Graphics Blog V

December 30, 2011 in Graphics

Welcome back!

Goodies, goodies and more goodies in this blog including (but not limited to):

- Q&A with Andrei Pervukhin (Artist behind the 7.0 Tribal Wars graphics).

- Speed Smudge Sig video by yours truly (Me).

- Tutorial/instruction/explanation to go with said video.

- SOTW’s, art from around the web and much more.

So, what are you waiting for? Come join us on our tour of the exotic world of graphics!

Hi there! I hope you are looking forward to another blog as we roll out the red carpet for you, starting with…

Sotw Time!

We have indeed had a few since the last blog, the pace is quickening on these which is fantastic, we are getting more and more entries and some great ones at that.

SOTW 30 – Bokeh

Winner:

-Undead Kurt Cobain

Tied Runner-up:


-H@rdcore


-Jalwis2007

Sotw 31 – Robotics

Winner:

-jalwis2007

Tied Runner-up:


-Genetic Engineer


-Undead Billy Mays

Sotw 32 – Vector:

Winner:

-Zenron the Great

Runner up:


-Hidden Disaster

There was a great turn-out with all the Sotw’s, remember you can participate, vote and comment right here at the graphics forum:

The Graphics Forum

There are always new Sotw’s and events going on.

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So what’s been happening on our forums?

We’ve seen old faces showing up again which is good, as-well as a few new ones. There’s also been a couple of pieces posted lately that I have really liked, these were a few:


- .Frozen Grace

This is very nice smudging here, I have always been a fan of this style of smudging, the main thing here is the colour. It’s quite hard to achieve bright, eye-catching colour without being overbearing or unbalanced. This is a very simple to the eye yet elegant and detailed piece, and I think it is very effective.


- zenron the great

Another smudge piece (all the rage these days) yet different from the last. The thing I like about this piece is the subtle lighting. Lighting can make or break a piece, and not only are the effects nice but the basic foundations of this is what makes it appealing to the eye.


- jalwis2007

I really liked the colour and depth in this piece. The effects are used well towards creating depth, and the colour is effective, though I do think it could use some slightly stronger colouring to further enhance the two-tone. Over-all, it’s effective and pleasing to the eye, so well done there.

Q&A with Andrei Pervukhin (Artist behind the 7.0 Tribal Wars graphics)
http://pervandr.deviantart.com/

What originally got you interested in art?
- I originally got interested in art during my childhood. I enjoyed painting animals and humans

How long have you been an artist?
- I have been an artist for about 10 years.

How did you work on developing your skills?
- The most important thing is practice,I drew a lot from nature, and of course the theory is also important. I learned a lot of literature on composition, anatomy, etc.

Did you attend any art schools or any courses? If so, which ones?
- Yes, I graduated art school and than art college in Voronezh

Do you see digital art as being a lifelong career?
- Digital art is important part my life but I’d like to combine it with traditional painting in the future.

Is your art spontaneous or is it planned?
- In my opinion, art can’t be spontaneous. It usually hard work for composition, story, character etc.

Do you have a favorite piece of artwork that you have made?
- Yes, some, for example “portrait of a girl” and illustration for Tribal Wars “The enemy village is ours

Which artists have you been influenced by?
- Levitan, Serov, Feshin, Zorn,G. Mullens, J.Jones, Paul Bonner and many others.

Where do you get your inspiration?
- Anywhere, in nature, people, books, films etc.

Have you received much criticism on your work, and how have you dealt with it?
- Yes, but not too much. I’m welcome to criticism especially when it is constructive.

Do you see you artwork as a full-time job, or more as a hobby?
- It’s my favorite job :)

What are your plans for the future? What would you like to do?
- Develop as an artist!

How did you get the job for Inno Games, creating the Tribal Wars artwork?
- They offered me a partnership.

On average how long did the Tribal Wars art take to create?
- Each piece took me about 3-4 days.

What did you use for the basis of your work for Inno Games? Were you given a brief, or did you have complete freedom?
- I’ve got a brief but I’ve got as much room for my own creativity as possible.

What would be your advice for new artists or designers?
- I would advise a little more patience, more practice and drawing from life.

What do you do outside of the art world?
- I love to play sports, travel, and watch movies!

Do you have any favorite art quotes? If so have they provided you with inspiration, and what are they?
- Unfortunately I can not remember anything at the moment :(

Speed Sig Video

I made a video of me “speed smudging” this piece:

Below I will explain in more detail what happens in the video, and what I specifically did.

Please note that this is not the *best* way of smudging, or to be followed to the letter, this is simply how I do it and you can use for a few ideas on forming your own style. Remember the most important thing: Ctrl – Z is your best friend!

My apologies for the quality, the screen capture got thrown out by me using the tv as a monitor (my laptop screen is broken) so it was too high on the 1920X1080 resolution, file size was 1 gig so I had to cut it down. Watch in full screen for a better view.

The first thing I did was find a texture I liked the look of. This is basically something that is often used as a background or for effects, you can find them in “resource packs” on places like www.deviantart.com or through www.google.com. It doesn’t particularly matter what it is or what colour it is, you just want something that is quite “full” that you can use as a base to start smudging. You can also use things like splatter brushes to scatter around in different colours as a base to start smudging however using textures to start is just faster and generally comes out better in the end, as you can have more depth to your smudging. You can get that kind of depth from colour brushing first, but it really takes quite awhile of detailed brushing around to get a variety of pixels/depth, so as far as signatures go it’s just a shortcut. I then inserted it into photoshop and resized it to fit the canvas (420X180). TIP: Always hold the “Shift” key when dragging the corners of an inserted image to resize it, it keeps the aspect ratio, don’t just try to guess it (I’ve been there and done that, humans eye size judgment will not equate to computer measurement in graphics).

Next thing was the render. I picked out something I liked and resized it to fit. There are two things here that I was paying attention to while doing this:

A) How big is it going to be?
and
B) Where am I placing it?

You want to avoid having what is called “floating head syndrome” in your pieces. This means… As it says, having a floating head on the canvas with no visible body or connection to anything. Always try to include parts of the body, generally I find that anything that stops short of around the armpits of a character causes the FHS effect (it depends ultimately on the render/stock used, this is where you just have to make a judgment yourself based on each image). You also want to place it carefully. If the character is leaning to the left for example, and you place it on the right side, it’s going to look weird and unnatural. I won’t say I’m a supporter per-say of the “Rule of Thirds” (Not to center the render in the canvas) however it is worth looking at the render and trying to decide where the flow is going. If it is looking straight ahead you can get away with a centered render (and build heavily on the symmetry for each side) however if it is leaning or looking to the left or right, you will have to compensate for that.

Next, I made a new layer under the render layer, picked a spot and started smudging. The settings I had for the smudge tool were: 6 pixel brush, 90% strength and (importantly) “sample all layers” ticked. This means that on the blank layer, rather than smudging what is on that layer (that is to say… Nothing) it will draw on the colours of everything that is visible. It’s as if you were to take an image itself and smudge it, however it does the same effects on a new layer rather than smudging the base layer. As for the smudging itself,I just went with what I felt was the flow of the image, given the natural curve in the render from the way she is leaning, I tried to follow that. Some styles of smudging require shorter, “choppier” smudging, however for the way I smudge I use longer, more flowing lines. The key thing is being to avoid having them straight, to make sure they are nearly always curved (unless short “joining” smudges). You can see in the video how I do these kind of smudge lines. Try to be creative with the shapes you do, don’t just smudge a straight background, throw some balls and curves and generally weird shapes in there, just try to make sure it keeps to the flow of the piece (for example with mine you will see that in most of them I was smudging in a “C” sort of pattern). Oh, and make sure you zoom in too (alt key + scroll), don’t try to smudge it from a distance, it will make your smudges really uncontrolled and reckless, the more you zoom in the better control you have, just remember to zoom back out to check on the look of the over-all piece and where you want to work on next.

So with the background smudge layer finished, I then made a new layer over the top of that and did some white soft-brushing. This is to enhance the light sources, and to give some “sparkle” to the image. As you do your smudging you should have some sections of lighter colour (in mine it was white but it can be any light colour, light blue, green, pink, yellow, whatever) that you can brighten later to be the light sources, this is what I have done here (the parts I brush you can see were the ones for the light sources). Then I smudged them out to fit the existing smudges.

Next (with the white smudged layer) I went to: Layer -> Layer Style -> Outer Glow. I selected the colour for the outer glow as red (as it matched the background) and played with the opacity (transparency) a little to see what level worked the best, I didn’t want it to be too overbearing. Then (with “sample all layers” still ticked) I proceeded to smudge parts that I felt could use a little brightening with the red. That’s where the sample all layers is handy, you can just smudge it as if you were smudging the image on a new layer, but with layer styling you can create all kinds of extra effects with your smudging. Play around with them, best way (well, the only way) to discover new things is to experiment. After that smudging I lowered the opacity of the entire layer slightly.

Next, I added a “star stock” on the layer setting “screen”. The effect is quite obvious when you watch it, it is to create the star effect. I then took a hard eraser brush, on 25% strength, and partially erased the stars in-front of the renders face and direct frontal body. You don’t want to have your focal covered by bright effects.

Then, I added a multi-coloured star stock in on layer setting “colour”; the basis for my colouring as I wasn’t happy with the original colouring, I find it is better to have either a two or at most three-tone for this kind of image, more than that and it gets crazy and more into the realms of “abstract” which is fine, but not what I was aiming for here. Design vs Art and all that. I lowered the opacity to 42% and then did some smudging on that layer (with sample all layer un-ticked) to smudge the colour over the render and remove the random blotches covering it.

Next: Layer -> New adjustment layer -> Gradiant Map. In black and white, I set it to layer setting: luminosity. This makes a very subtle change but a huge difference ultimately, it increases the lighting in the image by brightening the lighter coloured spots and darkening the darker coloured spots.

I then added the same coloured star stock as earlier but on soft light, with lowered opacity.

Next, I made a new layer containing the image (Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E, it’s actually more convenient than it sounds to press, really) and using the “dodge” tool, I went and brightened the areas of the render that the light would be naturally hitting in the image, and then using the burn tool I did the same for the opposite: where the shadows would be.

Then I made a simple blue and pink layer with brushing, then set it to colour and lowered the opacity. I did some smudging and a bit of brushing/low opacity erasing of the blue side as I felt itwas too overpowering.

Photo filter time! Layer -> new adjustment layer -> photo filters. I cycled through the various options before settling on the “violet” option and tweaking the opacity.

Another black and white gradient map (the same as before) on layer-setting “colour” and very low opacity (about 13%).

Next, a white brush at 1 pixel, I used to brush some extra “stars” into the background.

Then, I added a low opacity letter (my watermark) to the image, somewhere inconspicuous.

And that’s it! Wow, that is detailed isn’t it? I hope that something in all of this helps you, or that you can draw something from. Remember it’s ultimately about developing your own style through experimentation. Whilst my work is flawed, I do feel happy with it, it was great fun to do and I feel it’s a very personal and unique style I am creating. Three cheers for individuality! Well, I suppose one would do, being “individual” and all.

Some other examples of mine using this same style (but with more time spent on them and not so rushed):

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Art from around the web!

So I would like to share a few pieces that have caught my eye recently, starting with this:


die Kiste (Click for full size and details)
By utria

I love vector art. For those who don’t know what “vector” means, it means; “the use of geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes or polygon(s), which are all based on mathematical expressions, to represent images in computer graphics”, so basically (from my admittedly minimal knowledge in the field of vector/vexel) a digital image that can be stretched, shrunk, zoomed in/out and so forth without losing quality or focus as it is not pixel based. If you take any regular image and stretch it out to a larger size, it becomes a mess of pixels. If you take a vector and stretch it out is stays as defined as the original size and it also means that they are generally more defined and “sharper” images as-well as smoother colour or gradiants. You can somewhat replicate the look of a vector with a “vexel” image (which is an imitation of a vector using various techniques) however it cannot be a true vector as it is still pixel-based, but there are techniques out there that I have seen that come quite close to replicating the look of a vector, however there is very little to me that looks and feels as nice as a true vector image.

To go with the vector SOTW recently, I thought it would be good to examine what it is that makes vector so special. First and foremost it is the ability to stretch. Most official graphics (such as banners, logo’s, etc) will be required in vector format so that they can be resized for any size. Indeed you could have the single true vector image go from for example; a website banner size to a billboard size, as with the stretching it is simply expanding the shapes, not stretching pixels. That in itself, is pretty darn cool. The next main thing is the aesthetics of it. If you look at the image above I would hazard a guess that you would find it fairly nice to look at; it’s clear, sharp, defined colours, simple yet detailed and over-all a very smooth texture. That’s also why vectors are commonly used in advertising and the like; as far as catching someone’s eye with a clear, detailed and eye=pleasing image, you can’t beat it.


Snape: Sectumsempra (Click for full size and details)
By cblair

(traditional art)
This is just a brilliant painting, end of story. Well, I suppose it should be mentioned that to get the full effect of how awesome this painting is, you should check out the reference photo used: http://www.cynthiablair.com/assets/photoRef/sectumsempra.jpg Then look at it again. How do you fit this kind of talent into a single person?

Harb’s section

Ooh, is it ramble time now? I certainly just had a huge one already but I’m always up for another one. I feel a blog is incomplete with a “topic of the day” rant, I mean, that is the idea of a blog after all.

Lately something that has been on my mind a lot has been inspiration, or rather… Keeping it. For me, inspiration is very easy to find, usually in the form of music or stories or art or whatever. The hard part is keeping that inspiration alive. For example, I play the guitar and I’m rather mediocre at best (in all honesty) however everyday I try to play and learn a bit more, and with graphics, football, writing, drawing, dancing, any of these kind of things that I do. It’s very easy when you are inspired by something to then go grab the guitar or hit the books (or a person in the case of football) and go at it for an hour or two with full gusto. Yet, the next day that inspiration slips slightly, and the day after, and the day after. By a few weeks that inspiration is usually gone from my mind and I am back in an almost bored situation, steadily the hours I spend on things diminish day by day, until one day I might find a new one, otherwise it usually stays down. Is this just me? I don’t understand these people who have an inspiration that keeps them going at it for 8 hours a day for 20 years or some such, some role model or music or whatever their inspiration might be. How do you stay inspired like that? I try to find new inspirations all the time because no matter how inspiring something or someone might be, eventually that goal at the end of the road either ends up escaping into the distance or they fall from it completely.

I’m not easily motivated, and that’s something I need to change, but I have no idea how. I was planning on going for a run every morning, I’m physically capable of it, yet I went about 5 times then started going every 2nd day, then 3rd day, then weekly, then… It’s ridiculous but I have no idea how I’m supposed to form this self discipline, I’ve never had any discipline anyway and now I have 18 years of bad habits to break. Sigh. If anyone does have any suggestions as to how to form that kind of self-discipline (or general comments about the blog) please post it in the blog thread here: The Graphics Blog Thread. Did think about joining the army or something, but I think that is the kind of thing which self-discipline is needed “before” you go in. I don’t know, someone slap me and give me a glass of cement.

Additional note: So, it’s now a day later and reading this little ramble again… I really do become a grumpy-bum when I fail at something don’t I? Although I rarely do end up giving up, I just get grumpy and moody and the next day try it again. Go figure. Anyway.

Many thanks this week to Phlipster for his help with the interview! Hope you guys enjoyed it, see you next time.

- Harb.