Background depth tutorial

A tutorial with tips and tricks to add depth to your backgrounds.

tutorial_DA_background_depth_01_referenceThis artwork for the Niki Batsprite’s comic is all about background and perspective. I’m gonna tell you some tricks to achieve depth and create stunning backgrounds for your characters.
Let’s start!

1. Reference and guides

I searched for a perspective reference and picked a photo from my library. I traced some perspective guides and sketched the main elements for my image.

2. Characters

I painted Moari (the character) first, to have a reference for light and shadows that will affect the whole image.
This is NOT a rule: sometimes you may feel more confortable shading the background first, then paint the characters accordingly.

3. Depth by size

tutorial_DA_background_depth_02_sizePlace the same element at different distances: the bigger the size range, the deepest the background will look.
In this image, I used trees as a reference to tell the eyes how far the floating rocks and the land are.
Our wonderful brain will do the rest, creating the illusion of depth! tutorial_DA_background_depth_03_layers

4. Depth by light

You can guess some depth layers in the image. Not only thanks to size changing, but because of the light changing as well.
Some rocks and the land itself are behind atmosphere (blueish) and light (yellowish) that add even more depth to the background.
You can notice that lower rocks are highligthed on the top, not only at one side. Also, the land looks blueish because of the huge amount of atmosphere in between.


5. Depth by shadows

Clouds helped me to add even more depth layers to the image. Each element casts a shadow on those below. This way, you can tell what’s above what, and how far it is from the land.

6. Depth by blur

Sometimes, unfocusing certain areas can help a lot in adding depth to an image. However, in this case it wasn’t needed, except for a subtle blur on the land forest.

7. Depth by detail

Don’t stick on details. Paint with stains and strokes, then refine only some areas while leaving others untouched. This will create some points of interest.
Detail the foreground, then let go as you move on smaller elements into the distance.
Again, our brain will add details on its own, according to what we see on bigger elements.


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Francesca Urbinati Artist

Francesca Urbinati

Sono illustratrice e fumettista freelance. Ho lavorato su effetti speciali 3D, graphic design e multimedia per RAI, Mediaset, Adobe, ArtOrder LLC, Studio Hamburg, MoveTheGame e molti altri. Pubblico la serie a fumetti Niki Batsprite e aiuto altri artisti e autori a emergere.