Art Case Study

Green Grey

In September 2021, the Green Grey team approached Inlingo with a request to illustrate a character for their Series project. In this case study, we go step-by-step through the process of our art department creating Helozina for the All Secrets of Heaven interactive novel — the pipeline we chose, the time spent on creating one character for the story, and the details that helped bestow an individual character on the heroine.

Series: interactive stories

The Series project features romantic visual novels that are divided up into episodes and seasons. The player can choose the story that grips them the most: develop a relationship with a vampire, have a romance with a cook, or find love among angels and demons. During the story, you have the chance to make decisions that influence the fate of the main hero and other characters. Each step is significant and effects changes in the development of the plot.

In Series, you can immerse yourself in the story that you like most

The novel that the Inlingo team worked on is called All Secrets of Heaven. It tells the story of a terrorist attack in the Vatican, planned to take place during an appearance by the Pope. Major intelligence agencies try to prevent the explosion of a bomb carrying a virus, while Angels and Demons, standing at people’s backs, wage their war. The main heroine gets in the wrong taxi and accidentally ends up dragged into this story.

Starting work: references and technical requirements

Helozina is a secondary character in All Secrets of Heaven, who belongs to the demon faction. She is caustic, arrogant, and loves to weave intrigues, have affairs with men, and even start fights. The first reaction she should inspire is irritation, anger and, possibly, the desire to accept her challenge.

Work on the character started from scratch — the Inlingo team had no prepared materials. First, the artists studied the description that Green Grey gave the team. It turned out to be reasonably detailed, including the character’s personality, appearance, and the style that the developers wanted to see in the finished work.

As a reference for the character type, Dame Vaako from the film The Chronicles of Riddick was offered. The Green Grey team had decided that Helozina should be a mixed race American woman, around 25 years old. She is a woman with the perfect figure, who is well aware of her attractions and exploits them unscrupulously. However, her beauty is contrived and has no lasting appeal. Her features could have an element of caricature: false eyelashes and duck lips.

Character references: Dame Vaako (Thandiwe Newton) from The Chronicles of Riddick

The character’s appearance became a reflection of her provocative character — a dress with an unnecessarily long skirt, a cinched waist and a plunging neckline. It is Helozina’s striking appearance and sassy character that prompt players to buy beautiful dresses. The character provokes an unequivocal emotion — “You can’t do that!” — then literally forces you to accept the challenge.

The Green Grey team provided visual references for Helozina’s look

Helozina’s look is somewhat incongruous: contrived, cruel and florid. The developers explained that a “stiletto” manicure — long sharp nails — would suit the character. In terms of accessories, they suggested a necklace with malachite or chemical-pink agate.

Pipeline of work: from concept to animation

Inlingo develops an individual pipeline for each project that we work on. The pipeline dictates how often managers will contact the client and get the results of work approved. In this case, the team at Green Grey already had a vision of the process that we should follow to achieve the desired results.

Pipeline of work on Helozina

The Inlingo team agrees not only the order of the pipeline stages but also the level of fine-tuning at each stage. The art managers request iteration quality references. With them, the artists immediately understand their task, and the approval stages pass painlessly. You can read more about our working principles in the text How we create art.

Step 1: choice of pose

The work began with the search for a dynamic pose. To do this, we used Daz Studio — an application for creating and rendering 3D scenes. The team expressed their preference for this tool, as the client had already been working with it to create other characters for their novels. The program has a database of male and female models that you can modify according to your requirements. The rigging in Daz Studio is fairly realistic — it’s almost impossible to put a character in a very unrealistic pose. It’s a useful tool for quickly selecting reference poses that can be worked with in the future.

Pose variations for Helozina created in Daz Studio

Step 2: sketching

The next stage was creating sketches based on the established poses. It was important even at this early stage for the artists to accommodate the style that the client preferred. Furthermore, it was vital to understand how detailed the sketches should be. At this stage, some companies want to see just a general impression of the final art, while others want almost the final version, with only detailing left to do. That’s precisely why the team requested a reference that fully corresponded to the Green Grey team’s requirements. The artists were guided by it in the early stages of sketching Helozina.

Sketch references from the Green Grey team

Based on the sketch references, the team of artists created the first rough drafts of the character. The sketches featured several different dress options, poses, and hairstyles, as well as a clear choice of accessories.

First sketches of Helozina from the Inlingo Art team

Step 3: generating the face

To create the concept for Helozina’s face, Inlingo used Artbreeder. Portraits are one of the strongest features of the neural network. In this section, you can mix several different faces in one image, and also alter the portrait according to different parameters: age, gender, mood.

Versions of Helozina’s appearance created using Artbreeder

Step 4: working with color and accessories

When they began the work of selecting color tones, the Inlingo team again relied on the reference sketches.

Color sketch references from the Green Grey team

Inlingo’s artists drew several dress designs in different shades, as well as different versions of the details and accessories — in gold and in silver.

Color sketches of Helozina by Inlingo Art

Step 5: agreeing the concept with the client

At the stage of approving the concept, the Green Grey team looked at the designs and chose the options that most closely aligned with their vision. We managed to decide on the final pose, the skin tone, and the design and shade of the dress.

Commentary from Green Grey

We’ve come back with feedback. The work’s going well.

  1. Pose No. 3
  2. Face No. 2, but with skin even darker
  3. Dress No. 6, but in the red version with silver decorations
  4. Hairstyle — black waves, as in color sketch No. 2
  5. What to add:

    The character has to have wings. We’ve prepared a guide about them.

Evgeniy Gilmanov

Facebook

Guide to wings from the Green Grey team

Step 6: photobashing

The photobashing technique presupposes the use of photorealistic textures or processed details from photographs to create the final image. This speeds up the drawing process, adds realism, and makes it possible to add a high level of detailing quickly. Using the advantages of this technique, we were able to quickly estimate the approximate final result.

Helozina’s look after photobashing

Step 7: prerender

This post-processing stage is when we add additional artistic details, light, shade, and color correction. The treatment is superimposed on the sketch. At the prerendering stage, the image becomes completely unique and close to the result that we want to achieve in terms of execution quality.

Helozina after the prerendering stage

Step 8: final render

At the stage of finalizing the render, the team added the finishing touches — minor details, lighting balance, highlighting and outlining. It all helps the character stand out from the background and makes them more alive, interesting, and three-dimensional.

Final version of Helozina for Series

Step 9: slicing for animation

The characters in Series express emotion and move. For this to be possible, the model has to be divided into parts for subsequent animation.

Moving parts of the image sliced for animation

At this stage, it’s important to remember that, when moved, the layers can uncover parts of the image that were previously hidden beneath them. We have to make sure that, even on the lower layers, we haven’t left any untouched areas that could appear in the animation process or the movement of parts. The Inlingo team also pays attention to a technical point — for the convenience of the animators, the file containing the animatable layers should be clear and tidy. There should be no superfluous layers, and those that are included should be recognizably labeled and placed in the right order.

Helozina was then brought to life at Green Grey’s office.


Anna Solov’eva,
Manager of the Series project

Helozina turned out to be totally stunning, without a doubt one of the story’s most charismatic characters.

The work went very smoothly, and our team really appreciated how our colleagues at Inlingo adjusted to fit in with our internal pipelines and our tools of choice.

Evgeniy Gilmanov

Facebook

You can already admire Helozina in All Secrets of Heaven.

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