the thumbnail to bring up the Color Picker. On a new layer, start painting the local colour of the objects in the room. On a new layer above that, darken the room by painting the whole frame a light blue colour and setting the layer blend mode to Multiply. This is all that needs doing here, as the room is dark and backlit, but in most other cases you could paint the shadows more selectively, such as under a character or cast across objects. Consider also using a light colour on separate layers to paint the window light and a rim light on the character and affected surfaces.

4 Fill the room with a hazy light

Fill a layer with orange, tap the layer to add a mask, tap its thumbnail and invert the mask. Use the Grain Cloud brush to paint white in the mask to reveal the orange. Set the orange layer’s blend mode to Screen. To place the character’s hand and face in front of the haze, put a new layer over the haze layer and create a clipping mask. This makes whatever you do to this layer act only on the layers it’s clipped to. Add the bright window colour on a new layer to give better control independent of the haze.

5 Use colour filters to generate the right mood

Group all of these layers together. This will enable you to duplicate the group and make variations to the time of day and colour palette. Use Filters>Hue, Saturation, Brightness to alter the colours of the shadow and haze, to find a colour scheme that evokes a vintage, nostalgic mood using shades you might see in a Polaroid or 8mm camera. If the colours in your frames feel slightly drab, as with the top four frames shown on the right, flatten those groups and then use Filters>Color Balance to push the colours further until you find something you’re happy with.

6 Begin refining the sketch


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July 2020