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Designing Creatures in Photoshop

Company The Gnomon Workshop | Webwww.thegnomonworkshop.com | Price $59

The question every professional artist appearing at a convention or book signing event dreads is “Where do you get your ideas from?” In this three-hour video, available on DVD or via download, Aaron Sims makes a decent stab at addressing how you can generate fresh concepts – at least in the field of creature design for which he’s perhaps best known.

The three projects Aaron explores here all combine Photoshop’s two sides – a painting environment and image-manipulation tool – to show how you can quickly develop raw ideas into production-ready concept art. In the first project he starts a drawing from scratch, blending in photo reference material to help him define form and texture as he adds visual details. In the second, he shows a simple technique for anyone who finds a blank piece of paper (or Photoshop document) daunting, working over a cloud photo to develop the shapes he sees into a demonic facial structure.

In the third project, Aaron extends this approach by layering images of a cat and a male actor to establish the foundation of a hybrid character design. Together the projects add up to a practical approach for generating polished concepts on demand from the simplest of starting points.
The simplicity of Aaron’s painting techniques is striking. He uses a single standard brush shape for painting over a mere handful of layers in each image. There’s little discussion in his narration of painting techniques and tools, which may prove frustrating if you’re looking to develop your painting skills, although the final chapter offers some insight. The real reward here is in observing how the patient application of simple ideas can lead to a creature or character design that’s convincing in its detail and comes from your own imagination, rather than the filtered-down influence of other artists.

1. Getting started
2. Drawing in Photoshop
3. Adding textures to a drawing
4. Using a cloud photo to start a design
5. Adding images to enhance the design
6. Working over photos
7. Detailing your concept

186 minutes