Thumbnails are such an important part in conceptual design. If you’re working on designing something, you’re going to need to go through multiple phases and variations. Once you become comfortable with sketching at a small scale and focusing on proportions and major shapes, you’ll quickly find out how much the thumbnail stage benefits the amount of ideas you can generate in a short amount of time.
I’m going to take some of the more interesting ideas and follow up on refining some of the details. It’s still in the rough stage, but what this allows us to do is to take what we think we see in the rough thumbnail and push it in a few different directions. The majority of the dominant shapes are there, as well as the pose and outline, but the characteristics and other features are what will really define the creature.
By taking one digital thumbnail and putting it on a low opacity, you can produce a number of variations of one creature simply by positioning the eye in a different spot or exaggerating the size of the lower jaw, even stretching that rough thumbnail and then repositioning the limbs and lengthening the body. Little adjustments like that will produce a major difference in the final outcome.
The proportions of the design balance out the distribution of weight as well as the flow of the anatomy. You’ll notice here that one thumbnail is flipped, which is another important step you should do early on before getting into too much detail. Mirroring an image helps you see any skewed flaws more easily. It also helps you see any flaws in perspective. The major changes being made deal with the scale of the wings on the creatures of flight.
I’ve compiled all of the thumbnails that have been revised or interest me the most, and I utilised them to produce a quick rough sketch as a layout for the composition to the final painting. Having these thumbnails that were designed beforehand will make it much easier to reproduce the creature in a different pose. In this case, I went with a dragon-based design but with a few twists.
After playing around with the scale and position of the creature in flight, I began to overlay a more detailed sketch on top of the rough layout. The rough sketch was set to a low opacity so that I could keep the scale, the pose and the position of things on target, but this way I could focus on detailing the actual design and stay true to my previous concepts and references.
The line drawing is now complete. I used a custom brush but a clean one that is different than the brush used to rough out the thumbnails earlier. In preparation for the final painting and some of the short cuts I would be taking, the clean line work set on its own layer will come in handy later on. One of the changes that I made during this redrawing stage was shrinking the hind legs and lower body to force the perspective.
You can find a lot of great high-res textures at Mayang.com. The texture I used here is actually a piece of cloth but I just repeatedly painted out a lot of the darker spots using the Clone Stamp. Positioning the texture over my line work and then selecting the negative space and inverting it lets me quickly provide a base photo texture for my dragon creature. This will serve as a scaled surface.