Thursday, March 29, 2012

Asajj Ventress Process

Asajj Ventress is seriously one of the coolest bad guys in Star Wars. Took more hours than I'd like to admit, mainly because I redid her 7 times. Oh well, I'd say it came out well for a first time. She's my "practice" digital painting with the new custom brushes I just set up. I think I made her look a little too serene. Perhaps next time I will give her some crazy evil eyes. Image size is HUGE. Currently my desktop wallpaper. :D Feel free to use.
So I thought I'd share my steps. It's pretty much a blunder through as I tried to figure out how to do this amazing digital painting phenomena. As I pick up new tricks, I'll share them here. Eventually I'll set up a dedicated page listing Tutorials.

Step 1
Rough sketching. I'd say it's pretty self explanatory. I drew different layers with different colors. It's the only way my brain can keep all this straight. Brown = base/body, black = clothing, blue = lightsaber. Most of the time I sketch with a pencil in photoshop but this one is done with a hard round brush. She's up against a dark background so I figured the bold lines would make her stand out better once all was done.
 Step 2
Clean up the picture. Normally I use the pen tool to map out the curves. I... lazed out. The pen tool is an enormous pain in the arse even with a tablet. The only advantage is smoother lines. For this picture, I just traced over the sketch layer with a hard round brush. The lightsaber itself is not drawn in, but I'll get to that later. I also did a little fixing on the fingers, nose, and fine details.
Step 3
Lay down flat colors. Not too hard. I mainly use this as a reference to what color combinations I want to move forward with, although some artists will use the flats as a base to start off. I put each color in a different layer to make it easier to fix or replace colors I don't like. Merge them when finished but don't include the outline.All layers should be set to Multiply.

Step 4
Here's the fun stuff. I customized a brush to correspond to pen pressure. To do this (Photoshop), hit F5 or select Window > Brushes. Select your basic brush you want to modify. I chose 19px hard round. In Other Dynamics, you'll see a Control drop down menu underneath Jitter Control. Set it to Pen Pressure.
You can start using this brush to set up a basic shade. Darken in the areas you think shadow will fall. If anatomy isn't your strong suite, I suggest looking up photos or other resources to guide your shading. Mess with the opacity of the brush if you're having a tough time blending. Dropper tool is your friend. The example below is a mess up because I realized the shadows would have to fall on the opposite side of her lightsaber...
 Step 5
Apply your colors. If your flats are set to multiply, this is what will happen:
Tweak by adding more depth through richer shadows. The Dodge tool is also great for highlights. Use it sparingly or else your characters will look like rubber. For the most part, a light or dark shade blended in will do. I used highlights for the lower lip, collar bone, and portions of the body that will be in the light most.

Don't forget about reflections from the light! Shadowed areas will always have a little sliver or light that's reflected from a nearby surface.

Step 6
The lightsaber. There are a few good lightsaber FX tutorials floating around so I won't go in depth about it. Here's the one I used. It's the simplest, as long as you know how to adjust the Gaussian blur a little bit to your needs. Now that you have your lightsaber, feel free to add some "glow" to the body where the light would catch. I created a new layer and brushed in some red to her left side, then adjusted the opacity of the layer. If your lines are too hard, try erasing them with an eraser with opacity set to <30%. That wil lsoften up the edges.
Step 7
Ok this isn't really step 7. You're supposed to add the background in once you've figured out what basic colors you will paint your focus (Asajj). That way your character won't disappear into the background or create visual problems. Anyway, I created the background with nothing but tools: Gradient, Gaussian Blur, meshing 2 logos I previously drew. Shabam. Then I signed it in the corner and called it done.

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