Colours and light­ing

iPad Pro in hand, Jana Schirmer paints a fan­tasy char­ac­ter in Pro­cre­ate, show­ing just how much bang for the buck you get with the low-cost app

ImagineFX - - Contents -

Th­ese days, Pro­cre­ate is my go-to paint­ing app, so I was ex­cited when I re­ceived the re­quest to paint a cover for Imag­ineFX en­tirely in Pro­cre­ate.

I’ve been play­ing around in the app for al­most a year now and I’m still dis­cov­er­ing new ways to do things. In ad­di­tion, the Pro­cre­ate team is con­stantly im­prov­ing the app and adding new fea­tures. Pro­cre­ate is ex­tremely fast and so far I haven’t suf­fered from lags while paint­ing. I love to take the iPad out and about, and work in cof­fee shops. It’s fun to change your cre­ative en­vi­ron­ment and leave your desk for a while.

If you’re ex­plor­ing Pro­cre­ate’s in­ter­face for the first time, don’t be fooled by its ap­par­ent sim­plic­ity. It’s a very pow­er­ful tool for cre­at­ing pro-level art­work. And re­mem­ber, you can al­ways save your paint­ing as a PSD and put it in the cloud to con­tinue work­ing up in Pho­to­shop.

Here though, I’ll be paint­ing the en­tire pic­ture in Pro­cre­ate. I’ll use much the same work­flow that I use in Pho­to­shop, with a few tweaks to take into ac­count the lack of a Clip­ping mask in Pro­cre­ate, but the app’s Se­lec­tion tool makes for a straight­for­ward work­around.

I’ve been look­ing for a de­cent por­ta­ble paint­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for years and I’m so happy that I’ve fi­nally found one. I hope you en­joy this work­shop. Shall we be­gin…?

1 Com­ing up with the char­ac­ter and pose

As with any paint­ing, I start by sketch­ing the gen­eral idea. I try to ap­ply ev­ery­thing that I learned from my last Imag­ineFX cover (is­sue 125) and make the char­ac­ter en­gag­ing to the viewer. I love us­ing Pro­cre­ate’s sketch­ing brushes for this stage – they al­most feel like real pen­cils. I’ve al­ready cre­ated my own brush folder where I put all my favourite brushes that I’ll use for this im­age, so I’m ready to go.

2 Re­fin­ing the sketch

My next step is to fur­ther de­velop the sketch. The line qual­ity isn’t im­por­tant at this point: all I need are some gen­eral guide­lines for the paint­ing stage later. I know I have to work up the face be­cause this is what peo­ple usu­ally pay the most at­ten­tion to. Fur­ther­more, I need to rein in her manga-like ap­pear­ance slightly.

3 Mov­ing on to colour block-ins

I fill in my se­lec­tions us­ing flat colours and the Hard Air­brush. This is my first paint­ing step. Keep­ing all the im­por­tant ele­ments on dif­fer­ent lay­ers means I can se­lect them eas­ily, and makes for a more or­gan­ised work­flow. I try to use as few lay­ers as pos­si­ble, just to keep things man­age­able. Hav­ing said this, I’m not so strict with my hair lay­ers, be­cause I know I’ll be adding more strands of hair on their own lay­ers later on in the paint­ing process.

4 Choos­ing lo­cal colours

I lock the Transparency of the lay­ers by swip­ing two fin­gers to the right on the layer. This means I can’t draw over my se­lec­tion and can fo­cus on the lo­cal colours. Th­ese are the colours an ob­ject has with­out tak­ing light and shad­ows into con­sid­er­a­tion. I try to iden­tify har­mo­nious colours that won’t look over the top.

5 Time to con­sider the light­ing in the scene

I want to put aside fur­ther ren­der­ing on the lo­cal colours and in­stead get a han­dle on the light­ing setup. This is be­cause I want to send the Imag­ineFX team an­other WIP. I se­lect one colour layer af­ter the other and make a sin­gle se­lec­tion on a new layer that con­tains the se­lec­tion of all the colour lay­ers that I talked about in step three. I fill it with a blue colour and set the layer mode to Mul­ti­ply. Then I erase into that layer wher­ever I want the light to hit my fig­ure.

6 Back to my lo­cal colours and am­bi­ent oc­clu­sion

Now that I’ve planned out my colours and the light­ing setup, and both got ap­proved, I can start ren­der­ing the lo­cal colours. I hide the light and shadow layer for now be­cause I won’t need it for a while. I purely con­cen­trate on ren­der­ing the lo­cal colours and am­bi­ent oc­clu­sion, be­cause I want this im­age to work by it­self, with­out the ad­di­tion of light and shadow.

7 Work­ing with the out­lines

I use the Smudge tool to gen­tly smooth the line-art. This makes the out­lines less prom­i­nent and eas­ier to work with, be­cause my fin­ished paint­ing style doesn’t fea­ture them. I rarely use Pho­to­shop’s Smudge tool, but I love us­ing it in Pro­cre­ate. I ad­vise try­ing all kinds of brushes for this. Some brushes are able to soften ev­ery­thing and some leave a nice tex­ture in place. The Smudge tool can be used to de­velop all kinds of painterly ef­fects.

8 In­tro­duc­ing more de­sign ele­ments

As you might ex­pect, dur­ing the paint­ing process I think of new things that I want to add to the il­lus­tra­tion, such as the small pouch on the char­ac­ter’s belt or some details on her dress. If you’re un­sure about any new ele­ments, make sure you place them on a sep­a­rate layer first. I also give her ear­rings and make the breast­plate bet­ter fit her body. I would al­ways rec­om­mend chang­ing things or mov­ing them around if you feel that some­thing you’ve painted isn’t work­ing.

9 Gather ref­er­ence for the wings

I’m not happy with the shape of the wings and think I should have re­searched them more. Pro­cre­ate has a great Trans­form tool, so I want to draw the wings from ref­er­ence first and then trans­form them into the right po­si­tion. I sketch the wings in a new file and copy-paste them into the main file. You can copy-paste ob­jects by swip­ing down with three fin­gers on the can­vas.

10 Per­spec­tive with el­lipses

This im­age fea­tures an un­usual per­spec­tive. I want to make her pose and the per­spec­tive as read­able as pos­si­ble, which is why I add straps and bands around her hand and legs. El­lip­ti­cal ob­jects are a good way to show what di­rec­tion some­thing is fac­ing. I've found that if you de­pict an el­lipse cor­rectly, it'll make the per­spec­tive in the scene au­to­mat­i­cally more read­able.

11 Re­do­ing one of the legs

The leg near­est the viewer both­ers me. The per­spec­tive seems off and I'm not happy with how I've painted it. Luck­ily, it's on its layer, so I drag it off to one side and paint in a re­place­ment. I also ask my hus­band for ad­vice, who comes up with some use­ful sug­ges­tions. It’s al­ways great when there's some­one around to give you honest feed­back.

12 Re­fin­ing the light and shad­ows

Now I fi­nally re­turn to the light and shadow layer that I in­tro­duced back in step five. I feel that the ma­jor­ity of the ren­der­ing is done and it's the light­ing and shading which is miss­ing from my il­lus­tra­tion. Be­cause the se­lec­tion changed in some ar­eas, like the leg, I have to reap­ply it on the im­age. I re­fine the layer and erase the parts again where the light hits the fig­ure un­til I'm happy with it. Now I du­pli­cate the shadow layer and drop it on ev­ery se­lec­tion that I had be­fore.

13 Last-minute changes

I de­cide to paint some loose feath­ers to give the im­age an­other dy­namic el­e­ment. My hus­band sug­gests adding a pat­tern to the wings, which now makes them look a lit­tle like owl wings. Cer­tainly, they now look more in­ter­est­ing than sim­ple, plain wings. This ef­fect is easy to cre­ate on an­other layer in Mul­ti­ply mode. I paint her freck­les in the same man­ner.

14 Making some fi­nal ad­just­ments

This is my favourite stage be­cause it's my chance to make the im­age pop. I use a va­ri­ety of layer modes and colour ad­just­ments tools such as Curves to make the colours a lit­tle more vi­brant. I tend to make my colours slightly dull and dark, be­cause I work in the dark and my iPad is on a bright set­ting. That's why it's al­ways good to check your fi­nal im­age on a mon­i­tor or cal­i­brated lap­top. And it’s done!

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