Quick Paints/portraits in Photoshop

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I had the weekend free to do some sculpting but ended up getting not far with it. Sometimes clay or Zbrush doesn't want to play. I didn't want to waste the complete weekend though so tried my hand at some quick concepts/ portraits.

2D/painting is not my forte but I've grown further understanding in it based on my own inspirations. Traditional skills are very important so always good to practice them even if it's not your particular strong suit.

Above: after watching an incredible video based on Dune concept art creation I was inspired to make my own 'industrial planet' concept design. High in the smoggy clouds overlooking a neighbouring moon. 45 min doodle and ended up using part of 1 of my photos for the moon in the background. The emphasis was on blending colours and providing some depth in the composition.

Above: Monk: tried to be subtle with this one on the colouring/shading. Using photos as reference on the other screen just for lighting the face. I'm happy with this but liquify saved me a number of times!

Below: Noir: Tried a different style as I wanted the contrasting tones from the rim and shadows to shine through. It didn't work great due to out of practice scaling/sketching but for the bold style I just worked with a duplicated later which I then cut out, overlaying the painted layer on top for a stylised look.

Overall I'm happy with these, each one not taking too long (all under 1hr each, the industrial concept being under 45 mins!). Each of these I tried to make an emphasis to try something new but add colour balance and blending along the way. Liquify is a great tool if you're not too comfortable/not that well practised in drawing facial proportions and I think over I'll need to use it less and less.

Tutorial: Quick character sheets in Zbrush

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Think I saw Cesar Decal Jr utilise this in his introductions to Zbrush found on his youtube pages. I think it's great to study how traditional artists use digital software as they always seem to have some really innovative techniques which may be overlooked/ completely unused by digital veterans.

This technique will automatically export shots of your model from multiple views in to Photoshop. It has other handy uses such as getting to a certain angle quickly (if you have images for reference in the background).

So here's where to find it. Under Documents (in the top panel) go down to ZApplink Properties. From there you'll see the settings below. All you need to do is set the angle you want up in Zbrush then shift-click on the button you wish to use for that view.

By default when you select a front, right or top view it will automatically go and fill out the opposite for you.

I tend to just usually have front view, 45 degree and either a full side profile or one slightly off. Then to avoid having all selected I click the Clear To button to get rid of those views I'm not going to use.

When you click Make Character Sheet after this it will automatically run through those camera angles for you then open up Photoshop for you. It usually looks a little like the image below (having the background and the views separate). From there you can just save or edit them as you please for a very quick character sheet!

The views can be changed at any time just by setting a new view then shift-clicking on the button you wish to have as that camera angle. Left clicking will take you straight to the angle selected so if you're always working in a few areas or get your character at an uncontrollable angle it may be handy to go back to!

Above is a rough 1 hour sketch of an Alien Elf character. I've recently been looking a lot and getting inspired by Aris Kolokontes' work so the above and below designs were heavily based on his existing work.

Below is a few hours with a different model, this one an evil alien/sci fi creature. I tried to design it as a mask/possible via prosthetics so the forms are a little more human.

Lizardman colour tests

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Just a quick update on the lizardman concept I was working on. If you didn't see it here was the initial paintover.

I started adding the frills / horns and tested out some legs (the legs and arms I'm going to change but I wanted to test scale).

I started a rough colour paintover after completing the frills. I wanted to try blending some colours and used some Iguanas for reference (the head was based on iguanas, it's where I got most my lizard reference from)

I really wanted to add a lot more colour to my work as usually, especially with my inspirations alot of my sculpting work stays grey or very pale, almost pastel colours. I think colour is something we avoid a great deal in 3d work, games and film together. It's something which is challenging but I think I'm going to keep at it and make a few characters that really pop out.

Below are the paint test videos, these are polypainted on top by hand, mild detailing done with one of the default zbrush alphas and a few of my own (see below for some of my own rough alphas, taken from some of my photos)

Finally on to working on ideas for clothing/armor. I'm looking at a contrast in colours so may use a mixture of dark leathers and some dull black metals. I also want it to be minimal, likely just armbands or a shoulder piece one side so the body and head really shine through.  I'm going to make the arms and hands slighly more human then the same with the legs (as I'm finding the legs slight too equine or satyr like).

Concepting and Spitpaint

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Got interested recently in a FB group called Spitpaint. Similar to lunchcrunch it gives a rough topic to choose from then you have 30 minutes to create an image from scratch (no photos/phototextures allowed).

Thought I'd brave it, it is incredibly challenging, particularly as I don't put too much time in to painting. I think it's very important though as it helps immensely with colour blending and image composition. For saying my most knowledgeable area is photography I tend to find colour tone and composition my weakest area in painting/sculpting.

Here are my first few goes at it anyway;

Above: No particular theme for this one. I was just trying out new brushes in PS. Kind of imagined a rocky canyon/shipwreck. This one took about an hour after getting new brushes recommended by a friend (they are Peleng's brushes, made available on his blog).

Below: This was the first entry I put in to the spitpaint group. Taking about 27 minutes. The theme was 'tunnel entrance' although ended up making it more like the exit!

Above: just some very rough landscape thumbnails. 1hr in total for all 4 trying to work with brushes and composition
Right: very rough portrait, topic 'Apache' 25 mins. Very tricky to do portraits (for me anyway) in 30 minutes.

By doing this it also improves my sculpting workflow for concepting. Here is a quick sculpt knocked together and then a rough colour/texture test taking roughly 1 hr;

I'm making progress on my clothing modelling, slowly chipping away at the model side. I've also started re-learning some vfx, this time for use in realtime engines. The tutorials are from the great ImbueFX. Bill Kladis is an excellent teacher for UDK/Unreal engine particle effects and has worked on titles like Mortal Kombat and Injustice: Gods Among Us. I'll try and get some stills up in my next post as my current rig probably isn't great for capturing realtime effects!

Photography - Parks and Forests

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Went for a walk round Fitzgerald Park in Cork while there are still some leaves on the trees. Got there just before the rain! 

I think it's important to work with colours and tones when working within forests/parks as sometimes due to taking photos under shade it can flatten or desaturate the images slightly. There is also sometimes a very fine line between over green/ a bluer green and then going the other way with a yellowy green when editing. I made my own preset in Lightroom which I use as a base for all shots based around trees/parks/forests. I tend to create a preset with basics added then tweak that to save some time and provide some consistency within the group of shots I want to work on.

Here's the link to the preset I made if you're interested where I tend to start from for these kind of shots: Here

Some basic tips for shooting/editing a lot of greenery:

  • Black and white are great but all colours of green will provide roughly the same tone of grey which could flatten out your image. Don't shy away from colour if you can help it!
  • Adding warmth via temperature will quickly start giving your greens a golden/yellow look. This can look great if that is the desired effect. If you want to counter this I'd recommend keeping the tint away from the green side in Lightroom, and instead tweaking the HSL parameters to tweak the green hues then drop the saturation just a touch in yellows.
  • Drop highlights down to avoid glare through the trees, as well as balancing leaves hit by the light. Don't forget to remove Chromatic Aberration if you do have light shining through in your shot as leaves in the background will be causing a lot of unwanted purples and reds to show up.

The below shots were taken last month in and around Killarney National Park. Plenty of greenery there!

3D Project: Clothed model project part I

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Very quick post showing the starts to a new project I'm working on. This is based on the current on demand workshop I bought from Zbrushworkshops. You can find the specific course here.

After a very quick play last week trying to get used to Maya again I managed to create a rough jacket and got it working in Zbrush (see below). I decided to start again from the start with a project in mind.

Above: Note with single facing geometry the inside will appear invisible. I filled in the collars fully which explains why they are visible. If you do this in your 3d program by duplicating and scaling remember you may need to reverse the normals!

The project I have chosen is to do a 3d representation of Inquisitor Eisenhorn from the novels/40k universe. The reason for this is the complex clothing (in the concept art by Clint Langley he wears 3 layers of jackets!) as well as plenty of smaller items on the concept art which have their own techniques.

I've started blocking out the pieces as the workshop recommends (I'm using Maya. not Softimage but the principles in all 3D packages should be roughly the same).

Above: I created a custom toolbar with my own options I use constantly for modelling in this way. To add icons to the custom palette ctrl+shift the option/tool you want to use. To get rid of them from the custom palette just hold middleclick and and drag to the recycle bin. I'll explain what I put up there myself if it is helpful to those going through the Zbrushworkshop and are using Maya rather than XSI. 

 As I'm not going to be using it for game art I've been doing some tests with using just flat geometry (instead of thickening/ adding geometry in Maya for the inside of each bit of clothing). Once imported in to Zbrush and subdivided provided it is all one polygroup you can use Panel loops with a thickness to create the inside/ clothing thickness.

Here is the first test using the collar piece (the head is just an old head bust I did just to test scale). Aside from the bevel which I need to change I was happy with the result.

The plan is to get this fully finished by Christmas although depends on work schedule. Next weekend I should get the boots and inner+main jacket. Then after importing will pose, then re-import in to Maya to roughly model the outer jacket.