Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Character Portraits Part 2

As of the last post, Eric Feurstein (aka Mr Colossal) was kind enough to show me some Photoshop tricks which have greatly helped with my character portraits.  The day after, I also attempted another speed painting portrait in high res, but this time using a photo for reference for the face so I could get the proportions right. 

This guy was the result.
I was much more satisfied with the look, but I still have a ways to go.  Practice makes perfect, after all!  As far as the trick Eric showed me, I spent yesterday redoing all the character portraits in AGW, basically tweaking them and making the color ramps less flat.  I'm extremely pleased with the result, which, although subtle, I feel makes a world of difference.

Alfie Banks before.

Alfie Banks after some color tweaking.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Strengths and Weaknesses: Character Portraits

There's no denying that when it comes to any creative output, we've all got our strengths and weaknesses.  As long as you figure out what you're good at and what you're not so good at, it opens the way to being able to work on your weaknesses and play to your strengths.

Lately, I have been practicing my art skills in an attempt to grow and improve, and have been able to identify my own personal strengths and weaknesses.  When it comes to drawing people or faces, I find that working in high resolution becomes way more tricky than working in low resolution.  I've been used to working in low res in all the time I've been making games, that it just feels the most natural now.  This isn't to say that I've always been good at low res portraits.  I cut my teeth on the Ben Jordan games, and looking back at the early ones, the character portraits are pretty terrible. 

Why the long face?
As I went on practicing and improving, I began cheating a bit and using photographs for character portraits, tracing over them and being a slave to their shading.  In some cases, the results were ok.

Simon's facial proportions somewhat resemble that of a human being.
In other cases, the results were terrifying.

I want you to have some proper facial lighting, that's what.
Finally, in the last Ben Jordan game, I learned to stop using the accursed dodge and burn tools and actually use different color values for shadows and highlights.  I drew great inspiration from Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers and not only used some dramatic chiaroscuro-esque contrasts, but also some colored lighting.

Ben now carries a blacklight with him wherever he goes.
For A Golden Wake, my methods have differed somewhat.  I'm still using photographs, because I haven't mastered facial proportions exactly as I'd like, but I feel I've gotten a handle on basic shading.  The difference now is I make an outline of the character's portrait as a guide, and then, like a kindergartener coloring, I color within the lines and shade until the portrait is complete.

Not too shabby.
 Finally, to show an example of areas of improvement, here are two speed paintings I did tonight to work on doing faces from scratch without any reference.  First, the high res disaster:

Done in roughly 30 minutes.  Not even 30 hours could have saved him.
And next a very quick low res study:

Less than 10 minutes and he looks more human.

 As you can see, there's lots of room for improvement, but that's what practice is for.