Sci-fi motorcycle concept art scene design tutorial and walk-through.

Motorcycle Scene Design Walkthrough

In Concept 20XX Projects by AndrewLeave a Comment

I recently finished this scene design and instead of just posting the final image I wanted to share with you a step-by-step walkthrough revealing how this project was completed. I originally conceived of this shot as story element revolving around the rider who is racing along a road at night on a motorcycle he crafted himself. The bike is made using mostly recognizable parts but with distinct sci-fi/fantasy elements, including a kind of force field that shields him from rain. I wanted this bike to look rugged and utilitarian.

I began this project by focusing on the design of the motorcycle, which was modelled in Maya. After the 3D work was complete I moved into the Photoshop and digital painting phase.

I start in Maya with a very rough layout of simple shapes. Much of the design work is done from this side perspective since I plan for this to be the camera angle in the final image. The arrangement of the piped frame is very important to the overall design and is laid out with curves. And the folded metal pieces near the front of the frame are modelled roughly here.

The proportions of the bike are crucial and I intentionally exaggerate the length of the tail section to place more of an emphasis on the rear wheel, which also provides space to enlarge the rear wheel.

At this point I add more detail (seat, handlebars) and shorten the length of the midsection and seat. I also start laying out elements of the drivetrain including a curve that will be used to make the belt.

Again, more detail, specifically at the wheels. At this stage I’m figuring out how all the parts are connected to the bike in a believable way.

More detail and refinement and I start to think about colour by adding basic materials to every mesh. The 3D modelling is nearly complete.

I add lights to the scene in Maya and render the final model using Mental Ray. Before rendering, I adjust the angle of the front end so the stanchions / suspension are more upright and I move the whole front section closer to the seat.

An important part of this scene is the rain and I create a simple particle simulation in Maya to see how rain might move around the force field bubble.

Here’s a wide shot of the entire 3D scene with all the layers made visible.

I render out the rain several times from the main camera angle so I can use them as a reference in photoshop. Here is an example.

And here is another example of the rain rendered.

The final render is the transparent force field so I can place it over the bike in Photoshop.

Now everything starts to come together as I begin composing the scene in Photoshop. I overlay the rain and force field bubble layers over the motorcycle and make the background black. I also roughly paint in the rider.

I experiment with a very wide aspect ratio with the intention to crop the image later on. I start painting in more rain using a simple scatter brush and I add tone to the rider.

Here is the single drop I used as a base for the scatter brush.

The rain drops don’t look very good when they’re initially painted so I apply motion blur and play with their transparency. I also mask much of the rain moving around the bubble and mostly leave it visible at the front end where the motorcycle’s headlamp is located. Each wheel is moved to its own separate layer where I apply a radial motion blur.

I crop the image to a 21:9 ratio and focus my attention on the rider, removing his helmet (don’t try this at home) and painting in detail all over. I also experimented with some motion-blurred plants next to the road in the background but later decided to remove them.

One very useful technique when digital painting is to flip the canvas horizontally. When I do that here it gives me a fresh perspective and for the first time I see the bike moving from left to right instead of right to left. I add more detail to the rider and start painting on top of the rendered bike in order to marry the style of the bike and rider.

The canvas gets flipped back and I lay more paint over the bike, particularly highlights. I also change the light balance of the entire image to boost the contrast and put a blue-to-red gradient over the scene, setting the opacity mode for this gradient layer to ‘soft light’. The scene is almost complete…

Final image: 

And here is the final image. To finish things up I tone down the gradient layer, add more blur to much of the rain, paint in additional detail on both the rider and bike and crop the entire image one last time to create a tighter shot.

Here is a close-up of the bike and rider.

Thanks for following this walkthrough – I hope you got something out of it!

– Andy

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