Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How I Work: Art

Most of you know by now that i love illustrating. It's my job and my passion. Naermyth started as the script to a comic book, an endeavor that might have taken years to finish. So, for the curious, here's a peak at how I work. Let's ask Tito Bing to help us, shall we?

I use photoshop CS4, a very old wacom tablet and the default brushes set to "other dynamics" for pressure sensitivity. I start off by blocking out the general look of the image. At this point, i've already decided where the light is coming from, the colors and the elements  included. As you can see, I originally wanted a tabby cat in there with Tito Bing. This process takes me about an hour just deciding what should go where.
Once the general shapes are set, it's so much easier to start building the detail. It's very similar to my writing process. I have the skeleton of my work - an outline where I can get as detailed as I can afford to be. Starting is always the hardest since you have to lay a very strong foundation before you move on to the next step - otherwise, you'd be painstakingly going back and forth, editting this and that when you could have set things straight at the beginning. Rule of thumb, make sure you're satisfied with the first draft and then move on. You'll find that if you want something significantly changed later on, it will improve your work rather than waste your time.
If you enlarge Tito Bing, you'll see that I've roughly added more detail. His feet have the light blocking I want and his clothes have the folds and creases. His face is almost done too, and I've added a table, a book and a band-aid. The background is still the same. I always work on it last (* and there's sudden outcry from traditional painters everywhere).

Even more details added to Tito Bing - mostly on his face and his clothes. I add in the details layer by layer - and it's just like writing again! I start with the first shitty draft that lays out the general flow of the story. The first draft is always shitty. If you want to be efficient, shittiness is a requirment. Broad strokes first = paragraphs of word vomit, ill suited for public viewing. What's important in the first draft is that you get your message across. Then you go back on it at a second read. You hit yourself several times for using such crude imagery, hack off overruns and go all godzilla-like on flowery descriptions and cringe-worthy dialogue. Things tighten - which means you go all twitter with your sentences. Say what needs to be said. Delete redundancies or sidequests that might be fun to read about, but doesn't necessarily contribute to the end goal of your character.
The polish. When the details are in and the colors are just where you want it, start smoothenning things out. My technique: Default brush set to a low opacity (20-30). "other dynamics" is clicked, "shape dynamics" is unlicked. this gives me a broad, pressure sensitive brush to work with. Now, with the eyedropper, just pick up a middle shade on your work and gently glide over it with the brush. Keep picking up middle shades and gliding over the area lightly till you get the blend that you want. It's something i learned from Linda Bergkvist. You can see her work here.

Textures and detailing. A lot of my textures come from stock pictures or photos I take my self. once i lay on the texture where I want it to be, I set the blending mode (mostly multiply, darker, darker color or screen), then i take a small brush and manually pick out the details.
The last thing I do is set the color for the image. Always use adjustment layers! It's that black and white icon at the bottom of the layers panel. This icon shall be your friend when you're in need of a color fix and you don't want to compromise image quality. Plus, you can actually mas these layers, nicking off portions of your painting you don't want darker/lighert/color-changed. I use levels, hue and saturation and color ballance adjustment layer to get that iconic orange Naermyth feel.

For more painting tutorials, or if you want to take a look at my other (much older) work, you can visit my deviantart site at

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