Painting an animal in a suit of armour isn't too different from painting a human in a suit of armour. Basically, the only difference is the challenge to adapt the armour design to the anatomy of the animal in question.
Before you get stuck into the painting process, spend some time studying the anatomy of whatever creature you're going to paint – particularly the joints, which are the most critical part. Once you're confident that you understand the basics of the animal's body, it's time to start doodling thumbnails to find an interesting design for the armour.
The possibilities are pretty much endless, so just let your imagination go wild. Remember that a good design usually means a combination of coolness and functionality.
When you come up with an idea that you like, start painting it. Armour can be tricky to paint, so begin with a precise drawing of the image before you start messing with the colour. The more exact and precise the drawing is, the easier the rest of the process will be.
I start the illustration by filling all the line work (using selection tools and the Bucket tool in Photoshop) with plain colours. This enables me to easily select the silhouette of the image with the Selection wand whenever I want, which is quite useful, since painting inside a selection is a good way to paint machinery – you can add detail without losing the silhouette.
01. Pug life
After I find an interesting design for the image, I clean up the line work (basically tracing the thumbnail using a small brush). This doesn't need to be perfect – you can fix things later.
But if you put some effort into creating a clean and precise drawing then it may help to speed up the process later: elements will be easier to select, for example.
I select the outline of the dog, using the Magnetic Lasso, and fill it with red. I then select some other areas and fill them with other colours so I'm able to select them separately.
This means I can select and deselect whenever I want, and I can paint the armour without worrying about the sharp edges that a metallic object should have.
03. Down boy!
Then I simply paint the whole figure, all the lights, shadows, details and neons. The selections were very useful, but when most of the figure is painted, I discard the selections and paint some parts directly, to avoid a cut-out look. Finally, I add the glow of the neon lights, using the old trick of combining Soft Light, Overlay and Screen layers.
04. A little research...
Researching an animal's anatomy can be helpful especially if it's a beast you haven't painted before. You don't need to become an expert, but gathering references and sketching some skeletons can be a definite advantage.
Words: Paco Rico Torres
Paco Torres is a freelance illustrator living in Spain who's painted for several card games, magazines, books and role- playing games. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 94.
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