The past week we've been finalizing our zombie shooter "Army of the Damned". At this stage we need to prepare the artwork for marketing and print purposes, which of course has to look much better then in-game screenshots or standard renders and also must have a much higher resolution. Luckily I took this into account when creating the game's main menu which in-game is displayed at a resolution of 800x450. For this image I tripled the size to 2400x1350 pixels, which is more then enough for what we want to do with it.
It's always good to figure out what you want to achieve with the image before starting on the artwork, this will keep you from creating art which in the end you don't need.
For this image I wanted to show a detailed player character, some zombies closing in on him and a plane dropping a bomb in the background while keeping in mind the title and menu would be displayed on top. I also wanted the image to have a grindhouse look. After some quick layout sketches I posed the 3D characters and rendered an image which can be seen below.
As you might have noticed the rendered image looks a bit bland, the big zombie on the left has too little contrast and there is no clear light-source, no problem we're going to fix all this in Photoshop!
First we need to determine where the light comes from, in this case most of it will come from the explosion in the background. In Photoshop I placed a layer on top of the character where I painted the lit areas with an orange color and set the layer to color dodge.
On another layer I painted the shadow area's with a dark color and set the layer to multiply.
Next I added the background which is composed out of a sky, mountain, plane and explosion image. I also added some smoke coming form the gun muzzle.
The image is getting there but it still looks too clean and the background looks too detached from the foreground. First I added some noise on top of the image and a "scratched film" layer to make the whole thing look old.
When you look closely you might notice the left side of the image has a red hue and the right side a green hue (red=bad guys, green=good guy). This is achieved by adding layer on top set to color dodge (of soft light) and lightly using a red and green brush.
Finally I placed another layer on top which is set to overlay, with a white brush I painted over the area's which needed to be more brightly lit. These where mainly the explosion area and the players chest.
So that's how you pimp an image!