Matching Concept Art Through Surfacing

As people who love animation, we not only love watching animated films and shorts, but we love looking at behind the scenes clips and concept art books from our favorite movies and shows. Hell, we’ve got bookcases full of them!

But how many times did you see pre-production and design work that looked nothing like the finished film? While some productions successfully capture the life and energy of production designs, too many times the process of taking an idea though the pipeline means that it gets polished, shaped and conformed to an aesthetic that is “easier” to build or animate, especially when working in 3D. But when you take the time to work out a process that allows you to stay true to the source material, you end up with a bit of animation that is elevated to a higher aesthetic level.

Farm concept art


Haley Kannall takes us through her process of transforming the bright and vibrant two dimensional designs from renowned artist Iryna Korshak. Haley’s main focus in this project is trying to keep the 3D model looking as close to Iryna’s source image as possible.

As we saw in the previous videos about Preparing for Animation and Preparing for Rigging, before doing any in depth work, start with planning. Haley feels that by writing out a plan, you’ll find a much higher level of success than if you had done otherwise.

Deconstruct the Art

Shading in BlenderWhen receiving a piece of concept art and a model to texture, it’s important to sit down with the art (preferably over coffee) and get to know it. One of the challenges of taking someone else’s concept art and matching it is adapting your style and workflow to theirs. By breaking down all of the concept art’s pieces and organizing them into major themes or observations, you can understand what the concept artist’s intentions are. From there you can dig down further into observations about each major point and how they were made.

One At A Time

After deconstructing the art, it can be tempting to try and tackle everything at the same time, but diving right in tends to jumble up a lot of issues and makes it harder to dissect any particular problem. Going through your major observations one at a time and figuring out a solution for each will make sure that you can identify any problems ahead of time and cut them off before they become a headache.

Build On Top Of Each Layer

Blender shadingBy working through each piece one at a time, you can also build on top of each piece and have them compliment and reinforce each other. While working on the surfacing, Haley used an emissive shader to achieve the flat graphic feeling of the design, but that also allowed the colors to be bright and vibrant. Breaking down the concept art into digestible pieces allows you to build on top of each one and have them play off of each other, making it easier for you to make something beautiful.

Talk About It

When working with a concept artist, it’s important to make sure you are translating the intentions of the original art to your 3D model. Rather than staying isolated from the artist, if you have a question, talk to them. Ask them what their intentions were or for a quick critique. Most of them time the original artist will see where things don’t match up and give you notes about how to fix it. Reaching out will also allow the original artist to see new ideas and help them define their intentions in a more concise manner as well.

Matching Concept Art


Barry T. Smith
Barry T. Smith
As Nimble Collective's Content Marketing Ninja, Barry is responsible for bringing Nimble news and goodness to all the animating boy and girls of the world. And he does it through the power of the Internet, and not a rickety 'ol sleigh and tiny reindeer.

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