Become a brilliant visual storyteller with Tae Young Choi

Tae Young Choi storyteller

In this workshop, Tae young Choi explains his visual storytelling process, in which he always focuses on the story first...


Tae Young Choi
Tae Young Choi
Tae young Choi is a concept artist, illustrator, and 3D artist who works for various games companies, books and magazines. At the moment he is in Chicago, working for Midway Games as a concept artist. He says: "My work is about visual storytelling with shapes and lights." Included among his clients are Underwood, Kush Games and Calabash Animation Studio. 

Even though I paint in a variety of ways, I always start the same: write stories and do sketches based on them.

These initial ideas eventually become my motivation to finish my painting, and I believe that a good story leads to a good painting.

In this workshop, I'll focus on this pre-painting process more than the actual painting practice. Later I'll explain a few techniques I use in my visual storytelling, for example, how I bring fake global illumination lighting to my painting using photo references.

The story I've created focuses on two characters, a human and a robot, confronting each other on the battlefield.

This means I have to look for references of robots and soldiers, and keep sketching robot designs to find a fitting one. A

t the start, the story and idea determine everything - references, initial sketches, designs, compositions, initial colour palettes and so on.

I especially like working on sci-fi and fantasy stories because I can explore and design more freely, instead of trying to render realistic objects.

01 Value sketching
Initially, I consider juxtaposing the two characters in the centre of the painting, one high and one low, to give a good idea of their vastly different sizes.

Right now my sketches aren't very detailed, because if I have too many details at this early stage, it restricts me when I'm making changes.

I begin painting only overall value, concentrating on the composition and the rough silhouettes of my two characters.

I think the balance of light and darkness is the most important part of my painting, because it helps convey the story to the viewer.

Step 1 image

02 Fitting the story
Looking again, I think that the way I have positioned the characters gives the feeling that the robot is more powerful than the human.

It looks like the robot is repressing the man from the top in the painting. But I want these characters to have equal power, and I want the viewer to be eagerly wondering what's going to happen next.

So I switch the human's pose to make him more dynamic, ready to fight against the machine, instead of making him look scared.

I also think this vertical composition looks a little boring, so I change it a little by moving the human to the right, to create more of a triangular look.

In addition, even though the robot is big and tall, I want him to still look vulnerable. So I decide to arm him with typical old-school army weaponry, instead of giving him an unbreakable look.

Step 2 image

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