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It’s the penultimate update for Little Demon Tristana, and today we’re sharing the latest progress on her chromas and how we created her splash art. Since Tristana just jumped into PBE this week, our final update will focus on the finishing touches that go into skin development, and we’ll also have a time-lapse video of her splash art illustration to share.
Jennifer Wuestling, Illustrator: Hi, I’m the illustrator for Little Demon Tristana’s splash art! A lot has happened since our first update, back when we posted the black and white thumbnail sketches for her splash. It’s been a while, so here are those early sketches again.
Once the team decided to go with this design, the next thing I did was make some color variations, which is something we do to see what mood or color scheme fits the character and scene. We quickly decided that a warm color scheme would be a nice contrast to the cool blues she has in her hair and fire VFX.
Before I go full into rendering—which is where I clean up the image and round-by-round paint in more details—I refine the thumbnail, solving issues while the image is still small and tweaks are relatively easy to do without spending too much time. Composition, lighting, anatomy, and values should all be solid at this stage, and when it’s viewed as small thumbnail, it should look close to what we want the final splash to look like. We call this stage the “greenlight stage.”
After it’s green-lit by the team, I move into rendering. Before starting, I size up the image and “mask” the various elements—like her skin, clothes, horns, and hair—so that they’re all on separate layers. I try to group things that don’t touch or overlap onto one layer so that I can keep my layer count low and less confusing. Everything that has the same crazy color is typically on the same layer; for example, her hands, horns, and clothes are all marked in blue.
Not all artists in the team work the same way or with this method, and some artists separate layers later in the process. But it’s generally useful to have the elements in layers, that way we can move things around without affecting other areas.
When detailing and cleaning up the painting, I usually go from big to small, trying to give all areas a raw finish first. Then I do another round going further into details. The sharp, small details—such as dents and scratches on her horns, her freckles, and the zipper on her jacket—and the VFX—like the sparks in the air and the golden light from the top—are painted in some of the final rounds.
Since the whole splash art process can take 4–6 weeks and it’s easy to lose sight of what to improve, we do a review meeting every day for each other in the team. I usually ask for feedback there once or twice a week. We get lots of useful feedback; others might catch things I don’t see anymore after working so long on one piece. Every now and then, we also do paintovers for each other which sometimes can be more helpful than words. In the paintover below, Alvin Lee (another illustrator) helped me make the perspective of the upshot more solid, specifically with the throne (see how it fits into the slightly bent rectangle) and the circle of Teemos.
I hope this gives you some insight on how we work on the splash art for skins. I’m excited to share the full process video in the next update!
Alexia “Riot Lexical” Gao, Product Manager: We begin making chromas for a skin as soon as the concept is locked, working in parallel to the skin’s development. The first step is to kick off an ideation for the chromas, where we looked at the concepts for Little Demon Tristana as well as the original three pillars. While we want each of the chromas to feel different, they still need to be within the boundaries of these pillars—chromas are meant to give more customization options for a skin, not an alternative skin.
For Little Demon Tristana, our pillars were:
- Adorable and demonic, not “edgy”
- Right-hand yordle of Little Devil Teemo
- Fiery and mischievous
We look to see if there are any areas or pillars which we can push a bit further. This is the fun part where we can go wild exploring directions before we rein it back in: What about fiery or icy devil Tristana? Shadow Isles demon Tristana? Or maybe even a banana devil Tristana who’s out to punish all those who don’t eat enough potassium?!? (Just kidding.) For each of the chroma ideas we like, we search for references to build a mood board. Next we sort these ideas by colors, which the concept artist will then use to create a variety of designs.
Generally, we try to create a spread of 8–10 designs so there’s room to select the best. We review each of the designs as a team, and sometimes we’ll mix and match elements between different concepts, kind of like a fun dress-up game. We’ll also put these designs side-by-side with other Tristana skins to compare them, checking to see if any of the color palettes are already in use.
During this time, Little Demon Tristana’s base skin is being tweaked and polished. We have to be diligent with these changes so that we can make the necessary adjustments to the chromas as well. Once we lock-in the chroma concepts, we bring them to life by painting the “peeled orange” for each of the chromas. We’re essentially changing the design and colors painted onto this “peel,” which is also known as the skin’s texture, rather than any other elements of the skin.
Once all of the chromas are done, we put them into the game to review. During the polish phase, we’ll touch up the chromas, review, and repeat. This process happens continuously up to and through PBE to make sure that feedback is addressed and the team feels good about the chromas’ quality. Like skins, we can perfect each chroma till the end of time, so at this stage, it’s about balancing the extra effort with the additional value. There’s no perfect science or checklist—it’s a gut feeling that we validate through players’ sentiments during PBE.
Ultimately, we want each of the chromas to be unique, which gives skin owners more personalization options from game to game. We do our best to continuously get better, and we hope that you like these chromas :)
Off to PBE!
Janelle “Riot Stellari” Jimenez, Product Manager: Well, you’re probably feeling around now, “wait, isn’t this skin done?” Yes, yes it is. This is around the point we’d call a skin shippable or ready to ship. As any artist or perfectionist knows, you can polish and “perfect” something forever (and still never release it). My job as a product lead and a producer is to know when to call a skin complete so our team can move on. This sounds easy enough, but with a very passionate team, all of us need to be told “okay, pencils down for real,” every now and then.
For Little Demon Tristana, we considered this skin shippable approximately two weeks ago and moved on to the next project. Our next step is to release this to PBE (where she’s at now!), where we’ll sweep for any bugs we didn’t already catch, fix any errors in cohesion between the splash and model that we missed, and listen to player feedback. In the best cases, there’s only minor bugs or tweaks to address.
In our final post, we’ll be sharing what (if any) PBE feedback we applied to the final skin and why (or why not), as well as discussing how we look at results and team health. We’ll also be sharing a time-lapse video of the splash art illustration. See you in two weeks!