Creating a Sci-Fi Illustration in Cinema 4D

Creating a Sci-Fi Illustration in Cinema 4D

Pasha Statkevich took CGMA course Production Illustration for Matte Painters and Concept Artists and talked about the piece created during it.


Hi everyone! My name is Pasha Statkevich aka pinkymarmalade and I am an Art Director/ Senior Concept Artist with almost 10 years of experience, currently working at Warhorse Studios in Prague, Czech Republic.

After graduation from the Academy of Fine Arts in Belarus, I decided to develop myself as a concept artist and joined Wargaming in Marketing Creative Services. In parallel, I continued to develop my skill set as an artist and I dived into the movie industry as a Concept Artist and Matte Painter. Since then, I’ve worked with such great companies as Sega, Creative Assembly, THQ, Warhorse studios, UPP, Sila Sveta production, and other local and international creative agencies.

Though work keeps me busy most of the time, I really love to learn and develop further as an artist. Therefore I’m always looking for opportunities to fit in more study and training around my working hours. Besides, recently I worked closely with a lot of video production studios and this led me to enroll in the CGMA course Production Illustration for Matte Painters and Concept Artists taught by great master Nick Hiatt. There, I produced this particular piece I’m going to speak about and learned a lot of really useful tips and techniques used during its production.

References & Inspiration

The beginning of a new project is always the search for a visual language and the development of a world within which action takes place. I usually begin by trying to determine the idea, understanding what will happen in the scene, what objects will be there and how it will aid in visually communicating the narrative for that particular environment.

I usually start by looking for formal composition and gradually fill in sketches with details. I strive not to concentrate on too small and unimportant details in the concept. In the composition, I focus on how it affects the viewer, what emotions it causes. Besides, I analyze the environment where the action takes place. For example, how light spreads, how it interacts with objects, etc.

When I roughly understand what the composition will be and what objects will be in the scene I start to create a detailed enough moodboard, in which I try to gather references that inspire me. Usually, I use PureRef for this stage.

I try to group references for more convenient work, plus at this stage, I also create a rough example for the color palette. Sometimes, in order to better feel the atmosphere that I want to create in an image, I do a quick sketch based on the chosen composition and color palette.

Blocking, Modeling, Detailing

I began building the scene inside of Cinema 4D (in my 3D workflow, I mainly use C4D, 3DCoat, ZBrush and Octane) just to get a sense of scale and position for most of the elements. In order to accurately transfer the location of objects to the scene, I used the function of the projection where I placed my b/w sketch.

Then I discussed my sketches with Nick and he advised me to use some models from the Terrain Domain library to create the surface of ground and rocks. I modified and completed the models according to my sketch and placed them on the scene.

By that moment I had already decided that I would use a wide-angle lens in the camera to get the maximum depth of field.

For character development, I used DAZ Studio and 3DCoat to create small retro details.

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When I was satisfied with the blockout I began to model low polys and mid polys of other objects. The space shuttle and soaring stones were created in 3DCoat as well. It should be noted that almost all the models created and used in this project were the basis for the post-processing in Photoshop.

Materials & Lighting

When I was more or less satisfied with the overall view of the scene, I started creating materials. I usually use the standard PBR workflow in Octane to work with materials. Since I do not strive to get the final result at the stage of rendering, the basis for the Diffuse textures is most often simple tile images which I later transform into a full set of necessary texture maps.

I often generate maps for Normals and Displacement using nodes of Noise and Turbulence. But sometimes I use the full cycle of the PBR process to get interesting visual results, such as with material for soaring rocks. The base geometry of the stones seemed too simple to me. I wanted them to look like stone blocks that could only be encountered on another planet. So I decided to use the generated map for Displacement and raised a lot the value of power. This made the structure of the stones more complex, so I got the desired result.

Also in this project, I used a little trick when creating materials for vegetation. Usually, artists seek to obtain the most physically accurate grass material in order to increase the realism of their image, but this does not always look good. In this case, I used the Mix Material and added a bit of frosted glass into the base material which gave an interesting effect. The grass material began to react somewhat differently to the light source and create a slight glow. It seems to me that vegetation looks more vivid and juicy, though it is worth noting that such material loads computer resources more and significantly increases the total render time.

The next stage is to install light sources in the scene and recreate the atmosphere. For me, this is a very important stage, because both the light and the atmosphere help to tell a story and communicate the feeling of depth and realism. Initially, I planned to make a background and prepare an HDRI map for the light scheme in the scene based on the background image.


HDRI map and additional light sources:

But I was not satisfied with the final result. All parts of the image existed separately, so I decided to slightly change the color code and diversify the environment. I conducted a large number of tests to find a satisfying solution.

Post & Polish

In the end, I settled on a more aggressive light scheme and a bright color palette, plus recreate the background.

And in general, I tried to add a cinematic effect to the final image.

CGMA Courses General Feedback

First of all, I would like to thank Nick and the whole CGMA Academy Team for their attitude, time and effort. My overall experience with classes at CGMA has been amazing. One of the best things about our industry is that there is always a need to learn and get better at our craft. CGMA has some of the industry’s best artists, their techniques and the one-on-one feedback from industry professionals is priceless.

This class gave me the opportunity to learn new interesting approaches and techniques in the work on complex illustrations, helped to optimize my workflow and I had an opportunity to meet new friends.

I am glad I got a chance to make this little write-up and I hope some people can find it useful. Hopefully, I will have an opportunity to contribute to the community again in the future!


Pasha Statkevich, Senior Concept Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev


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