Hello! My name is Gabriel Juarez. I’m an aspiring concept artist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. In this article, I will discuss a powerful and new process I learned during my mentorship at CGVerse that involves various efficient 2D and 3D techniques - kitbash, trim texturing, photobash, and overpaint in Blender and Photoshop.
To start, we found references and inspiration. I needed some examples of design and composition to follow so I would have some guidance. This research phase would ensure that I stayed on track and designated a clear direction to follow for the piece. After collecting all of the references I needed, I searched for some models to kitbash and derived various building components from them which I could assemble to create my scene. With both kitbash assets and simple geometries, I made a blockout of the piece.
At this point, the build is very flexible. It’s easy to change shapes and move them around. The blockout is an essential step, since from here on out you are just building on top of this guide. If you overlook the blockout stage, you might spend hours fixing some kinks that could have been ironed out early on with a bit of care.
For this piece, the transition from blockout to final render was fairly fluid. I slowly injected assets and textures into the blockout and in time it evolved into a presentable city. One of the techniques my mentor introduced to me here was trim texturing. It is an efficient method of texturing which enables you to create basic architecture assets quickly. I searched on the web for images relevant to the architectural style I was aiming for and compiled them on one large sheet. This would serve as the trim texture from which various assets in the scene would derive. I was able to accomplish the majority of the texturing I needed with only two trim textures, one for more lavish palace buildings, and another for some of the simpler houses.
Since we will matte paint and overpaint later on in the process, these quickly fabricated assets could stay plain and messy. They simply serve to give a push towards making your piece more convincing, and employing trim texturing in the 3D part of the process will reduce some of the matte painting load.
After all of modeling, texturing, and lighting, we render out the piece in Cycles. I found an HDRI to simulate dusk lighting on the build. Now we can move on to 2D to introduce some details and VFX.
I searched for photos that would aid in adding some life to the scene and making it more believable overall. This involved some figures, trees, carpets, markets, and some buildings to mix into the background. One benefit of adding many photos to your piece is that they will help conceal any roughness behind them. The more time you spend here to layer on some photos the more convincing your piece will become.
Once everything is in place we can spend some more time with the scene, applying paintover, adding VFX, and post-processing. This is the point when you really spend time on bringing everything into the same world. One tip my mentor taught me at this point was that the steps we take in post-processing can help everything merge together.
Some of the tweaks we applied were adding a chromatic aberration effect, adding a subtle blur to the pixels, which helped remove sharp edges and break up some of the different resolutions, and adding a film grain, which compressed the low values, helping some of the darker elements blend together.
Piece of Advice
Art-tech is constantly evolving, so always have an ear open for new and different workflows. It is easy to become used to a particular painting method, but if you stay open-minded to emergent technologies, it will help you!