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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

moar process

I have been told the gifs are not enough process and that more talky process is required. Also today is the most unproductive day ever, so I might as well do this and feel like I have accomplished something other than drinking too much coffee and eating freezer bagels.


These are usually from reference because they're mostly for practice (gods know I need it), and because I usually do these in the morning when my brain can't actually think of anything other than 'ugh.' Keep in mind I have no idea what the hell I'm doing at any point in time, and all of this could be the worst process in the world and may in fact cause your IQ to drop by a factor of twelve.

So it starts with a line drawing. Shocking, I know.
When painting people and not sexy skulls like this one, I tend to spend a fair bit of time with the sketch until I have something I'm happy with. I know some people are able to just lay down a few guides and figure things out as they paint, but if I mess up the proportions on the sketch, everything goes to hell (if you look through all my stuff, whenever something looks weirdly proportioned it's generally because I messed up at this stage). Likeness isn't quite as important as proportions that work well as far as I'm concerned.
I've also laid down my midtone. I tend to choose it slightly darker and more saturated than what I think the actual midtone of the picture would be (so basically I find a proper midtone, then make it darker/more saturated because I am weird like that).

Here I've blocked out the main shadows. I exaggerate the shadows a lot, making things much darker than they are, using a highly saturated color. I will end up painting over most of that anyway, but the idea is to help me get a sense of the shape and where the light is, and also make it easier to have some saturated gradients once I start blending colors together. I generally choose the color for this stage based on what color I want poking through the painting; I really like seeing under-painting colors in traditional media (like how you'll sometimes see green tones when people paint skin), so this is me trying to replicate that a bit. In this case I decided purple was the swankiest.

A quick note on the brush: It's not particularly fancy, just one of the default photoshop brushes with the opacity set to pressure, around 85% opacity 70% flow, and a texture enabled in the brush settings (I think in this case it's a rock texture set to Color Dodge). Don't recall if I found it somewhere or made it, but it's pretty easy to replicate.

I put down a lighter tone that is closer to the actual midtone (it's not unusual for me to actually end up painting over most of the image at this stage, but some of the under painting will always poke through). Doing this, I try to bring the shadows back down a bit, since I pushed them further earlier, and start blending them a bit. At this point I start getting a pretty good idea of what the surfaces are and where I'm going to be putting down the highlights and darkest shadows.

This is basically the same thing; I'm still bringing the shadows down since they were so over the top. I just used the same purple color and made it slightly lighter but much more desaturated.

Onoes! I once read somewhere that a very important part of painting things is to find your hard edges and then use those to define your shape, so here I started adding highlights and adding some sharp edges. I'm still trying to get the hang of this, but I find it rather neat how a very sharp highlight/shadow in the right place can quickly define a shape (in this case the most noticeable would probably be the brow and the nose).

More of the same; I'm trying to find those hard edges and put them in the right place. The brown/yellow-ish tone there is just me changing my mind about the purple and trying to change it, but then realizing I am far too lazy to do so properly.

Still refining the edges. I try not to wait too long before sculpting the shape with the background color (or whatever other element there is) because as I'm sure you all know, color is relative and working without the rest of the image (and usually by 'rest of the image' I mean 'that one background color because I'm such a lazy bum') too much will throw me off and I'll end up totally fudging everything (more than usual).
Also, it's more edges to define the shape, which suddenly give me a much better sense of what the hell it is I'm trying to do. It's not unusual for me to get to this part thinking I have screwed it all up, then sculpt the edges and find out it's sort of maybe kind of okay (the opposite also happens a lot, and then I weep silently for a few minutes).

This is the fun part. I add the stronger highlights and shadows, and keep working on those edges. One thing I try to keep in mind is to not rush things; it's very easy for me to want to get to this stage fast, and so I push my highlights and shadows way too far too early on, and then I end up with an oversaturated super contrasted mess.
When painting something like skin, I generally have many more passes of highlights and shadows, where I'll gradually increase the contrast until I get to the desired result (see the old man gif ).

It looks like I did slightly more rendering than I actually ended up doing - in this case I'm letting the brush do a lot of the work for me with its fancy rock texture. I also started detailing some of the smaller edges like the teeth and cracks in the skull.

Some more detailing, and I lay down the strongest highlights/shadows sparsely. Again with the whole 'sharp edges' thing, I try to refine them as much as possible until I get horrendously bored (this happens quicker than you think).
Once I am sick of detailing things I generally write down how long it took and start flipping it horizontally back and forth trying to make sure I didn't screw up something royally (in case it's unclear, I flip the picture a lot the whole time. I'm a serial flipper. Can't stop flipping).

To finish up, I make a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer that I set to Overlay at a very low Fill % and tweak the hue a bit (it's not necessarily this kind of layer, but this is the most common I use. It can be any kind of color correction really). Sometimes if I feel I've really really really screwed up the colors, I'll actually do the color correction earlier and paint on top of that.

Also for some reason, I hate zooming in.
I have a pathological need to stay zoomed out. The size of this last picture is basically the size I paint at; this is usually why there isn't that much fine detail. Somehow I end up painting details sort of correctly by making the brush really tiny and guesstimating what I'm doing (yes, I've used the word guesstimating. I am now a felon in 32 states. Also I noticed that auto-correct says guesstimating is an actual word, which fills me with despair).
Once I start zooming in, I lose track of everything and then end up with weird proportions, oddly rendered bits and sometimes a tear in the fabric of space-time.

Here's a gif, because you can't have too many gifs.

Okays, back to coffee and bagels.

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