Kokoro Cafe – Step by Step

This was a commissioned image especially for Kokoro Cafe, an Otome gaming forum. The owner of the website approached me to do a commission in the same style as my “Scarf” image, and requested that I illustrate two similar characters on a date outside of a cute and romantic european-style cafe with the name “Kokoro Cafe” above them. So I started out with a rough sketch thumbnail…

The important part was to rough out the composition in a space that would fit the dimensions needed for the piece, as well as to get a good idea of what the scene would consist of. When I was happy with it I scanned the thumbnail onto my computer and into Photoshop (I like to do super rough thumbnail work in my sketchbook… it’s just easier to be messy I guess), then I started rearranging the bits and pieces to fit into the exact dimensions.

I miss-judged the dimensions in my thumbnail just a bit! So I added a few extra details to stretch the composition out; another tree, longer window display, two more tables, as well as a few little details just for fun. I also cleared up some of the sketch lines. You can really see it on the guy-formerly a man shaped blob, now with a winning smile. And a little cup’o tea.

Next comes the lines. As things clear up I go back into the sketch a few more times and add or subtract details. I also moved a few things around, like the tree. After seeing the clean lines it was obviously way too close to the door. A few more little tweaks and adjustments, as well as cropping the right edge a bit to help the composition out, and finally it’s time for some color.

This is the “Ugly Stage”. It looks finished enough to be complete, but the colors are all flat and boring. Also, what you can’t see in this are all of the color adjustments I went through to get to this point. The first color version had the wall baby blue… Don’t judge, I thought it could be cute… It’s also important to note that there are probably about 20-25 different layers for the colors. It makes adjusting and tweaking color/hue/saturation/texture/everything! so much easier! Someone once told me “You should never need more than three layers MAX”, but I completely and strongly disagree. The Layers function is one of the most useful tools in photoshop, hands down, and I use it shamelessly. The final image probably has around 50 layers.

So that brings me to the final image! All of the colors in the previous image are exactly the same in this image. The only difference are shadow, gradient and texture layers over them. I decided to keep it clean and as clear as possible because of the small size of it’s display (which you can see for yourself here), so while I normally would have added a lot more light and shadow I stuck to only some super basic shadows in the trees and plant. I also added two simple textures to the wall and concrete. The brick was one that I pulled off of Deviantart‘s Resource Stock a long time ago (I think), and the concrete texture is actually high resolution bread overlayed with a super low opacity… So then I just added in a bit of a gradient and shine to the window to make it look more windowy and voila! All done =)

I hope that wasn’t too obscenely long. For my scarf image I uploaded each image one by one, but I thought for this one it was better to see the whole thing together. Oh! and don’t forget, you can click on the images to view them full size.

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3 comments

  1. Joel Dennstedt · September 23, 2012

    I have never seen an artist describe and show their process like this. It is fascinating to watch. I have studied creativity my whole life, and I think what fascinates me most are two things: the endless decisions that are made (and why), and the fortuitous “accidents” without which the end product would be less than hoped for. I love watching your work go from sketch to final version. Thank you Meghan!

    • bix707 · September 23, 2012

      Thank you! One of my favorite things to see is work in progress, sketches and thumbnails from artists that I admire and I completely agree; the stylistic and technique choices made throughout the work process, and those “happy accidents” are fascinating. I’m just glad you got a kick out of mine! =)

  2. Pingback: Kokoro Cafe Winter Banner | BIX707

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