Monday, April 29, 2013

Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts process.

Hello everyone!

As promised, and to honor the pre-release of Dragon's Maze  here is the step by step of one of my cards for the set, Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts:

This painting was certainly a challenge.  I was never great with perspective or set design, and this painting forced me to tackle both of those things and a figure at the same time.

So here is how I tackled this challenge: 

1. The Brief:

It all started by a small brief describing a smart, scheming, magnetic and ruthless woman in her 30's. Her surroundings would be something between a lawyer's office, and a necromancer's lair. A room adorned by scrolls, strange devices, tomes, and somewhere slightly hidden in the background, the spirits that surround her. 

When I read this (and after letting out an eager giggle...seriously, painting an evil woman!? YES!) I immediately began to research what this image would feel and look like. I dug  through all my resources, to get color compositions, lighting, props and ideas ready. I looked at movies like Amadeus, Black Narcissus, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter: The Half Blood Prince and Gladiator  for inspiration. 

2. Initial doodles: 

After all that research was done , I scribbled a lot of loose initial ideas:

It doesn't matter if they are in color or a simple little scribble, what matters  is that they quickly show what I intend to do with the painting as a whole without focusing on any details. I answer a lot of questions at this stage, for example: What is composition like? What is the focal point? What is the angle of the camera? What is the gesture of the figure? Being loose forces me to think of the image as a whole, rather than focusing on details. From these little scribbles, I focus on a couple of them and turn them into a-

3. Detailed Sketch:

These are the two sketches I sent the art director for approval. Out of all the scribbles I did, I thought these two had the biggest potentials to be good illustrations.

I like to polish my sketches, because it really helps me with three big things:

  1.  Helps me envision what the final painting could be.
  2.  Provides a solid foundation for later steps. This includes drawing out the scene as best as I can, and establishing color and value relationships. Most important of those two is having a good drawing, as I've said before, an accurate drawing will save you a lot of grief later!
  3. Serves as a guide throughout the whole painting process. I love sketches, and usually find them to have an energy that finished paintings usually lack. Through out my entire painting process, I keep a small window open with this thumbnail up. It usually steers me in the right direction when deciding what to keep, what to focus on, and what to keep loose. 
The art director chose the 2nd image, and now with my sketch approved, it was time to begin the monumental task of bringing this image to a final.

But first let's talk about-

4. Brushes:

Even though I have over 200 brushes ( and this is me sizing down! I used to have 700!) I realized I only use about 7. And then out of those 7, I only use these 3 on a regular basis. 

I got #1 & #2 from one of those brush sets from incredible artists you find around. M@, Jamie Jones, Min Yum, Thomas Scholes & James Kei just to name a few of them. The 3rd brush is a basic Photoshop round round with a spacing of about 10%.  #1 & #2 are the ones I use for almost everything, like a mass block in or rendering areas with texture. #3 is used primarily for rendering skin and other soft surfaces.

5. Blocking in:

Now i'm starting to block in large areas. I'm getting rid of lines, and really beginning to define light and shadow. I'm also keeping a close eye on my layer management (which may explain why in some steps, certain areas are missing!)!

At this point I realize I don't have such a clear grasp on the perspective. So I decided to do circles in perspective. This helped me think of the location and angles of objects in the scene a lot better, and it also served as the tops of glasses later on.

6. Rendering:

At this point I realize I need to start working on the most important (and fun!) part of the painting. Her face!

With digital media you can do things that traditional media would never allow you to, such as redesigning, and transforming the face. I realized that her head was too straight on, and too wide. I narrowed her face and made certain features smaller. Something that one would never be able to do, had it been traditional!

Now I'm switching back and forth between her costume and finishing the book area. I spent a very VERY long time on those books, as I had to constantly double check my perspective.

So at this point, I think I'm completely done with this. I've worked on the image as a whole, going back and forth between foreground and background. I added some last details, such as the glass work on the side, costume details, the railings on the window and the creepy ghost face behind the window. I finished the chair, and added all the texture to it. Done, right?...Wait. Something still feels...odd?

Why, her hand is GIGANTIC! I almost made an entire painting not noticing such a GLARING mistake! The reason for this was, that at some point I told myself her hand was foreshortened, without realizing that nothing else in her posture showcased that foreshortening. So with the power of digital, I re-sized her hand to look more human, less of a claw.

It's very important to step away from your pictures, let them sit for a day if at all possible. You never know what sort of crazy mistakes you'll see the next day!

After this fix, I did some slight color adjustments, did a quick unsharpen mask on it, and voila!

7. It's done!

Here's another gif showcasing the whole process!

That's it everyone! I hope this was helpful!

Remember to check out Magic the Gathering's release of Dragon's Maze on May 3, 2013.  Also be sure to stay tuned here for a bunch of more uploads coming this week!

Till next time!



P.S.  I have received many requests for the 3 brushes that I used, so here they are! :)


Bags said...

Pretty rad breakdown of your process! Thank you for sharing!!! I really enjoy your works!Cheers!

Daniel Warren said...

and now i emulate.

Frank said...

missing that last process gif?

Lorenzo said...

Thank you for sharing the process ! Where did you found the first brush ? I would like to test it :)

Virgile Loth said...

Thanks for this step by step Karla, its awesome !

cyberwasted said...

Awesome work. Do you use any reference photos?

V said...

Im really interested about that final unsharp mask you talk about. Do you use it for creating a sense of DOF or what?

Im sorry im no expert in photoshop painting so im hungry for knowledge.

ps: this is my favourite art for dragons maze , i already own the card, and thats how i ended on this blog

robin_chyo said...

Beautiful and informative piost, Karla! Thaaaanks! :-)

Melanie Maier said...

Thank you very much for sharing this process. I saw your painting on facebook and I was totally amazed. I think it is one of the most atmospheric current magic cards.

I hope you don't mind when I experiment with your process on my own work X)

Natanimation said...

That was really great to read thank you (:

Abegail Lina said...

Congratulations on your first art/process for MtG, Karla! I was instantly in love with the artwork and painterly style of the new Teysa when I first saw her spoiled. (Mending Touch was a beautiful piece too, btw) C:

Your process is very helpful - saving it for technique/process reference material for the future!

If I may ask, do you happen to sell prints of your artwork or sign cards? I would (and I'm sure many other MTG players/art collectors would) be very happy to pay for a signed print of Teysa. :)

Derek J. Barbee said...

Phenomenal. Thanks for posting this breakdown. The gifs showing the process were particularly neat.

Durandal said...

Wicked cool!

Mike Burns - said...

This has been my desktop background since the image first got released. Gorgeous work! It's really awesome seeing the process. Thank you!

Max Davenport said...

Thanks so much for sharing this with us. Very cool process and a brilliant result!

John Bridges said...

Beautiful work! Thanks for sharing the steps.

xman said...

Can we have the brushes please? :))
Also, great work, amazing

Pieter Wessels said...

This is awesome to see. Thanks for sharing.

K. Ortiz said...

Hello everyone! Thank you all for your comments, and kind words! :D

I wanted to drop in real quick and answer some questions:

Cyberwasted: Yes! I used tons!

V: Unsharpen mask is found here:

Filter>Sharpen>Unsharpen Mask.

It's a good way to sharpen up the brushstrokes in an image, helping them loose the softness that digital paintings can suffer from.

Abegail Lina: Thank you! I'm currently trying to figure out what is the best way to sell prints. I ordered about 100 of them, and now have to figure out how to best sell them online! I'll be sure to let people know via facebook, or this blog when these prints would be available for purchase! As far as signing cards... not sure how to do that one yet, outside of people getting in contact with me, and I providing my address? D: not sure yet.

Xman: He who asks, shall receive! :)

xman said...

Thank you very much! You are awesome! :))
I hope I'm as good as you one day :))
Gonna play with the brushes now!
Thanks again!

Damien Raffaitin said...

Maybe someone already asked it, but I'll try it. I really like the first detailed sketch you made (the one that was not chosen.
And I wanted to know if you did a better or "final" version of that one because I find it beautiful and I would love to see the final version of it :)

You did a great job with both of the arts, and the article is very very interesting :D Congratz'

Arthur Fong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arthur Fong said...

Just drafted MTG over the weekend and pulled a foil Teysa. Such a sweet illustration... nice work!

Fernando Teixeira said...

Oh my God! That's astonishing work!!! Thanks for sharing ;)

Fernando Teixeira said...

Ho my God! That's astonishing work!!! Thanks for sharing ;)

Erik Davis-Heim said...

Thanks for sharing, I fell in love with this piece as soon as I saw it circulating on mtg related sites. The combination of painterly handling and tight drawing really comes together, and the character is just so cool looking!

Garrett said...

Is there a link to the brushes you use? Or did you direct message them to Xman? =)

Lorenzo said...

well I'm interested by the brushes too :)

Jan Schattling said...

Awesome Art.
Since I first saw the picture I couldn't get rid of the thought that I know that woman somehow.
Who was your Inspiration for the character?
Is there a living being that looks like her?

ARecentStudy said...

The art on this card was so beautifully done and provided such an intriguing story with no words at all! That to me is the mark of a masterpiece. I'll admit I wound up finally getting into MtG after seeing this card. They knew what they were doing asking you to paint Teysa!

Nanashi said...

beautiful as always

Anonymous said...

Whom did you base your painting of Teysa on?

Nhac San Cuc Manh said...

this is a nice site. i'm a Nhac San in Viet Nam.

Verna said...

This is cool!

chipsandsalsa said...

Hi Karla, I hope you're still responding to questions on this post! I was wondering if you could speak to how you found the films you looked to for inspiration, especially Black Narcissus since its more than 60 years old! Also, I'd really love to buy a print when they are available! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

That's my favorite art EVER!
Everytime i look it, i have to stop for minutes and appreciate it.

Thai Nguyen Duy said...

many thanks,u awesome !,:D

Joseph Conrad Isidro said...

I really thought that she was a real person, photographed and then photoshopped to look like a painting. nice work

Unknown said...

time spent?

Arkadiusz Lenart said...

Fantastic :)

Cedrus said...

Omg, Ms. Ortiz, I loveeeee your works! And this one was a total punch! Good job!

Anonymous said...

You're getting fans in china

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