Michael Cabuco - Visual Development Artist - Sketchbook


Hey everybody, I hope everyone is having a great weekend so far. Here are some keyframe sketches from last week. The idea for these were to keep them simple (not over-rendered) and to focus more on story. Most of these keyframes were inspired by cinematographers I’ve been studying this past week. I gained so much benefit from these keyframes and I hope I can make this a regular habit.


These look great o would like to see you integrate overlapping on a few. Check out paul richards thumbwar pdf if you haven’t and see if there’s any compositional tricks you can pull in for the next ones


Thanks Travis for the notes! Paul Richards Thumbwar pdf is such an excellent resource. I’ll try out those composition tricks for my next set of sketches.


It’s been forever since I’ve posted! Here’s some new value comps from this week. I’ll be pushing one of these further for the next few weeks.


Nice work Michael


Thanks Travis. :slight_smile:


This keyframe is the beginning of my personal project called Slice of Life. The project draws inspiration from history with my personal spin on it.

This keyframe called “Unpaid Debt” follows the story of two brothers that get into a tight spot after a good deal goes bad. Their luck runs out as the big brother gets cornered by a notable gang boss. Despite the inconvenience, the little brother manages to escape and the faith of his older brother rest in his hands to save him from the evil henchman.


Wow Michael, love seeing this new piece form you. Your storytelling just keeps getting better and better.
I remember you saying that you practiced more with less 3D programs during your mentorship, was this piece done all in 2D?
Also really like the different variations you did of this scene. Each one really has it’s own unique feel to it.
Keep up the awesome work :slight_smile:


Thanks Martin. For this piece I did use 3D, but in an upside-down type of way. So my current workflow looks like this for keyframes from a fresh start:

  1. 2D thumbnail sketches - including composition, architecture, props, & costume design sketches (time permitting).
  2. Take my favorite 2D composition and block it out in rough 3D for perspective assistance. I also utilize Daz3D to help me with figure perspective, but I adjust accordingly if I need a stronger pose. Also, I take lighting cues for inspiration.
  3. Back into photoshop for design drawover and value comp pass 2. This pass is a little bit tighter and at this point everything is masked and organized. (i.e. characters on one layer, foreground layer, background layer, props layer, etc.) Also at this point I start to apply a local color group (flat color + ambient occlusion).
  4. Since everything is masked and layered, I can generate plenty of color comps based on lighting or local color changes. I can also add an lighting group with adjustment layers to simulate my warms and cools. I also have the opportunity to do paint overs as well.
  5. After I’ve settled with a solid color comp, then it’s pretty much locking down the painting with my color and composition knowledge all the way to the finish.

This process is overkill for mood sketches, but it’s a good illustration and design workflow if you’ve got the time.

I’m always looking for ways to speed up the process, but nowadays speed to me is in the form of knowledge. The better I am at designing color, environments, and compositions, the less mistakes there are to make thus speeding up the workflow. I also find ways to force myself to be rough with sketching so I can focus more on design. For example, lately I’ve been doing continuous line (no pencil lift-off) prop design. The sketches look like super scribbles, but to me they look like design opportunities. :slight_smile:

While on the topic of process, I’d like to suggest to everyone that foundation and technique should work hand in hand. Know/Be aware of how to do the more traditional approach and know how to the do the techniques as well. Kitbashing/Photobashing/(Your go-to technique) are very powerful tools and can be amplified with a strong foundation, but when it comes to game time (production), use whatever’s necessary to get the job done. In addition, during my mentorship, I could have easily cheated with my in-house techniques, but that would’ve robbed me of opportunities to learn more about foundation and principles. Be constantly open to new opportunities.

I feel like I over answered your question martin, but hopefully my breakdown helps! :slight_smile:


Wow great response Michael :slight_smile:
Really like seeing how you make these amazing pieces. That’s a really intriguing idea where you do those sketches without lifting your pen from paper, it sounds like a lot of fun, I think I’ll try that out on my drawing pad.
I couldn’t agree with you more about foundation and technique. After spending more time with more experienced artists I’ve started to learn the value of traditional techniques.
Thanks again for the nice writeup Michael, can’t wait to see what you come up with next :slight_smile:


Nice update


For the next installment of my Slice of Life project, I wanted to design some fun stylized Victorian architecture. During this project I also wanted to test out some new workflows which included using Blender and Procreate. Blender can seem a bit confusing on the first try, but with Heavypoly’s config set (Vaughn Ling) which is adapted to Modo users, transitioning from Modo to Blender wasn’t too bad. In addition, I did enjoy how easily it was to get some nice base renders within Blender. In addition to using Blender, I wanted to try out Procreate for the iPad Pro with the Apple pencil to push my designs further.

Aside from all the tech talk, this was a great exercise in shape, color, and functional design. I really do love the Victorian era and I can’t wait to flesh out more ideas within this genre.


Arrived back in the mainland yesterday and I’m already missing Oahu. It was a nice intermission and I’m moving forward living aloha. Here’s a paint sketch from my time at Kualoa.


Vary that brush size;) Glad you had a good trip and missed the hurricane!


Good tip! Yea I get a little lazy sometimes and start scribbling instead of changing my brush size. haha. Next time though I’ll change it up!


Life is good! It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been back on the mainland, but I’m still feeling those aloha vibes. Even my homework is benefitting from it all! Here are some storyboard studies from my current mentorship. The purpose of these storyboard studies is to get really comfortable with working with characters within a composition. They can get tough, but every drawing rep gets a tad bit easier than the previous one. Drawing mileage baby! Have a good weekend everyone. :slight_smile:


I guess one pro/con of being a CGS mentor is that I’m held accountable for Inktober. hahahaha. No backing out now. Here’s day 1!


Day 2: Tranquil of #inktober is dedicated to Led Kaapana for his beautiful music. I’m looking forward to seeing his show next week!


Looking forward to 30 days of inktober michael ;)! good start


Thanks for the encouragement man! It’s my mission for this month. lol!