Here I am again to show you what I did to make a cool (Samus from Metroid) painting. This is a general overview of the major steps I have taken to achieve what I wanted to do. This isn’t a super in-depth process, and by no means the end all be all method of getting to a finished product, but hopefully this article will serve as some possible insight onto how someone might go about any part of this.
Unlike the last painting I did, this one is digital. I’m a huge proponent of the digital medium. It’s what I used since I was 14, when I was rocking a Wacom Graphire I got at Computer USA and a copy of Photoshop Elements a friend gave me. Nothing can ever replace the traditional medium and human hand though, but working digital has its merits. One being there’s no reason why you can’t have a piece of artwork that represents your best understanding of whatever that piece requires (lighting, composition, etc). Meaning, with no drying times, the control z command, and layers to name a few perks, you can easily achieve almost anything you want. Another great thing about working digitally, is that you don’t need a big fancy studio.
I love Super Metroid, and regard it as being objectively one of the best video games ever made. I just finished OG Metroid, and will be starting Zero Mission soon with the Prime Trilogy right after. So lately, I’ve been saturated in a lot of Metroid.
This is nothing new though. A few years ago, I worked on a couple other Samus projects, that I haven’t finished, and probably won’t unfortunately- but who knows.
Lately I’ve been sketching Samuses, (Samsi?) in her base power suit, specifically from Zero Mission. It’s nice and simple, reminiscent of OG Samus sprite. I think I like it more than the Varia Suit personally, probably cause’ she looks more like a person in a space combat suit, than a straight up robot.
Here’s a drawing I particularly liked, because I could picture it in an instructional manual. This was the one I chose to build up on.
When rendering, I will work in greyscale and lay down color afterword. How I usually render, is by starting my brush and brush strokes big, loose and soft to determine general lighting and shape. When finishing up, I gradually go smaller and harder with my brushes, with every pass enlarging my image by a thousand pixels to add in more detail. That’s so that my proportions are accurate enough, and that the pose retains the energy from the loose sketch it’s built from. Otherwise, Samus might look stiff, with unnecessary detail.
To determine my light, I try to find ways to have my volumes be clear. There’s a main light source, being the blast of plasma from Samus’ arm canon, and whatever is exploding from that blast.
Additionally, there can be light from above or below Samus, moonlight, other explosions, lava, whatever helps give the subject a theatrical, and clearly defined look, which is what I usually want.
At first, I didn’t think about the background. The initial sketch was something along the lines of Crateria in a brutal thunderstorm, but I wanted a light source from underneath Samus, so I ended up taking Samus to the lava pits of Norfair.
I chose to not noodle (spend a lot of time adding detail and work) on Samus’ lower body. 1: to keep attention on where I want; her arm cannon, helmet etc. 2. To give the allusion of heat emitting up and distorting and blurring the image as intense heat normally does. Whatever excuse you can find to be lazy, take it!
After enough rendering has been done, I will lay down color, beginning with the general and atmospheric. What I did here was use the gradation tool, setting layer type to the color.
Next, another color layer for the lava.
Then another color layer for Samus’ visor and plasma blast.
Once I have colored my main light sources, I will then add some diffused lighting to resemble the reflection of my now colored light sources. At this point, the painting looks pretty much done.
For me, the color coming from light sources are most important first to have than local color. Local color being, the color of Samus’ suit. This is so Samus doesn’t look like she’s cut and pasted into the painting.
So after some additional tweaking, level adjustments and layer masks, I bumped up some detail and value, leaving myself where I think is an acceptable place for me to stop.
If you noticed my painting as I went flipping back and forth, then give yourself some bonus points for being quite the observant pupil! The reason why I do this is to keep the painting visually fresh, where if I didn’t, I’d be too used to staring at it and most likely not notice any mistakes that otherwise might be obvious. This is a technique that can be used traditionally by looking at your work through a mirror.
As for this run through, there’s a lot I left out. This process took days and there’s a lot that goes into every step- and I could just ramble on, except I hate writing. So if any of you Wiz kids out there have any questions, be sure to send them in after listening to the weekly podcast!
Also, check out the Nation Symphony Orchestra’s crazy good Metroid medley. I had that shit on loop the whole time I was working on this.