Uplift Universe - Image Entry: Michael Dashow


Okay, after hours of fooling around with colors and trying different combinations, here’s my color rough. Yes, it’s a little rainbowy, but I like it! Like it enough to not want to share with you the other 10 color comps I did (like I normally do) for fear that someone will say, “No, you should go with the other one.” 'Cause I just don’t wanna.

This is still rough, colored in broad strokes. In the final painting, each alien won’t have the exact same color fur or cloth. There will be a lot more subtle differences between them, and more accent colors thrown in all over the place. And a lot more details on those giant walls, which are essentially mega sky-scrapers, which will have windows, docking bays, etcetera, all along their surfaces.

Oh, and Aaron, I have no idea how much time so far, I usually don’t keep track. A rough guess is 20-30 hours so far, counting all of the sketches and missteps and dead-end paths pursued.


WWage Slave , 2005
Troll Crossing , 2006
Farewell Kiss , 2007

Guess this one will be your 2008. I smell it in the air.


Hey Walrus,

Wow you work quick. I love the mushroom architecture.God speed brother. Brad


Different sketches I like the last one and the colors you used Michael


Im still learning by watching, thats fantastic…I love the blue depth shot!!. it totally looks like moon light which is not a common lightsource these days…well i havev’t seen too many moonlit pieces…The latest effort is coming along strong… I think some of that green mushroom architecture, or just that colour would do nice in that little hole in the middle. Just a lil bit of “stem” showing…doesn’t need to be dominant, but just a little fleck.

nice work, mike



I an frequently asked about my “painting” process. So here it is, broken down as granularly as I can manage. That being said, I don’t necessarily recommend anyone ever actually use my process: It’s convoluted and unintuitive, and you’d probably make your way to being a better painter by doing more speedpaint and just work on splashing pixels around. This is more of an academic exercise in complex channel and layer interactions.

Basically, it boils down to treating the painting like a multipass render of a 3D scene. The greyscale painting isn’t a value study, it’s the equivalent of rendering a scene with grey materials on everything and a single light source. (In fact, for the background walls and mushrooms, that’s exactly what I did and then brought it in to the Photoshop file.) The second light source and depth layer would also be easily achievable in a 3D render.

The advantage to doing it this way is the part I gloss over near the end: Once the layers are all set up, I can just use command-U (Adjust Hue/Saturation) to my heart’s content so change not only object colors but lighting colors and the color cast of shadows and hilights. It allows for an incredible number of options in choosing a color palette, and I find it a total blast. I usually show more alternate color versions during the Challenges but I’m short on time and need to barrel ahead. But trust me, this was the best one (or at least my favorite, which is all that really matters.)

Anyhow, after the last step, the painting gets flattened back down to a couple of layers and from there on out, it’s just painting on top of it all.


Hey, Mike!

Your process ist totally cool! I agree that it might not feel like “real painting” and that it tends to be a bit dull along the process to work this way (I myself once did some experimetal paintings in that fashion) but in the end, the possibilities make up for all the work. I’m experiencing exactly the same with my ZBrush process at the moment.

I thought a lot about this in the past few month and I think it has something to do with the fact, that art in most cases is a process of choice. I’m thinking about a photographer who has shot 100 photos and reviews them and can easily tell the good ones from the bad ones. In the end, from 100 photos he chooses the single best and that’s the artwork he has created in this process.
In painting, we’re making these choices all the time BUT with one major difference. When you are painting 30 hours you just can not ensure to be aware of your choices all the time. Additionally, your eye grows tired and biased and you easily become blind for the right choices. The photographer only has to concentrate a few minutes to find his choice and in this process his eye does not become biased at all. He can make a fresh and intuitive choice and that’s his big advantage over the painter (not speaking of the disadvantages here, of course).

And to finally make a point:

In breaking down the painting process into a large amount of work that just does NOT need intuitive choices (painting the light sources is a completely technical task) and save the real choices for the very end, in my opinion gives you the ability to achieve much more refinement and overall better choices. Of course, your 2D process does not apply this idea a 100% because you have to make final creative choices in the very beginning in your drawing and modelling or sculpting would fit much better into this process (just compare your current way to introduce a new lightsource to e.g my way, having worked in full 3D). But of course in your case that totally makes sense to use the time advantage 2D has over 3D (although I must say, since sculpting evolved, 3D can be really fast these days).

I’m really looking forward to your final piece and thank you very much for having shared your process in such rich detail!


I like that you and digitaldecoy have plenty to say, when it comes to doing this type of work. It always great hear and you guys always seem to make incredible points when it comes to painting and designing. I never knock the way you work. What matters the most is the final product. You’ve been consistent with what you do and I hope to see more of it and to see you continue to succeed with it. I’ll echo everyone else, I love the idea and the painting you know its great. I am just waiting to see the final product of this entry. Later, Micheal.:thumbsup:


I have no words :slight_smile: It already looks absolutely awesome even in “rough colour” and the “process” is very inspiring and informative - thank you so much Michael, for sharing your way of working with us :slight_smile:

Can’t wait to see how you’ll wrap it all up. :slight_smile:

Cheers :beer:



this is great Michael. Thanks for letting us know and give the inside view of your prof workflow. Its pretty awesome and makes pretty good sense (…if I’m allowed to say…?) with astonishing Effects on Your artwork style.
Once again the pic is brilliant all in all, I really love it
Btw “TiffenDfx” is a program that puts the “fairy dust” opver ita pic at the end in lighting coulouring and shading in many endlessly range of variations and posibilities.


I guess Jack got the right smell…


Holy smokes! this is my favorit entry so far!!


Thank you so much for sharing your work process! It is truely inspiring and insightful. All my respect! :slight_smile:


Just fantastic to see your process laid out like that Michael, and very generous of you to provide it. Much appreciated indeed. You’re a star.

All the best for the contest itself,


Hi Mike, it is really generous of you to prepare such a thorough step by step process of your work! I certainly find it useful for the right purpose! The colours that you have firmly decided on it great. I believe in making your own final decision, so go for it!


Hi Michael, thank you for process you share with us , very informative,
and I’m sure your work will awesome,
and after I look at your process, i feel you work like an render engine , hehe
very cool ! waiting for more!!:buttrock:


Thank you everyone for the kind notes. I’m glad my process was enjoyed/appreciated/understood.

Daniel - I especially enjoyed your well thought out response. I liked your photography metaphor, and your points about saving the important choices 'til the end. It will probably not surprise you at all to learn that I first started developing this process when I was doing game industry concept art, where we often had to make major palette changes late in the process: What would there units look like on another team, with different color uniforms? How would that character look with black armor instead of red? How will this level design look with a dozen different kinds of texture maps and effects applied to the same geometry? Working with the same line art and shadows and being able to make radical changes in the palette late in the game was a huge time-saver.

Peter - Thanks for filling me in. I seldom do paintings which require much fairy dust, but maybe I’ll check TiffenDfx out, I’m sure there are many other applications!


So the second to last post was a color rough because it’s what I arrived at after doing all of the layer layersing I showed int eh previous post. Now I’ve had a chance to take one character and really give her a lot of polish. I’m possibly not done with her, but I wanted to show some of the additional details that go in: Stripes on the fir, an intricate brocade on the outfit, some color adjustment and shininess added to the shoulder sash, the ears and eyes and moth detailed out more. I’m still using my scanned pencil line art, but later in the process, I’ll colorize it to something warmer to fit the character a bit better, and probably drop its opacity more too.

Anyhow, back to work… cheers!

p.s. yes, I know the human’s shoes are kind of wonky and the laces go down too far. I’ll overpaint them when I get there.


I really enjoyed reading the process you posted as I feel I’ve picked something up to use another time - thanks for sharing! This pieces is looking fantastic and it’s a real pleasure to watch you work and read the support you give to others :slight_smile:


Hey Mike, you are very very fast and your work absolutely excellent :drool:


Very intesting to see how you work, Michael! The colours you arrived at look really great.

I’ve been experimenting with a similar way of working lately (at least when rendering). Painting is a complex thing, and I find it helpful too to break the process down into as many little separate bits as possible. It’s more reliable, and I don’t have to depend as much on intuition (which, in my case, isn’t always trustworthy:)) And I actually think it’s a good way to learn painting; you analyze different aspects of light behaviour separately: material colour, texture, light intensity, background light colour, direct light colour, shine and so forth. All of this is necessary to consider even if you paint everything in one layer.

Thank you for sharing your process!