Toy Tech: Concept Sketch Demo (Part 2 – Tonal Shading)



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Regardless of your field of design, conceptual art is presented in line, grayscale or full glorious color depending on the stage of the design process and the type of presentation required.

In film development, most often designs are visualized in rough pencil or digital line and grayscale sketches first, so the form can be evaluated without color swaying the decision. Then, once the form is perfected, multiple color versions are developed to bring the design to the next level, clearly exploring several possible themes and variations.

In the toy industry, presentations are usually grayscale or color, but once the concept is approved, the initial digital modeling stages are tonal to concentrate on the form. Because of our fast passed industry deadlines, my design direction sketches for modelers are done on the fly and need to be very accurate but quickly rendered.

By the time we send my notes to the factories in China, I will have already rendered line art, tonal sketches and full color images of each design to make the production process run as smooth as possible.

With this in mind, my personal workflow generally renders the initial layout and design in line art and tonal shading, using custom digital markers and gradients to render the image. Markers go way back in film and industrial design, still remaining very popular as the go to rendering technique in many industries, best taught at the Art Center of California.

With the advent of digital tools the same direct approach holds true, but instead of smelling marker fumes all day we simply use the computer and Wacom Cintiq to get the job done. Also, the computers allow for the greatest design tool in our modern age—command z!

As detailed in Concept Art Demo (Part 1), the brush control settings will help you customize many types of brush variants, allowing for you to choose the look and feel that best suits your personal style and technique.

Painting gradients over digital markers adds refined shading to the image, clearly defining the areas of light and shadow, while grouping complex individual shapes into unified groups for better organization of information and stronger visual impact.

Once your line and shading are to the level of finish you want, you are now free to design the color theme to make your concept come to life. Why fight a battle on multiple fronts, such as drawing, shading and designing color all at the same time when you can simplify the process?

Rendering concept art in bite sized stages allows you to better concentrate your resources to develop a strong and accurate drawing, then shade the line art to create a three-dimensional form factor. Once everything is in place, develop just the right color theme to give your idea emotional impact.

Remember, however, every stroke you make shading or painting your image should be done in a stylized, purposeful way, bringing vibrant energy into the visual communication of your conceptual ideation.

Continued Next Time . . .

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