Friday, June 12, 2015

Spock Model Kit Illustration Step By Step

As promised, here's a step-by-step look at how I drew my recent Mr. Spock Model Kit illustration

It was drawn all in Photoshop, on a ton of separate layers. Each step shown represents a different layer. I combined a few for this post, just so we wouldn't be here all day. In all there were fifty four layers.

It all starts with a box.

I added a white border around the edges of the box, as well as a dividing line.

Next I added the blue box at the left. Exciting, isn't it?

Then I added the logos at the side. The Star Trek logo was hand drawn. There are some Trek fonts out there that I probably could have downloaded and used, but I like recreating logos by hand. I didn't spend a huge amount of time on it, I just traced over the real logo with the pen tool in Photoshop. I also traced it vertically as it's seen here, instead of horizontally as I normally would. That was a first for me.

I briefly considered going the Wacky Packages route and making it say Star Dreck or something like that, but in the end decided to stick with the real name.

The AMT logo was fairly simple, just a red box with rounded corners and typeset text. I couldn't find a perfect match for the real font, but I won't tell if you won't.

Next I added a black outline around the edge of the box.

And lastly I added the text in the upper right corner. The "Mr. Spock" was also hand drawn, because I couldn't find a font that matched it exactly. The white tag line underneath was simple typeset text.

These graphic design elements were the easiest and quickest parts of the project, taking just an hour or two.

Next I started on the background. I had an image of the actual box art on a layer, and would constantly turn it on and off and check it to see if my colors matched and if I was getting the clouds and mountains and such right. I used a splotchy Photoshop brush to match the painterly look as well as I could.

I then added the distant mountains in the background, with suitable shading. Note that for some reason I wasted time drawing the reflections of the mountains in the water, even though they were totally covered up in the next step.

Next up I added the brownish middle ground. I learned my lesson from the previous layer and didn't bother detailing that plain area near the right, because it would end up being covered by the three-headed snake. No sense spending time on something that'll never be seen, right?

I then added the foreground rocks. I was just blocking in shapes here and planned to color that grey mound at the right a light brown, but then changed my mind and decided to do that on a separate layer.

I added the sandy soil, including the snakes "nest," over the rocks on another layer.

It's kind of hard to see unless you zoom in, but I added some sand effects to the nest on a separate layer.

Why do I use so many layers, you ask? Ease of use, and so I don't destroy all my hard work, that's why. If I drew the sand effect on the mound and then decided I didn't like it, I'd be screwed. By adding the sand on its own layer, if it didn't come out right the first time I could erase it and try again, with no harm done to the art below.

Also, by using layers I can adjust the size and color of an element without affecting anything else on the page (like when I realized Spock's left hand was larger than his right, and had to fix it). I'd be totally lost without layers.

Next I added a little patch of grass near the bottom center.

And then drew the alien plant and dead trees in the background.

Next I drew the wispy "smoke" in the center. I'm not quite sure what this stuff is supposed to be. Volcanic plumes? Noxious gas escaping from the planet? I have no idea.

It's actually starting to look like a proper background now.

I then added the tiny Enterprise zooming overhead in the upper left corner. The ship generally didn't ever fly this low on the show— chalk it up to artistic license.

Lastly I added the ship's exhaust trails. And that's it! The background's finally done! Whew! On to the next step.

Now it's time for the characters. I copied the background art pretty closely, but I wanted the actual figures to be more in line with my usual cartoony style. Wacky, even.

First up is the three headed snake. As you might expect by now, each of the snake's heads was drawn on a separate layer. I drew the foreground snake first.

Then I added various details on another layer.

Then I drew the middle snake.

And his details on another layer.

And lastly the far snake.

And of course his details.

I added a few scales on a separate layer, and played with the opacity until I thought they looked right. That's another advantage to using layers— you can adjust the opacity or how they interact with the layers below them.

Next I drew the shaded ridges on the snakes' bellies.

And lastly I added irregular white highlights to their bodies, to make it look like their skin's glistening. And that's it for the snake!

Hopefully it reads as one snake with three heads, and not three separate snakes crowding out of that hole. When I look at it, sometimes I see it as one, other times as three. The same thing happens when I look at the original box art though, so I'm blaming the source material.

Now it's time to add the focus of the box, Spock.

I started with his face, and added a few rough features.

Next I added his hair, eyes and his trademark upswept eyebrows.

I added his left ear on its own layer, so I could detail it without messing up the rest of his face. I made this ear a bit darker so it wouldn't blend in with his nose.

Then I drew his blue science-division shirt.

And next his legs and boots.

I added his left arm and hand, holding what I assume is supposed to be his communicator. Note that it doesn't look anything like the prop used on the show. I went back and forth as to whether I should draw him holding the actual communicator or the inaccurate version seen on the box art. 

In the end the "wrong" one won out. I figured since I was recreating the box art, I might as well go with that version.

Next I drew his right arm. Again, it's drawn on its own layer so I could shade it without affecting the shirt underneath. 

Spock's limbs underwent quite a few changes as I was working on him. They looked OK in the sketch, but once I drew them for real, I realized they were way too long, which made him awkward and gawky looking. Also his left hand, which is farther from the viewer, was originally much larger than his right hand, which just ain't right.

Fortunately because all these parts were drawn on separate layers, it was easy to fix them.

I drew Spock's inaccurate phaser next. It's closer to the TV version than the communicator is, but it's still not right.

I just realized that Spock looks very incomplete without his Starfleet emblem and rank stripes. Naked, even!

Next I added many the details to his face and shirt. I added a 5 o'clock shadow around his mouth and a bit of red to his nose, to help give his face some life. I also added the "eye shadow" he always had on his lids (look at any photo of Spock— honest to god it looks like he's wearing dark grey eye shadow). 

I then added the aforementioned Starfleet emblem and rank stripes, plus his tricorder strap.

Then I drew wrinkles on his shirt and pants. On a separate layer of course. There was lots of drawing and erasing and redrawing of wrinkles before I was satisfied with them.

Next I added the phaser blast. Hopefully he's got it on stun and not disintegrate. I also added his tricorder, visible just under his right wrist. Not much to it, it's pretty much just a black square.

And that's it for Spock! There were only two things left to do.

I added some shading/aging around the edges and corners of the box, just so it wouldn't look quite so pristine.

And lastly added my signature in the lower right corner.

So there you have it. A recreation of the Spock model kit box art, in only thirty nine easy steps. Actually there were a lot more steps than that, as you could probably tell; a lot of them got combined here.

Once again, here's the original box for comparison, in case you've never seen it (which is a real possibility, since it's first appeared in the 1970s).

Here's an animated gif of the entire process.


  1. Looks great! Now I need to go take a break. That was exhausting.

  2. Almost as exhausting as drawing it!


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