Since 1987 I have been designing characters and creatures for the Hollywood animation industry, including the Animated Alf show, Extreme Ghostbusters, Godzilla: Heatseekers, Starship Troopers: Roughneck Chronicles and the Igor movie. My Photoshop techniques are pretty basic, partly because I am self-taught, and partly because I started working with Photoshop ten years ago when it was a much simpler and less robust program. Old habits, you know.
The Ice Creature was requested by a producer two days after Xmas 2005; she was rushed and needed to have something to show an investor. So I finished the image in four days and was happy to stop at this point (Fig.01 â€" left side) and move onto the other creatures. However she then had me modify it for a further 10 days, tweaking such minor details as the ice spines. She wanted the image to look like a photo, so I added textures from elephants for skin and polar bears for fur (right side). Adding photographic textures was a new technique for me back then, and one that Iâ€™ve since improved upon. Because it was speculative work, I wasn't paid and my request to at least put my name on the artwork was refused. I never liked the changed version and so put the experience behind me. More than five years later I rediscovered the file and wanted to show my version to 3DTotal to see if it was a suitable gallery piece. I'm very grateful for the positive response; it has been a nice little vindication.
I began with a pencil sketch (Fig.02) which I scanned into Photoshop. I changed the layer to Multiply and color adjusted it to purple.
On a new layer underneath I used the Pencil tool to create what I call a selection layer (Fig.03 â€" top left). I had Anti-Alias clicked off on all of my selection tools: Wand, Lasso, Marquee and even the Paint Bucket tool so that there wasnâ€™t any bleeding. I started with the big shapes, like separating the creature from the rock with two colors, and then selected the creatureâ€™s color and blocked in the details. Here is how the two layers looked as I worked on them (top right). On a new layer I started to figure out the highlights. I didnâ€™t use any special brushes; in fact, I was still using the Pencil tool at this point (lower left). On a new Multiply layer I roughed in the shadows using the Brush tool, the basic one with hardness at 0%. I probably had the opacity at 70% to build it up (lower right).
By this stage I had the background color already established. I began with a simple two color gradient for the sky and then blocked in the basic colors for the mountains, using the Pencil tool (Fig.04 â€" left side). To push it back I Gaussian blurred the whole thing and smudged it a little to suggest wind (right side).