There are several ways to create vintage art. But have you tried scanning old toys and painting on them to create unique digital art reminiscent of the 1980s heyday of the Masters of the Universe? Combining his love of customizing action figures and kit-bashing 3D models for concepts, artist Ken Coleman will show you how to do just that.
Over the past year, Coleman has developed an extensive library of 3D digitized assets, including character heads, armor, and weapons, as well as composite scenes of his favorite characters from the world of He-Man, Skeletor. and masters of the universe.
Vintage toy box art, iconic 1980s movie poster art, and Frank Frazetta are strong influences on the type of finish Coleman aims for in his nostalgic imagery. In this workshop, Coleman will walk through his process, starting with how he 3D scans and prepares models, before importing them into ZBrush. He will show you how to use basic ZBrush navigation tools such as Gizmo, Transpose, Subtools and Brushes to create a character, combining a model that he has previously laid and exported to Daz 3D.
The workshop will continue on the lighting and rendering of the different passes of the model in KeyShot. These KeyShot renderings will then be combined in Photoshop to create an image mixed with its own hand-painted backgrounds and textures, then repainted in Corel Painter to achieve that 1980s-style oil-painted finish.
Watch the video tutorial below, then follow Coleman in his own words…
01. Preparation of 3D scans
I’m making a minifigure in Daz 3D – I have a favorite for my Masters of the Universe projects called Dark Guard. I combine it with animal and beast shapes to get clawed hands and feet. I then export this as an object file to use in ZBrush. I scan the different parts of the figures with my EinScan-SE 3D scanner. Larger scale models are great for facial detail, but the armor pieces on the seven inch scale action figures are great for 3D blocking.
02. Build the ZBrush figure
I import the Daz 3D model into ZBrush and press T to make sure the model works in 3D space. Using the Subtool palette on the right of the screen, I duplicate the figure and hit import. I select the elements scanned in 3D by repeating this process. Every time I duplicate a sub tool and hit Import, the new part in the model will replace the previous one in the composition. I have to be careful to scale the 3D scanned parts using the Gizmo and Transpose tools – not all scanned parts are correct when imported.
03. Lighting in KeyShot
To import the model from ZBrush to KeyShot, I go to the Render menu, select External Render, activate KeyShot then press the BPR button. This will import the model directly into KeyShot. Once the model appears in KeyShot, I go to Edit> Add Geometry> Sphere. I can then make a light source. To do this, I double-click on the sphere model in the scene window at the top right of the screen. When I click on the light bulb symbol that opens below, I can change the material to Light Area> Set to Watts.
04. Creating materials in KeyShot
KeyShot allows you to drag and drop a material onto any of the separate sub tool elements to color it. You can also apply a material to the entire model by dragging the material to the Stage section and dropping it on the ZBrush label, which is the model and all of its elements. If you do this, you need to double-tap the Lock button in the bottom window and tap Ungroup Materials to add different materials individually.
05. List your KeyShot media
I use the same materials except for the colors of the characters to get the right aspect and the right translucency of the light. Skeletor’s face is bone, his skin is electric blue, and I use metallic and non-metallic colors for his armor. The other KeyShot materials are GOZ Human Skin and Blue WHITE RIM LIGHT. I export each render as a high resolution PSD file with the clown option enabled to create a silhouette to use for selections in Photoshop.
06. Combine layers
Once my renderings are done, I open the base color in Photoshop. Then I drag the other layers into this file as smart layers. I have set the GOZ layer and Blue Rim layer to Soft Light Blend mode. Once I’m happy with the translucency level of all my layers, I select them all, copy them, and merge them (the shortcuts are Ctrl / Cmd + J followed by Ctrl / Cmd + E). I duplicate this layer once more for the next phase.
07. Use Camera RAW in Photoshop
Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter is a powerful tool for adding punch to your illustrations. Select the highest merged layer copy and press Filter> Raw Camera Filter. You can see in the picture how I placed my cursors. My approach is always to increase shadows, clarity, saturation slightly, and highlights and whites. This additional adjustment really gives an explosion of color and detail to your 3D rendering.
08. Add texture and detail
I find the use of photos of rusted surfaces and stained concrete to be fantastic
to create detail and depth in images. Concrete and porous stone are my favorite textures for the skin. I drag these elements onto the figure and hide them using the silhouette of the clown layer that I exported from KeyShot. My painted polyfilla layer is especially useful and fun for creating a bone effect on Skeletor’s face.
09. Compose the layout
Now that I’m happy with the overall figure, I’m putting it all together. I am creating a new file the same size as an ImagineFX page at 22x30cm but at 450dpi for higher resolution. Most of my work is at least A2 format at 300 dpi. I now drag the group of figures and start placing background elements and particles to create a scene. I have records of hand painted backdrops, particles and objects to help build scenes quickly.
10. Paint the backgrounds by hand
I’m adding photos of some Irish coastal scenery and one of my hand painted backgrounds. I am fortunate that there are a lot of local landscapes and textures to help improve my work. Using my local environment in my art is important to me. My hand painted clouds were created on various large canvases, photographed and combined in Photoshop to create a set of various backgrounds that I can drag and drop into my art.
11. Add my own particles
I create my own particles by taking a photo of baby powder on black kraft paper, as well as creating particles with Painter’s Particle brushes. I add these elements by placing them in the scene and setting the blend mode to Screen. I also create gradients of green by selecting the color of the glow on the body of the 3D figure. Using the Gradient tool and cloud brushes, I create a directional light that matches the model.
12. Final preparation before painting
Before importing the composition into Painter for a painting, I click Image> Duplicate to create a copy of the file. I select the outline of the figure, then flatten the image and copy and paste only the figure on itself. I now have options to use the Blender brushes on the figure and background separately in Painter. Using large oil brushes for the background and more refined fractal brushes for the skin gives a nice sense of depth.
13. Break the image in Corel Painter
You can save the file to the cloud so you can open it on an iPad and use a blender and art brushes in an art app like Procreate or Fresco. However, I chose to use Painter on the desktop. I use a limited number of brushes on the merged layers. My favorites are Stencil Oily Blender and Fractal Blender. I also place thin white or brightly colored highlight lines on a new layer with the Spring Concept Creature brush. Shown here: the before and after versions in Painter.
14. Finish the art in Photoshop
I reopen the image in Photoshop and set the highlights to a Soft Light blend mode. I’m also experimenting with the opacity of painted layers and sometimes mask areas where I might have gone overboard with Painter. The idea is to balance the abstract work of the brush with the detail and silhouette of the final image. Sometimes I merge and duplicate everything on a final layer and use an unsharp mask set at 200% at 0.2 pixel for clarity. Finally, my 3D scanner is expensive, but try experimenting with smartphone apps like Bellus3D and LIDAR 3D to create 3D models of everyday objects to use in your artwork.
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