Demon stopper Oliveira is a character created for the mobile card game Legend of the Cryptids, developed by the Japanese publisher Applibot (opens in new tab).
She is the warrior who prevents demons and monsters coming up to the surface of Earth. In her backstory, Oliveira spent time in Hell and was rescued by a sacred warrior who also taught her how to fight.
In this painting I'm depicting a scene where she is receiving the magic katars from her master. They will help her battle against monsters, as she tries to stop them rising from the depths of the Underworld.
As well as telling this particular story in the illustration, I came up with the idea that she should have scars over her body as a vestige of the time she was in the hands of the demons.
Every scar, besides being a physical mark, is a little story in its own right. I wondered if this type of attention to detail and character depth could attract players' curiosity about her and lead them to identify a little bit more with her.
Before getting into the illustration itself, I like to start laying out the character design. It's easier to balance the importance of the visual elements if you already know how the composition will take shape. This means you can be sure that an important feature won't be too subtle in the final image.
I sketch two versions. But in this one I realise the camera angle isn't dramatic enough and the scars would be tiny. A front shot will feature direct light and one-point perspective, which are good for emphasising a character. Sometimes classic solutions are better than dynamism.
I start detailing with large brushes, gradually picking smaller ones – I find this makes it easier to keep track of the overall look and feel. There aren't many secrets here: set your brushes to smaller sizes and patiently render ornaments, freckles, hair and drapery. The deeper the detailing, the richer the piece.
Darks and lights balance
When designing an illustration that will be used on cards, be it printed or digital, you must always consider shapes and contrast. The proper balance between darks and lights gives the elements enhanced readability. Overlapping highly illuminated elements over light surfaces will make them disappear at smaller sizes.
A well-worn armour design
To achieve a realistic metal texture, I use a custom brush in a layer set to Overlay mode above the painting. Another layer, set to Color Dodge mode, provides the specular treatment. Some random dirt textures enhance the armoured look.
The briefing was that Oliveira should be red-headed. To highlight this, I give the background a wash of green tones, the complementary colour to red. In fact, this decision ended up guiding the whole colour structure. The painting has colder hues in the background and warmer hues in the foreground.
Simple Round Brush
Used from the composition sketch to the most intricate detail.
Acrylics on Canvas
Great to give a traditional acrylic texture and to smooth out the overly harsh pixel feel. It can be tweaked to be used in many different ways.
Will Murai is a freelance illustrator and concept artist. He has worked for clients such as Wizards of the Coast and Applibot, and is passionate about fantasy art, sci-fi movies and games.
This article originally appeared in ImagineFX (opens in new tab) magazine issue 106.
Like this? Read these!