Q&A: Leather & suede

Wolf-Laser-Ninja, Scot­land

ImagineFX - - Contents -


Mark replies

I fancy il­lus­trat­ing a Vik­ing chief and a bit of re­search tells me pre-me­dieval Nordic tribes pre­ferred leather, for both amour and ev­ery­day cloth­ing, be­cause of its light­weight and ver­sa­tile na­ture. Be­cause of this I need to paint plain leather sur­faces, but also in­tro­duce some vari­a­tion, which keeps the char­ac­ter sim­ple but in­ter­est­ing.

The key for paint­ing suede/matt leather lies in cap­tur­ing its sur­face qual­i­ties prop­erly. You need to un­der­stand how the ma­te­rial was made and what it went through. The sur­face of the un­treated, raw leather is usu­ally matt and the Vik­ings only had ac­cess to a limited num­ber of preser­va­tion and sur­face-han­dling tech­niques. So the gar­ments they cre­ated were all from full-grain leathers, which still had the slight im­per­fec­tions of the orig­i­nal ma­te­rial, such as un­even thick­ness and nat­u­ral marks. Fur­ther­more, in­stead of wear­ing out, it de­vel­oped a recog­nis­able patina over time. By show­ing these im­per­fec­tions – the un­even edges, the grainy-type matt sur­face and per­haps even larger patches of dis­coloura­tion or the rem­nants of the an­i­mal’s hairy hide in some places – you can cap­ture the essence of the ma­te­rial.

Use ba­sic brushes to block in the main colours then work with tex­tured char­coal brushes to achieve the typ­i­cal grainy look of the leather. You can eas­ily add the ex­tra patches with scat­tered cus­tom brushes us­ing Over­lay and Mul­ti­ply lay­ers.

Avoid rim lights and other re­flec­tions, be­cause they would sug­gest a more shiny and so­phis­ti­cated ma­te­rial, which wouldn’t be ap­pro­pri­ate for this ma­te­rial and char­ac­ter. Try not to sim­ply paint a tex­ture – try to show how that piece was made (sewed to­gether) and what it’s been through (patches of dirt and blood). Small vis­ual touches add to your char­ac­ter’s back­story.

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