How I Made: Sky Train
General, by Rebecca Greig
Freelance artist Lincoln Renall tells us how he combined 3D models and digital painting to create this evocative scene
After working on projects ranging from pre-visualisation art for games and film through to advanced matte painting, New Zealand-based freelance artist Lincoln Renall faced a new challenge when asked to create this image.
Designed for an independent collective of Australian filmmakers for their indie feature-animated film, Sky Train, the visual goal for the work was to combine two seemingly very different elements: painterly concept design and photorealism. “I have a passion for environmental design in particular, and strive to get a sense of visual depth and storytelling into a painting,” Renall explains. “Key to this was that it was designed for a double-page spread, so needed to avoid having too much in the centre where the staples would go. I decided to try and make the train’s front a focal area, then lead the eye into the distance by using the track itself as a visual guide.”
- Desaturation: Add the feeling of depth to an image by desaturating anything in the distance via a masked adjustment layer. Also, add atmospheric haze with low-opacity layers and a soft, scattered brush.
- 3D elements: Crude 3D models were created in SketchUp and rendered out as separate layers. The train base, then track, and some background buildings were mocked up and saved as separate images.
- Adding motion: Add a sense of motion by painting small, scattered sparks, then apply a Radial or Gaussian Blur filter. Duplicate that layer again and set to Color Dodge to get areas of intensity in the sparks.
- Colour correction: The greyscale image was colourised with some low-opacity Color layers, as well as some adjustment layers (Hue/Saturation).
- Final adjustments: Near the end of the piece I always flip the image horizontally a few times and adjust anything that still feels wrong to the eye. I then added some Brightness adjustments and an Unsharp Mask to define the clarity of the overall image
- Refining focal points: Focal areas such as the train front and character were painted in more detail. Some Color Dodge gradients and masks were also applied to give these areas a little more contrast and visual punch.