Digital Sketch – The Rocinante at IO

I’m going to begin sharing some of my process, starting with an exercise from last Friday. I’ve recently taken on a book cover commission and wanted to explore a digital approach to the final piece.

This scene depicts a spaceship, the Rocinante, descending towards the Jupiter moon IO from the James S A Corey book Caliban’s War. It’s a wonderful series of science fiction books called The Expanse, and I found myself inspired by the spacecraft and scenes in these stories.
It’s also given me a great platform to stretch out my digital painting skills. But first I started out with my sketchbook.


I keep a sketchbook handy at all times, and this is typical of the kinds of ships I tend to draw. A sketch like this takes about ten to fifteen minutes, starting with a thin ink line drawing, followed by heavier strokes and shadows with a brush pen. This is from a very small, portable sketchbook that I carry with me – 8.5″ x 5.5″

I took the scan directly to Photoshop, cleaning up the sketch just a bit, and setting it against a found image of the moon IO.


Several photos of an SR-71 Blackbird that I took at the Boeing Museum of Flight provided the source textures for the spacecraft, and I hand painted in more details, highlights, etc.


My goal for this kind of exercise is to quickly build an exciting image from one of my sketches. Were this to be a final piece for a book cover or a print, I would spend a lot more time correcting some of the perspective issues. But I like the raw look, given that it’s started as a small sketch.


Total time spent on this project is about four hours, with about half of it devoted to brush settings and other experiments I needed to explore for this resolution and process.


2 comments on “Digital Sketch – The Rocinante at IOAdd yours →

    1. Absolutely, please be my guest!

      You guys have filled my head with spacecraft and scenes, they just had to get out! Thanks for the compliments! And if you have any trouble with the SyFy show designs, I’ll be happy to hang out with a giant broom to clear the table and give them a run for their money.

      Christopher Doll

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