Por­tray a sassy, tat­tooed pin-up

Loopy­dave brings his for­mi­da­ble il­lus­tra­tion skills to the pin-up genre, and places the fig­ure in roller derby gear be­cause, well, why not?

ImagineFX - - Workshops -

Loopy­dave brings his il­lus­tra­tion skills to pin-up.

Some­time back I was com­mis­sioned to paint a poster for a doc­u­men­tary movie called This Is Roller Derby. I re­ally en­joyed play­ing around with retro hair­cuts, sassy fash­ions, tat­toos and at­ti­tude – all things that in­stantly lend them­selves to fun pin-up art – and the brief here is to paint some­thing like that again.

In this work­shop I’ll look at the steps re­quired to paint a roller derby pin-up girl and pos­si­bly dat­ing tips for the sin­gle, ro­man­ti­cally in­clined skull. A cou­ple of notes be­fore I start, though. I paint with the mouse. This of­ten sur­prises people, but the ex­pla­na­tion is fairly sim­ple: it’s what I’ve got­ten used to. Switch­ing to dig­i­tal paint­ing many years ago, I tried a tablet, but at that stage there was an in­tol­er­a­ble lag be­tween what hap­pened with the sty­lus and what hap­pened on the screen, so I just stuck with a mouse. You are, no doubt, much more sen­si­ble than I, and use a Wa­com or some other such de­vice, but this will in no way af­fect the de­tails and rel­e­vance of my work­shop.

I’ll be us­ing Pho­to­shop CS3. It’s an older ver­sion, but bud­gets can be tight in the glam­orous world of free­lance il­lus­tra­tion and I have no press­ing rea­sons to up­date. The prin­ci­ples and de­tails are still ap­pli­ca­ble to later ver­sions and other pro­grams such as Corel Pain­ter.

So let’s strap on our roller­skates, ad­just our el­bow pads and hit the rink!

1 The brief

Af­ter some pen­cil con­cept roughs and feed­back from the Imag­ineFX team, I’m go­ing with a kneel­ing fig­ure. This solves the chal­lenges pre­sented by the square for­mat of the cover area: the viewer can see both the face and skates, and I can still keep the ‘cam­era’ tight in on the char­ac­ter. The skull is here for the nar­ra­tive. If I cause a viewer to stop an ex­tra sec­ond and won­der what the story is, it in­creases en­gage­ment with the im­age.

2 Colour rough

I do a quick colour rough in Pho­to­shop over one of my ini­tial sketches, be­cause this pin-up will ap­pear with other el­e­ments on the cover and I want to give the Imag­ineFX team an early feel for the pal­ette I plan to use. The feed­back is to lighten it a lit­tle and cre­ate a ‘Death Deal­ers’ shirt logo – a re­ally fun idea and nod to the late great Frank Frazetta. I love it!

3 Work­ing sketch

Now I draw up a tighter sketch to paint over. All my sketches are on paper and then scanned in, partly be­cause I work with a mouse in Pho­to­shop but mostly be­cause I love the medium. When I first started paint­ing dig­i­tally my draw­ings in­cluded all the shad­ing, light source in­for­ma­tion and so on. Yet over the years I’ve got bet­ter at solv­ing im­age prob­lems as I paint and my sketches have be­come much looser.

4 Work­ing size

I scan in my pen­cil sketch at ap­prox­i­mately twice the re­quired size – in this case it’s 600dpi at A4. It’s im­por­tant to es­tab­lish the max­i­mum re­quired di­men­sions with your client be­fore start­ing and then, if your com­puter is ca­pa­ble, work at a even larger size – just in case. Im­age down­siz­ing is easy, but scal­ing up a paint­ing later leads to im­age qual­ity is­sues that can cause anger, hate and suf­fer­ing… ba­si­cally, it’s the dark side of the Force on a mon­i­tor screen.

5 Set­ting up for paint­ing

Here I re­move the back­ground white around my sketch by se­lect­ing it with the Magic Wand and then delet­ing it. Then I copy and paste the sketch on to a new doc­u­ment and choose RGB mode. I set the sketch’s Layer mode to Mul­ti­ply and ad­just its Trans­parency to 30 per cent or so. Now I’m ready to block in my colours in a layer be­neath, all the while still be­ing able to view the over­lay­ing pen­cil sketch.

6 Block­ing in the colours

Be­cause I may need to ad­just the colour of her out­fit later on, I care­fully block in each ma­jor item on a dif­fer­ent layer: the body, shirt, skirt, pro­tec­tive equip­ment, skull and hair. Block­ing in the ba­sic el­e­ments can help serve both as a colour rough as well as cre­at­ing ar­eas that I can se­lect later on by press­ing Cmd+mouse click (right-click on a PC) on that layer in the Layer menu to help keep the edges clean.

7 Build on my ini­tial light­ing scheme

I work out the straight­for­ward light­ing on my colour rough. Once I’m sure that I want a strong rim light along her left-hand side, I need a filler light source at al­most 180 de­grees so that the darker ar­eas are the ones that butt up against the yel­low of the back­light and cre­ate the great­est con­trast. I roughly paint the yel­low back­light as a sep­a­rate layer and will grad­u­ally re­fine it as I fin­ish each sec­tion of the paint­ing.

8 Us­ing lay­ers

The num­ber of lay­ers I use varies greatly from project to project. Some­times I use a sin­gle layer, some­time lots more. I know that I’ll be us­ing a num­ber of lay­ers on this pic­ture, so I cre­ate fold­ers in my Layer menu to keep them or­gan­ised. For ex­am­ple, I put the lay­ers re­lated to the shirt in a folder called Shirt. It’s much eas­ier to keep track of lay­ers as I cre­ate more, and en­ables me to turn off whole sec­tions at a time if nec­es­sary.

9 Where to start

Af­ter block­ing in my base colours I start paint­ing the face. It’s usu­ally the first area a viewer looks at and of­ten takes the most time and ef­fort in the paint­ing process, per­haps along with the hands and hair. I work on it for a while and the ba­sics are now there, but it lacks some of the charm of the pen­cil sketch. I de­cide to paint the other ‘ face’ – the skull and his flo­ral ar­range­ment – and come back to my roller derby fig­ure later.

10 Ladies and gen­tle­men, it’s Skinny Al!

I love paint­ing skulls. I have a plas­tic one on my desk, called Skinny Al, that I’m ref­er­enc­ing. It’s full of won­der­ful de­tail, al­though it’s a bit ex­ag­ger­ated in places, so I’m also look­ing at a few skull pho­tos for more cor­rect pro­por­tions. I use the stan­dard Hard Edge brush set to a low Opac­ity – around 10 per cent – and build up the colours slowly. This will help cre­ate a smooth, yet slightly un­even sur­face.

11 Flip­ping the scene

Back to the face. I flip the paint­ing hor­i­zon­tally (a brain gets used to see­ing things a cer­tain way, so flip­ping an im­age can help high­light is­sues you may other­wise miss), cre­ate a new top layer and sketch out the pro­por­tional cor­rec­tions as I see them in a bright colour. I flip the im­age back the orig­i­nal way, but now I have a new guide to fix­ing the prob­lems.

12 Paint­ing the out­fit

Cloth­ing can be tricky to paint con­vinc­ingly. For­tu­nately, both the skirt and shirt aren’t com­pli­cated: I sim­ply put small, sharp wrin­kle lines on the pull area for the shirt and a cou­ple of folds where the front leg in­ter­rupts the nat­u­ral fall of the pleated skirt. I’ve painted these things many times be­fore and I also have a wardrobe full of props and cos­tumes and a man­nequin in my stu­dio that I have dressed in a sim­i­lar out­fit.

13 Range of skin tones

I cre­ate a swatch of colours that I re­fer to while I paint. Skin picks up the colours of ad­ja­cent ob­jects, so I add yel­low to the shadow where the arm is near the shirt, a more sat­u­rated or­ange where dif­fer­ent parts of the body are near oth­ers (the neck and head, arm and arm pit, and so on). I no­tice the skin tone is a bit duller than I want, so I ad­just the lev­els so that the skin is slightly brighter and then work with this new range.

14 Place the shad­ows

A com­mon prob­lem that I see with painters who are start­ing out is un­der or non-use of shad­ows. Shad­ows, more than any­thing, will give an ob­ject a sense of so­lid­ity, depth and re­la­tion­ship to other ob­jects. I like to have at least a cou­ple of points where there’s a sharply con­trasted shadow/high­light area on a paint­ing, so in this case I have them pre­dom­i­nately on the neck and the front arm.

15 Paint­ing hands

I have a thing about hands. They are one of the first things that I look at in a paint­ing, and I see them as a lit­mus test of an il­lus­tra­tor’s skill and at­ten­tion to de­tail. Con­se­quently, I spend nearly as much time de­pict­ing a hand as I do on a face. I no­tice some scal­ing prob­lems – it’s the price I pay for a quicker, looser sketch – so I scale the top hand down a bit, along with Skinny Al.

16 It’s tat­too time

I use a quick but fairly ef­fec­tive method of adding tat­toos. I open a scan of the tat­too de­sign I’ve drawn, tint the line work with a hint of blue/green, add some ba­sic colours with a Soft brush and then paste the art­work on to my paint­ing. I set its Layer mode to Mul­ti­ply, the Opac­ity to around 80 per cent and then I use the Warp func­tion un­der the Edit>Trans­form menu to wrap it around her arm. I then run a lit­tle noise through it un­der the Fil­ter menu, and we have a tat­too!

17 Defin­ing the hair

I draw the direc­tional lines that I want the hair to fol­low on a sep­a­rate layer, as a guide for paint­ing in­di­vid­ual strands as well as help­ing me work out where the high­lights should go. I use a larger Soft brush to paint the high­light ar­eas and then a 1-2 point brush to paint strands of hair. I use the Eraser tool to ease back the in­ten­sity of the dark hairs over the bright­est ar­eas and then a 1-pixel Gaus­sian Blur to soften the sin­gle brush strokes a lit­tle.

18 Shirt logo

The Death Deal­ers logo is a trib­ute to Frank Frazetta, us­ing sim­i­lar fa­cial pro­por­tions to those he liked (al­though these are lost a lit­tle when placed on the fig­ure’s shirt) and a hel­met and axe de­sign from his Death Dealer paint­ing. I ap­ply it in a sim­i­lar man­ner to that of the tat­too: inked art­work set to Mul­ti­ply and then dis­torted a lit­tle us­ing Edit>Trans­form>Warp.

19 Fi­nal check­list

To­wards the end of a paint­ing, I sit back and run a crit­i­cal eye over the whole im­age. I write down a list of all the things that aren’t quite right, har­mo­nious or fin­ished. This stage is crit­i­cal and saves me from kick­ing my­self later when I’ve sent the im­age off. I work my way down a list, dark­en­ing the top fin­ger shad­ows, re­paint­ing the back shoul­der a lit­tle wider, in­creas­ing Skinny Al’s smile, and so on un­til I’m happy the pic­ture’s fin­ished.

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