Etch's Sketches - Traditional vs. Digital


Greetings again friends! Etch is back with another look into the Concept Art process for the freshly re-branded "The Mechanical World of Dr. Gearbox."

Last week I treated you all to a short story about the inception of my position here on the Gearbox crew, and the creation of our Flamehawk creature. Today won't be the day you get to see his 3D model, but I'd like to use this opportunity to highlight the transition that I made between traditional and digital art.

You may have noticed that all of the concepts that I have shown thus far have been drawn up the old fashioned way - by hand. Every day I hefted a number of sketchbooks, pens, markers, reference books, etc. in a backpack with me to work. On my breaks and lunches I'd figure out what I needed and I would head out to draw. I'm sure I was quite the spectacle some days with a myriad of supplies that consumed a single table in the courtyard.

It quickly became apparent to me that I needed to upgrade. In addition to saving costs for replacing used up materials, working digitally would allow me to help out in other areas of the development process. I found my old tablet, but it was over 10 years old and really wasn't up to the task. I did a bunch of research and settled upon an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil (not a sponsor).

Once I had them in my possession, I almost immediately felt intimidated. I hadn't worked digitally in around a decade, and now I was forcing myself to maintain a certain quality/style in an entirely new medium. My first attempts were... rough.

It took some time before I started feeling more comfortable, but it has pretty drastically changed the way that I work. Anyone out there who might be hesitant to make the leap to digital, I would highly recommend it. There are a multitude of videos that I've found on YouTube covering ProCreate (the program that I use to do all of my digital work for the game... also not a sponsor), and other digital art tips. Having features like "Undo" quite literally at your fingertips (It's a two-finger tap in ProCreate), and the ability to work in Layers make this an immensely helpful tool. If anyone has any interest in me going into the more detailed stuff about creating a piece, please let us know!

Over time I started developing a routine of videos and hands-on practice. After a couple more shaky concepts, we came to the point where we needed to define Dr. Gearbox. This is the point I started progressing the fastest.

As you can see, things were still a little shaky. There's some layer blending in there, some brushed shading, the spring looks like a spring. It was starting to actually resemble the image that I had in mind when I started out.

It was around this time that the game really started to take shape. We had Dr. Gearbox and some of his closest companions visualized. We were adding new members to the team pretty regularly. It was also around this time that the story itself was evolving and the development of the amulet that you see in the logo came to be. Although I had previously found myself drawing primarily little critters and characters, I make sure that all of my warm-up stuff includes at least a little bit of everything.

And that brings us more or less to today. The banner on our home page is a full painting done in Procreate. As are the current images that you see of Botley and Dr. Gearbox around the site. I'm still trucking away daily, practicing and sketching, to bring the team more ideas for characters, web images, environmental objects, loot, layouts, UI, etc. More on some of that stuff at a later time.

So to wrap all this together, I thought that for today's feature I'd take the original Flamehawk sketch, and bring him into the digital realm.

I've learned a lot in the past 6 months, so I thought it would be a cool exercise. He's always been a bit of a personal favorite of mine, so I thought he could use a little love. To make it cooler, I've got a nice little time-lapse here for you if you want to watch it all come together!

Thanks for taking a bit to look behind the scenes at our game! We're cranking away at this game, and would love to have you follow us along the way. If you have any specific questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to comment below or shoot us a message on the site.