Thursday, June 20, 2013

How to! Mayan girl.

Here's a rough idea of how I painted that Mayan girl in the previous post. I won't go into any design concepts, just my painting technique. If you want some design tips, click here. Just kidding there's nothing to click.

Each step refers to a new layer added ON TOP of the previous layer.

1. Sketch
After I thumbnail a few poses (pictured... not here), I chose one I like and sketch it out bigger. This pose was constructed from the "sassy" category of my brain, but actually I've never seen anyone make this pose...

2. Base shape
On a new layer I block in her silhouette, toggling the visibility of the sketch on and off for the finer details. All the other colors will be added on top and masked off so I'll color in the lines.

3. Base colors
I create a new layer and mask it to the base shape I just blocked in. Then I color the basic colors for each separate object (note I didn't color the green in her shirt). I make sure that the colors are somewhat duller than the final result If I had to redo it I'd probably put the clothes and hair on separate layers from the skin.
4. Base shadows
With a hard brush, I block in the shadows with a dark purple using the layer style "Overlay". Remember that all these layers are masked by the base shape in Step 2, so I never color outside of the shape.
5. Shadow gradients
Using the paint bucket tool set to a radial gradient, I added some variations in the shadows.

6. Whites
Next I just take the brush tool and paint in some areas where it would be lighter. Oh and uh, I also unhid the layer in which I drew the light source.

7. "Painty" layer
Then I paint! I use all of the color variations that I got in the previous steps as my general color palette. I use a simple hard oval-like brush, vary the opacity (usually between 20%-60%), vary the properties of pen pressure attributes on my Cintiq (size usually set minimum diameter to 30%, as well as minimum transfer to 30%). Cast shadows give hard edges, all other shadows are more gradual transitions. I think about the broader look and feel of things, knowing that I'll refine the details later.

Tangent Tip!

So here I am painting away trying to figure out how lighting works. Half way through this painting process I realize that there's that whole "three point lighting" thing I should take into account, so I watch a whole Youtube video about it to get a better understanding.

Tangent Tip #2!

For the hard-to-color areas, I select them with the lasso tool to color, like the inside of her sleeves, or her forehead beneath her hair. I then go to Select _> Save Selection, so I can load it back up if I need to select it again. I think there's an easier way to do this... but that's how I do it.

7. Green parts part
This is a good time to add any clothing designs, or in my case, the green edges. I set the layer style to Color Burn so that the shadow values I already colored on the shirt will be inherited by green. Different layer styles work for different situations, but I found Color Burn worked best for the green cloth.

8. Details!
Now I allow myself to get nitpicky. I refine the forms of the face, clean up ugly edges, clarify the hands, add the thread going around the color, etc.

9. Hair
I vary the hair colors just a little bit.

10. Rim lighting
I made the rim lighting blue because it matched the other Mayan character I drew and I wanted to pose them together. Also, blue rim light is nice for an orangey skin tone.

11. White shines
Solid white shines in the eyes make them pop just a little more because of the contrast between the black and the white. The white shines elsewhere are added mainly for stylistic reasons.

From this point on the layers are no longer masked by the base shape from Step 2.

12. Edge soften
I went around the edges of the girl with a soft white brush to kind of push her into the non-existent environment a little more. It's important to note that I had to choose the background before completing this step. Originally I had a textured background but it looked dumb so I just kept it white.

13. Cast shadow
To be honest, at this point I was just kinda like "whatever!". This layer goes below all the other layers.

14. Brightness/Contrast layer adjustment
Last and possibly least, I adjust the brightness and contrast till I get the exact colors I want. I use an Adjustment Layer (the black and white circle in the Layers window) for this at the very top of my layers. If you're curious, I increase the contrast (+55), and decrease the brightness (-23). This part just requires a bunch of trial and error. I initially tried using Hue/Saturation, but after viewing my piece in black and white, I found out I needed to push the values more than the saturation.

15. Done!
Celebrate! Eat food! Use the bathroom!

A few notes:
  • It's hard to edit the drawing with this process, since everything is on separate layers.
  • I forgot that I had started with a blue background with about 40% brightness. I switched to a white background at the very end.
  • If I had to do it again I'd probably put the skin, clothing, and hair all on separate layers.


Well maybe it's because I really enjoy organizing my thoughts, especially in lists. And maybe it's partly just to show people how I paint my stuff in hopes that they might learn something. So uh, here ya go. But also, I just really love the process in how art is composed. I've said it before (well, tweeted it) and I'll say it again: so much of what defines art as art is the method in which it is made. The resulting piece is just proof that the artist went through the entire process before reaching that completed piece.

If you ever have to quote me, use those last sentences right there.

Oh hey I know how to GIF this!

Now this is by no means the best or the most efficient way to color a character. It's just a method I found (after TONS of trial and error) that works best with me and this character. If you have any suggestions of a better method of coloring a certain part, by all means I'd love to hear it. Comment below! And if you don't have any suggestions, just comment with a funny joke or something.

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