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.

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:




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.

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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


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:





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).


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

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


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


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Duel – Sonic and Mecha

I sat down to draw something this evening, and wracked my brains for something fun.

For some reason I’ve been thinking about this short Sonic story I wrote called Duel. It’s about Metal Sonic chasing Sonic, and Sonic just runs and runs–and they’re both keeping diaries of the chase’s events.

Anyway, it’s a simple concept and doing a cover image for it should be simple enough.


While drawing this, I realized that I’ve more or less forgotten how to draw the Sonic characters. Fortunately, Google is stuffed with reference art.

You can see how I layered in the sky first, then the foreground.



The brush isn’t really green. It’s grayish-brown, but it looks green against the reddish background. I wanted a hot color scheme to convey the tension of the chase.



This is how it looks as of tonight, but it needs some more value tweaking, and some polishing. I’ll mess with it some more later. 🙂

Blow your head off – step by step

Wow, that’s a really gruesome title.

Anyway, here’s the step by step of how I did this pic.

First was the concept sketch.

Shadow: Give me one reason I shouldn’t blow your head off.
Sonic: Because Maria wouldn’t have wanted you to.

Complete with story.

Anyway, the concept was good, but the picture itself is kind of meh. So I rotated the camera.

Much more exciting!

Then I layered in some perspective lines to help with my (lousy) background:

I can draw buildings if I have reference. Unfortunately, here I didn’t use reference.

Then I inked Sonic and Shadow all nicely.

I even tried to use the thick-and-thin lines I used to love so much when I was inking by hand. Inking on a tablet just doesn’t feel the same. No friction between the paper and the pen nib.

Next some color on the background, so I’d know where the light sources were …

It wasn’t this blurry to start with, but I put some heavy camera-lens blurs on it to cover up some of my crappy contrast work. You can see it here, when I was midway through shading Sonic and Shads.

As you can see, there’s a lot of nothing on the right side of the picture that got cropped out.

See how shiny Sonic and Shadow get once their shadows and highlights are in place?

Then I smeared blue and purple airbrush all over everything to give it some atmosphere.

All done! I forgot how much I like working on pics that tell stories. I might do it more often. 🙂