The third in my Boss Battles series, this one depicts the epic battle between Link and Giant Aquatic Anemone Morpha.
Also for a little context, here is the battle from the game.
1. The Rough Sketch
Admittedly, it’s sloppy. I start by doing a rough sketch to establish how the scene is going to look when finished. I try and use basic shapes to determine the layout and balance of the picture.
2. Blocking In The Colour
One great thing about painting in Photoshop is working in layers. (TIP: When working in Photoshop, USE LAYERS!)
In this case I used a layer for the sketch, a layer for the background, a layer for Link and a layer for Morpha (That big eyeball thing). SPOILER ALERT!: I’m going to use a lot more layers before I’m finished. I start with a hard brush at around 60-75 opacity. This allows for simple colour blends. The point is to start setting the areas of colour and what the pallet will be for the picture.
I added more layers and continued to fill in the colour. As I start to add more detail, I start using a finer brush with lower opacity.
3. The Background
Layers! Yay! To work on the background, I turned off the foreground layers so I could work on the unobstructed background scene to my heart’s content.
….Which, as it turned out, would take longer than I anticipated.
The detailing on the wall panels turned out to be… um… detailed. So I decided to copy one panel and duplicate it across the wall so that it would be consistent. Yeah I’m lazy.
So I realized that my perspective was way off. That’s what I get for working on a tiled room without establishing my vanishing points. Also I had intentionally drawn the lines on an arc to give the impression of a wide angel lens distortion. This made it even harder to to work on perspective.
I cleaned up the lines and used a softer brush and the Mixer brush to smooth out the colours.
4. The Foreground
Yeah yeah. I’ll get back to the background later. In the mean time, let’s play with water.
I went back to the Mixer Brush again and smoothed out the colours on the water. Water is smooth. Except when it splashes.
On the splashes I used mostly white and lots of speckles.
Told you I’d get back to the background! I merged the background layers into a Smart Object and used the Liquify to warp the room to extremes and send the far corner way into the back. As I smoothed out the colour, I toyed with the idea with exaggerating the whirlpooling of the …tentacles? Tendrils? Appendages? As well as making the water more turbulent.
Masking is a great way to add transparency as it allows you to selectively choose what areas are transparent. I faded out the middles of the …blobs? so You can see the background through it. But that’s not all!
I also used the liquify filter to distort the background to make it look like the water itself was distorting the image.
6. The Details
Bring out the fine brush! Zooming in and taking time with some finer details. The chain was done in Illustrator and distorted into perspective in Photoshop. I added some highlights to give the chain depth. I also started adding the details to Link so he wouldn’t just be a blob of colours.
7. The Finishing Touches
There were a lot of finishing touches but one of the biggest was adjusting the lighting.
On the background layer, I added a black-to-blue-to-black horizontal gradient overlay and set the blend mode to Overlay.
This gives the whole scene that bluish tint and makes the whole thing feel more aquatic.
I also used some adjustments to alter the brightness and contrast on certain layers. I also added a heavy shadow to the far corner of the room. If the light is coming from the water, the corners of the room would be the darkest. It also helps emphasize the more important objects that contrast sharper against the dark.
The water reflections on the walls and ceiling are done by just painting wavy lines criss-cross into a grid, distorting them a bit with Liquify then gently masking them out randomly so some spots are brighter than others. After that I set them to Screen so that the perform like light on the background.
And That’s it!