November 23, 2007

Return of the Kings, Part 3

Part 3: Photoshopping Gimli

Now that I'm done inking (as seen in part 2), I'm ready to scan my drawing into Photoshop and finish it up there. To show you an example of what comes next, I'll focus on Gimli and walk you through my coloring/detailing process.

1: I scan the drawing into Photoshop at 350 dpi (dots per inch), which is a good high resolution for printing. Once it's scanned in, I use the image adjustments menu to go to "Hue/Saturation" and get rid of the blue pencil lines on my drawing. I then raise the contrast a bit so that I have a nice, clean, black & white image. (And, of course, I try to save my file every twenty minutes or so, because I'm paranoid Photoshop will crash unexpectedly.)

2: I duplicate my initial layer and make the new one a "multiply" layer, which basically means I can drop colors on that layer, but all of the black lines will still show through the color. I start selecting areas and dropping colors onto my "multiply" layer. These will be my base colors, or flat colors. If I use the "fill" option, I then zoom in pretty close afterwards and touch up the details. "Fill" tends to leave annoying blank spaces next to the black lines -- a nitpicky thing that most people don't notice, but it bugs me, so I have to go in and fix it. Generally I try not to spend too much time worrying about what colors I'm choosing, because later on it will be pretty easy to select those areas and adjust as needed.

3: Once the base colors are down on that "multiply" layer, then I can start adding shadows. The way I do this is (a) I create a new layer and call it something like "Gimli Cloak Shadow," (b) I use the paintbrush or wand tool to fill in shadowed areas with black on this new layer, and then (c) I adjust that layer's opacity setting, usually dropping it anywhere from 20% to 40%. And I keep doing this over and over - a different layer for each major area of shadow. As you can see in the sample, this is where I added shadows to Gimli's clothing, weapons, and helmet.

4: At some point I like to add "cover-ups," which means I create a new layer and paint over areas that I don't want to be as bold and black as they are right now, and then adjust the opacity. You can see in the example picture that I did this to some of the metal areas on Gimli, like his helmet and weapons, as well as his bracers. I also added some detail to his chainmail sleeves, and a slight glare to his blades. Glares and shines are pretty easy -- just create a new layer, paint some white on there, use the blur filter, then adjust opacity.

5: I saved his face and beard for last -- no real rhyme or reason for it. Sometimes I start with their face, sometimes I do it last. For Gimli's beard, I added shadows the same as I did in step 3, and did some cover-up painting like in step 4. Looking back on it now, I wish I'd spent a little more time making the braids look better, but that's alright -- I remind myself that ultimately this will be going on a 2.5"x3.5" trading card, and the little details probably won't make a huge difference.

6: And finally the face. I zoom in pretty close, add some details such as wrinkles, some color on the nose, and then I draw the eyes. I do all of this on new layers, so that if I screw up, it won't be a big deal. Unfortunately, this usually means by the time I'm done with a piece, I have a ton of layers and it makes my files HUGE. But I'd rather go that route and be able to go back and change stuff if I want. I'm always hesitant to flatten my layers more than is necessary -- or if I do feel the need to flatten things, I'll save my current working file, then save the continuation as a whole new file name, such as "working_LOTR_pt2.psd."

7: Here's a look at Gimli as he appears in the final artwork. As you can see, this is after I've colored all of the other elements (the ship, Aragorn, Legolas, the ghosts, etc.) and played around with color adjustments. I'll talk more about that stuff later.

Please keep in mind, different artists use different methods for coloring art digitally. This is just the way I've become used to. If you're an artist and are trying to get a handle on coloring things in Photoshop, definitely play around with it and figure out what works best for you. There is no "correct way." Heck, I still use a mouse for all my Photoshop work... that right there shows that I'm not exactly up to speed with all of the latest and greatest methods. :)

Part 4 of 'Return of the Kings'