Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Keep an eye out

Bonus information for Tiny Tip #20

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My twentieth tutorial from the "Ranarh's tiny tips" series. You can find the other tutorials at my deviant Art account.

- The lens sticks out of the eyeball. That's why it so often catches highlights - they do not necessarily appear inside the pupil. When painting mirrored reflections, keep in mind only lit parts are reflected. Reflections can make the pupil appear less than round from afar.

- The eyeball is reddish at the inner corner. Some phenotypes have a yellowish eyeball, especially very dark black skinned people.

- Eyelashes with heavy black makeup are easier to paint, but I urge you to learn to paint them without first. Lashes are about as long as the eyeball in profile - often men's are longer - and stick out in irregular rows. Don't zoom in too much, that minimizes the risk of too short lashes. Under harsh light, lashes cast a long shadow, especially at the outer corner.

- My example has a dull, boring iris. Use lots of colours in tiny spots, lines and speckles. Use additional colours - yellow specks in blue eyes, black spots in brown, light circles around the pupil. The iris is shaded like a gem: shaded on the light side, bright on the shadow side (because it's a flat surface inside the eye instead of being on the rounded outside).

- How far the eyeball sticks out defines the shadows. Deep-set eyes have little shadow below, but heavy shadows from the brow bone. Older people have deep lid creases. The lid crease doesn't follow the eye shape. It can split up into two or three lines at the ends.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Leviathan": working steps

Gigantic monsters aren't my usual, but the open mouth of a ship-eating leviathan popped into my head with chilling clarity. Or so I thought before I put the stylus to the tablet ;)

I sketched some thumbnails in Painter to compare view points. As usual, I chose the composition of one and the lighting of another and went to work with colour.
For colour blocking, I use the largest brush possible and set it to colour jitter. I chose a colour scheme of almost complementary fleshy pink and sea blue, and fixed the position of some tentacles so that they are better balanced throughout the picture.

I centralized the mouth and used several ragged brushes and spattery airbrushes in Painter. References were used for the ship and waves.

I finally moved the thing into Photoshop, and used Images>Adjustments>Variations to further enhance the atmospheric effect.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Arborie: A walkthrough

Arborie is a character I was commissioned to paint. Here are a few working steps.


I scribble some rough poses for the client. We agree on a lying pose; the character is fashionable and confident, and a harper and swordfighter. The character is from a Dungeons&Dragons setting, but I decide to create my own take and not rely on the official artwork.

Refined sketch and colours

I create a refined sketch based on reference pictures - photos of myself for the character, various flowers, the harp (tricky perspective), and plenty more pictures for inspiration like for the sword hilt or jewelry. Via email, the client and I agree on warm autumn colours. I also want some interesting lighting and decide to create dappled light falling through the leaves overhead; this will require careful handling of the colour of lights and shadows because the light spots will be very bright and saturated, but the overall colours are supposed to be warm as well. I used Painter so far.

Starting painting

Only now I consider to be starting the painting process, everything else was just sketching. In Photoshop, I use a heavy median filter over the image, keeping the sketch as a separate layer. I resize the image to final size, which is quite large because the painting must be printable.
I then overpaint the sky with the faint blue of sunny autumn, and add trees with special brushes. The forest isn't important and I can keep them loose. I also use custom brushes for the foliage and paint in several layers, flattening frequently. I switch between programs a lot at this point because I like the brushes' colour variability in Painter much better than in Photoshop.

The handrail

I create one part of the rail, and copy and transform it into the right shapes. With clipping masks I put some wood texture over it, keeping in mind the rail is not made of one piece. With more plant brushes I start adding the pot garden around the couch.

Scene details

I define the cushions, add patterns, and lots of reflected light because of the shiny fabrics (as seen in the orange light on the striped white-and-purple cushion).
I create the dappled light like this: I paint a bright spot, use my foliage brush as an eraser and erase out parts of the spot. I blur it with gaussian blur or median filter and merge layers. I also transform some of the spots to match perspective.

Character work

Flipping is important to spot mistakes. I decide to rotate the image a few degrees because the angle of the couch doesn't look good. I turn down the saturation of the entire image to have more room for highlights. I get more references for the clothes to get folds and highlights right. Shading the yellow boots is tricky and I try to not make the shadows look like puke or anything.


I paint out the foreground and start over with better flowers, using more references, then blur them strongly to take attention away from them. I detail the sword in close zoom - I had it loose in the sketch and create a fancy yet subtle sword for an elf, with an ivory hilt and polished bronze. I enlarge her head - never too late for that in digital painting - and start adding soft cast shadows when detailing her hands.

Face and jewelry

I paint her face, taking several tries until she looks right. People recognize tiniest mistakes in faces and therefore it pays out to take your time with them. I use custom decor brushes with transform tools for the embellishments of the harp. I sketch out the jewelry on a new layer in an unused colour, switching it on and off while painting.

Final tweaks

I add more flowers to the front, and after talking to the client, even more jewelry. During these last steps of the painting, I adjust the contrast and colour saturation; I darken the image, enhance the contrast, shift the colours to the blue in the shadows and the reds in the highlights. I copy the image, blur it and erase out parts I want to stay sharp. I add a faint blue mist behind her head to make it pop (ill choice of words, I know, but the face is the focus here).

Details works

I add fabric patterns using custom papers with either a grainy brush like the Real Soft Conte or the Add Grain brush from Photo in Painter. Bright highlights on metal are created with the Glow brush.
Make sure to include reflected light. There is some on the sword hilt and sparks on her neck from the earrings. The shiny fabrics influence each other. The red silk shirt shines up to her chin.


Details will never save a picture. Make sure perspective and anatomy are right first, create a good composition and a nice colour palette. If all that works, you can knock yourself out with details - just make sure the picture stays readable.
I used many object brushes to save time. Painting by hand usually looks nicer, but you can get away with shortcuts in out-of-focus areas.