Three Very Basic Tips For Making Cyberpunk Art

2016 Artwork basic tips for cyberpunk art article sketch

As I’ve mentioned several times before, I’m working on a series of cyberpunk-style paintings(which were posted here a couple of weeks ago) at the time of writing.

So, for today, I thought that I’d give you a few very basic tips about how to make cyberpunk-themed art.

1) Lighting: The most important skill to learn before making cyberpunk artwork is how to paint or draw vaguely realistic lighting.

After all, almost everything in the cyberpunk genre happens at night – where the world is lit by neon signs, headlights and the glow of computer screens. So, knowing how to make the lighting look even slightly realistic is pretty important.

This is actually fairly easy to do with a bit of practice, but it requires you to think in three dimensions (playing computer games might help you to learn how to do this if you don’t already know).

Once you’ve made the basic sketch for your picture, just look at every light source in the picture (eg: screens, neon signs etc…) and imagine a series of lines sticking out from it in every direction. The edges or sides of whatever these lines touch should be the same colour as the light is.

To give you an example of what I mean, here’s one of the paintings from my cyberpunk series. Below it, there’s another version of it that shows the rays of light from each light source.

"Strange Case" By C. A. Brown

“Strange Case” By C. A. Brown

Each line represents a ray of either blue or orange light. The underside of the umbrella is orange since it was meant to be made out of a semi-transparent material.

Each line represents a ray of either blue or orange light. The underside of the umbrella is orange since it was meant to be made out of a semi-transparent material.

2) Research: In order to learn what cyberpunk settings look like, it’s a good idea to do your research. At the very least, you should probably watch a brilliant movie from the 1980s called “Blade Runner” – since the visual style of this film has influenced virtually all cyberpunk art, comics, games etc.. in existence.

Other films, novels, TV shows, comics and games in the cyberpunk genre (or which contain some elements of it) that are worth looking at include “Akira“, “The Matrix“, “Neuromancer“, “Transmetropolitan“, “The Longest Journey“, “Dreamfall: The Longest Journey“, “Charlie Jade“, “Cowboy Bebop“, “Beneath A Steel Sky” and “Gemini Rue“.

Whilst you shouldn’t directly copy any of these things, once you’ve seen enough stuff in the cyberpunk genre, you’ll start to have an intuitive understanding of what does and doesn’t look cyberpunk.

If you don’t have the time or resources to do all of this research, then I’ll sum it up. Cyberpunk artwork contains ludicrous amounts of fictional advertising, it contains large evil corporations, it contains large oppressive angular neon-lit cityscapes, it contains futuristic (but sometimes delightfully bulky) pieces of technology, the clothing designs either have a “film noir”, “punk” and/or “gothic” look, it rains a lot and it’s almost always night.

I’m sure you get the idea, but if you don’t, then here’s an informative comic:

"Damania Redux - Cyberpunk" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Redux – Cyberpunk” By C. A. Brown

3) Retro futurism: The cyberpunk genre was in it’s heyday in the 1980s and the 1990s. Back then, computers and the internet were still an exciting new thing – even though they’re a mundane fact of life these days.

Back then, the idea of technology companies wielding a ridiculous amount of power seemed like a thrilling idea for a dystopian sci-fi story – rather than the mundane modern reality of Google, Microsoft, Apple etc…

Although more “modern” interpretations of the cyberpunk genre certainly exist, if you want to go for maximum atmosphere, then try to imagine what the future would look like to someone from the 1980s or 1990s.

For example, you could try to take pieces of technology from that time and try to make them look a bit more futuristic (eg: like the payphone in “Blade Runner” which *gasp* can make video calls). Or even just include slightly old pieces of technology (eg: CRT monitors, flip phones etc..) in futuristic settings. I’m sure you get the idea.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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