Monday, January 17, 2011

Character: Caffeine Fairy (+ making of)

So here's a "real" piece of concept art this time, not just some doodle.
This is the Caffeine Fairy, a lovely and helpful spirit that gets you going in the morning. Or afternoon. Or whenever you need a good shot of wake-up magic.

Click to see the full image, and a making of including sketches and a wallpaper!

So here's a few more details regarding this illustration, for everyone that might be interested. If you can suggest something better, then please tell me, and if this teaches you something, I'm all the happier.

Have fun!

As you probably will have guessed by now, her design is based entirely on coffee, espresso, sugar, cream, mocca beans and so on.
The main factor was the classic Italian macchinetta, those little metal stovetop pots you use to brew your morning coffee.
The obvious parts are the hat and the skirt, which are pretty much just faux-metal imitations of the macchinetta elements. A less obvious idea would be her hairdo: Considering how the air and liquid inside these teapots pushes the coffee through a narrow funnel, I thought it would be cute if her looks represented that. So she got her narrow neck and the big, cloud-like hair, "pushing" against the hat.

Other elements include the single black glove (see: macchinetta handle), the sugar cube handbag and the cloud/vertical tunnel motif on her top.

Bonus tidbit: Her face is loosely based on that of Sofia Loren. You can still see it in the early sketches, but later I decided to change the shape of her lips around a bit.

After some failed attempts at copying from a photo, I tried modelling the whole image from scratch as a two-layered pencil drawing. The second, red layer works as a pre-inking stage, allowing to determine lines without the finality of ink.

The ink pretty much follows the second pencil layer, but still contains a lot of problematic areas (right hand, both feet, bag makes no sense). Not a problem though - there are always areas that need to be created from scratch when doing the lighting.
Lastly, some basic shadows were added with a soft pencil, and the hand-drawn part of the image was done.

(click to enlarge.)

The coloring stage is pretty much self-explanatory, if only because I don 't think I've discovered great, time-saving tricks yet.

As a first step, the basic silhouette is colored in, with the ink layer set to multiply. This is going to be the only color layer for the character.

After locking opacity, the basic and general shadows are blocked in. (I wanted to keep the image relatively dark and brown-ish, so I saved the highlights until the end.) The broader your strokes are in this stage, the better. This is also when you should think about the materials and surfaces, and of course the primary light source.

The third step is rendering and refining.
Many people decide not to stray away too far from the colors they blocked in, but I'm not an expert with values yet and like to play around with the contrast a bit more. I wanted her face to attract the eye first, her skirt second, so I gave those two areas the only blue tint in the image (blue on brown is extremely attention-grabbing).

(click to enlarge.)

Note how I kept cheating around her neck. Also, the position of the arms and size of the hands have been modified ever so slightly in the final image:

The background is relatively lazy, but sufficient as a means of contrast. Also, I have to say that I like the "soft" feel of the mocca beans, and they help close the image pretty well.

I hope you like it!
If you're interested in how the picture looks at working resolution, here's a wallpaper-sized sample at 100 % zoom!

1600 x 1200

1600 x 900

Thanks and see you soon!


  1. Wicked work, think I'll have a bit of a look around =) and a great walk through as well.