Creating a Dragon

This tutorial goes through the reference I used to create the image above. I ignored most of Photoshop's tools when creating this, trying to stay true to what I could create with just a pair of scissors. That means there's no bluring, no drastic color correction, and really just a bunch of masks. In theory, I could have created this image without a computer. The advantage of using Photoshop is I could go back and forth on cutting choices by using masks. If you don't know how to use masks, I suggest taking a look at my Bush Monkey tutorial. It goes over the basics.

I'm not going through source image choices I threw out, but, rest assured, there were plenty. I got the reference by going to the library and photographing as many images of snakes, bats, lizards, and other such creatures with interesting textures as I could. Scanning would provide better quality, but takes much, much longer and time was short. The web has a nice selection, but the resolution is too low in most places. Taking the reference pictures myself was obviously also not an option (although I now know two people with lizards, one of them my roommate, so now I could pull that off a little). The eventual print size for this image was a nice and forgiving 4"x6", so I was fine saving time by using my camera. My Tree House tutorial focuses on choices made along the creative process, rather then a guide through the reference.

This tutorial focuses almost entirely on the importance of the source images. I'm guiding you through the images I ended up using, instead of all the mistake images I thought up along the way. There was plenty of back and forth when I first made this.

Anyhow, enough talk. What's important is the images. Let's begin.

In my sketchbook I drew this out, scanned it in, and got set to start filling it in with textures and the right colors/contrast. I could have been looser with the pencils (so don't worry if you can only draw stick figures). For me, atleast, the better an image looks at the pencil stage, the better the finish looks.

After getting a crip black and white by adjusting the pencil drawing's levels, I locked the pencil drawing on the top layer, setting it to multiply. Ground & Sky pictures.

I duplicated the one ground image, and put the seem behind the leg. The cheated a little with the sky to get it to cover the whole background. A little bit of the stamp tool, but mostly just more copying and cutting.

A fanciful cloud and mountain shape on right starts to form.

More mountains, cut from an image of a field of grass and the wing of a bat.

At the bottom left is a copy of the source image without the mask or the rotation applied.

More of the same.

Still more.

If it's good enough for a bull, it's good enough for a dragon.

Some hot looking horns pair up.

I went through a few eyes, as a good eye makes the image. I went with snake eyes in the end, normally only wished upon my enemies when they land on Park Place.

Added a lizard leg for his leg and snake coiling around a furry animal for the tail.

Copied the lizard leg four times.

Some Aligator throat to bring up the neck.

More Aligator awesomeness. It might be a crocodile. I don't actually know the difference. Something to do with teeth I think.

Added more to the neck.

More still to the neck. Something to keep in mind with all of these images is how I use the contour from one source as the outline for the next image (as I'm doing with the scales.) Straight lines are always bad.

Adding to the background with images such as the strip I put in the middle.

More grassy bits.

You probably could have figured out the ref used for that bit of grass.

The image starts coming together with this big block of green I used for grass to outline the legs.

I decided near the end what this picture needs is a knight peaking out.

So I added one.

A second wing for his left side, also made from a bat wing.

A little bit of glass in the front.

I removed the lines layer and called it a day. I ended up making four dragons, two of which turned out. Here's my step by step for the second dragon, as well as the tragedy of the third and fourth dragons. This was the simplest of the four, part of what makes it work.

More Dragons