Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Collaboration work

I've been doing a lot of collaborations with Danny Cruz lately so I've been experimenting with some different ways of working.

When entering into this I had two goals.
1. Do not do a comic book style coloring. The images should look like drawing and painting were simultaneous rather than separate. This means avoid just using a multiply layer.
2. Try to make as few alterations as possible to Danny's drawings.

First I masked out the background and then I began by trying to use gradient maps but the white specs in the pencil crosshatching led to that colored drawing look I was trying to avoid and kind of made the image look speckly. Then I tried the dust and scratches filter as it would have been the quickest fix but it didn't quite work. The solution was to use a speckly brush to smudge all of the crosshatching into solid tones.Unfortunately it did tend to lighten sparsely crosshatched areas a bit too much. I often used the flesh smudge brush by John Silva for this.
Then I would create a layer of flats for clean selections. This first one wasn't too noodling with the details.
I then used the flats to create gradient maps for each area to use as a base. I looked at the client brief for determining the colors. I'll attach it below so you can get more of an idea of the process.
One of the humans, a Jute. He's a lord so his clothing and equipment would be pretty fine. Check out all the beetle symbols...

Flesh: human, northern European pale. Head, arms (upper and underneath the greaves), hands I think.

Head: beard and hair should be dark blonde, he's got a nice triple scar on his right side. That should like sore, but not too much, it's an old one.

Tunic: under the chainmail is a white tunic, relatively dirty but nothing like the Wihtgar. I would suggest this can be a "warm" colour, so the base should be light beige, going to white.

The bone antlers hanging from the tunic should be a nice bony colour.

Leggings: darkish brown, basically a darker version of his white tunic.

Boots: black leather.

Cloak: that should be the lovely dark purple colour similar to Sigheard's colours.

Belt / straps: brown or black leather, whichever suits and contrasts.

Trinkets: there's a nice brooch on his chest, this should be dirty gold.

There's a couple of pouches on his left hip, these should be brown hide, varying from belts and straps.

Weapons: he's got a few as well as the main one...

Spearseax: his main weapon, a spear with a seax blade. The haft should be a nice oaky colour, with dirty gold beetle fixing for the blade; the blade itself should be a nice steel colour, not rusty.

Seax: he has a sword on his belt, scabbarded. Scabbard should be brown leather, quite fine, with purple wrappings - this can be lighter than the cloak. Handle should be black, with dirty gold pommel. The hilt has a beetle-back aspect, this should be dirty gold.

Dagger: the dagger on his belt should be similar to the seax in colour, feel free to vary the colours a little.

Chainmail: his chainmail corselet should be steel, not rusty, fairly dark though, not too bright.

Greaves / Beetle Pauldrons / Gorget: he has both arm and leg greaves; these are metal, but of cunning design that is coloured to look like the abdomen and thorax of the stag beetle... a lovely red/black colour:

This should be quite reflective of sunlight too. The pauldrons are shaped as a stag beetle, and the mandibles should be that nice stag beetle red.

The beetles on the greaves aren't picked out, these should be the same colour of the greaves. Think of them as stamped metal.

Studs should be steel.

Any gems should be dark red. Don't think there's many gems other than the half-and-half on his gorget.

Helm: his helmed version should be similar to the greaves in colour; excepting that the "spectacles" and cross banding (if you look at the top of the helm, the + ) and helm top should be the dark red of the stag beetle mandibles, and the inside of that the dark black/red.

The coif is chainmail, so the same as the corselet.

Ground: the ground should be dark, almost black earth or rock - no need to go mad here, just colour what's drawn.

Background: white.

Some areas needed to be darker than the drawing shows so some required multiply layers.
The last step is actually painting the details. I used a rake-like brush to paint the texture on the cloak. On the other pieces with chainmail I often use a chainmail texture brush from Daarken. 

It seems like a complicated process that would take too long but it's such an easy step by step process that it becomes easy to march through them. Usually I'll do the smudge step for like 15 pieces in one day. Then the flats for them the next day. Gradient maps the following. Painted details for the next 5. So coloring 15 takes about 8 work days. As Danny and I get more comfortable working together I may be able to speed up by simplifying these steps that are meant to preserve so much of the drawing.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lazy Nezumi Plugin Review

Edit: Here's a link to what I'm talking about
With Christmas funds I finally bought myself the Lazy Nezumi plugin for Photoshop and I'm kicking myself for being cheap and not purchasing it sooner. In case you're not aware, Lazy Nezumi has been around for a couple years as a plugin for smoothing your brush strokes. Since I don't do a lot of linework, I had thought it was irrelevant to my style. Well recent updates have made it much more diverse in it's uses.
I have always found the wacom tablet properties settings to be a bit simple in adjusting how the pressure sensitivity is output. The area in red is with my most comfortable setting using wacom tablet properties while the strokes in green are after creating a Lazy Nezumi preset. The result is I'm more easily able to go from a very low opacity stroke to full opacity and to go from a very thin line to the maximum thickness. So I'm able to get the full range without grinding my nib into the wacom or brushing super gently. That alone is a big boon to me.

My next favorite feature is the constraint concentric ellipse preset. Ellipses are a nightmare and this tool let's you draw them easily by holding alt or shift to adjust degree and rotation before drawing. A bad ellipse can easily make a pro look like an amateur so I'm thrilled about this.

Next is a tool that I wish I had a couple years ago. It's called constraint isometric and it can help you make isometric drawings lightning fast. Not only does it constrain your strokes to the correct angles, it has tick marks along the lines so that you know the measurements.  Just amazing helpful. It makes me want to do some isometric artwork which is just ludicrous.

The last tool is the constraint perspective preset. No need to create an additional layer or use the awful Photoshop vanishing point filter. You can easily have multiple vanishing points and everything is easy to adjust. Again, it's just another massive time saver.

The only negative thing I have to say is that the plugin doesn't always initialize properly with Photoshop. So before you start working you want to check that the plugin is working. If it's not close out of it and photoshop and try again. So far, it has always worked the second time.