Home Riot Creative Contest 2017 - Illustration

[Riot Art Contest 2017] Taliyah Academy skin

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Madkey triangle
Hello guys! My name is Nayla Novotny, I'm a 25-year-old game artist currently living in Spain :) 

I've been playing games for as logn as I can remember, and I fell in love with League immediately, not so long ago. I like games with lore, I'm the kind of player that likes to explore, play visual novels and enjoy RPGs (and D&D), and that's why I kind of waited to play this game that everyone was talking about at that time. I  was gladly surprised at how much this game has improved and expanded its world beyond the game, I enjoy all the details in this big universe and can't wait for more.

I like thinking about the relation between the character's "real" world and the "Summoner's Rift".

I think every champion has their personality trying to show up through their animations, skill set and dialogues, and that's why I cannot take their designs lightly. All of the new champs seem to had a lot of work  and I was very interested in the development team's podcasts. I loved the way the team worked and conceived Taliyah, she was an example to understand the way the team worked on the champions; that's why I decided to work with her since she's one of the champions I know most ( I was tempted with Diana too :DU ) 

I started with a brainstorming of ideas that were in my mind for months. I liked the idea of an Indian/ arabic / sandstorm skin for her.

I stared at the sketches and thought: " Well I don't know if this is gonna work at all!" I mean, it could be good as she stans still, but couldn't see if this would work in action, with her animations and personality. I looked for a lot of reference about her concept art again, surfing photos, perspective and movement. 

I'ver NERVER drawn people surfing, and I found myself questioning whether my illustration would be showing her passive like her two existing splash arts. I understand that her passive is important from the splash art perspective, composition and elements are similar. I looked for more references in order to try skin ideas with her passive and possibly in her future splash art if I decide to imitate the original illustrations.

So, I made more sketches, this time thinking about her movements. Movement is part of her identity as a nomad.

Months ago, I thought about making an Academy skin for her using Skintober as an excuse so I fell again in the idea to work with.
This design was the one I made for Skintober, it's not bad, but it's not saying  "you have to buy me" right now, so I will do an exploration sheet later.

And I will go with the skateboard, or the hoverboard made by ekko as her passive board, I'm excited to do more sketches about that, with a retro feeling :)

Glad to meet you all! C&C are very welcome and please, 
Make yourself at home!


  • MenoOG
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    MenoOG polycounter lvl 4
    Cool design, my one concern with your current concept's colors: her skin color is a bit gray, I would push it to be more saturated and brown as she is a brown girl lol. hope that makes sense. Good luck! 
  • Madkey
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    Madkey triangle
    Hi MenoOG, thank you for your feedback!
    I will change the colors and the design I posted here, that was made last month so I probably not use it neither the color palette.
    I don't mind changing the color of her skin a bit in order to work well with the rest of the design, but you are right.  I will keep in mind your suggestion of the saturation, it's true that her skin looks lifeless xD

  • Madkey
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    Madkey triangle
    New update!
     I said I would like to test the futuristic hoverboard and I did this quick sketch. I think it will stand out too much in the final design and I kind of want to focus the attention on her, so... No floating board.

     Here's a few quick designs I made today.

    I think I like 1, 3 and 4. I Wanna test these 3 in-game perspective and see which works better. I'm trying to keep it simple since I tend to do a lot of details; Skintober made me realize that the most important about skins in order to work later in-game is to keep it simple and be creative in the shapes of the design.
    What do you think? :)
  • MaoAkari
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    MaoAkari polycounter lvl 3
    at first - INCREDIBLE, the draft textures look so good, that ive allmoust believed that it is a real model lul Oo

    Also - im looking at her and wanna make Hermione Granger with Griffindor scarf color variation ;3

    second box with a school vest looks better i tho
  • Madkey
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    Madkey triangle
    Thank you MaoAkari! I'm glad you like them :smile:
    Haha, yeah, you're right, I didn't notice till now, maybe I spent too much time reading HP :o
    Thanks for your comment and opinion! ^^

    These are some of the color tests I did before, this time with back view. I think maybe a backpack would be more "schoolish" since I get the feeling that it's not enough to make her wear a skirt. I don't know if it's better this way yet, but welp, I had to try it.
    Also, I'm not sure if the plaid cloth is working in the skirt, it could create visual noise in the game when the model is from afar, that's why I kind of softened the contrast.

    As always, C&C are welcome, see you soon! :)
  • Yangyexin
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    Yangyexin triangle
    Hiya: This is just a small pet peeve I guess, but be sure to keep her skin tan and not too pale! It's one of the main characteristics of Taliyah that I think is important to retain. Aside from that, your silhouette and concept look great! I'm fond of the designs that keep her orange colors in tact while still showing off that lovely skirt's pattern--particularly the third, and last one.
  • EggNoodlez
    I think I like the no sweater version better, both designs are great of course.

    My only concern is that the color iterations don't really match well with the skins we already have in game. Each skin has its own unique attributes, especially Ekko's assuming he plays on a sports team for the school his green cardigan makes sense, apart from that there is a unifying theme of teal trim on a dark grey fabric.

    I understand that you are working with warmer colors for Taliyah's design, but I feel like with skin lines, the colors selection is a big way for people to identify the skin (think of heartseeker's trademark colors, championship, new gen bloodmoon skins etc.)
  • adriencams
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    adriencams keyframe
    Even if i'm not kind of the look, it's a pretty good idea and you did it well, congrates !
  • BeccaBeeArts
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    BeccaBeeArts triangle
    I love the ideas! The paper airplanes are genius~
  • Madkey
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    Madkey triangle
    Sorry for taking my time doing updates here, I update my project daily in my Twitter account (@NaylaNovotny) and then when I finish something I come back to tell you the entire process in one entry, so it's more like a big batch of content to see.

    When I came back from my trip I was hesitant about all the designs I made till that time, I didn't want to proceed with further steps when I wasn't convinced with the work I had in my hands. Something was wrong, and I had to figure out what was out of place.

    It turned out that everything was wrong, because It didn't match the aesthetic enough.

    First, it started with the scarf. The shape was more maybe like a Project skin shape, with that sharpness, geometric style that didn't correspond the Academy line. In Academy we can see that all the elements are very common everyday objects that replace the weapons and accessories (except for the blood of Vlad or the magic ball of Ahri). As result, I started to look for more common/familiar shapes.

    Still, not normal enough to be something a schoolgirl would wear in her daily life, so I looked for current fashion references and found those large and comfy wool scarfs and thought "well this could work well!" I had a bit of problem tough: For to the wool patterns to not be bothersome in the design it had to be a specific pattern that would be ok with the skirt.

    I went to buy presents for Christmas, but had in mind this when I was in stores with scarfs, so I took a lot of photos for reference. 

    Vertical patterns were more pleasing with the scarf in my opinion, so I went for it.

    Then, another thing was wrong: who the hell would wear a scarf with no jacket? I slammed my head to the table. That was my starting problem, my design was like a summer uniform and I didn't thought about the scarf since in my initial design didn't had the scarf in the first place. Welp, that wasn't a big deal, just add a sweater or a jacket or both of them.

    I made the tests with both and decided to just leave the sweater since in the original skin line all of them had a sweater or a jacket.
    Also, I went back to the grey base I did to make this and retouch some values. 

    I posted this in Twitter and everyone was amazing with their feedback. I still had to test the values with the in-game background but even so, people agreed with the new design and I was glad I kept being skeptical about the other one. I think it's important to have in mind whether I would buy the skin and why, both as an artist and as a customer. 

    The following steps were making the color tests again, but this time I would do only 5 options.

    This one was the first, people liked it, but also helped me with the next color tests since I found out that the skin line was conceived  as students who were from their region schools, so the colors that they had in their uniforms matched the emblems of their lands.

    This was very fun to know, I now had more freedom to use other colors that were very different from the original Academy, and I thought that the idea of the "(insert region here) Academy" was awesome.

    I started to do the rest of the tests and with the in-game  background.

    At this point was complaining a bit about the saturation. The earlier designs had problems with the values and the saturated colors that didn't let the eye focus on one point. In the end, it felt tiring to look at them.

    Doing this, I learned that It's important to keep a balanced color palette with saturated and soft colors thinking about in which parts I really wanted to focus the attention on without making it boring. That was a bit complicated because I didn't want to use a lot of complementary colors.

    That's it for this post! Until next time ^^

  • Madkey
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    Madkey triangle
    Hey hey! Have you guys finished all in time?
    I hope so, I'm a bit late into writing this post and still recovering from my hardcore all-in work this last Tuesday and Wednesday. You know, when you work for a goal and time is running out, you have to give all your best until the end (even if you don't sleep to accomplish that haha).

    I'm here to talk about the last part of this project which was so short in time compared to the design process (I really enjoyed doing that more than the illustration, with all the feedback and love from people on Twitter) and it's a shame I can't send it to them with the final illustration but it will be awesome to have in my portfolio anyways. I learned a ton and met a lot of amazing people. That's already a wonderful and worth experience to me.

    So, let's talk about the steps I did after doing so many designs/ redesigns. 
    From the beginning I created my "LOL CONTEST" file where I put several things, among them, I had a lot of types of reference.

    REF PROCESS SPLASH ART was the key reference for the entire process I would follow in this project. I had several examples from kind Rioters who shared their creation process with gifs/steps in splash arts and even skin designs. From these I could study the way they work. I was aiming to know the similarities and the differences between artists; which components are important for this kind of work to find the "limitations" I had to respect and where I could be more creative and free. 

    Similarities I've noticed between splash arts :

    The majority of them started from a white and black base sketch ( more or less detailed) where they create atmosfere and feel that has to express the character and situation in the scene. The important key to achieve this is to be careful with the values, be considerate with each volume because they may have different values depending on their material.

    Agile/ dinamic composition. Of course it depends on the skin and the champion, but usually splash arts are dynamic and "alive" in order to create an impact on the player, to make them feel excited to use that champion and feel epic! To create a bond between player - character, the splash arts are very important, which leads me to the next point.

    THEY HAVE TO CONVEY. They have to tell us things: a context, a situation, a mood... and the personality/ identity of the character. But the most important: they have to make the player feel something exciting when they see the image. I understand that Riot has a lot of fandom they want to cherish with comics and written stories (I love that) but I wouldn't rely on the fangirling when thinking on selling a new skin. I read a lot of negative feedback from players, it's good to have high expectations with the champions you love when Riot releases a new skin for them, they are bonded with the characters after all, and that is something wonderful but fragile, so you have to have it in mind. 

    Contrast/ Vibrant colors vs non saturated/non contrast colors. Normally, splash arts have this hard but equilibrated color palette to lead the eye on the right spots, without tiring/dizzying the eye. Again, it depends on the skin line and the mood of the scene, but vibrant colors always have the ability to charm the gaze and energize the illustration. To pop up things and not be tired while looking at all these bright colors, it's important to have a good contrast and compensate the vibrant parts with more greyish (less saturated) colors. Usually when we separe the planes in our illustration, ( 3 planes are great to create some depth in the scene) the farther from us, the less saturation and contrast they should have. This helps us understand the location of the different parts of the scene and let the eye rest.

    Details vs non-detailed. Textures like armor, cloth, etc are something incredible and astonishing in splash arts, but like most of general illustrations, they have to be limited to the important parts. If you put so many details all over the illustration, they could turn into noise and/or be overloaded, so I think you have to think well where you put them, usually the good spots are already shining with the vibrant colors so normally there's no difficulty on placing them. Also, as a person who got lost several times in the past when doing details, I can tell you get tired of your work and even hate it. If you tend to be like me and spend like 3 hours detailing a tower in the distance .... and when you zoom out all of that work is lost in sight, then I recommend you to try working in at full size and only zooming in occasionally if at all. 
    Non-detailed objects also help to emphasize the important ones.

    Differences I've noticed between splash arts:

    Art style. Although Riot's aesthetics are usually even, we can find different representations in skins: more realistic, anime, korean... I don't know if it depends on the skin or the artist, but a good example of this could be the Star Guardian skin line, where all the characters look like anime/manga representations. While I think it's good if the skin and the style are coherent, it's fun to have variety.
    What I've noticed is that Zoe's release marks a change in Riot's art style, and it's not a skin, it's the original champion style that has a Disney toch in her looks that doesn't fit with the overall art. 

    Change of the champion's face appearance. I said this before when talking about garen's face in 3D model, this happens with splash arts too.

    Don't get me wrong, I love all of these splash arts, amazing desgins and execution, I'm not talking about that, what I'm seeing is that all the original character of Lux is lost for the sake of the aesthetic of the skin, and If I were a Lux player I wouldn't buy any of them because of that. Of course, I'm not the majority of players, and that's why this changes still work well when selling skins. These changes doesn't happen all the time. Some of them, like the Star Guardian skins, I would say they are  great, but even then:

     I don't know if this is something good, but as a player, I wouldn't like to have my champion with someone else's face. Maybe I'm a bit fussy about this, but I think this is very important for me.

    A good example of respecting the face structure would be Karma and her splash arts.

    Welp, I think that's all about examining splash arts. It's not something new for people who studied Fine Arts, but it's always good to take some time to observe and talk with your references. Yes, say hi to your expectations xDD.

    From here, I will talk about my personal approach for the last part of this project. I knew all this previous information and I had my designs ready to choose and make something awesome, the problem was the time I had left. I hadn't been able to workt for two weeks, so I had less than 5 days to come up with an idea and a final illustration. 

    These were my sketchy thumbnails (pun intended):

    I knew I wanted to do some of them more focused on saying something rather than on being flashy, it was hard to choose which one was the correct option, but since in theory this skin would change all the skills I had no option but to choose one that actually shows some of these skills. 

    So, It would be number 2 or number 3. 

    Feedback was also important for me in this case, people helped a lot every day, I posted updates in twitter and cleared my doubts fast so the next day I would know exactly what I had to do. 

    I continued from the number 1 sketch.

    I clean up the lines, put them in multiply (or on top) to see and block all the pieces in different layers (skin, hair, boots, skirt...). Takes time, but I think it's more efficient when adding colors in clip layers later on, if you don't do it like this, it could be very messy to deal with the different types of color layers. Lock all the layers you've made and add shadows and lights to create a base with volume until you're happy. If you're not very sure about making an entire piece in one layer and wanna add details without compromise the base, you can do another layer and then create a group, they have to stick toghether, and don't forget to name every part so you find  all the parts quickly because in the color part you'll be dealing with a million of layers! X__X
     This white and black step includes texturing, detailing... but not hard lights or light effects, you'll do that in color, and you don't have to be very strict, you can always change the contrast of any part you want later on (if you work with these separated blocks) ^^

    As you can see, I wanted to make some sort of messy situation between different characters. The original Academy splash art has that group presence that I couldn't have since it's a single champion design, so I thought I wanted to have a connection with them and another character like a teacher in order to be able to incorporate Taliyah in that world. In this case, I wanted Ekko since the beggining (yeah, I ship them hard <3) and I added Fiora headmistress as a funny component. 

    I worked with 3D to set a classroom background, faking view and painting on top. At this point, I didn't care much that I was working with color at the background, I was checking the values with a black layer on top with color mode, but I knew I probably had to change things later on when painting the characters, this step in color was the part to set the lights and the atmosfere that was going to influence the colors of the characters  . (This WIP was from the night before the deadline. My time was up in Wednesday 23:59)

    When adding base colors (in soft light, color, overlay, etc depending on you) to the black and white, you'll have something like this:

    The thing is that the shadows you created are like when you project normals on a 3D model, they won't be very good if you don't help with more color modes like multiply, color dodge, etc to create the volume again, because, shadows and lights have their own tones too, they're not black or white. A good tip is to create blue or purple shadows in multiply mode changing the oppacity according on your preference, and for the lights: color dodge, lighten, screen, soft light, etc... good with yellow tones, you can even combine them with the base colors if you don't get the color you're aiming for, it's good to have cold lights too, it depends on the mood that you want.

    I wanted a warm mood but with some complementary cold colors to balance the warm.

    I couldn't take a lot of time when doing color. I don't remember exactly, but I think it was already 5 am and I was dead inside haha, but welp, I had to keep going. It's good that when you do color, part of you is pure instinct and creativity. You think on another level, and that's why you don't have to stay very aware of what's happening, your experience will do the rest. 

    This WIP was from the day of the deadline, 15:35 pm in my time. At this point I had more clues about the tones I wanted for the lights and shadows. I tested the blue as shadow and something to separate elements of the scene and I liked the contrast with the warm colors of the light. But still, some things were not working yet, like the saturation of Taly and shadows on the background.

     I wasn't happy with different things like the hair, some textures, etc. So I wanted to repaint little things and adjust the global lights and shadows to bring further or closer the different elements.

    Always check your values when working, it helps a lot. This black and white was from the final stage, as you can see, the color/light effects we added change the original values we made before.

    Aaand that's the final illustration, I'm glad I made it on time! ( It felt like participating in the Global Game Jam, lol ). Of course, I'm sad I couldn't take more time to do this, but oh well, it was an awesome experience and I would like to do it again next time!

    See you soon, and thank you for following my adventure!


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