De­velop your car­i­ca­ture skills

Yoann Lori uses ArtRage to recre­ate a GoT char­ac­ter.

ImagineFX - - Contents -

When I de­cided to be a part-time free­lance il­lus­tra­tor and car­i­ca­tur­ist a few years back, I had plenty of paint­ing pro­grams to choose from. There was the ob­vi­ous well-known soft­ware that I used ev­ery day at work, but it comes with so many un­nec­es­sary fea­tures and the licence isn’t cheap, so I be­gan look­ing around for an al­ter­na­tive.

I then re­mem­bered an­other paint­ing pro­gram that a friend had shown me a while back. It had a clear, in­tu­itive in­ter­face, it seemed to work pretty smoothly, and the price point was ap­peal­ing. So I de­cided to give it a try and bought ArtRage Stu­dio Pro.

It took a while to get used to ArtRage’s tools, which work much like tra­di­tional me­dia brushes, but I man­aged to find the set­tings that suited me and I’m now re­ally happy with the choice I made. I’ve since up­graded to ArtRage 4, which comes with even more in­ter­est­ing fea­tures.

To cre­ate a good car­i­ca­ture, you need to know the anatomy ba­sics, es­pe­cially the ideal pro­por­tions of the face. You can use those as ref­er­ences or cre­ate your own ideal pro­por­tions, which would be even bet­ter. Then, when look­ing at your cho­sen sub­ject, you have to un­der­stand what makes them unique. It’ll help if you iden­tify fa­cial fea­tures that are smaller or big­ger than usual, and then em­pha­sise them. Notic­ing how asym­met­ri­cal the face is can also help you in your task.

1 The right ref­er­ences

I spend time look­ing for good ref­er­ences of my sub­ject: Mar­gaery Tyrell, as played by Natalie Dormer. Var­i­ous an­gles pho­tos make it pos­si­ble for me to bet­ter un­der­stand the face vol­umes of the ac­tor. I also look for spe­cific ex­pres­sion and light­ing. I some­times have to com­bine sev­eral ref­er­ences to achieve the right re­sult, but this is what makes an orig­i­nal piece.

2 Sketch­ing stage

Most artists draw their sketches on pa­per and then scan them. Be­cause I’m only able to draw dur­ing my lunch and I can’t bring my tra­di­tional tools to work, I sketch with the tablet. The ArtRage pen­cil is per­fect for this. I use it at 200 per cent Size (you can in­crease the max­i­mum size for each tool up to 500 per cent), 38 per cent Pres­sure, 50 per cent Soft­ness and no Tilt An­gle.

3 Es­tab­lish your colour pal­ette

Im­port the sketch im­age by click­ing the bot­tom left but­ton in the Ref­er­ences panel, then open the Color Sam­ples panel (Ctrl+Alt+W). Se­lect your colour with the Color Sam­pler and store it by press­ing + or Add Sam­ple in the Sam­ple panel. You can then save it by ex­port­ing your sam­ples.

4 Colour­ing your flats

I add a new layer, then drag it down to switch my layer or­der so that the sketch is on top. I start colour­ing with the Air­brush tool set at the big­gest size and Hard­ness at 100 per cent. I add two more lay­ers for the hair and back­ground. I pick the mid­tones and loosely paint the skin, hair, clothes and back­ground.

5 Make light­ing choices

You can de­velop dif­fer­ent moods and at­mos­phere de­pend­ing on how you light your char­ac­ter. The main ref­er­ence didn’t have an in­ter­est­ing light­ing scheme so I keep look­ing for other pic­tures and stum­ble across one that shows Natalie Dormer be­ing lit by two light sources: a cold and a warm one. I then de­cide to ren­der her this way.

6 First pass on vol­umes

To add more val­ues I change the Air­brush Opac­ity to around 50 per cent, the Soft­ness to roughly 90 per cent and re­duce the Brush size to 100 per cent. I then pick the lighter and darker tones from the Color Sam­ple panel and work on the main vol­umes. Those set­tings en­able me to mix the dif­fer­ent val­ues and cre­ate pleas­ing-look­ing gra­di­ents.

7 Get the eyes right

I set the Brush Size at about 20 per cent and I’m start­ing de­tail­ing the eyes. It’s im­por­tant to get this right be­cause they’re the most ex­pres­sive feature and usu­ally what the viewer no­tices first when look­ing at some­body. You should be able to recog­nise the car­i­ca­ture just by look­ing at the eyes. If the re­sults aren’t good enough, there’s no point con­tin­u­ing.

8 Work­ing on the face

I set the sketch layer’s Opac­ity to 50 per cent and re­fine the vol­umes of the face while smooth­ing out the gra­di­ents. I then re­fine the other fea­tures of the face and pay at­ten­tion to light­ing, to in­crease the realism. Once this is done I hide the sketch layer.

9 De­tail­ing the body

At this point I zoom out to make my paint­ing look like a thumb­nail. At this size the char­ac­ter should still be recog­nis­able; If not, changes should be made. There’s no need to be as pre­cise with the ren­der of the neck, chest and arm com­pared with the face, so I use a big­ger brush to get it done faster. How­ever, I pay at­ten­tion to the sub­tle change of val­ues of the flesh tones.

10 De­pict­ing the cloth­ing

Ren­der­ing cloth­ing isn’t straight­for­ward, and the task is made more dif­fi­cult when it’s em­broi­dered cloth that a lot of Game of Thrones char­ac­ters wear. The trick here is to work on the vol­ume first and add the de­tails after­wards with a low Opac­ity brush. This en­sures that the em­broi­dery and pat­terns will blend smoothly with the gen­eral vol­ume of the cloth­ing.

11 Paint­ing the hair

A com­mon mis­take is try­ing to ren­der hairs one by one. In­stead, first ren­der the strands of hair as sim­ple vol­umes. I use a medium-sized brush and roughly paint the shad­ows and high­lights. Then set the Hard­ness to 50 per cent. No­tice how in­di­vid­ual hairs be­have on the ref­er­ence pic­tures, es­pe­cially on the curves of the head, and then try to recre­ate this.

12 The back­ground

I used to stay close to my ref­er­ences when it came to paint­ing the back­ground, but lately I’ve de­cided to keep my car­i­ca­ture back­grounds sim­ple. In my opin­ion, my choice helps to main­tain the fo­cus on the char­ac­ter, and gives it a more painted look. I paint the back­ground with the Oil Brush tool on these set­tings: Pres­sure, 50; Thin­ners, 50; Load­ing, be­tween 3 and 8 de­pend­ing on the brush size; As­pect, 100; Ro­ta­tion, 0; and Stiff­ness, 99.

13 Adding a blend­ing layer

Once I’ve fin­ished paint­ing the back­ground of the car­i­ca­ture, I cre­ate a new layer on top of all the oth­ers that will help me blend ev­ery­thing to­gether. I then work on the meet­ing point be­tween the hair and skin, and fix mi­nor de­tails.

14 Fi­nal de­tails pass

I zoom out once again and take a look at the nearly fin­ished piece. I pol­ish it where nec­es­sary, and then try out a few dif­fer­ent back­ground op­tions. The orig­i­nal blue was okay, but I wanted more con­trast. Af­ter try­ing four dif­fer­ent colours I de­cide to stick with the green ver­sion. Fi­nally, I sign my work and call the piece fin­ished.

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