Royal Palace: Overpainting Technique

Royal Palace: Overpainting Technique

Adam Isailovic discussed the overpainting technique in Photoshop, talked about the approach to working in Blender that he learned during the course at CG Verse and shared some tips on how to improve your art. 


Hello! My name is Adam Isailovic, I am a self-taught artist from a small town called Obrenovac, currently residing in Belgrade, capital of Serbia. I am a freelance illustrator and concept artist, and as a hobby, I do some game and level design, as well as playing bass guitar. I was always driven to the creative side, as a kid, I made plenty of comic books, TMNT fan fiction novels as they were popular back in the days, etc. I’ve also started with a bit of 3d, working in old 3d Studio software, where 10 seconds animation rendered for a month.

In my late teenage years, I’ve started building my own world, and still working on it for the past 20 or so years, it is a significant size project called Project: Antharra. But, to be completely honest, it was all amateur work, and with the coming of the Internet, I finally started working seriously on my art, and I am honing my skills ever since.  I’ve started with fundamentals, searching for useful videos on YouTube, and learned a lot, especially from Feng Zhu videos, which helped me out understand art and introduced me to things I’ve never thought about. As a self-taught artist, and being deuteranomaly color blind, it was a challenge to overcome many difficulties, but with patience and practice, I overcome most of them but still have to learn a lot. It is much slower, at least for me, to develop skill being self-taught, especially in the era before the internet, but now it is far easier. I didn’t work so far on any notable and known projects, but, hopefully, that will change in the future.

I finally took a course in 2019, with CG Verse and Christopher Schiefer as a mentor, who helped me tremendously improve and discover new stuff to enhance my art. It is a great one-on-one mentorship, which I gladly would recommend to anyone. I wanted to learn more about 3d and environment art, and there is the first time I started working with Blender. Because of my previous knowledge of 3d software (I mainly just had fun with 3ds Max and old 3d Studio) I’ve picked up Blender really fast, and it’s new 2.8 interface just clicked with me. 

About the Workflow

During the mentorship course at CG Verse, It was the first time I wanted to try the 3d to overpaint technique, just to experiment as I wanted the final image to be more “painterly” looking. My mentor agreed to teach me the basics of Blender and how I could incorporate it to suit my style. I’ve decided to go on a grand scale and take my time to finish this piece. After the initial month of mentorship, I took three more months to finish the Royal Palace scene, with occasional consultation with my mentor.

I was inspired by many environment artists, but I am not sure which one I would point out with this kind of technique, from time to time, I saw 3d paintings with photo bashing and overpaints, but no one in particular. For my environment art, which I didn’t do much, or at all before, this was groundbreaking since I could use Blender to overcome color blindness, at least in some regards. I can also use it while I am painting 2d stuff since I can have a color and light reference.

Starting the Project

I don’t think they are that detailed since they are quite simple, with a low count of polygons used. The focus was on the assets management and architectural language of real-life buildings, cathedrals, castles, etc. Basically, I was studying a lot of different architectures of the world from online photographs, collecting references and trying to understand how it all works, how it would be built, and why. I was also trying to figure out how all that would work with the piece I was working on. As for the assets management, it basically means to do a few architectural elements as single assets and then piece them all together into a coherent building like a big puzzle, or lego.

I’ve had the idea of a castle in a ground hole with many bridges and round walkways for a while, and this was the right way to present it. Many different styles of architecture are used with simple rules, like repetitiveness, to enhance the style of the palace, and make a sense of it, and it’s scale.

Working in Blender

The biggest leap was the understanding of architecture and lighting, as well as using contrast to emphasize a focal point and drive the viewer into the painting. Blender helped me with color schemes with its rendering engine, and it helped me play around with values while doing everything around the 3d model, cliff, town on it, many waterfalls, and, of course, background mountains, which I have all done with photo bashing and overpaint in Photoshop.

Because I didn’t do any sketches for this, I used Blender as a sketch tool to build up shapes of the palace, really big ones, plain boxes, and cylinders, but gave me the solid foundation of what I’ve imagined. Once I got the basic setup right, I moved to basic lighting setup and, after that, I started working on assets, big and small walls, decorations, roofs, central building, which had the most details.

It was so nice to have Blender to use for it since I have figured it out fast, and its workflow is intuitive enough for me to work fast on assets. I tried to make models as simple as possible and made a lot of mistakes and trial and errors until I figured out the best way to make them useful. That is why I worked for four months on it. 


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For Royal Palace, I only used free materials and triplanar mapping and then emphasized everything in the final overpaint. My knowledge of texturing is good, but for this piece, I didn’t make any. I’ve only used basic texture to create the color palette, which I would build on later with correct lighting provided by Blender. Now, in newer versions and with my new knowledge over the past few months, it’s even easier.

Setting Up

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For the final 3d render, I’ve basically used Cycles with a Filmic color management scheme and added large objects far from the palace as clouds, which was later changed during the overpaint phase. I’ve used one of many free HDRI images for lightning I’ve needed that I enhanced in Photoshop later. For this painting, I didn’t do anything particularly special, everything was pretty basic.

I did a lot of tests with different textures of walls, roofs, gold, which were the three materials I have chosen to go for. I did fast photoshop enhancement tests just to see how the workflow would go, and feel like both, with Blender and later, with Photoshop. I used simple fogs, overlays, and background sky to try to see how this approach would translate for the final painting.

Creating Paint Overs

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It is a tedious part, but my guess, adds to the painting a lot. Firstly, I try to find photos suitable for the location I imagined for 3d objects, in this case, the palace, to be in. Once I’ve done that, I’ve started researching into temples which are embedded into stone cliffs, and used those to spread the many openings and pathways behind the palace. Once I am satisfied with the overall feel of the shapes, I start painting over, part by part, using only two, maybe three brushes. I’ve changed a lot of lighting to suit the painting better, with the same method of trial and error as before.

Piece of Advice

My best advice is that you don’t wait, or try, just do it. I’ve waited for too long to use it, and I didn’t regret my decision at all. There is plenty of tutorials about almost anything on the internet, and just stick to it, practice and don’t worry, everything will fall into place. Work hard and don’t give up!

Adam Isailovic, Concept Artist & Illustrator 

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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