Tuesday, 19 November 2013

018 Painting Schedule

I decided to bring more order into my somewhat chaotic painting/drawing practice. Usually I practiced about 1-5 hours a day, but this varied greatly and there were days where I did not practice at all! I recently got to know this painter: Wojtek Fus . He has a nice schedule, that I adopted, mainly because it is not stiff but variable.
The main idea behind it: It is changed every week to focus on your weaknesses.
This weeks schedule for example looks like this:

 I focus on perspective, anatomy and studies from life, movie stills or old master paintings this week since I have certain weaknesses there that need to be dealt with.

Each week, I change these blocks to focus on different subjects.
The time spend on these blocks can also be varied. Here I set the amount somewhat low with 40 minutes per block plus 30 minutes of free sketching each day.
I see these timers more as a minimum amount than a maximum. I usually finish whatever I´m working on, before moving to the next block. And as I can get carried away with free sketching once the creative juices start flowing, it never is just half an hour :)
But through this schedule I have more focused subjects and at least constantly 2 1/2 hours of practice each day which usually adds up to more like about 3-4 hours per day on average.

The "additionally done" open blocks are there to keep a record of what else I did on a certain day

Saturday, 5 October 2013

017 Workflow and How To for "Master of Illusions"

Here is a quick workflow overview for my latest painting. 

 1. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to paint. A creature conjuring an illusion to drive away some kind of treasure hunters.
I layed down a quick sketch for the composition, laying emphasis on foreground, midground and background in the values (from darker in the FG to lighter in the BG).
I first painted this in black and white, then layed a color layer on top and refine on a normal layer again. I also decided in this stage about my lighting.
The main light is the blueish-green coming from the opening in the ceiling, creating some rimlight on the foreground characters. A second lightsource is coming from the left off screen and is orangish-reddish.

 2. I refined the line sketches especially for the foreground characters and started to design out their armor/clothing

 3. I added some crude treasure coin pile with a quick brush I made. The brush is only ovals and circles of varying grey to black values set to scatter. Painting in B&W first and laying a color layer on top.
I completely filled the foreground characters with a brown tone underneath the line sketch and started to add light from both lightsources. I used a standard hard round brush and a standard soft brush.

 4. I started to refine the background more, painting the light and rocks of the cave with a chalk brush.

 5. Here I put a layer on top of the lines, starting to flesh out the illusion monster with basic, mostly opaque colors.
I also put a color layer on top of the foreground chracters to distinguish the clothing and hair from the skin. Then I put a normal layer on top to start painting out the lines and adding details. Still hard and soft standard brushes.
For the skin, I first painted with a hard brush, then using a blender brush (smudge tool with texture brush and spacing turned off on about 20% opacity) to gently blend in some areas where the transition would be softer, leaving some areas of harder transitions!

 6. Fleshed out the creature on the treasure pile and adding some smoke with a smoke brush.
Made some minor corrections to the illusion and detailed that more adding in more light form both sources.
On the foreground characters, I added an adjustment layer to correct the values in places to make them lighter.

Here´s an interesting method, I recently discovered to control value and color:

- Add a color layer and a luminosity layer on top of your image.
- Next add a new layer on top of everything and fill it with black. Set blend mode to saturation and you see your image in B&W. You can turn that layer on and off to check values.
- To correct color without influencing values, paint on the color layer while the black saturation layer is off.
- To correct values without affecting colors, turn on the black saturation layer, so that you get your b&w image and paint on the luminosity layer, picking values from your now b&w image.

I find that this gives me really good control over the image and rendering process.

The blue rim light is a layer set to divide (I never use that blend mode, but in this case, it worked )

 7. Refining details on the illusion, adding some glow on the red magic effect, the gold and blue light with a color dodge layer.

 8. Refining of the illusion by adding a slight phototexture and painting over it, working it into the image.
I changed the colors with a color adjustment layer to a more blueish-green and detailing out the treasure pile. Adding some treasure pieces and giving volume to the coins by painting in a dark rim on some of them
The foreground characters get more detail and using a soft round brush, I work out the skin. I also added some purplish tones around the eyes and a more red tone on the nose, switch hard, soft and blender brush, not using dodge or a color dodge layer

 9. Finally I added some curve adjustment layer, a color balance and hue layer to correct the colors (especially to bring out the red light source on the left) Remember that those adjustement layers have mask layers! Use them to get your adjustments to the spots you really want altered, not to change the whole image!
Painting in a stronger, detailed rim light and adding a slight noise filter and the painting is done.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

016 Anatomy of a Color Study and Workflow

I thought, I´ll post a bit about how I create a color study.

Create quick brushstrokes for the background. Here the BG isn´t that important and was blurred out in the photo anyway. Make sketchlines to indicate the rough figure. Doesn´t need to be a clear supertight lineart as it will vanish in the course of painting. Create separate layers for BG and lines!

Next I create a layer underneath the line layer and slap on some basic tones of color. I try to get sort of a middle value of each different material. Be loose and sketchy here.

Next start to add some shading (e.g. here visible in the lighter tones of the cowl). I also start detailing and cleanup. Here I used the pen tool to get clear and sharp edges for the warhammer and shoulder armor.

Go from space to space and continue refining and cleanup. I first finished all metal parts before going to other areas.

Once all areas are cleaned up and correctly shaded, go over the whole image and start the detailing phase.                Original image: keirea.deviantart.com
 I found that this workflow is what suits me best, even when not doing studies. I used to do lots of black & white renderings and applying color later paintings, mainly to get my values somewhat right, but I feel it is too cumbersome for me.
The advantages of this workflow are speed and an included color sketch. The downside: you have to choose your color scheme very early on.

TIPP: You can always easily check values on your color paintings by just adding a layer ontop everything in PS, fill it with black and set blend mode to saturation. You can turn this layer on and off to check your greyscale values.

Monday, 9 September 2013

015 Color studies

To be able to increase the quality of my paintings, especially rendering, values and color, I decided to do more color studies.
In doing so, you "copy" a photo or something from life without using the color picker in photoshop. This is essential, because you are forced to judge values and colors with your own eye, hereby training it to see.

As I mentioned before, it is really important to NOT blindly copy the image on autopilot, but observe the image and try to memorize why something looks the way it does under certain lighting situations. Here are some examples:

Original photo: mjranum.deviantart.com
Original photo: mjranum.deviantart.com

Original photo: mangrasshopper.deviantart.com

Best results for memorizing are achieved, if you use reference for something you want in a final image, study (paint) the reference material and apply to you own images, e.g. you want to paint leather armor on a sunny day, find reference (no need for it to look exactly the way you want, it is all about studying how something looks), paint it without color picker and apply what you learnt to your own supercool armor.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

014 Time for Comparison

It has been three years now, since I decided to get serious about art. I made my first attempts at digital painting and one of them was a group portrait of the characters in my RPG party. The system we played was (better make that is, the group is still in existence) Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye). It is a very popular game among german speaking countries.

When I finished the group portrait, I was kind of proud and very pleased with the outcome. Three years later, I can barely look at it :) So I decided to redraw the group portrait to compare my skill levels and analyze where my flaws still are. Here is the before-after:


I improved a lot regarding figure drawing and color&light. Still, I need to create more dynamic poses, more natural faces and brush up my compositional skills.
Onwards to more paintings!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

013 Level ups and downs...

While learning to draw, you sometimes get what I call a Level-up. There are certain points where you suddenly "get" things.
For instance, you study perspective and draw and draw, study and study and you have the feeling that nothing progresses. But suddenly out of the blue something clicks in your mind and your mind understands. You get euphoric and feel like the king of painting able to do anything.

The downside to this is, at least for me, it is usually followed by a down where you think, you are not good enough for anything. After getting over that, the cycle starts anew.

While annoying, this down is actually not so bad, as I have discovered. You get this down, because you look differently at your work, with a new skillevel, and of course you value things differently now. The "secret" is, keep drawing no matter what!

Here is an example of my recent levelup/down.

Regarding figure drawing, especially from imagination, I was doing so-so, nothing really great.

I started doing studies of pencil drawings watching lines, proportions,...(this here is a study from alexpascenko.deviantart.com)

More studies... (here from John Howes concepts for The Hobbit)

Jumping to these figure drawings done from imagination, applying what I learned through studies
My down this time was, I couldn`t do proper gesture drawings any more, especially with a fast timer (30 sec- 1 min) The outcome would always look unsatisfying. After a few days, it hit me why. In my gestures I never properly cared about proportions, just to get the motion somewhat down. So I had to "relearn" gesture with regards to proportion...it never bothered me before my Level-up.

012 Back to Basics

In the last few weeks and months, I decided to strengthen my foundation skills. I studied perspective and mostly figure drawing, anatomy and proportions. It is good to go back to the basics once in a while, even if you´ve drawn for a long time, especially if you´re selftaught. I also concentrated on making my digital linework better.
So I went from:

to this:

The key is of course studies, studies, studies. Do not copy what you see, concentrate on the linework. Consciously draw your lines, be careful about lineweight (thicker lines on shadowed areas, thinner on light areas)
It is also important to make confident lines. The first images shows mostly scratchy lines, scribbling away, not thinking about the lines I made.
In the second image, I concentrated on the lines I wanted to make, ghosting over the areas where I intended to put them and when I was sure, I drew them. 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

011 Graphic tablet painting quick tipp

Some beginning artists are really good with traditional media when they start out, but switching to a digital tablet is hard for them. I´ve been there. The tablet doesn´t respond like e.g. a pencil, where you can feel when marks are left on the paper. On a digital tablet it just is too smooth without much feedback.
Here is a quick tipp:
Tape a piece of paper to your tablet! It is a whole other feeling when drawing digitally. It won´t make you a better artist, but it sure helps.

You can even put a whole stack or a sketchbook on top, which gives you an even softer surface.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

010 Painting Process, Brushes and Tools

I posted some quick sketches this week on deviantArt and someone there asked me, if I would consider to do a speedvideo of my painting process, because he would always get good sketch results with pencil, but because Photoshop can be quite confusing with its millions of tools, his sketches lack digitally.
I watched lots of these kind of videos and I really can say, I learnt nothing really essential from them. It´s nice to see how someone goes about and see the creation of a painting, but seeing it sped up to 10x speed, you really can´t tell what important processes are happening.

I am however considering to do some tutorials within the next months (once I get better and to a level, where I feel, I can teach something about painting...)

Photoshop can be a taunting application, especially for someone who hasn´t used it a lot. One advice would be to find good video tutorials of all the tools in Photoshop, so know what you can and can´t do with them. The tools for painting I use frequently (or all the time) are:

Learn these tools, combined with a knowledge of how layers and layer blending modes work and you have the basic technical knowledge for drawing digitally. The key is practice here. I do not even think about the functions of each tool anymore, because I just intuitively select and use what is right.

Speaking about brushes. The brush tool is the single most important tool for the digital artist, but most people just simply overestimate the brushes or brush collections. Having cool brushes is neat, sure, but it is not the brush that creates art! You can paint anything with just a single brush! That brush would be the hard round brush. Sure there are nice texture brushes for foliage, rocks, chains, etc. but they just save time and won´t turn a bad painting into something wonderful. Your knowledge of the basic drawing skills (perspective, line quality, proportions, anatomy, form, etc.) is what makes your art good. So practice those!

There is a difference in drawing with a pencil and drawing digitally. I sometimes still have the feeling, that my pencil drawings are easier done than a digital sketch, but that is simply because of the way how you draw with a tablet. Drawing on a piece of paper, you always look on the paper, seeing your pencil making marks. With a tablet, you look in a different direction than where you are drawing. But this is nothing that can´t be fixed. The key again is practice. Draw as much as you can digitally, no matter how bad it looks and learn about line quality.

Line quality is a term that refers to how confident your lines are drawn and how much "weight" the line has. Here is what I mean (not a perfect example :) :

1: Here the line is draw with smaller lines consecutively drawn. Avoid this!
2: The line here is one single stroke
3: Line weight is applied here. The darker/thicker lines on the cube indicate shadow.

This also needs to be observed for traditional drawing! So you see, that line weight can indicate light and shadow without rendering areas.

To achieve a more confident stroke, draw from your elbow and shoulder rather than with your wrist or fingers.

Here is a little process shot for a painting a did:

So from top left to bottom right, here is my process for this painting:

1: Establish a composition, perspective and creating focal points (the creatures head). Keep the sketch very loose and messy, as the lines will be covered by paint.

2: Create a color palette and a basic lighting scheme. Also keep it messy. No details whatsoever! You need to get the overall picture right. Work from general to specific.

3: Refine the lighting scheme and start blocking in basic color

4: Slight correction of perspective and tidying up the background color blocks

5: Working on the creature, blocking in colors and shading in one go (light from the lamp, core shadow and light from the offscreen window)

6: Blocking in colors for the girl. each area only has one color value

7: Base shading of the girl with shadow and highlights

8: Detail is added (eyes on the creature, plant pot, blood stains) and some texture overlay is worked into the painting

9: Cleanup and detailing work (lightest highlights, etc...)

Regarding painting processes:

I seldomly use a fixed concept for painting. This process above was used for this specific painting. Sometimes I make a refined line drawing after the sketch phase, sometimes I use no lines at all. There is no fixed procedure.

Hopefully someone gets some knowledge out of this post. Feel free to ask, if you have any questions.