3D artist Dimitrios Sakkas: ‘My inspiration originates from science fiction’

Dimitrios Sakkas’ surreal fantasy and science fiction landscapes caught our eye when he submitted his work to promote our Affinity Photo 1.6 update.

We’re a bit in love with Dimitrios’ work—you may have seen a lot of it promoting our iPad update back in December 2017. We love how he uses a combination of 3D Software and Affinity Photo to create amazing gravity defying islands, psychedelic asteroids and dark science fiction landscapes filled with layers of depth and texture. We had to find out more about how he creates his images…

Tell us a little bit about your history as a designer and digital artist.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to draw something. I remember asking my parents to bring me some aquarelles (watercolours) to paint with. As I grew up, I decided to attend the graphic design program at the Vocational Senior High School and continue these studies at university. I used my free time to design and learn more and more stuff, I remember forcing myself to learn a new illustration method and make 5 to 10 images in a week. I used to go to the graphic design section of a central bookstore and study new methods of making images and visuals.

“I remember forcing myself to learn a new illustration method and make 5 to 10 images in a week”

Right now, I am working as a 3D modeller/illustrator and animator, something I achieved with years of hard work. Academic studies gave me the basic tools of graphic design, but personal practice was the key to everything else.

My main inspiration was weird illustrations and outstanding visual effects in books and movies, especially the ones of the science fiction genre. An illustrator that I admire a lot is Viktor Koen.

Which tools did you use when you started out?

As a millennial, I always had technology in every aspect of my life, so my main tools were my computer and design software. Besides that, I used photography, hand drawing and watercolours. Sometimes I used to create weird effects on photographs by spraying alcohol on them, resulting in mixed blurry colours. Computers are still a designer’s best friend but you have to experiment with different materials to keep creativity alive.

How did you discover Affinity Photo and what impressed you about it?

I am always in search of new tools and methods to boost my creativity and learn new stuff. By the time Affinity Designer was available for Windows I had to put it to the test. Affinity Designer led me to discover Affinity Photo, and from then Affinity Photo became standard in my work process.

The main features that impressed me from the beginning, was the Live Filters and the Tone Mapping Persona.

‘Mars Recall’ by Dimitrios Sakkas
Explain how you create one of your images and what apps/software you use alongside Affinity.

Other programs I use for images and static graphics besides Affinity Photo are Blender for 3D images and models, Affinity Designer for vector graphics and the Nik Collection plugin suite.

My usual process when creating an illustration is as follows:

3D illustrations:

  1. Create the 3D parts in Blender
  2. Render
  3. Import into Affinity Photo.
  4. Apply extra elements (like clouds, lights, human figures, trees, etc.)
  5. Apply filters and adjustments (like Depth of Field, Lens Blur, Vignette, Curves, etc.)
  6. Recolour the artwork using the Tone Mapping Persona
  7. Extra colouring using the Nik Collection plugins (in Affinity Photo)
  8. Export the final artwork

2D illustrations:

  1. Collect the images
  2. Create the main illustration in Affinity Photo by masking parts of the images and drawing new stuff
  3. Insert extra elements (like clouds, lights, human figures, trees, etc.)
  4. Apply filters and adjustments (like Depth of Field, Lens Blur, Vignette, Curves, etc.)
  5. Recolour the artwork using the Tone Mapping Persona
  6. Extra colouring using the Nik Collection plugins (in Affinity Photo)
  7. Export the final artwork
‘Spheres’ by Dimitrios Sakkas
How long does it normally take you to complete an image?

Thankfully, I have reached the point where it takes me four to five hours to complete an illustration. But, since it is a creative process, there are times I get stuck and may need a few days until I am pleased with the final result.

Tell us about the brushes and filters you use in your work. What makes them unique?

The Brush Tool is a favourite—I have a huge collection consisting of brushes I collected or created over the years. The great thing about brushes is that at any point you have a library of elements to use on your illustration—you can put a cloud or a light with a rough texture or stars right away and create beautiful backgrounds. Using them along with Quick Mask you can create very unique stuff..

Filters, on the other hand, are also very special and useful. With a single Filter Effect you can change the interest point of the image, by changing the depth of field for instance, and tell a different story..

What do you feel the Tone Mapping Persona in Affinity Photo adds to your finished illustration?

The Tone Mapping Persona is a feature that I use a lot for my artworks. It is a very useful to easily create stunning and beautiful effects with just a few clicks. Also, it is a unique feature that helps me emphasise on the little details of the 3D renders and the textures I used, recolour the entire artwork and make the final image. I feel that the Tone Mapping Persona turns a simple picture with a lot of elements, into a unique piece of artwork

Your work has a very recognisable look, often taking the form of fantastical landscapes that defy the laws of physics. Where do you get your inspiration from?

A lot of my inspiration originates from science fiction movies like Interstellar, Alien, Arrival etc., but also from Renaissance paintings of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael etc. I like the divine and strange things that depart from the everyday life and trigger the human brain.

“I like the divine and strange things that depart from the everyday life and trigger the human brain.”

What has been the most successful artwork you have made for yourself?

I think that the most successful artworks I have made are:

‘Space Rocks’:

‘Space Rocks’ by Dimitrios Sakkas

This artwork I made for a friend:

This recreation of an Alien Xenomorph:

And this latest video I made for an event:

Video graphics by Dimitrios Sakkas
Does your creative process differ between client commissions and creating your own artwork?

Most of the process remains the same, but there are a couple of things that I have to consider. The first one is obvious—you have to take into account your client’s needs. The second one is that you have to keep your file really editable in case your client asks for some fine tuning. That means merging layers has to be avoided and, unfortunately, the Tone Mapping Persona cannot be used.

Are there any references and motifs that you return to in your work?

I always return to the cloudy, misty brushes I use for creating the backgrounds and the ambiance for my artworks. Colour palette is another thing that keeps repeating in my artworks, since blue hues seem to be in most of my designs.

You’re a musician, too. How has your interest in music influenced your visual style as an illustrator?

Music and design are just two different means to create images and feelings. For me there is a close relation between the two because I use them to express myself and create ambient environments. If someone looks at my designs and listens to my music they will soon realise that both of them create similar emotions.

It’s been a pleasure talking with you, any final words for us?

Keep creating! Many thanks Affinity for considering me and my artworks for this case study. Keep doing such great apps. Looking forward for more!


You can find more of Dimitrios’ artworks and music at: dimitrissakkas.com and memphidos.bandcamp.com


Artist relations
Charlotte is an illustrator and arts lecturer who is passionate about the creative industries and is now part of our artist relations team. Her interests include mid 20th century inspired design, comic books, board games, movie memorabilia, baking cakes, feminism and yoga. She shares her 1960’s home with her graphic designer husband and her toddler son who likes to hide her iPad. Get in touch with Charlotte if you have work you have made in Affinity apps to share with us, or tag your work with #madeinaffinity in the usual places.
Credits & Footnotes

All illustrations copyright of Dimitrios Sakkas.