Mechboy Portrait Commission

Another recent piece of art I was asked to create was a portrait of a client’s baby son.

He wanted to portray him as a real badass, so suggested posing him in some sort of combat gear, not unlike the stylings of Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed.

I suggested sitting him in a big mech suit, which the client loved, so I got busy.


Stage 1: Sketching

The mech/tech of Appleseed have a quirky roundness to their designs which, while functional looking, are really rounded and bubble-esque. My first sketches tried to reflect this.


Sometimes, at the sketching stage, I’ll take a photo of my sketchbook and drop it into photoshop so that I can try various ideas out over the top of the original piece.


After throwing a few ideas around, the client spoke about wanting the mech suit to feel more aggressive and angular, to reflect the strength and power he wanted to associate with his son. After a few more sketches, I hit upon a nice, solid design for the suit, and stuck as many weapons as humanly possible on it.




Stage 2: Inking

With the construction elements of the piece ready, I flipped the image, turned it blue and knocked back it’s opacity so I could ink over the top. I applied the ink in photoshop, using some great natural-feeling brushes from Kyle Webster and Ray Frenden.


Stage 3: Colouring


Inks done – on to the colours.

At this stage, I was having a blast, and I wanted to put as much as I could into using the colours to add to the action-hero feeling of the pic.

The comicbook colouring process involves something called “Flatting”,  where each individual area that needs to be coloured has a panel of flat colour created that sits behind the inking lines in photoshop – kind of like the coloured panels of stained glass that sit behind the lead lines that frame them in decorative old windows. Once all these are in place, the colourist can easily select each area and choose a base colour for it. In this case, I wanted the Mech to have the feel of a modern tank, used in desert warfare, so I chose a sandy/earth coloured palette.




Once the flats were ready, I then added various textures, shadows, highlights and a number of little details to add to the weight and realism of the vehicle.


Stage 5: Background


Unlike the Thor commission, I wanted this portrait to feel like it was in a particular environmental setting – specifically, a desert.

I wanted to show the mech was in the middle of battle, hence the pose showing the pilot controlling the balance. To show an element of movement, my aim was to show the sand and dust flying around the feet of the vehicle, hinting that it was churning up the ground as it steadies itself.

First I dropped in a sky background and a rough idea of where the desert floor should be.

I chose to have the rifle barrel extend out from the frame of the background, as I thought it did a nice job of exaggerating the ridiculous gun size.


Then I started to drop in various layers of dust clouds and debris. I also added a lens flare effect to the sky, adding a touch more realism to the scene.

Finally, I applied a few gradients and filters over the top of the entire piece, to ground the machine more into the scene and to tie everything together.

And there you go – one mech-driving, hard-battling badass one-year-old.

And one very happy client.




If you’re interested in having a piece of work created, drop me a mail from my contact page and say hi :)


Posted on: 21Apr By: David Kennedy