Boba Fett & Han Solo Pencils. 2018. Pencil on paper, 9 × 12″.
I was recently asked how I keep from spending too much time researching a subject and finding visual reference. It can definitely be an issue, so I thought I'd share my reply here:
When it comes to reference, it's very easy to lose yourself in the search. It helps to have a deadline, even if it's self-imposed. I often block out times on the calendar for research, making sure that there's something after it that I have to attend to.
Another technique is to not let yourself look for reference during the sketching phase. Take your ideas as far as possible using just your imagination. Only once you know exactly what you need do you allow yourself to start the search.
Lastly, there are 2 main categories of reference: design reference and posing reference. If you need to know what an X-Wing looks like, that's pretty straightforward. Put if you need a specific angle of the pilot in the cockpit, you might have to play dress-up and take some pics.
Oh, and one more thing — 3D reference is best if you can get ahold of it. Sketchfab is one of my favorite resources. That's not always possible. If it's design ref you need, but you're having trouble finding the precise angle you need, don't be afraid to change the composition to better match the ref. That doesn't mean you're a slave to your photo ref, it just means if you only have a pic of a vehicle from the front, you can avoid drawing the back without anyone really noticing.
For further thoughts on the subject, here's a series of 3 posts.