Monday, May 22, 2017

Timeline of a speedpaint - part 8

This is an interesting stage of the speedpaint, because I know I want to add something more, something "human" that we can connect with, but I'm not sure what yet. At this stage what I DO know is that I want to push some of the background further back - once again, using atmospheric perspective to do so, while still finalizing details here and there.

One extra detail that I wanted was a couple extra streams of water falling, one from the main structure, and one just below it and to the left. This helps diversify the colours a bit more in this spot, and spreads the values around just a little more.

Next, I wanted to refine this spiral shape even more. I pinched it in on both sides, to try and refine the shape and make it more interesting than the rather blocky form it had. I also add yet another layer of stone features in the empty spots of sky, just to keep things of a fairly uniform density.

To the foreground stones, both on the left hand side and the cliffs to the right, I add some rim lighting, which helps to make them pop a little against the scenery behind them. The spire on the left here got some extra attention, taking it from a boring, straight vertical line to a rather curvy, interesting form. I'm always looking for interesting forms like this when I paint, and if I can accentuate them, I like to do so. It adds some nice variety to the shapes, and a bit more visual interest.

The final step is to add a faint layer of red to everything in the distance, pushing it further back. This might seem odd, but I know I want to add something eye catching as a feature in the foreground - at this point, I was trying to decide between some sort of flying vehicle and a human figure - and reducing the contrast of the backdrop is a good preparation, knowing that I want my foreground object to stand out the most. Next time we visit this scene, I'll be roughly choosing where and what I'm going to add for this foreground feature!

Friday, May 19, 2017

A look at graphics: framing an interactive painting

My writings over on Adventure Gamers have been mostly about directing the player in various ways - whether in feeling or focus - so far, something I think is especially important to consider as an adventure game artist, and this month's article is no exception. This month's topic, of filling up the rest of the frame, is something I have struggled with, wondered about and tried to figure out for years, and hopefully my thoughts on the issue will make some sense.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Timeline of a speedpaint - part 7

This is the major detailing pass on the focus structure, and I also neatened up a few little areas in the composition that were annoying me. Overall, I'm getting ready to move onto the foreground here, but I'm just cleaning up a few things that need my attention before I can.

This main structure needs the most details because of a phenomenon I like to call 'Contrast of density' - that is, most dense details in one section than the surrounding sections. This, like most forms of contrast, will draw our attention to the area that's different and stands out, and give us more to look at. Another form of contrast I want to do more of is something I've mentioned earlier - the contrast of angular lines against the largely horizontal and vertical lines that surround the structure. To this end, I add pipes and struts, which also helps improve how interesting the silhouette is, another powerful feature.

A big thing that's been really annoying me, too, is how convenient the composition of the area around the path is - it's just a wide open area that allows us to see most of the path, and that feels too arranged, too fake. To combat this, I work in another two layers of rocky features, covering up large sections of the path, trying to make sure I don't make any tangents with the details of the path, the rocky features behind the path, or the rocky features in the very foreground. Overlapping layers feels great - a more natural, candid way to present a scene, and it also covers up that large stretch of bright value that was a little distracting.

Finally I work on some of the rocky features framing the city - both those in the foreground, and the feature behind it. There's nothing major to talk about here, I was just trying to clean up some of the duller and more rough parts to get rid of any bits that I didn't like the look of. You can see there's a tangent here, between the foreground rock, where it juts out about 3/4 of the way up, and the rocky feature behind, one that's been here for the last few passes. This is something I fixed in the next pass.

The way the silhouette of the main focal structure is about how I want it now - detailed enough to draw my eye, and interesting enough to form a cool silhouette. The next pass has me pushing these details all further back into the distance, in order to start thinking about adding a human element, and giving a bit of a story to the scene.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Timeline of a speedpaint - part 6

The washed out appearance of the darks and mids in my last version of this scene wasn't very nice - it didn't have the punchy, vibrant feel I wanted from this scene, and this adjustment is my attempt to fix this. It might seem a little strange to spend almost a whole 5 minute slot getting this right, but this is pretty close to the palette I'll be taking through until the end of the speedpaint, so it's worth getting it mostly right now.

My main focus here was to eliminate the blues - they felt dry and cold, and washed out in a way that didn't really work for me. An overlay layer makes pretty quick work of this, without affecting the existing reds too much - you have to be careful with overlay layers, as they can severely boost your already bright colours, but here I got away with it.

With the main colour scheme made more vivid, I wanted to focus on my two main focal points, and bring them to light a bit more. I thought that a red/green palette might work nicely, and provide some strong contrast, so I used a slightly green yellow on another overlay layer to wash over the highlights in both areas. I ended up pushing these a bit closer to orange by the end, but it was a decent starting point.

After being a little tired of various rock details, I decided it might be nice to try turning the one in the top left corner into an angled building, like a half collapsed old skyscraper. This would keep a nice angle in this area, but provide a different set of textures and help give some story to the world, the idea of a cityscape in ruins. I actually regretted this idea towards the end - I didn't have the time or patience to really give this detail the rendering it needs to sell the concept, and it feels rushed and unfinished in the final version. It's hard to say how easy this would have been to fix at this stage, but my best option would've probably been to leave this area as a rocky feature and move on. Nevertheless, this is the decision I made at the time.

By now I'm halfway through painting the scene, and basically everything is coming together. My next step will be to add the final details to the background scenery, because after that I'm going to start thinking about my focal feature in the foreground.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Timeline of a speedpaint - part 5

My values are better, my composition is roughly laid out, and I have a rough colour scheme. It's time to focus on the actual painting! This is usually the most fun part for me, after the concentration of trying to get a decent composition and some decent colours, it's just enjoyable to paint "stuff" - not in any sort of detail, by any means, but with slightly more care than the rough scribbles I've been using up until now.

The first order of business is to fix that nasty tangent that connected the left stone spike here to the details in the background. Pushing it much further up fixes this - with a tangent, we're just touching something, and we can either fix this by pulling it back, so it doesn't touch at all, or push it way further past, so it overlaps a big chunk of the object behind it. I also painting over the rather bland placeholder rectangles that made up my city until now, taking the science fiction idea further by adding a slight angle to one of the two larger structures, and adding some nice, bright lights to add a bit more contrast. As we saw earlier, this city exists right on the intersection of two thirds lines, and because of this I want to emphasize its presence as a focal point.

That done, I focus on the area above the city - it's a little dull and formless in the area directly above, so I add another layer of distant rocky features to break up this area, working quickly and letting a mostly random shape form. I also increased the contrast between the farther rock forms and the sky by adding some "cloud" details with a lighter value. This makes the cool spiral stone feature stand out more, once again, without the new feature taking too much of the glory. I liked this spiral, and I wanted it to be noticeable still.

While adding layers, I go to the light below the main focal point and add some rough stone forms to cover its source. I add finer distinctions between individual spires of stone - this layer is closer to the viewer than the areas I was working on just before, and it makes sense to have them more detailed, and I also want to encourage more varied silhouettes for the shapes in this focal region - the more unique the silhouette, the more interesting it will be to look at, and the more attention grabbing it will be as a result.

Up in the top left third I start fiddling around with this stone form, trying to figure out what I'm going to do with it. I lighten the sky behind it, and try some ideas to make it more visually interesting. I like the idea of a hollow part here, but later decided against it, as it was forming a straight, vertical line right next to a series of straight vertical lines of light - a weird bit of repetition that feels off.

Finally, I'm worried about those vertical columns of light, too, because they're such a focal point, but they don't really say anything, or add anything. I decide it might be cool to sketch in a little idea - a jet craft of some sort, flying into the light, leaving a trail of smoke/glow/something. This helps to break up the silhouette a little, and I like the way this looks. I don't actually take it any further than this when finishing the scene up, but I'm glad I added the detail and broke up the repetition of the columns of light slightly.

With a fairly uniform detail pass, I'm getting a better sense of the feel of the scene, and what I want to do with the main elements. In the next step I'm going to take another look at the colour scheme, and turn my initial colour pass into more of a final palette.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Timeline of a speedpaint - part 4

With some colour in the mix, the next thing I wanted to focus on was some greater value diversity. This basically means making the lights lighter, and the darks darker. I mostly did this on the extremities of the palette, focusing on making the lights shooting up into the sky much brighter, and the framing features much darker. Most of the midtones I left for now, planning to focus more on those once I had worked out the darks and lights.

You can see here how I used a single, light brush stroke over the painting, with pure white, on an overlay layer, to brighten this section up. I'm not worried about being neat at this point, I simply want to bring in more extremities, and some of this will most likely be hidden in the final mix anyway.

With the lights lightened, and the cliffs darkened, my next worry was that the way the cliffs framed the distant feature was a little too convenient, and a little too unnatural, so I wanted to break this up, and have some cliff features that overlapped part of the distant scenery. To try and accomplish this I painted some simple rock spikes jutting up, from the foreground, covering some of the path, and some of the city. This helps to give the illusion of depth, and multiple layers, and makes for a more pleasing composition overall. The rock spire on the left here forms a tangent, which is something I noticed and fixed later.

I also tried to fill up some of the sky detail that I painted last time with another, even further back rock detail, helping to frame the focal building once again, and also filling this section in a little. I had noticed that the large section of rather red sky was slightly distracting, drawing my attention away from the focal building just a little, so this is a decent remedy to counter that.

With the rough composition laid out, the basic colour scheme decided, and the values pushed a little more, the scene here is ready for me to start thinking about painting in some actual details, which is what we'll be taking a look at in the next step!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Timeline of a speedpaint - part 3

With a basic composition done, it's time to start thinking about colour. At this point I'm thinking a nice, warm red for the sky, and some cool blue for the cliffs, so I shift the browns of the palette into this. Using photoshop there's a number of different ways you can achieve this over a value study - levels adjustment layers, curves adjustment layers, gradient maps, etc. All of them work pretty well for an underpainting like this - this isn't intended to be my final colour scheme, just a way to put some basic colour in before I start using 'washes' to colour it by hand.

With the basic colour in, I put some time into adjusting the less organic looking parts of the cliffs. The straight lines here in the previous stage are a little too straight - I've decided that my straight vertical lines should be limited to the lines of light coming up from the main structure, and having this form repeated in a simple framing element like this isn't ideal. An angle that comes inwards at the bottom, starting above the little city, helps me 'catch' the city in this element, breaking this part of the cliff more away from the upper part of the cliff, and a gentler, more natural angle above this narrows up nicely for the lumpy feature in the top right third.

Again on the other side I cut into the very plain angle of the cliff, hacking my way in with sky colour, getting rid of that plain, straight line of highlight that felt like a repetition of the angled highlight further below it on the same cliff edge. Once again, repetition of forms visible in a focal element isn't super ideal, so cutting it up made me more confident that this would now exist more as framing detail, rather than something eye-catching.

In the distant rocky structure above the city, I noticed that my random painting made for a shape that's almost like a stone spiral wrapping around another stone feature, so I spent a little time playing around with making this idea more apparent. I'm quite fond of making random marks with the brush and seeing what shapes emerge from it - a little like looking for shapes in clouds. I also brought some of the lighter, cloudy/hazy details that I'd added to the other piece of sky over to this part of the sky too, helping me define this silhouette a bit more clearly.

With the basic colour scheme in, and a basic composition decided, the first 15 minutes had me pretty confident that I had a workable design to go from. Next time we see this scene I'll be focusing on adding some more value contrast, to make it a bit punchier and a little less muted, and from there, onto adding some further details!