How to Create Magic Sign Art

Plarium- Behind the Scenes4 minutes read

Sergey Samarskiy

Greetings everyone! My name is Sergey Samarskiy and I’d like to talk to you about how I created the ‘Magic Sign’ entry. Get comfortable – this is going to be entertaining and enlightening!

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The Concept

I was reading the Chronicles of Amber authored by R. Zelazny just before the Mage Tower contest. This fantasy series is a fountain of inspiration for me, notably the Merlin Cycle. I conjured up an image of a mage by utilizing a sign as the source of inspiration and power in my mind’s eye.

The Quest Begins…

It doesn't matter whether your project is personal or business-oriented. In either case, you will need to find reliable references as your number one step. For me, I like to work backwards from the vision to the reality. At this point in time I was in the preproduction stage of development. My task was simple: collect as much quality artwork from the Internet as possible.

A well of inspiration for me was the famed illustrator – Michael Komarck. Feel free to take a look at his website to see exactly how inspiring a character this fellow really is. Another top-quality reference that I used was the fantasy card game – Magic the Gathering.
I kept these sources of inspiration in a separate file so that I can preserve all the necessary information. I use Photoshop with these images for easy access and referencing purposes.


This collection of artwork is a great source of inspiration for me to choose the ideas and styles of my new projects.

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Starting with sketches…

With my artwork in folders, the next step is sketching miniatures. Sketches are a terrific way for me to have a general concept of the character without too much detail. This is still in a raw form, but it serves as a reference point for all the work to follow.


As you can see, I sketched several miniatures and then selected the one that I like the most. This will be my starting point.

Picking a Photo …

With this sketch in hand, the next piece of the puzzle is finding references for the weapons, posture, clothing and style that I am looking for. Regarding posture, I didn't use the Internet for any of my photos searches. I referenced this myself, with the help of many different photos in my inventory.

I like realism in the clothing without too much intricate detail. As my starting point, I used photographs of costumes from the Lord of the Rings, different types of medieval clothing designs and other forms of artwork.

Clothing and weapons

The Drawing…

Now that I had all this information at my fingertips, I began working in earnest. While looking at the posture in the photograph, I completed a rough sketch of the image.

The Drawing

Next up, I added plenty of detail as you can see in the costume design – all in black & white.

Costume Design

Painting comes next. My preferred choice is a simple method using layers with Overlay.

Now with colors

Once the right colors have been applied, I can make the necessary corrections and hone in on the details.

Final Touches

This whole process continues until I’m 100% satisfied with the end result.

The Tower

Once the mage is done, my next step is to begin work on the tower. In much the same manner as I listed above, it is important to collect as many useful references as possible to get an idea of the end picture. Since I required realism in my image, I opted for an existing structure as my point of reference.

Tower Inspiration

This is where it gets interesting: I modified Durham Cathedral to add a splash of fantasy. It is important to recreate the tower shape, structure and style so that it fits the requirements of the artwork.

Adding Fantasy

I set myself a challenge: complete the tower in one evening. Believe it or not, after 4 hours of non-stop work I was almost there.

The Challenge

The Analysis

After some much-needed shuteye, I began analyzing the image in earnest. There were certain aspects missing in this image, and I wanted to give it an interesting edge with additional colors and special effects. I consulted with a friend of mine who suggested that I should have fireballs slamming into the tower. With that image in mind, I set out to create precisely that!

Final Product

The Finishing Touches

There is lots of extra work that is required to bring the image to life. I made a series of general corrections, added intricate details and finally conjured up a high-resolution image with the following dimensions: 7069x9998. After several evenings of hard work, the end result was precisely what I was after!

The Final Word

The process of creating this fantastic Magic Sign artwork was thoroughly enjoyable. I would like to send a big thank you to the organizers of the contest and to all the participants. The artwork was superb! I would also like to pay special tribute to Georgiy Gigem Ibrailov and Mariya Ketka Trepalina for the time they devoted to helping me.

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