Concept Art: The Power of the Polygonal Select Tool

Sometimes the lack of technology opens new ways of doing things, as I’ve experienced lately. Unfortunately, my Wacom tablet of five years decided to give up the ghost, and now I’m researching my next drawing hardware acquisition. At the rate I’ve been going though, I may not need a tablet for awhile, and it’s largely thanks to the polygonal select tool in Photoshop.

The polygonal select tool, coupled with the different shape tools in Photoshop, can be used to create decent concept art. Here is a piece I finished recently, called One Got In, that I built using no tablet work at all.

OneGotIn
While I did not use a tablet for this piece, I did use a sketch in ink and toned grey paper for my base. After transferring the sketch photo in Photoshop, I realized that the original didn’t quite adhere to the rule of thirds, so I expanded the width of the document and moved its epicenter, the speared heart, over towards the bottom right of the grid. It’s very important in concept art to make sure that your art maintains the rule of thirds, otherwise you end up with a piece that’s sterile in composition.

ogiSketch

For a quick refresher, the rule of thirds is a compositional standard that successful artists use to determine the layout of their art. If you want to know if a piece fits the rule of thirds, divide the art of your choice into even thirds, like below. Ideally, you want the focus of your piece to fall on one of the four intersections, displayed by the orange dots. Do not put the focus of your piece in the center of the thirds, as it will create a bullseye effect.

ruleofthirds

Moving on from there, I blocked out the basic shapes from the sketch using Photoshop’s shape tools and of course, the glorious polygonal selection tool. The polygonal selection tool, if you provide enough points, allows you to make irregular shapes that you can’t make with the generic shape tools. For instance, I built the heart and spear using the polygonal selection tool and the paint bucket tool.

OneGotIn copy

In addition to making delicate shapes, the polygonal selection tool is great for getting clean, straight lines for perspective. I used this tool to make sure the sides of the pillars were in correct perspective, and that the shape of the cast light was correct. I was unsatisfied with the mood that the lighting created at this point, so I changed the location of the main light source to create a haunting atmosphere.

Progress2

There are a few catches you need to be aware of when working with the polygonal selection tool. Unless you’ve set the feathering option of the polygonal selection tool to an amount greater than 0px, you will have some very harsh lines, sometimes jagged. Make sure you have feather set to 1px, or use the Gaussian blur filter at low settings to keep your edges from looking rough. Also, be sure you are working on an empty layer when you are making shapes with the polygonal selection tool, or else you might override previous artwork. Here’s the finished piece again.

OneGotIn

Despite these minor inconveniences, I remain impressed by the power of such a simple tool. I’ve decided to use it to develop future pieces, like the new concept I’m working on, The Silence That Follows. If you have any questions regarding my techniques or want to learn more (or send me a useful tip!), please send me a message or comment below. I am more than happy to help other artists along their journey. Thanks again for reading!

TSTFprogress1

Post commandeered by the US Claire Force