Types of thumbnail sketches for concept art mattes: towards a taxonomy

I’ve been trying to get to grips with the best way to make concept thumbnails for sci-fi mattes. Meaning, the method that I might like to develop for myself. As a step toward that I’ve done a quick survey of the various types of thumbnailing for concept art. If I’ve missed out your favorite method, please comment and tell me what it is!

* Outline line design. Detailed line-drawing based on shapes, and perhaps on 3D wireframe renders. This has the advantage that you work out a lot of the design and massing elements beforehand, meaning the later painting may be both a lot quicker and more fun.



* Perspective. Predominantly perspective lines. Everything in the picture develops from where the perspective lines run…


* Scribbles in shapes. Scribbled silhouettes and tones, based on rapid tonal scribbling inside rough outline shapes. Most strokes are vertical…


* Theatre stage. Old-school ‘theatre stage design’ done in three layers — front silhouette / grey middle ground / hazy background shapes. Varying levels of speed and detail…





* Shadow puppet. A more stark variation on the above: working out the arrangement of a scene using shadow-puppet like pre-made cutouts, on layers…




* Feeling foggy. A foggy variation on the above, mono toned value studies…


* Angular dabbles. Abstract tonal dabbles with shape brushes, quite angular when toward the foreground…


* Bash it. Bashing together cut-out 3d shapes, cut-outs from previous drawings, grabbed photoreference selections, silhouettes of people for scale…


* Photobash overpaint. Photobash, then a quick over-sketch and overpaint on opacity layers…


* Single squiggle. “Just take a squiggly line for a walk!”. You may have to have been to art school for this one to work…


* Colourist. Straight to strong colourist semi-abstract experiments…



* Uncle Pooter’s Magic Wheeze. Find an old public-domain Victorian-era engraving with good contrast. Photoshop Field Blur | Boost Contrast, Brightness | Flip | If needed, overlay very heavily feathered sections, tilt, scale them. Then start painting in lighter values, or overlay sections with photobashing selections while experimenting with blend modes and opacity. It’s gonna get messy, and you’ll probably struggle to pull it back into shape…




One thought on “Types of thumbnail sketches for concept art mattes: towards a taxonomy

  1. Pingback: Tonality: Research | Robert Caldwell

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