A well known nightmare for illustrators. Most people love to draw characters or even props, but backgrounds are their weakness. And in most visual novels, the backgrounds feature big open shots or cities, rooms with high detail or complex locations. We decided to use renders, here’s why.
Unlike an illustration, we can build a scene and take shots from all kinds of perspective, lightning, weather and even export them in wider sizes to move the camera.
This process starts with a simple list of backgrounds we know we’re going to need, making note of important elements for the story or the setting, ex: “a living room with fancy and expensive furniture, with a prominent portrait of the deceased lord of the hacienda”. Writing the mood of the scene is also helpful, like “sinister”, “happy”, “romantic”, etc. But if the background is going to be used for multiple scenes, we just aim for a “neutral” look.
In the script we specify if the background will be one screen or several screens long. We generally use a Full HD resolution. After that, we do a rough sketch of all the elements and general framing that the background should have. With this, we jump into C4D, this software already have some rooms or default scenes you can use and repurpose. If you can’t model, the internet has TONS of good quality models for sale.
After every object is in place, we proceed to add lightning. If it’s during daylight, we always have a natural source of light, such as a window or a door (most of Destino Indomable takes place indoors.) We make sure to check the Global Illumination option for more natural lights and shadows, Ambient Occlusion for a soft look and light bounce, and some antialiasing to avoid jaggies. Then it’s render time.
We usually export a PNG file without sky, because we then add it in Photoshop. That way, we have control over the background and can change it whenever without doing the render again or masking the sky.
Then we can add some effects to make it seem more like an illustration. We export with Cell Renderer (this exports only the “linear” of the object.) Then we can mix them in Photoshop, toying with multiple blending modes to achieve a natural look.
Destino Indomable has very appealing and colorful characters, so we needed to make the backgrounds pop more. That’s why we play around with hues and saturation until we achieve a less realistic look for the images. It’s way quicker to do it in Photoshop than doing it in C4D and render all over again.
When we have the color we want, we can mix the three layers (render, lineart and curves), and make a duplicate, blur it and put it on top with opacity. This will give them a “dream-like” quality and make them look more fantastic. If the scene takes place at night, we can add a photo filter to make the colors cooler.
We then export a JPG file and it’s ready for the game! Hope this was useful and interesting! You can create your own backgrounds for your visual novels, or even buy them directly from the Unity Asset Store or Itch.io (we have one pack for sale that has more than 100 backgrounds, all with different lightnings!)