Sharpen your paint­ing process

Car­men Sinek il­lus­trates Syl­vanas Win­drun­ner from World of War­craft, while ex­plain­ing how to stay or­gan­ised to min­imise paint­ing mis­takes

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Issue 141 December 2016 -

Car­men Sinek il­lus­trates a World of War­craft fig­ure.

When il­lus­tra­tion is your job, hav­ing a stream­lined process can save time and re­duce the amount of ob­sta­cles and frus­tra­tions you’ll run into. It can also help you to achieve a more con­sis­tent level of qual­ity and help you bet­ter pre­dict your own work times.

I’m go­ing to show you how I break down the many parts of paint­ing into smaller steps so I can fo­cus on one at a time. It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble for me to avoid all un­fore­seen com­pli­ca­tions, but the num­ber has been sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced ever since I be­gan try­ing to es­tab­lish a con­sis­tent process for my daily work.

My process con­sis­tently evolves as new skills be­come more com­fort­able or I find bet­ter ways to ap­proach my pro­fes­sional as­sign­ments. It takes time to find a process that works for you, and a great deal of pa­tience to stick with it over the weeks and months. How­ever, the more you work with it, the more that many of the steps be­come sec­ond na­ture, and the faster you’ll be­come at your day-to­day art tasks. This opens up more time for ex­per­i­ment­ing with other styles, medi­ums and pro­cesses, as well as for per­sonal work.

When fol­low­ing an­other artist’s process, re­mem­ber that it’s only one of many ways to make good work. Give it a try, and adopt the things that work for you, but don’t be afraid to leave be­hind the ones that don’t.

1 Have a clear goal

Know­ing what I’m try­ing to accomplish is im­por­tant, so I start out with a fairly ad­vanced dig­i­tal sketch to guide me. Some­times the goal is to ex­per­i­ment with new tech­niques, while other times it’s to il­lus­trate a spe­cific scene or mo­ment in a nar­ra­tive. This is a sto­ry­telling por­trait, with the goal of show­cas­ing Syl­vanas’ per­son­al­ity while also hint­ing at the tur­bu­lent his­tory of the char­ac­ter.

2 Get the draw­ing right

I can’t al­ways prop­erly ex­e­cute this step, but I’ve at least learned the im­por­tance of try­ing. Get as much ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble in your ini­tial draw­ing. Rush­ing ahead has been the down­fall of many an artist, so think of it as an ex­er­cise in pa­tience and self-con­trol. While you might change things later, aim­ing for an ac­cu­rate draw­ing makes it much eas­ier to keep things un­der con­trol.

3 Es­tab­lish lo­cal val­ues

The lo­cal value is the value of the ma­te­rial it­self, in­de­pen­dent of light and shadow. This re­la­tion­ship be­tween lo­cal val­ues must be main­tained through­out the process. If her ar­mour’s base value is 20 per cent darker than her skin tone, then it’ll re­main 20 per cent darker in ei­ther light or shadow. This is a gen­eral rule; ad­just­ments will be made later, based on the ma­te­ri­als.

4 Block in large shapes

I tend to keep things flat and blocky in the early stages. This helps me fo­cus on my value struc­ture and defin­ing the ini­tial read of the im­age. I’m think­ing mostly in planes at this mo­ment, try­ing to sug­gest the form un­der the line draw­ing.

5 Adding base colours

Some­times I need to be able to see the big­ger pic­ture to know if I’m head­ing in the right di­rec­tion. I use a Soft Light layer to add my first colours, fo­cus­ing first on lo­cal colour the same way I did with the val­ues. I keep this on a sep­a­rate layer for now, so I can turn it on and off when I’m ren­der­ing in greyscale.

6 Ad­just for fo­cus

To help main­tain the fo­cus on Syl­vanas’ ex­pres­sion and char­ac­ter, I use a Mul­ti­ply layer and the good old fuzzy Round brush to push back ev­ery­thing around her face, and to soften the edges where her body meets the back­ground.

7 Greyscale ren­der­ing

This is the most time-con­sum­ing part of the process. Us­ing the struc­ture I’ve put into place, I start paint­ing it out in greyscale, defin­ing the large forms first. This is a cru­cial stage, so don’t let your­self get sucked into de­tails be­fore you’ve es­tab­lished the larger forms cor­rectly. Down that path lies much pain and suf­fer­ing, as Yoda might say.

8 Light­ing the colours

Usu­ally when I feel my ren­der­ing is about 75 per cent of the way there, I’ll stop to work in my colours us­ing Soft Light, Color and Over­lay lay­ers. I showed in a pre­vi­ous work­shop (is­sue 118) how I use Ad­just­ment lay­ers to start my colour­ing process, and a shorter video demo is in­cluded as part of this work­shop.

9 Mak­ing anatomy ad­just­ments

This is where things start get­ting messy. Be­cause there are in­ac­cu­ra­cies in my draw­ing, I need to ad­just some things that look off to me. Her head is slightly too big and the po­si­tion of her chest and arms are a lit­tle low. I lasso these ar­eas, copy them to a new layer and ad­just ap­pro­pri­ately.

10 Tackle the back­ground

I want a sim­ple but mean­ing­ful back­ground, so I’ve roughed in some shapes that re­sem­ble her bow and parts of the For­saken fac­tion sym­bol. As tempt­ing as it is to paint out all of those bone pieces, I try to keep them sim­ple to avoid pulling too much fo­cus away from Syl­vanas herself. I chose the bright green colour and glow to be rem­i­nis­cent of Un­dercity.

11 Add tex­ture – but care­fully

In re­cent years, I’ve tried to rely less on photo tex­tures. Nowa­days, I mostly use it when time is short, or when I feel it would bet­ter achieve the look I’m go­ing for. While photo tex­ture can be help­ful, it must be used care­fully or you run the risk of los­ing style con­sis­tency. Here, I’ve used it mostly in the shad­ows of her skin to sug­gest de­cay.

12 Be­hold, Ren­der­saurus Rex!

Start with the fo­cal point and ren­der out from there, loos­en­ing up as you move out. If you want a painterly look, take a painterly ap­proach. Don’t scrub the brush back and forth, but treat it as you would treat a paint­brush. I highly rec­om­mend test­ing out tra­di­tional medi­ums if you want to achieve a more tra­di­tional look to your dig­i­tal work.

13 Mak­ing colour ad­just­ments

When I’m far enough into my ren­der­ing that I’m ready to push for the fin­ish line, I flat­ten the im­age and use the Color Bal­ance tool to help bring it all to­gether. I also use Color lay­ers for more spe­cific or sub­tle colour changes. This is also a good time to ad­just any ar­eas that may need more or less sat­u­ra­tion.

14 Fi­nal touches

Now I paint with an opaque tex­tured brush for a more tra­di­tional feel. This is where I be­gin to add the lit­tle things that bring it all to­gether. I make a fi­nal pass over the im­age to ad­just any­thing that stands out. You can get a closer look at the fi­nal ren­der­ing part of the process my the lay­ered PSD files.

Putting your base value in the layer ti­tle will help you keep things or­gan­ised.

I cre­ate a pal­ette of colours with the Bright­ness set to 50 per cent, then pick from them us­ing a Soft Light layer.

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