You can create stunning images in Photoshop. All you really need is the application, a few optional tools, and a lot of practice. What’s important in learning how to make concept art in Photoshop is starting with the right fundamentals with the help of experienced artists and digital art experts.
Luckily, you don’t really have to enroll in a formal class or hire a professional artist to teach you how to do it these days. There are online courses readily available so you can study and practice at your own time and pace. However, before going further into lessons and classes, let us first take a look at what concept art really is.
What is concept art?
It consists of illustrations that represent an idea or concept. These types of artwork are usually for use in animation, digital films, and video games. You can also find it in print media such as books, comics, and ads.
Life of a concept artist
Such artists visualize and create characters, creatures, and other digital designs so that modelers, animators, and special effects professionals can make their artwork come to life. Concept artists need to be flexible enough, so their artwork adjusts to any project.
While concept art may seem exciting and creative judging by its definition, it is actually meticulous and mundane. Artists do not always get the chance to create what they want. They have to cater to what their clients want.
Most of the time, such art does not get published or approved, and artists may have to make several outputs before coming up with one that the clients like. After which, the chosen piece goes through the wringer with constant edits to make it perfect.
Once it is perfect, if it is artwork for moving pictures or animation, the artist gets to work on modifying the chosen piece to fit every lighting, situation, expression, or scene, such as how its shadows change as it moves.
Examples of concept art
Concept art is made out of scratch and borne out of the minds of the artist and other people involved in the process, such as producers, writers, and directors. An artist may receive a script or set of descriptions from the people involved. Here are some common examples of concept art.
Characters in animated movies and video games start out as concept art. Artists create characters in Photoshop from scratch. The character’s design is crucial because the person viewing will base his or her impression of the drawing purely on its appearance.
Characters are not the only living elements in concept art. Creatures such as animals and fictitious beings like dragons and phoenixes can be part of the idea if the story or the script calls for it. Just like characters, your creature’s design will influence your audience’s impression of it. Whether it’s friendly or menacing, it should translate well into your rendered image.
Aside from character figures and creatures, concept artists also make artwork in Photoshop to create the stage around the characters. This will involve creating a landscape, flora, and even atmosphere. How the environment is pictured will influence how the figure moves through and behaves in it.
Characters will often have props like weapons or vehicles that will behave differently and be an entirely different object apart from the figure itself. Part of this art is creating these props to fit the character and possibly look unique from other props from other existing animations or books.
How to improve your concept art skills
If you are already into concept art, there are a few practices you can try to become better as an artist. Even professional artists swear by these practices as they keep you sharp and keep your creative juices flowing.
It does not matter whether you use the conventional pen and paper or the modern tablet and stylus. What is important is that you constantly get your hands and fingers moving. Sketching regularly maintains and even improves your drawing skills, which are essential when learning concept art, even if you intend to do it digitally.
Sketching not only improves your manual skill, but also your cognitive and creative abilities. When randomly sketching in a relaxed state, you become free to explore all possibilities when it comes to creating characters. You will also learn about what combinations work and which ones do not without the added pressure of receiving critique or having to make something that is perfect.
Figure drawing is the act of replicating the human form. Since the human body has lots of varieties in terms of shape, size, color, details, and figure, this gives you a lot to practice on. Additionally, once you feel comfortable creating any body type, you can move on to creating postures and positions that the human body takes on as it moves and functions.
The best way to learn figure drawing is by drawing from real life. You can take on drawing lessons either in person or online so that there is a professional who can guide you, correct you, and suggest improvements so that you can perfect your figure drawing skills.
Just like sketching, while you intend to create art digitally, having the basic knowledge and skill about figures will give you good guidance on whether or not a persona looks natural in their stance and/or form.
A portrait features a person or character’s face. Sometimes, it may involve the neck, hands, and shoulders, but the main feature of a portrait is the face. Just as you must learn figure drawing as a digital artist, you must also learn to make portraits. They can either be reproduction of photos, or products of your imagination.
Just like figure drawing, portrait-making skills enable you to know how to make your characters more life-like. They allow you to not just draw semblances but also expressions and emotions -both of which are important aspects of concept art, as they give identity and personality to a certain character.
Animals have a different likeness, structure, and movement from humans. Some of the characters you may need to professionally create in concept art are animals or have animal-like physical qualities. That is why it is also important to learn how to draw animals.
Don’t limit your drawing abilities to the living. Sometimes, you may have to create machine-like characters, robots, weapons, and vehicles to complete your concept. It is helpful to have an understanding of how to draw operational machines in order to create something unique and of your own.
You can do this by practicing on cars. You don’t need to stop with the exterior. You can pop that hood and draw the engine itself. Afterward, you can move on to construction vehicles, tools, and even military vehicles for more inspiration.
Creating landscapes–mountains, valleys, cities, and even indoor spaces, is just as important as the persona itself. Putting your character in a stage creates a situation, a setting that can explain much better how your character feels, what they’re doing, or their motivations for their actions. It enables you to further bring your character to life.
Composition is a vital aspect of any artwork. In design, when you compose, you “put together” different pieces, details, and elements so that they are cohesive, functional, and beautiful. As a concept artist, you should at least have the fundamentals of composition in order to create characters, sceneries, and environments that are believable and make sense.
Other technical aspects
While you practice your sketches, figures, and compositions, make sure that you are practicing the technique as well. Practice sketches are the perfect avenue to see what works in terms of layers, colors, shadows, material, light, hues, composition, details, perspective, and focus among many others. Let your creativity flow naturally through you, but try to apply these artistic concepts to ensure that you are indeed improving.
Best Photoshop courses for aspiring concept artists
If you like to learn how to make concept art in Photoshop from scratch out of ideas, scripts, and books, you might enjoy being a concept artist. As an artist, you need to equip yourself with the right skills and knowledge to create designs based on other people’s concepts.
On top of that, you also need to have at least a basic knowledge of Photoshop. You should know it at least well enough to put your imagination into action and create characters, creatures, landscapes, and props.
Here are some of the top picks from Skill Success for learning how to make concept art in Photoshop:
You cannot do digital painting and learn how to make concept art in Photoshop without a piece of basic knowledge about the software. This online course teaches you just that. It aims to be there for people who want to try their hand at digital painting but feel intimidated by Photoshop.
If you are already doing lots of traditional artwork on paper or canvas, learning the fundamentals of Photoshop will help you transfer or render your ideas digitally as well. The course walks you through the basic functions and tools with beginner-friendly lessons that are easy to follow.
If you already have a basic understanding of Photoshop and just want to boost your digital art creation skills, this course is perfect for you. It walks you through an entire highly-detailed process of rendering a character. It’s like learning from someone in action.
You will need a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet for this lesson since you will be creating your persona from scratch digitally—from rough sketch to painting up until refinement. You will slowly make your character come to life.
This course mainly targets artists who want to make original digital paintings. However, the same skill set is also highly valuable if you are an artist, as your work involves character and design painting.
If you feel like you don’t have a natural talent for creating artwork on canvas or paper, this course will work just as well. In fact, it is even better because it will provide you with well-tested and calculated techniques to make good-looking images and paintings without having to hold a brush.
Just as its title promises, by the end of the course, you will have learned how to make professional-level digital paintings quickly and easily.
Ready to make your first concept art in Photoshop? Click here to get started.