Mystery Parfait is a small team and we’re always looking for ways to shorten our development time. Before a final sketch is made, art pieces go through an initial design process. Because it’s easier to change things at this stage, our goal is to get most of the edits out of the way before continuing on to sketch, line art, and color.

For complicated backgrounds, this process can turn into a real nightmare. Perspective is hard and half the team tends to be picky. For this and other reasons, we decided to get photo references for backgrounds and modify them as needed.

Step 1: Photographic reference.

Here you see a real pizzeria kitchen, as well as the kind man who allowed us to take the photograph. Only a few edits needed to be made to this photo. The man himself needed to be removed, and all those brand name sodas needed to be made generic.

It’s important at this stage to find reference as close to the finished product as possible. It’s worth spending more time looking for the perfect shot because of the time it saves later. This shot required almost no editing.

Step 2: Line art.

Here is the line art for the kitchen; the area where the man was standing has been filled. You can also see we accidentally line arted the Sprite logo.

Any deviations from the source photo should go through a design process before this. This can include removing buildings, changing locale, adding background elements, or even merging multiple photos.

Step 3: Color.

Dozens of layers and a few hours later, the background is colored. All coloring here is done digitally from the line art, though it is possible to simulate the style photo manipulation. I doubt we’ll ever simply use photo manipulations for backgrounds, but maybe for a small and quick project to save time.

Further variations are made, adding effects and layer adjustments. For this background, we made versions for day, night with lights on, and night with lights off.

The background as seen in-game.

This background took a lot less time than others. This is mostly because we worked from a photograph from the start and avoided an extended design process. On that note, next time, I’ll go over an example of a background that we had an extremely hard time with and started this whole “let’s get a photo” methodology.

2 Responses to “Background art from photographs”

  1. ShiChan00 Says:

    I come and check your website every now and then and I have to say that you guys are really dedicated to your work.♥

    I’m still an amateur artist and seeing all of this gives the motivation all of the time to do my best, I like how much you pay attention to every detail and yes, drawing BGs are difficult but I don’t think looking at reference is bad. =3

    I really hope that more people are viewing your website as well and are looking at your progress even if they contribute by giving small comments.

    Good luck with the rest of your project!

  2. winternight119 Says:

    Another good process to explore, I’ve done this and incorporated elements from various photographs, but I tend to be a little lazy with redoing lineart since I am by no means an artist. Like ShiChan said, you guys are awesome and seeing your work gives me motivation! XD References are great, from photos.

    Also I’m wondering if the lineart wouldn’t be easier to do digitally by just scribbling over the photograph.

    But the end result looks great, good job and good luck. ^^