Making-of: Zombie Amusement Park

There’s only one thing better than zombies or fun fairs and that’s zombies in a fun fair! A bit of 3ds max and a lot of Photoshop…

Zombie Amusement Park - Digital Painting Tutorial

Hey folks, here’s my latest digital painting tutorial/walk-through. Another of my 3d paint-overs. This time I was applying a lot of what I’ve soaked up over the years concerning composition and focal points. Here’s the final image:

Zombie Amusement Park Tutorial

Before we get stuck in let’s talk about the all important early stages of a painting. What was I aiming for and how did I start etc.

Zombie Amusement Park: The idea

This painting concept came about from my love of recent zombie survival games. I wanted to paint a scenario that I’d love to see in one of the many games currently in development such as H1Z1 or DayZ.

So I went for one of my favourite horror niches: spooky fun fairs. You wouldn’t think this was a niche but I recall the movie Zombieland, the game Left 4 Dead and probably a good few episodes of Scooby Doo! I also loved the movie Killer Klowns from Outer Space when I was a kid so that most likely crept in too.

Zombie Amusement Park: Initial concept

zombie amusement park

My original idea was inspired by a view like the above photo. I started to try and find various photo reference to support a paint-over in this slightly birds-eye perspective but it was a little too specific and finding photo-reference to work at this angle would prove a little too bothersome.

I was having my doubts but went ahead and tried a quick composition in 3ds max:

Zombie Amusement ParkI had gathered as many free 3d fun fair models as I could and arranged them in a loose composition to see how the scene might work.

This wasn’t quite doing it for me, I wanted to be in the action more – on the ground. So I lowered the camera:

Zombie Amusement ParkI was pleased with this. When working with buildings and sharp edges, this kind of composition can easily draw a viewer into the piece because all the lines are pointing inwards. I even exaggerated this by taking the stalls on the left and rotating them clockwise so they pointed us into the middle.

Zombie Amusement Park: Research

Zombie Amusement Park

Let’s not forget the all-important research. This is a small selection of the research images I found on flickr and google images. You can see the horsey merry-go-round image above played a part. The other thing I tried to absorb was signage and decor – mainly clown faces and stripes were the major themes.

Zombie Amusement Park: Final 3d component

Zombie Amusement Park 3ds max

The angle of the camera has changed slightly compared to the initial angle. It was previously pointing up and into the sky and to the right a little too much. Now the angles point right into the scene and at the car where the action is.

A note on composition

It’s important to discuss composition at this stage. While creating this piece I wasn’t fully conscious of deliberately crafting a strong composition. It just came about through various tweaks. I think many of those tweaks were subconscious. And I am starting to think that, as you develop an eye for composition, you might rely less and less on a hard mathematical formula and instead allow your mind to just work on a piece somewhat automatically.

I say this having struggled with strong composition for so long. I don’t think you’re ever done learning about composition and sometimes you can have a bad day where you paint yourself into a corner, sometimes you can have a good day where a composition just unfolds with ease.

Zombie Amusement Park: Photoshop paint-over

Zombie Amusement Park Digital PaintingThe Photoshop aspect was fairly straightforward and a bit time consuming. You can either do much of the work in 3d and touch up in Photoshop or let Photoshop do most of the work. I chose the latter because it can look less rigid and more messy.

Notes on colour: As it was night, I went for a post-sunset bright sky which would give a fair bit of theatrical blue to the scene. I then wanted to balance this with some reds and a little warmth from the fires. You’ll notice the car go from black to red so as to pull you into it more.

Notes on story: Often, story is tied in to what the characters are doing. As an environment concept artist, I often leave characters out to focus purely on the environment but I’ve recently started adding them (usually by way of quick photo-bashings as opposed to painting from scratch). Characters make a huge difference to selling a story and story makes a huge difference in selling your image.

I always knew I wanted a car in there somewhere and maybe a lone survivor. So I put a guy in there just about to get back in his car while trying to shoot at zombies, while they close in on him.

The final image

Zombie Amusement Park Tutorial

Some self criticism

I think I could have taken this further by adding a little more tension – maybe the tire is blown out or the car could look incapacitated. Maybe a zombie is right on him. Worth noting for next time. Composition is becoming more digestible now but going forward I want to turn my attention to story telling.

One final note on how else I could have improved on this and that’s by balancing out the colour more. It’s very monochrome and in hindsight I’d definitely add a warm glow off camera to the right, as though from fire, which would cast light and shadow onto the merry-go-round, giving some contrast and respite to the blue.

It’s good to try and pull your art to pieces once you’re done with it. You don’t necessarily have to then fix it (it’s often good to just keep moving rather than dwell) but you’ll be sure to apply the lessons you learned into future pieces. This is how we get better with each painting!

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial! Please hit me up with comments and questions and I’ll be happy to answer!

About Andy Walsh

Concept Artist in Seattle
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2 Responses to Making-of: Zombie Amusement Park

  1. CartoonrBOY says:

    I really like this concept. It reminds me how terrifying amusement parks are when they’re not amusing. Filling a dilapidated park with the walking dead and you have a recipe for terror.

    I played a little of Dead Rising 2 and saw some value in that, but it was executed with too much tongue-in-cheek and missed a trick to make a truly scary game, although I suspect that the market wasn’t ready for such a game. Only after DayZ did we see games in the same vein. It’s interesting to note that since DayZ, Dead Rising has become a much more serious affair.

    Really impressive work. I’m so jealous…

    • stayinwo says:

      many thanks 🙂

      Yeah I played Left 4 Dead (two?) where there’s a theme park. Game felt very frightening with the zombie hoards, but also felt too ‘arcade’. Point and shoot. I like serious realism :p

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