Make It on Mobile: Character Design by Luke Choice

By Charles Purdy

Australian graphic artist Luke Choice and his Los Angeles-based studio, Velvet Spectrum, are well known for dynamic and often surreal 3D illustrations, typography, and animation—Choice’s portfolio features work for clients like Nike, Google, and HBO. But his experience during a recent Make It on Mobile event reminded him of an illustration style that had inspired him in his youth, before he started working in 3D. So he decided to experiment.

Click on the image to watch a quick time-lapse of Choice’s illustration coming together on his iPad.

Choice says, “After taking part in the Make It on Mobile event in New York, I felt a renewed passion to get back to the kind of illustration I was doing before 3D became such a large part of my portfolio. My love of comics as a kid is what started me on a path to a creative career. The dynamic colors, composition, and typography were always the determining factors of the stories I read.”

When he works, Choice says that he “likes to let the process inspire the story.” Here, he shares his first attempt at developing a character for a graphic novel that he has been developing—and the process primarily involved the mobile app Adobe Photoshop Sketch, along with Adobe Capture CC, on his Apple iPad Pro.


Choice says, “Anatomy has never been my strength, so I got my girlfriend, Morgan, to pose for me. Composing and shooting the scene using the iPad allows me to get a real-time view of how the figure will sit in my artwork.”

STEP 1: When you create a new project in Photoshop Sketch, you can add a photo from your camera roll as a layer (by clicking on the plus sign on the right side of the interface), adjust its opacity, and then use that layer as a guide when you draw. Later on, you can delete that layer if you like.

Choice used a photo of his girlfriend as the basis for his character illustration.

STEP 2: Choice used Adobe Capture to create custom color themes. He started with a photo of denim and a photo of brass wall hangings in his studio. Then he adjusted the colors, adding a bit more saturation to achieve the graphic look he was going for.

With Capture, you can create color themes that can be used in Adobe mobile and desktop apps. Open Capture, tap the Colors menu option, tap the plus sign, and then point your camera at an object. Tap the screen to freeze it so you can move individual color circles around. You can also use images already on your camera roll. Choice edited his colors before saving his themes. (Learn more about creating color themes with Capture.)

STEP 3: Next, Choice began blocking out areas of solid color as the basis for his painting. He says, “Color often dictates the direction my artwork will go in, so I started to fill out the base of the image with smoke, using the watercolor brush. Having the ability to continually bleed the colors together helps create great depth easily.”

After blocking in colors, Choice used Sketch’s watercolor brush to add smoke on additional layers. You can adjust a brush’s color, size, and other settings by tapping and holding on it. (Learn more about painting with Sketch.)

STEP 4: Choice says, “Typography will play a large part in my graphic novel, so I put in a placeholder to get a sense of how the type fills the space.”

Choice added rough lettering to get a sense of how it would work in the space; once he is happy with placement, he can finesse it.

STEP 5: “Part of my character’s story is tied to an amulet,” says Choice, “So to create the amulet, I borrowed one of my girlfriend's earrings and took a photo using Shapes in Adobe Capture. After editing the shape to remove unnecessary details, I exported it as an SVG file and then added it as an image layer in Sketch.”

Choice used Capture to create a shape he could add to his image. To do this, you open Capture, tap the Shapes menu option, and then tap the plus sign. Point your camera at the object you want to capture, and use the slider to add or remove details from the image. (Also tap the outline/fill icon to see which option gives you the best results.) After you’ve captured your shape, you can tap Remove From Shape and use your drawing implement to edit the shape by removing parts you don’t want (tap Keep In Shape to add those parts back in). (Learn more about capturing shapes with Capture.)

STEP 6: Choice used the watercolor brush to add texture to the amulet.  

After adding a shape to his image, Choice integrated it by adding texture with the watercolor brush.

STEP 7: “I wasn’t sure what weapon to give the character,” says Choice, “so this composition ended up dictating what it eventually became. I quickly built a 3D model of a flail and then used my iPad to take a photo of the render right on the screen of my desktop computer. Using Capture, I created a shape to bring into the scene as a base to work from, as I had with the amulet.”

Click to watch how Choice integrated a flail shape, created with Adobe Capture, into his illustration.

Using a mixture of shapes and a variety of brushes helped Choice create a striking image and a rich, textural environment. See the final image below.

September 8, 2017