Creating the concept art and color key

By - - 3ds Max , Arnold , Flame , Maya , MotionBuilder , Mudbox , ShotGrid
4 mins
Last modification: 18 Dec, 2020

Hi everyone,

I’m sure you’ve all been eagerly waiting to see the work produced by the talented artists on the team and I’m finally ready to share all that progress with you! This week, we’re taking an in-depth look at the concept art, storyboard, and color key. Grab your coffee, matcha, or tea, and enjoy the blog.

Joining us for the first time?
We’re producing an epic 3D sequence called Mkali’s Mission using each of the tools in the Media & Entertainment Collection and sharing the whole journey right here on AREA. Take a look back at earlier blog posts in this series to learn more.

Learn more >

Concept Art & Storyboard

Creating the concept art was a crucial part of this project. It allowed us to clearly convey our ideas for the 3D sequence visually. For this stage, we were excited to onboard Calum Alexander Watt, a super-talented concept artist based in the UK.

To kick things off, I had a meeting with Cal to discuss my vision for the overall story and details of the characters and environment. Prior to my meeting with him, I looked for reference images of Cara Dune from The Mandalorian and Nakia from The Black Panther to send over. I felt like they truly represented what I envisioned for Mkali – a strong and fearless heroine. I also gave him reference images of mountainous landscapes, wolves, bunkers, and snowmobiles for inspiration. Though, after seeing the amazing work he produced for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, I made sure to give him a lot of artistic freedom!

From there, Cal hit the ground running. After a few weeks, he was ready to share some of his work in progress. It was very exciting to see Cal’s early concept art as it was the first time I’d seen the story represented in a visual format. Cal gave us several different styles of clothing and looks for Mkali and shared the rough sketches of the storyboard.

Rough concept art of Mkali and Suluwo in various styles and looks.


A first draft of the storyboard.


Logo ideas for the resistance movement called “The Liberation” our main character Mkali is a part of. Read more about the story here


Rough concept art of Mkali’s weapons.


In addition to delivering the actual assets, Cal shared screen recordings of himself working in Sketchbook Pro. These were too good to keep to ourselves, so we’re sharing some of that footage with you. Put on your favorite lofi jams and enjoy: 

After a few rounds of revisions, we approved the final concept art and storyboards. I shared the final assets with multiple groups within Autodesk and they were received with excitement. How could they not? Take a look for yourselves:

Final concept art of Mkali and Suluwo.


Final concept art of Mkali’s snowmobile.


Final concept art of Mkali’s weapons.


Final storyboard.

Color Key

Patrick LeMay, a film and animation expert as well as my guide throughout the project, suggested we create a color key to give artists a better sense of the mood and feeling we were trying to portray in the sequence. In doing so, we would be able to keep that mood and feeling consistent throughout different shots.

We needed someone who has a good understanding of how light works from pre-production to post, an incredible eye for color, and can create stunning backgrounds that videographers and editors use in post-production. Cue in Hanping Zhao, a concept artist from Canada, who helped us add that extra level of detail to our storyboard.

Once again, we searched the web to find reference images for Han. Only this time, we made sure to look for specific shots that included the lighting and ambiance we were striving for. We knew the sequence was taking place in the early morning as the sun was rising, so we sent Han various shots of sunrises above mountains, portrait shots of people facing the sun, shadowy trees in snowy forests, and more. With all that information, Han delivered something truly beautiful!

Color key for Mkali's Mission. 

That’s all for now! Be sure to check back after the Holidays for even more updates on the project and fun interviews with our artists. I wish you all a restful and safe break!

Want to see more of Mkali's Mission? Visit our virtual animation studio to discover the different stages of the process and to get a glimpse at some real 3D eye candy. 

Posted By
Published In
  • 3ds Max
  • Arnold
  • Flame
  • Maya
  • MotionBuilder
  • Mudbox
  • ShotGrid
  • Film & VFX
  • Games
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