Space Cadet Illustration, Digital Painting Step-by-step

Space Cadet: by Robert Heinlein.

This is the final art as it appeared on the cover of the CD packaging.

A digital painting step-by-step of the process behind the cover painting I did for a Full Cast Audio’s Space Cadet packaging.

Concept sketch

Comprehensive cover sketch (comp)

This is the rough concept; the initial sketch, and the comp comprehensive) that I presented to the client. They liked the concept, so I started exploring composition & lighting.

Reference model

I built a helmet and a rough hatch, and posed a model in 3D software so I could explore the composition, lighting, and camera angles. The helmet gave me good reference for reflections, and shadows on the face.

Here’s an alternate view I presented after exploring the composition in the 3D model.

Here’s another angle, which I kind of liked. We decided we wanted the boy facing more toward the viewer.

Final sketch scanned and ready for paint.

Here’s the final pencil sketch which I scanned and placed on a colored background in Photoshop. The colored background shows through in places in the final art, and helps tie everything together. I drew the space suit based on several reference photos I have on hand, plus the helmet I built in Strata 3D. The story refers to the helmet as a “fish bowl”.

Beginning painting with the face & helmet.

Beginning the painting with the face, which went through several updates throughout the painting process. I decided I didn’t like the “accordion” neck of the space suit, so I painted over it with fabric.

A detail to show the texture of the painting and how some of the sketch & background color shows through.

A closeup of the panting further along. I used a Wacom graphics tablet and Photoshop CS5. Most of the panting was done with one brush, a pastel-like brush that gives some texture to the brush strokes.

The final, un-cropped painting.

This is the (uncropped) image as it appears on the cover. There is extra illustration so that the layout could be adjusted by zooming in and moving the art to best fit with the title and text.

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