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December 12th, 2008

Pirate King – from sketch to finish: Part II

Once the layout is approved, I’m ready to finish the drawing. Here you can see the perspective grid I placed on a separate layer to guide my castle’s construction. I didn’t have it this prominent as I was drawing, but ghosted back as a guide — it’s intensified here so you can see it. There are no straight lines in the horizontal plane of this grid except for one major axis along the front of the parapet wall; they’re all subtly curved. That’s because I wanted to feel as if we were floating just above Drizzt — that required a close vantage. In order to sell that, the rest of the view had to be ever-so-slightly fish-eyed (that’s the way things look in the real world, by the way; you can see it from where you sit if you turn your head and study the parallel lines where the wall meets the floor and ceiling. Or stand in the middle of a straight road and look in both directions: how can those two perfectly straight lines meet on either horizon?)


With all the elements in place, I first convert the grayscale drawing to colored “underpainting” in Photoshop, using a combination of brushes set in the “color” mode, Color Balance, and other tools. Then I take it back into Painter for most of the rest of its transition, beginning with transparent Digital Water “glazes” in Corel. The Digital Water brushes are intuitive and very useful for blocking in big areas of color. My first task was to distinguish the warm and cool areas from each other. This “underpainting” would show through everything that followed to one degree or another. When painting traditionally, in oils, this would be an acrylic layer, perhaps in brighter colors than I used here:



Then I’m ready to start detailing, beginning, usually, with the most distant parts of the environment:


The process for me is to continue to build up color with glazes, then pop the highlights with opaque color when everything else is resolved. I worked the same way in oils: transparent darks, rich opaque highlights:



Since publication, I decided that I should go back and brighten the picture, even though it was too late to salvage some horrendous printing on the actual book (Wizards contracted a new printer, I am told … see what you get when you go cheap?)


Image © Wizards of the Coast. Text © Todd Lockwood

Next up: Details of Drizzt

Posted by Todd in Art!, Blog Home


This entry was posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008 at 3:59 pm and is filed under Art!, Blog Home. You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

16 Responses to “Pirate King – from sketch to finish: Part II”

  1. Steven says:

    Very nice, Todd. If you’re in the need later of more photo reference, I can try following my black kittens around the house. Still, Duncan and Mouse are pretty hard to photograph without high flash as their black fur soaks up so much detail. Still, if you need it, just ask.


  2. Ben says:

    Awesome work Todd! It makes me want to pull out my stuff and draw. It’s really cool to see your methods of progress and inspiration. I’m really excited to see some of the rumored graphic novel stuff 😉

  3. Samantha says:

    I’ve always had trouble with perspective but that line trick you used might just help me out! Amazing art, as always. I enjoy your stuff very much. I hope you post more of these tutorials, they’re very nicely done. :]

    Your cover art is one of the main reasons I buy the Drizzt books now. Great to see how you make them.

  4. isaac marzioli says:

    terrific finished piece! It’s incredible to see how you built up the original roughs into such a fine illustration. Keep up the good work!

  5. Tim Durning says:

    Thanks so much for the in depth look at how you build up your pieces. I had seen the piece that was up on and thought I was getting a good look back then, but this has been a really great demonstration.

  6. kevin from minneapolis says:

    Interesting. Are you saying the cover printed darker than you intended? I was just looking at it the other day and thinking it rather dark.

  7. Adam says:

    I’m a really big fan, and it is absolutely fascinating to see how you work. I’m actually really surprised at your approach! Thanks for the post!

  8. Florian Stitz says:

    Thank you very much for this great guide. I’m using Painter myself and was always wondering how you achieve this beautiful look like in oil-paintings.
    Fantastic artwork again…of course. For me your art belongs to Drizzt as well as R.A. Salvatore.

    Perhaps you have some more great tips for using painter this way? :-)


  9. Todd says:

    Yes: very much darker than I intended. “New printers,” they told me. Oy, and also vey.

  10. Syarul says:

    now I wonder why the cover is damn dark. I bought the paperback cover and wondering why the cover is so dark. Are the recent recession let off with a cheaper printing production?

  11. Sandy says:

    I saw the horrendous printing job, got the book for Christmas and like the whole lower left corner is totally black. Glad I get to see the whole picture as it was actually drawn/painted :)

  12. Gwen says:

    Mr. Lockwood, I remember when I first saw your work back in the mid 90’s and I saw “Blinding Angel”. I fell in LOVE!

    What a beautiful piece she was/is! At the time I was an illustrator/Artist (still am an artist) and could appreciate so much the work that goes into illustration work. It appears that she was done in oils and from what I have read about your work I am guessing the underpainting was done in acrylics, to a point? Did you use any drying mediums like liquin with your oils?

    Just a beautiful piece! Great to see your blog. Thanks so much!

  13. JennyD says:

    I can’t believe it’s not oil.

  14. Todd says:

    Forian: I do, but you may have to catch me at a convention, when I’m doing a live demo. Perhaps one day I will have the opportunity to make a DVD …

  15. Jacque says:

    I gather you’re doing all this digitally? What’s your computing settup like?

  16. Todd says:

    Jacque: The long answer to your question can be found on this page:

    Specifically here:

    Short answer: Big Mac. :o)