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How I Work

I’ve decided to put up a little diary of the processes I go through in order to create a piece of art. This is not really a tutorial, as a lot of this stuff is hard to explain other than “You just gotta keep at it until you get it.” but this will give you a pretty good idea on how to approach a project. I’ll be using my Apprentice Mage painting as the example. (how fitting for a tutorial).

Click on the thumbnail images to see an enlarged view.

Initial Design

    I had actually drew this pencil drawing almost 5 years ago. But I never had the chance to paint it until just a couple of months ago. I really liked the glasses on a magic user type of concept. (so this was even before Harry Potter!) But not thinking, I went ahead and painted it. There are actually a lot of problems with it, none of which I realized until a friend commented on it. The focus seems to be on her hand and the book, because of the lighting, but yet there is nothing attractive about either. No details on the book, and even less on the hand. At the time of drawing, I was trying to create a sense that the magic user knew what she was doing, and was confidently casting a ball of light into the room. Unfortunately, her expression ended up looking more expressionless than confident, and the room was non-existant. Even after putting several hours of work into it, I knew that my drawing skills have come a long way in 5 years, and proceeded to start from scratch.

    Rough Sketch

      Simple rough sketch. I used the original as a base guideline, and kept the shapes that I wanted, while redrawing the rest. I wanted this mage to be more of an apprentice this time, discovering a new magic spell. Her expression is more of a suprised one. I also wanted more detail in the book to make it more magical, including a lock. I got rid of the neat and tidy straight cut in favor of a more frazzled look to emphasize the feeling of wind. I re-shaped the glasses, because I wanted play out a more Harry Potter feel to her.

      Refining Line Art

        Using the sketch as a base, I refined the line art with more structured shapes, and decided on a motif for the book’s back cover. (if it was the front cover a la Asian books, the lock buckle would be on the other side of the book). I refined the necklace and added embrodery to the clothing. Also refined the face and glasses.

        Clean Up
        Got rid of all the unnecessary lines and further refined the line art. I kept the rough-in line art just in case, on a separate layer.

        Base Color

        Using a soft airbrush, I quickly roughed in the base color and shadows.

        Color Shaping

        Started the refining process by adding definition and shape to the painting, paying attention to where edges meet. Harder edges means a higher contrast between dark and light in those areas, while soft edges means a very subtle gradual change in highlights and shadows. As you can see here, she looks very thin because her face has a lot of harsh edges.

        Drawing hands are hard. After some critiques from a friend, I was able to see the problems of the hand that I previously didn’t notice. Be sure to get others to look at your work, because a fresh eye will always pick up details that you miss!

        More Color Definition

        Added definition to her clothes, and also refined the face a bit more. Got rid of that shadow under her cheek that was making her look like she hadn’t eaten in weeks.

        Defining the Book

        Added more highlights and shadows to bring out the book. Before, it looked really flat. Line Art does not define a lot, especially in dark places, always make sure you add highlights and shadows to define your shapes properly.

        Defining the Cape and Hair, composition

        Cloth is not an easy thing to figure out. Most people don’t know how cloth works. The best way is to drape some fabric over a bunch of things, shine a light on it, and see what it’s doing. Cloth has weight, therefore it likes to droop. The tensions between forces of gravity, and what is holding up cloth is what defines the parabolas and creases in cloth. If you treat cloth like a living, flowing being, you can understand what drives it, and where it wants to go. Thicker cloth is more defiant. It droops less, it conforms less, and generally has less creases. But this is not to be confused with finer cloth such as silk. It too doesn’t crease, but is very thin. It drapes better and conforms to the shapes around it. It drops straight down at the opportunity.

        Hair needs to be treated the same was as cloth. It doesn’t necessarily have a mind of its own, but it is definitely restricted by forces around it, and does different things depending on the properties of it.
        This image’s fabric is a light cotton-like material, driven up by wind, while the touseled hair is somewhat silky and light.
        The image’s composition was somewhat uncomfortable. Applying the rule of thirds, she was too much in the middle, so I moved her slightly to the bottom right. Her face becomes a bit more of a focal point as well as the book this way.

        Background Composition Block-In

        The initial block in of the background. Since the shape of her was somewhat a triangle, a lot of focus was pushed to her face, but breaks off after that. To “soften” that while still retaining attention to her face, circles and arches were made around her that came from the outside in that lead the eye towards her face, as well as guide the eye around the rest of the image and back to her face.

        Background Details

        Just refining the background better. Background does not have line art associated with it. Reason being is that it’s further away, and objects that are further show less detail. Colors in background are much darker in order to show depth between the subject and the background. Definition is created through highlights.

        Completed Image

        The final details include adjusting the colors for both the background and the mage separately, adding more highlights, and adding a colored glow effect. Line-art was re-colored to remove some of the harsher definition areas.

        I hope you enjoyed my little process diary, and that you are able to learn from it!

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        1. Blink
          May 21, 2008 at 1:54 am

          Very Harry Potterish!

          Thank you for the lovely CG tutorial! ^^

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