Marc Simonetti has illustrated some of the most well-known sci-fi and fantasy novels ever written. And, once you see his work and learn how he creates these illustrations, you’ll appreciate the art behind the books, as well as the films and games, which often offer the first visuals of the story you’ll explore. Interestingly enough, he uses KeyShot in the process of creating his amazing illustrations. We talk with Marc to learn more about how he got started and why he uses KeyShot.

Marc Simonetti

Modeling software used: Gravity Sketch, Oculus Medium, ZBrush, 3D-Coat
marcsimonetti.com / Artstation

What sparked your interest in becoming a Illustrator/Concept Artist?
I’m obsessed with drawings, paintings and everything visually interesting. I also love to read books, that naturally leaded me to be an illustrator in the first place. Then, the more I was doing cover art the more the more I wanted to design things according to the stories, and this leaded me to being a concept artist. Both are all about bringing ideas/stories into a picture.

Marc Simonetti

What was the turning point in your career? or highlights or your career?
My main turning point was when I made an iron throne for GRR Martin’s The World of Ice & Fire. Back then it was a big deal personally because I was an hardcore fan of the books but, as it was just an interior illustration, it wasn’t a big gig. Then George shared my rough sketch on his website–it was shared millions of times. At that point, I had illustrated something like 300 cover arts for different countries, but this suddenly I was no longer invisible. Another turning point was a 10 month project working with Luc Besson on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. This was an amazing experience, I learnt a lot, I pushed myself, and it was my introduction to working on big-budget films.

Marc Simonetti

KeyShot helps build a solid base of composition and light in just a few minutes, generating different renders I can combine in Photoshop and paint over easily.”

What is unique about your approach to a project?
The most important part to me is the ideas underneath every illustration or concept. I try to use every tool I have to enlighten the ideas and to make them visually striking. My approach is to adapt the process to the idea and to the concept. This way every picture has its own process.

What is your primary 3D modeling software?
I spent years using 3ds Max and Maya, and then switched to ZBrush when it came out. Now, I work with 3d-Coat and Oculus Medium or Gravity Sketch. These three (especially the VR applications) are extremely convenient to produce complex models of all kind really fast–They are just closer to drawing than the pixel pushing apps.

Where in the process do you use KeyShot?
I use KeyShot right after the modeling stage, primarily using a lot of procedural textures. KeyShot helps build a solid base of composition and light in just a few minutes, generating different renders I can combine in Photoshop and paint over easily. It’s a key part of the process–making the rendering really intuitive and fluid.

What makes KeyShot an important tool to have?
KeyShot can handle heavy scenes so easily. The process is all setup with a great library of materials, HDRI environments, and features like patterning really help with creating huge cities or armies in a fast, easy way.

What advice would you give to someone interested in doing what you do?
I would say this: Aim for your dream job first and build your portfolio around what you love doing. This way, you’ll first learn what you need to have your favorite job and, if someone hires you because of your portfolio, it will be for something you love creating. I would add, it’s also important to always try different software and techniques–this will help you improve and be more versatile.