Concept art is used widely in cinematic, videogame and literature projects, to help convey a given message, situation or environment to the viewer.  Whether it’s a rough concept sketch, or a highly polished conceptual artwork, having a smart workflow and the right techniques can make a big difference.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create spectacular science fiction concept art from one of the digital painting masters, Grzegorz Rutkowski.  You’ll learn how to start with a concept sketch, use some rules of composition and perspective, and then develop a progressively more detailed concept sketch with a powerful visual impact.

Let’s get started!

Tools Used:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Stock Photographs

Finished Image Preview:

Welcome to my tutorial. I hope that will help you better create your work and understand the process of formation.  :)

First, we start from a sketch. This is the most important part of the whole job because it will build our further work.  It is important not to give too much detail but to build a proper form and composition.  Remember to work on layers!  That’s a lot easier later in the work, because it’s easier to make edits, re-arrange layers, and apply effects.

It is important to draw a good perspective, so use some perspective lines to help build a proper perspective.

When you draw an important part of the figure, you can start to add color. (Some people paint everything in B & W and colors are added at the end), it’s whichever is more intuitive for you.

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That color paint brush I use is “oil pastel”, which you can download here: Download

If you don’t want to use that brush, chalk brushes are very popular in concept art as well.

Add progressively more detail, by focusing on specific parts of the image. Sometimes, simply add detail to one part (the face and part of the suit) and you capture the essence of the whole image (in this case I want to show sadness on the face of a woman who looks at the Earth the last time).


Light is the next step.  Natural light is located on the right (sun). Therefore, there was a clear need to add light and the front work to illuminate the most important part of the figure – a woman’s face.

When the character gets developed well, we can deal with the background.  All the time we work with color, make sure they aren’t quite as dark or saturated as foreground colors, as this helps develop depth.

I used brush “mountain” to paint paint mountains, (of course you can do it any other brush, just shows the possibilities).


Remember that you can modify your brushes:

Next, I decided to give the illustrations a more fantastic appearance.  The sky goes from magenta to yellow and light purple, while the spaceship got more blue.


Using blending modes can help fix color issues, especially when you use overlay, linear dodge and linear light.


At this stage we can add a few new things, in this case the character behind the woman.

Sometimes when you do not have too much time or want to achieve a specific result, we can use textures. I used a few textures, the city skyline (in distance).


And, for the Earth and distorted textures. The rule is simple: in our texture paste as new layer (the layer you want to modify). Set the blending mode to soft light or overlay.

Now you can see what effect it has had on the scene. Click on the “free transform” or “ctrl + t” hold press “ctrl” and click on the edge of selection. You can fit a new texture to our perspective.

Textures on the ship I made by myself, since it’s quite simple.
Make a “new layer” and with “Rectangular Marquee Tool” select simple square.
Fill selected area with color of spaceship (with gradient – lighter color):


Next step will be drawing lines and plates on selected area, make some light reflections on edges of plates.


If You have finished your simple texture, You can transform it, and put on the place you want.


Now we have to add some light reflections. Select layer by clicking on it with pressing hold “ctrl”.

You can observe that our layer has been selected.

Take a soft brush and add some lights reflections from inside ship, and from little lamps on hatch.
To erase sharp edges of texture, take smudge tool (soft brush) and smudge these edges which looks unnatural.


We do the same with the rest of the textures.

You can download very useful textures from cgtextures.com

To add a sunset effect, I created a new layer with “linear light” (blending mode). Linear Light is a very good tool (as a brush and a layer blending mode), as you can very easily give a realistic effect to illustrations.


Now can we add some flames, hot air from the engines of a spaceship. I use more complicated brush (you can simply use a brush, but it will be more difficult and time consuming).


Adding dust and debris carried by the wind in the make illustration more dynamic.

We can constantly refine every detail of the illustration, so work progressively (on new layers) to bring out the details.

Last color correction done by using a “color balance” layer.


Another interesting effect is “lens correction”.


The last effect I use is a “smart sharpen”.
That’s it! Finished!