Progress on Max and Jay pic

Since I have a few nice progress shots of this pic, I thought I’d share them and show how this pic got started.

Max: She’s gone. I just can’t get past it.
Jayesh: You have to move on, man.

This is the finished pic. I really had fun with the smoky bar atmosphere, and I looked at a lot of bar and grill interiors on Google. They all seem to have the earth tones and low lighting in common. (Heck, I wouldn’t mind having lunch in some of those places. Some of them were really cute.)

Anyway, since I couldn’t find reference of the exact poses I wanted, I posed some of the 3D models in Clip Studio Paint.

It’s a painstaking process, getting the limbs and hands and heads and everything positioned just right. But it’s sure a lot faster than combing Google for somebody sitting in kind of the right position, then the arm doesn’t come out right and you can’t quite fix it because you can’t see it and just … argh.

Next comes the sketch:

Here’s the initial sketch, tracing over the models, adding clothes and gear, hair, faces, etc. The models are a nice shortcut, but I have to look up how to draw eyes every single time. Eyes, why are you so hard to draw?

I’m also trying to draw with more expressive hands, since human beings talk with their hands as much as they do their faces. I was pretty proud of the way the hands convey each character’s mood, here.

I guess I skipped taking a screencap of the inking stage, but you can see it here. My inking isn’t that great because I’m too impatient. So I went straight into making a value study. I wanted my characters to be sitting under one of those lights above the bar, with a darker background. Then I had to figure out what that kind of lighting does to the human face, so I had to go find reference for that. This took a lot longer than I expected, but it made the final version go much faster.

Some of the value study, I just painted over with a color set on Overlay and let the study show through. Other parts I repainted entirely because the study was messy. Since I am abysmal at drawing mechanical things like cups and bottles, I just grabbed some off Google and painted them into the scene.

This pic took me most of the week, so that’s all I have to show off. See you next week!

Superhero commission progress pics

I’ve been working on a book cover commission for the last two weeks. Today was the final push to really get it finished. The author has been showing it off, so here’s my heavily-watermarked version.

This is for Reformed: The Supervillain Rehabilitation Project by H.L. Burke. As of this blog post, it’s not out yet, but give it another month or two.

Here’s the progress pic:

You can see some of my initial sketches, figuring out layouts and poses and such. Then the refined sketches where I was changing angles and positions and things. There were quite a few more of those, but I didn’t want to bore viewers. Then I moved to inking, then color roughs to figure out the mood. Heidi wanted an overall blue color scheme, so we went with a nice rich dark blue.

I personally can’t wait for the book to come out so I can read it. 😀

Art post: group pic

Dragging back to the blog after being dead sick for a week. I only managed one pic the week before last. But it was a group pic, which is like doing four pics all at once.

This was an experiment in cell shading, too. I tend to overwork everything, and cell shading forces me to keep my shadows simple.

Anyway, these are my Destiny fanfic characters, all mine, and I luffs them. 😀

Artwork: DnD character

A friend commissioned me to draw his DnD character, so here’s what I came up with:

This sketch passed muster.
I’m getting into this black and white shading technique. The eyes got kind of funky, though.
And now with color, the eyes corrected a bit. I want to brighten up the shirt a little before I call it done, but overall, I’m happy with it, and so is my friend.

I think I’m improving. I can now draw something that is fairly close to what I envisioned, even though I still fight the artwork every step of the way. I can’t draw without reference. But even the old masters used reference for everything, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

I have a rant brewing about why artists should never run down their own art, and it also applies to writing. But I don’t have the energy to write it at the moment. :-p

Two progress pics this week

I actually did some artwork this week! I tried out the technique of shading in black and white first, then adding color. Amazing how well it works. No wonder the professionals do it this way!

Now, if only I could learn to draw clothing and armor in ways that don’t suck. Light on fabric is my bane.

Step by step – Gunslinger

Here’s the progress on last week’s pic: a gunslinger from Destiny 2.

It took a lot of sketching to get the pose right. Then it was really fun doing the black and white, figuring out how it was going to come together. I wanted to do a lot more art, but this wound up taking all week to do.

Step by step – Flirty (and tutorial)

Only one pic this week, but I worked on it all week. As you can see here, each step took a day. In the case of the shapes stage, two days.

These are me and my husband’s Destiny characters.

I was practicing figure sketches, and I liked this one because it kind of tells a story. So I turned it into a full pic. I also tried doing all the shadows with the pen tool, mostly because of this tutorial:

Practice pic by WinXu Xu on Artstation

See how the black shapes and the gray shapes in the first stage are on separate layers? And he colors on them separately? I wanted to try doing that. I’m afraid my first try was pretty tame, but I want to continue experimenting with this technique.

I’ve also been scribbling out a new fanfic. I noticed that it was getting kind of long, so I checked and realized I’ve written 30k. Pretty much just for fun. I love it when a story has that much pull. So I’m tossing it online, slowly, until I get it finished. Fortunately, the last third is in sight, so it’ll be done in a few more weeks.

Dawnblade – step by step

Artwork I did this week–some Destiny fanart, which means two people in armor and fiery wings and swords battling it out.

Pretty!
This is my initial sketch, just working out poses and stuff. Erased and redrew a lot at this stage.
Next, more details. The sketch is more refined, and I drew their armor.

Next comes inking. I’m not super good at this stage, and my tablet is uncooperative. The pros do this stage with the pen tool and vector lines, but I’m usually trying to get this done while the baby is asleep and lack time.
Next, I blocked in their colors and added the shading.
Time for background and special effects, my favorite! The inked lines stand out a bit. I color over those last.
The wings needed more contrast, so I added black to really make them pop. The inked lines got some painting treatment, too.
Last of all, a red gradient set to Liner Dodge to give the figures a nice red glow.

I haven’t done a pic like this in a while, and it was nice. Here’s a comic, too, about what happens when our main tank jumps games from Destiny to Fortnite.

Glorious Sonic Boom concept art post, and step by step matte painting

So I’ve been playing Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric lately. And this game is so gorgeous, it makes my crusty artist’s heart sing. Check out some of this concept art:

sega-sonicboom-concept

sonicboom-concept-art2large

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Arent’t they wonderful? As a Sonic fan from the mid-90s, seeing this kind of treatment makes me sooooo happy. I’ve been playing it, and the world is massively intriguing. Kind of civilization built on top of a previous, advanced civilization, only the modern day people are slowly recovering the old technology.

Anyway, I had to make a stab at drawing something like this, myself. It’s time for a matte painting!

Note: A true matte painting is made with photos. This is what they typically look like.

Dubrovnik Matte Painting

Since I’m an utter noob, I just painted over a free render from deviantart.

So! Here’s the render I started with.

knuckles-ruins-prog1
As you can see, a fairly serviceable render. It’s just called Jungle Ruins.

 

knuckles-ruins-prog2
Here I painted in the background. I started with just a lot of vertical strokes of light and dark green. Then I darkened the trees, and used a lot of Photoshop texture brushes to suggest foilage, moss, vines, all that messy jungle stuff.

 

knuckles-ruins-prog3
I painted in the characters in various stages, as I worked out the light direction, and how they were going to interact with their environment. The statue was tricky, because it had to match the background as much as possible. I painted it with rough, messy Photoshop brushes to get that stony, mossy texture.

 

knuckles-ruins-prog4
Now for all the foreground leaves and plants. This helps the bottom of the render to blend into the jungle. I could have done more on this, but I was just experimenting. My next will be better. Anyway, the arch above the statue, in particular, got lots of moss and vines, and leaves catching the light. Lots of moss hanging from the vines.

 

knuckles-ruins-prog5
Beams of light for the win! This was when I added the highlights on the characters and statue, because I knew how strong the light was supposed to be, and what color it was.

 

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I made a new layer, flood filled it with blue green, and set the layer setting to Soft Light. Makes a nice green cast over everything. You could achieve this same effect in physical media with a blue green wash.

 

knuckles-ruins-prog7
Last was a lot of little details, like the circuitry on the statue, implying that it’s waking up in the presence of people. Gotta have a story in the picture, you know?

And there you go! Painting this was basically like eating candy, only afterward, instead of having a sick stomach, I had a piece of artwork. Score!

I can’t wait to try more paintings like this, only, you know, spend more time and make them far more awesome.

How to make a book cover from stock photos

I know that graphic design isn’t people’s strong suit, yet lots of peoples are desperate to make free covers for their ebooks. I’ve been experimenting with making cover art for quite a while now (Wattpad is a great place to practice really awful covers until you get it out of your system).

Onto the process!

Step 1: RESEARCH

Get on Amazon and search for books similar to yours. Fantasy? Romance? Sci fi? Chick lit? Whatever it is, look it up. I’m writing what I’m calling Regency Shifter Romance–basically it’s werewolves in a Jane Austen setting. Except this particular book features a dude who turns into a bear. Does Amazon have stuff like that?

Why, yes, yes it does.

werebear-cover-examples

These were the top hits when I searched “werebear romance” on Amazon. Now, let’s break it down.

werebear-cover-examples2

In case you can’t read my chicken scratch, here’s my observations:

  • All the covers feature a hot guy and a bear, with a forest background
  • All the covers are blue, green, or purple, with the guy/bear trending toward orange
  • The fonts have a surprising lack of cursive “romance” fonts. They trend more toward paranormal. Although cursive does appear on the better-designed covers.
  • The text always falls in the center or toward the bottom
  • The byline is at the bottom most of the time, but it can be at the top

Step 2: FIND STOCK

Now I have an idea of what the genre expects for covers, I can go find the stock I want to use for mine. I get on DeviantArt and carefully comb through the stock photos, looking for unrestricted use, or free for use stocks. There’s really awesome stock that requires payment, but I’m cheap. I usually look for the really really old stuff, too. DA’s been around ten or twelve years, and there’s a crapton of art on there.

Here’s the stock I wound up with:

victorian_couple_6_by_digimaree-d4yteqi

brown_bear_3_by_prints_of_stock-d461wif

dsc_0015_01_groombridge_pla

Step 3: LAYER STUFF

I dump it all into Photoshop and start rearranging. You can rent Photoshop from Adobe for 30 bucks a month, or you can use the Gimp or something else that’s free. The image editing for this art involves cropping, erasing, and moving layers.

I’m working on a canvas that uses Amazon’s book cover guidelines: 1,563 x 2,500 pixels at 300 ppi (pixels per inch, which is the image’s resolution).

werebear-cover-steps-1

At this point, all I’ve done is erase backgrounds and move stuff around.

Now I drop a blue-black gradient into the background.

werebear-cover-mockup2

With the images on top of it, it looks like this:

werebear-cover-mockup3

But Kessie! you cry. How did you make the house all blueish like that?

With the layer settings, of course! As you paste each pic into the image, Photoshop will stick it on its own layer. Just find the layer you want to make all transparent, and change this option:

werebear-cover-mockup4

Now’s the point where I like to fiddle around with the title and byline, to make sure the images fit around them. The title has to be BIG, so it stands out in thumbnail, and high contrast.

werebear-cover-mockup5

These fonts are Alex Brush for the script, and Gabriola for the print stuff. Ah, but it’s still kind of hard to read. Grab your airbrush and scribble in some black on a layer below the text.

werebear-cover-mockup6

Much better. Now, the background is looking kind of dull and empty. A lot of those other covers use trees for the backgrounds to give a foresty impression. Were-animals always run around in woods. (Somebody needs to write one who runs around in deserts, or alpine tundra.) The picture of the house had a nice tree in it that I clip out and drop into the background.

werebear-cover-mockup7

Much better texture! Now, since I’m lazy, I’m going to copy the bear and people layers, and set the copies to Multiply. And I’ll drop in a byline and scribble black behind it, too.

werebear-cover-mockup1

Looks decent, doesn’t it? I have some painting left to do–like I need to remove the grass on the bear, and airbrush the couple to make them look more painted. But it’s well on its way, don’t you think?

So that’s how you make a book cover. Mostly it’s looking really closely at other, similar covers and figuring how they put theirs together. Also, the right fonts is a MUST. I left out the hours I spent tinkering with the text, moving it, changing the fonts, and so on. I’m still not satisfied with the look on my byline, and I’ll change it some more.

I used this site to find great fonts for my genre.

Now go forth, and create book covers from stock! Always remember to respect the photographer’s stock use rules–pay or credit or whatever they require.