Aura of Worlds Illustration

for press release promotion

You'll need more than a sword and shield to reach the exit. Your wits may be one of those things.


A commissioned illustration for Cognitive Forge's "Aura of Worlds" game, for their press-release period during late May / early June 2017. The game encourages players to improvise with provided weapons, environment and tools to traverse procedural generated levels. You can check out more updates about their game on their Twitter (Anthony Liew).



This was one of the most ambitious digital paintings I've created to date. It required more planning, and more layer control, since painting-on-one-layer method would be a slow process.

Before I begin an illustration this big, naturally I start with thumbnail compositions. Except for the requirement of a portal, the character facing away from the viewer, and one of the level designs as background, I was fairly free to interpret this illustration as needed.

What I wanted to focus on was a sense of story-telling of what the game is about; being creative with the tools provided, as well as its slightly eerie and yet beautiful atmosphere. No.2 showed off the grapple-hook method especially, so that's what we went with.

Before I start with the final composition, first I do colour atmosphere thumbnails. No.1 is based off the in-game visuals, which I refined in no. 2, and then departed from in no. 3 and no. 4. The final version was a mix of no. 2 and 4.

Thankfully, the thumbnail sketch already had a fairly strong silhouette, so I didn't need to do a lot of redrafting for the final piece, save for rearranging a few monsters.

The process for the painting:

1. First, I flat out the main elements and roughly what colours I intend for the background and the character (not visible in this example). These were on seperate layers to begin with.

2. I create two new layers: a multiply layer that fills the entire canvas, and where I start shading darker and lighter values, and either a colour dodge or 'addition' layer for extra light sources (like the portal). Again, keeping it very rough.

3. Refine and clean up the base elements (all background layers are merged at this point) and the multiply layer. This is the part where I also tweak the colours of both of those layers using colour correction filters. Such as: lightening the far background and improving the saturation of the shading.

4. This is what the shading multiply layer looks like. The white areas allow the base colours to show through fairly unchanged, while the darker areas add shading.

5. Further shading refinement, including the highlighted area. I continue to tweak colour values and contrast.

6. At this point I take a deep dive and merge all layers! The final clean-up stage is much easier when I have full control over where edges and shading start and finish. I also add overlay layers to help with final lighting; one more the far background needed to be more pastel, to improve contrast and brought more focus to the figure.