Master of designing sci-fi environments, Massimo Porcella, reveals a step-by-step break down of his work flow, sharing tips on how to achieve a balanced composition, using color and textures.
In this tutorial I will show you how I created and painted my sci-fi environment. I will start with the initial concept sketches using references, and then explain the use of colors, textures, and brushes and how to create shapes for a balanced and complete composition.
Step 1. Concept sketch
I started with simple sketching on the canvas. I painted stains and random shapes using the round brush with a slightly softened edge as the main tool. Using the Lasso tool, I drew flat geometric shapes. Sometimes too, as in this case, I will use photos as they give me a pre-made pattern as a base to work on.
I like to work this way at the beginning of a concept because I find that it gives more space to my imagination, and allows me to work without any preconceived ideas about what I'm going to create.
Once I â€˜sawâ€™ the final shapes, or started to find a way into what I painted, I used a flat brush and started to build and define them. The flat brush is great for this purpose, as it gives structure to the geometric shapes making them appear slightly architectural.
I create the plans of the composition with pictorial strokes and photos applied in Soft Light
Step 2. Research and texturing
Once I determined the primary volumes, I began texturing the work using photographic research on the internet or gathering pictures taken by myself, with a mix of digital painting. I usually prefer to take the reference material that I need from my own photos, because I think that the final and complete work is more personal, unique
Also, in my personal experience, taking a lot of pictures helps improve my knowledge of the composition of the image, the study of textures and more importantly, the study of light. Pictures are a good guideline to follow in the construction of the concept scene.
An example of painting and finishing with textures applied on the volumes
Step 3. Lighting and mood
Once I had defined and given structure to the buildings, I focused on the main subject: in this case, I was inspired by a submarine. I studied its rounded shapes and its structure, and slightly modified it, turning it into a space ship. I kept as close as possible its original texture, because I did not want to lose its consistency.
At this point in the work I decided to fix the composition and step towards the study of light and mood, placing color gradients in Soft Light or Overlay.
The main silhouette of the spaceship, inspired by a submarine, and the final scene
Step 4. Lights and contrasts
To make the environment be more interesting and feel alive, I started to insert artificial light sources (both painted and manipulated) with a layer style-outer glow. I also used pictures of cities at night (in this case a photo of New York City) and applied them in light on various areas. This allowed me to hide the dark parts of the picture without affecting the bright ones.
Once I did this, I contrasted the image using Curves, trying to balance shadows, mid-tones and highlight the best
Adding light to the scene