Devlog #7 - How a Character Artist does Backgrounds


Devlog #7 - How a Character Artist does Backgrounds

Hi hi! ~☆ Right at this moment I'm working on a few art assets that would complete the first half of //TODO: today. And the biggest ones that keep me most busy are backgrounds. Because, honestly, I have never considered myself an artist capable of creating environments. I have always preferred characters over environments but here I am and I want to share with you my personal approach on drawing backgrounds.

Sooo backgrounds aren't “my thing”. The thought of beginning and actually finishing a picture that captures a whole sight intimidates me.
And, yup, I've finished some for //TODO: today and Teach Me Onegai~! by now but these didn't completely solve my long nursed fear of them.

In order to silence this anxiety I try to think on a smaller scale. I can draw a cup, a table, a chair and even a window. If I put them on a canvas using the right angles – that's a furnished room right? So an environment is just a collection of small things I hopefully can draw. If there are objects I have never drawn before or have never seen in real life, things take a bit longer, because I need to find good reference pictures and time to understand the shape and function of the objects.

And here we come to my first phase of creating something for a project: preparation phase. I need to understand what kind of background I'm drawing. Some of the questions I then ask myself are:
1. What is it used for?
2. In what situations does the player see it?
3. What meaning would I give it?

And in case of the book store interior the answers would be like this:
1. To show the inside of a book store Ms. Cardhover manages and the place Teal and Phoenix work at.
2. The player sees it mostly during Teal's part-time job.
3. It's a small store that is dear to Ms. Cardhover so there should be elements that show her care for and relation to it.

With these mental notes in my head I begin searching the internet for reference pictures with elements I think would suit the image I want to create. I also collect colours for a colour palette I use for reference too. The colours depend on the time of day and theme I want to push.


Afterwards I roughly sketch out some general ideas. I find it important to consider the position of the player to determine what kind of view point to chose for the picture. The player sees the background from Teal's perspective. Therefore I put the horizon line on eye-level which is about the middle of the picture. This differs depending on what the focus of the picture will be. The horizon line is the first thing I establish before drawing anything else. Because it's easy and setting the vanishing point depends on it.


I then do a more definite sketch above the original sketch layer. Here I decide on the details of the picture, like which specific objects to place. A huge help to make this fun for me is thinking about bits of stories involving the place. Like people having conversations over something or a messy table its owner just worked at it.


When I'm satisfied with what I have, I do the clean line work on top of these layers. I just love the “Layer Color” function in CSP. It's a quick way to give the sketch lines a more subtle appearance so focussing on the final black line-outs would be easier. In Photoshop I would lock the transparency of the sketch layer and colour them. At this point I also like to use Clip Studio Paint's “ruler” tools to create guide lines but I'm still trying to figure them out.


When the lines are done I roughly colour everything using the bucket tool. Here I chose the colours depending on what would suit the object, would look nice in relation to the objects adjacent to it and the overall colour scheme of the picture. Ms Cardhover's main colour is purple!゚✧


The final steps are a mixed set of things I do at the same time. I:correct mistakes in the lines and colouring

  • adjust the colours of individual objects
  • have a layer folder with the UI and character sprites to switch on to see if the characters look good on in front of the background
  • add colour layers on top with different layer styles (“overlay” is my favourite)

And when I feel the picture is good enough to be called complete, I declare it done and be happy. ヽ(*´∀`)ノ

Hope this helped somehow! And I'm so excited for the complete first part of  //TODO: today coming out on the 8th September. AH. I will now continue my drawings, bye~!!


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