Animation Backgrounds

Life, Paintings, Watercolor, Work and Projects  /   /  By Rica Espiritu  /  11 views

It’s been 20 years since I last did anything for animation. AVPs, OBBs and training presentations do not count. I’m talking about animation that tells stories. The kind that starts as a nagging dream in one’s mind. This idea was born from somebody else’s dream. I’m just helping him make it happen.

Before, animation backgrounds were painted on clear sheets of acrylic [foreground] and acid-free bristol boards. Now, they’re drawn, scanned and painted digitally.

This is what it looks like. The creative director calls them “art lines”.

After the rain

After the rain

Afternoon scene

Afternoon scene

Morning Scene

Morning Scene

These were drawn and penciled by another artist. Once these drawings are done, they are scanned and sent to a colorist, me.

I also receive reference studies for light and shadows. These are my guides for coloring.

Street light in the afternoon

Street light in the afternoon

The light reference after the rains.

The light reference after the rains.

How the alley should look in the morning, till around noon.

How the alley should look in the morning, till around noon.

How the street should look at night.

How the street should look at night.

Once I receive these, the coloring process begins. I had to do an actual background by hand. I posted that last week. Once the painting is done, I recreate the SAME scene digitally and repeat each stroke. I also make sure that it looks like brush strokes – watercolor brush strokes.

To make things easier for myself, I blow it up to print size. This way, I can put in details. After all, this isn’t your regular Flintstones cartoon show. The only instructions I have from the director is that it should look like a watercolor painting and that the lighting has to be correct. From the scenes above. I did the following:

DRAFT: MORNING SCENE
street-morning-noon-draft01

FINAL: MORNING SCENE: The shadows were corrected and made to look stronger. After all, this should be around 11am – 1pm. Light was white to bluish.
street-morning-noon-draft02

DRAFT: AFTERNOON SCENE
street-afternoon-draft02

DRAFT: AFTERNOON SCENE: The area where the sun shone was corrected. Naturally I had to adjust the highlights. Not only that, I had to check the brightness. Areas where the sun shone had to be yellowish-white
street-afternoon-draft03

DRAFT: RAINS
street-raining-draft01

FINAL: RAINS: I had to correct the shadows and the mood. Almost everything has to be grayish and sad. The rain and floods will be animated.
street-raining-draft02

DRAFT: EVENING
street-Evening-draft01

FINAL: EVENING: I must say that this is my favorite. I had to redo all the color tones and add the correct highlights. The correction for this scene took at least 2 hours to do and at least 7 different “design plates” were made. This was the 7th and the final one.
street-Evening-draft07

Just to show you the level of detail, I’m zooming into a part of the scene.

street-closeup2-650px

All this took 2 days to paint. When I say 2 days that’s me working 10 hours a day. The scene for these backgrounds will just be a minute or two. Much of the animation is still being made. In fact all these backgrounds still passes through color correction for consistency.

This is the reason why I haven’t done my painting-per-day routine. I’ve been painting for 7 days straight. I still have 4 more backgrounds to finish and after that I’m done. The last background is more complicated because it involves a foreground. 🙂 Will blog about that next time.


All these do not belong to me. The copyright belongs to the director and producer of the animated feature. I am a mere colorist. 🙂

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