Mars Sonata - A Work in Progress

Some people has been asking me to post a Work in Progress on the blog. I use to keep files of the entire progress of creation of some of my personal images but the hard work is to piece everything together in one tutorial. I made Mars Sonata last year but now I realize I have never posted it so here it goes.

Concept and sketch

Mars has always fascinated us. It's difficult to explain why but there it is, lonely, deserted, mysterious and most of all, challenging. One of the best Sci-Fi books I ever read about Mars colonization is Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, his hard sci-fi concepts along with the romantic and metaphoric approach from Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles brought the spark of inspiration for this piece.
I use the Canson sketch pads for sketching, they tend to have a subtle beige tone to their pages that I like. Recently I started using a 160 gm heavy weight Canson pad which is even better. There are pads in different sizes but I prefer the medium to small size (7 X 10 or 5.5 X 8.5 inches). They are lighter and fit better in my backpack.

Line Art

I drew the line art also on a heavy weight Canson paper using a standard HB pencil. The size of the entire image was 30 X 40 cm (11.8 X 15.7 inches) but I only made the line for the character, the rest of the elements were defined in a different way.

Sky Render

Then I made a render for the sky using Eon Vue Esprit, an excellent 3D application to create realistic environments. It's a lot of fun to move clouds layers, sun, weather conditions and sky hues like a virtual god.
I also rendered a sphere to have a good reference for the mirror shade helmet.

Sky Adjustments

I moved to Photoshop here. Although the first idea was to create a sort of grey-green environment in contrast with the bright redhead girl I finally decided to change the sky hue for something more warm.

Then I added some textures to modify the photorealistic look of the render and turned it into something that blended much closer to my brush style. I also added some pink and purple tones over the horizon.


The other element form the environment that I wanted to texturize before proceeding to the character was the sand. Fortunately, around the days I started with this project I bought some furniture that came with sheets of paper between each piece of wood. As a result the folded and pressed paper had an unusual and awesome texture that worked perfectly for this image. I took some photos and apply it to the image.

Sepia line

I colored the line in a sepia tone. It will blend much better with the overall color of the image than the original grey pencil line.


Here I blocked the main areas of color. I used to preserve those selection in separate layers (some people prefer to put them in the Masks palette) to make quick masks in the future.


Then I added textures to the image, basically here some dust and sand stains on the astronaut suit.

For the helmet the work was a little different. I wanted to add scratches all over the glass but keeping the mirror finish on the surface so instead of adding a texture in a new layer I just used the texture as a mask and painted all over the helmet with lighter tones for the brighter areas and darker tones in the shadowed ones.

I painted the blowing sand using different photoshop brushes…


… and then proceeded to the most fun part of all: creating volume. For this purpose I always follow a first basic step: I duplicated the previous basic texturized color layer, adjusted the lightness for something darker and proceeded to erase all the highlighted areas allowing the original color layer to show below this one.

Blue light and details

When the basic shadows were set and the character has gain some volume I painted the even darker areas, enhanced some highlights and applied an extra light source: a blueish smooth light coming form the left that enriched the color palette of the image and added some extra volume.
The final steps for this piece were the hair and the flute. This one was the last element for a single reason: due to its golden highly reflective material I needed to have all the other elements in place first and then I took samples of color from its surroundings (skin, hair, suit, sky) to pain it.

And here it is, my martian flute player. But the more I look at her the less I can imagine how her face would look like.


Furman said…
This has a great feel to it, enjoy the pose as well. I am glad I discovered your blog. Found it through your comment on Petars MEseldzija's blog.
Thanks for the comment Nate! I'm glad you like it!
Fernando Forero said…
Hermoso trabajo maestro Caparo....

Cálidos Saludos
Gracias Fernando¡ Saludos¡
iravgustin said…
I like your work!!Its wonderfull!!!
Ryan McDougal said…
nice work...thanks for taking the time show your process...
Poul said…
Great blog and a wonderful picture!!!
DDR said…
Che bella immagine!
Difficile è immaginare quanto lavoro ci sia per realizzare un sogno!