Depict the death of a vampire - 3 pro tips

This is a tricky problem, because you have to think about how much detail you want to show and how deep you want to delve into the anatomy of the vampire and the various materials that are expelled by the event.

If you watch vampire movies such as Blade, generally the disintegration radiates from the point of impact outward toward the limbs, with burning embers and ash flying all over. Look at some reference photos of fabric and paper burning, and apply that to the areas you want to burn.

I envisage that this is going to be a dark environment – perhaps the vampire's family crypt – and the main light source will be the glowing embers and fire coming from the area into which the stake is penetrating. This will light the vampire's face from below.

I decide I also want to see a few exposed ribs, so the viewer realises that it’s not just the bloodsucking fiend's clothing which is going up in flames. I'm keen to see a lot of energy and chaos in this piece, and I also want the vampire to be clutching at his chest with gnarled fingers and arching his back in pain.

01. Start with shapes

vampire 1

I start in Photoshop, and using a broad brush I proceed to block in large shapes for the head and hands. I switch to a smaller brush for adding detail. The scene is very loose at this point. I then take a pencil brush and lightly sketch in the vampire’s facial features

02. Add your detail

vampire stake 2

I add more detail to the face, clothing, and centre of mass. I start splashing in the bright orange that will be the light source coming from the stake wound. 
I reflect that lighting in the lower planes of the face. I use the Rotate Canvas feature a lot in this piece.

03. Use the partical brush

vampire stake 3

I add detail to the face. To lay in the disintegration effects I take a rough texture brush and lay down some orange. I reduce this brush's size and add the white-hot edge. I use a particle brush to add glowing embers on a separate layer, giving them an orange glow and Gaussian Blur.

Words: John Peterson

An education in biological and pre-medical illustration led US-based John to become an animator and designer. He's also a freelance illustrator. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 112.

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