Cyborg Ninja

It's time to share the final character card from Escape from Fusion Earth! Although there are more cards in production, this is the last card that has an actual character on it. I took a bit of a much needed break last week, but I am back to it this week and really looking forward to sharing this character with you. I'm going to share some of my digital process and decision making this time too!

As with every other card, this started with pretty much just a name, again the client was happy with my style and I had a lot of free reign on the design, although I had a good idea in my head of where I wanted to take this character design wise, I'd never really done a more futuristic character design before, so this card definitely took a lot of research and development throughout all of the stages from thumbnails right up until the digital process in Photoshop.

This was one of the initial ideas for the Cyborg Ninja, now this was in no way supposed to be the final design, but it was just to get some ideas down and see what was working and what was in the wrong direction altogether. I knew from these few initial ideas that I wasn't at all happy with the design so far, I didn't feel like it gave enough of 'cyborg' or 'ninja' feel off. I also wasn't happy with the pose, composition or her face, I knew this wasn't going to be the final card, but because so much of it was off, I felt like I needed to start from scratch. 

I started to do some more research into futuristic robots and cyborgs and also real samurai armor, mixed with armor from games. I thought it would be best to draw up some variations which were more based in reality, and some which were more fantasy based, as I still wasn't sure which direction to take the design, but as my client on this project always says, ' that's the beauty of Escape from Fusion Earth, there is no need to root it back to what is realistically possible' . I also really liked this new pose too, the character felt like she was more in 'attack' mode, I was also fond of the idea of having lots of her wiring exposed, so based on these sketches we were ready to move into the digital rendering phase.

I spent a while refining the sketch and really nailing down her pose and her armor details. I have been working hard on trying to get some better compositions and more dynamic poses in my work and I feel like it's really beginning to show now. I wanted to try and keep a calm but sinister look on her face, ninja's are obviously good at being really silent but they're highly feared assassins at the same time, so I wanted to try and get that across somewhere in the design. Now that the sketch was refined, it was on to Manga Studio for the lines and Photoshop for everything else!

The start of the digital process is always the same for me, first comes the line work, and then the base colours. I always lay down a background first, just roughly, even if it's not going to be the final background purely because it's really hard to tell how a colour will look on a final illustration if you do it on a white background! You'll also notice that I changed up the ninja stars a little as the size of them on the sketch felt a little bit pathetic! I changed up the composition of them too to make them feel more like they are coming out at the player.

Next up is of course adding the shadows to the character. You'll see throughout these process images that it took me forever to develop the background, and this is not including probably about 10 variations that I wasn't happy with. I couldn't decide on the colour, the time of day it should be or the setting for the background, but I got there eventually! 

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After the shading I always add the lighting, thinking about the main lighting (I try and go for 2 usually, sometimes 3) and where that will hit the character.

As you can see, this is where I started to think more about the background, what would enhance the card as a whole and what would make the character stand out. I was unsure about choosing the woods at first, but after thinking about it, I've definitely seen enough films where ninjas are sneaking through forests! I think that I mentioned in a previous post that I've been trying a more digital 'painterly' style for some of my work, especially the backgrounds and I did the same with this one. I didn't sketch any of the background out, I just blocked it in with bigger brushes and then added details with smaller brushes, no line work here!

This change is a little bit harder to notice, but about half way through my process, I always colour my lines a lighter version of the flat colour next to it on the side where the light would be hitting it to add some dynamism to the piece, as I think keeping the lines black throughout makes it look too flat and gives it too much of a 'comic book' style.

Here's some shading and lighting added to the ninja stars!

Once I've laid down the flat colours, shaded and lit the main element of the piece and got an idea of the background, it's time to start adding some fun to the piece. I've tried to add a sort of 'magical' element to these character cards, and I wanted to do the same with this one. So I started to think about how I could make the ninja stars pop out more and decided to make them have a yellow glow.

Now that the character was pretty much finished I needed to make the background catch up so I started to develop that some more!

Adding some mist over over the river in the background adding some atmosphere to the piece and all of the blue in the background gave me the chance to add some atmospheric lighting.

Here is the final finished card! After adding some finishing touches and effects I think it came out really nice and I think she makes an awesome addition to the set of enemies in the game!

Thanks for reading guys! I haven't decided what next weeks post will be yet, but I'm thinking it's time for another valuable content type post rather than a visual one, so I may launch another twitter poll for it early this week!