View Full Version : Dragon Scratching - sketch, needs C&C

01 January 2005, 05:29 PM
Hey, all! Now that the Grand Space Opera Challenge is finally through, time to start working on something new. Here are some sketches I've been working on for a fantasy piece, just for contrast. I need this rough sketch good before i go on to line art and coloring. Any comments, crits, or other kind of help on this? What about the wings, do the first or seconds ones work for you?

Oh, and it should go without saying that all of the grey tones are just thrown in there speedily to give it a little depth, but i'll start again from scratch when i add them for real. And there will be more of a background, some of which i'm sketching out now, and some of which will just develop as I paint. But for the foreground, i need line art.



01 January 2005, 11:12 PM
Very nice dude, lovely experssions from both dragon and lady, is that water that that dragons tail is ment to be in? U got great drawing skills, keep up the good work, cant wait to see more :)

01 January 2005, 12:21 AM
Excelent work!

About the wings, i go for the first one cause in the second one the left wing looks smaller than the right wing, also in the first drawing it gives a more surrounding feel to it.

Hope to see an update soon

01 January 2005, 04:45 PM
Thanks for the notes, folks!

liquid - yes, that is, in fact, liquid that the dragon's tail is splashing in. They're standing at the edge of a pond or lake.

rudeone - that's a good point about the wings. I hadn't seen it 'til you pointed it out. I could make that one wing spread out more... but then it would offset the image to the left and it still wouldn't have the enclosing feeling of the firtst image.

Anyhow, i'm still doign more work on this, adjusting the dress to show the position and height of her body more, working on a floating castle for the background. I'll post updated line art soon, and then colors eventually. in the meantime, it's still not too late for anyone else to add C&C. Thanks!


01 January 2005, 05:07 PM
Just the person I was looking for.
I wanted to vote for your Space Opera Challenge. Where is it? I didnt see it on the fifteen pages of voting stuff. Maybe Im blind and didnt recognize it by its thumbnail?

Anyhow, your dragon is full of life. I really enjoy your work. The interaction between the maiden and the dragon is wonderful, especially considering maidens and dragons are usually on opposite sides of food chain.
My only crit is the dragons right wing, left side of the composition. It seems oddly bumpy. I would imagine, since there is no joint along the edge of the wing, that the fold would be a bit smoother and more controlled. The left wing, on the right side of the composition, has a very smooth arch all the way down along the fold, and it has a joint or finger bone there. The other wing has no joint at the fold yet is much more bumpy, as if the wing tissue between wing fingers was deformed.

See what I mean?

EDIT: I didnt compare the two drawings, and it seems you knew what i was saying form the first one because the second one looks adjusted. anyhow,
I also wanted to add that I liked the almost insect like antaomy of the dragon, the way its wings are held up by another set of arms it seems. Six legs. Very cool.

01 January 2005, 06:26 PM
Hey dude that`s very nice what you`ve done here.Would love to see that in color.Keep it up mate.:thumbsup:

01 January 2005, 06:56 PM
Thanks, guys!

Ognus - Yes, I'm in the contest! I just happened to score pretty high in the random seen generator, so my entries are pretty far in the back. If you're just looking at the 2D entries, i'm on page 6 of 7, while if you look at all entries, I'm all the way on page 13. But hey, glad you liked my piece and consider it worth voting for!

As for the more cogent now dragon wing, the second image is an alternate for the first, not a fix, so all comments on either one are helpful. You're absolutely right about the wing, that part of the wing is all "membrane" and should have a smooth flow to it, not a "knuckle." good eyes, thanks for pointing that out.

dean - Thanks! One step at a time, but you will definitely get to see this in color. I need something to work on now that the Space Opera is done! And hey, congrats for finishing your Space Opera piece, too!


01 January 2005, 07:00 PM
The draw is very good, the dragon especially, for the moment, no crits

01 January 2005, 08:50 PM
hey i like your stuff alot man

my crit would be the face on the maiden its very well done but it bugs me a little feels like its a little to much on the disney side compared to the dragon ya know what i mean seems like her face should be a touch more realistic i think it would harmonize the composition a bit more

but still great stuff keep it up

01 January 2005, 06:01 AM
Hey, all! Thanks for the continued notes!

Walrusmann - Sorry you think the princess is too cartoony. She's a very "me" character, very typical of what I draw. I'm really happy with her face (and his) so I don't think I'll end up tinkering with them that much 'til I start the coloring process. Hopefully you'll like how that unites the whole piece.

So anyhow, here's a new update. I've taken note of all the crits I've received up 'til now, both here and on The Drawing Board. I stuck with the wings you liked, rudeone, and I made the fix Ognus suggested. I planed the dragon's front paw to give it more weight and anchor it. I completely redid the dress to be more flowing, but not look like it was flowing out of the rock. The shadows are all temporary, just in there to help the piece read, not a legit value study or anything. And then, of course, i added a whole background too. Hard to tell here, but there are a ton of thin waterfalls all flowing down the cliffs to the left, not to mention off of the floating castle on the right. (How does the water get up there? Magic!)

Keep them comments and input coming!


01 January 2005, 08:15 AM
At least we hope thats water falling from the castle. I suppose the residents sewage has to go somewhere.

01 January 2005, 10:16 AM
I love it. Great interaction between the dragon and the girl.

I just keep wondering, why would the dragon drop her off at that spot?
Maybe add the beginning of some stone stairway on the left.
The dragon dropped her off and she thanked him for helping her escape the castle you see
in the background :) Just a story that comes up when looking at your pic :D

01 January 2005, 11:40 AM
The project of background is good, only critical, you must be not to make the castle on a floating rock, it makes too much S-F would see it more placed as now but on a rocky peak half covered with mist

01 January 2005, 04:55 PM
Thanks, folks!

Ognus - Funny you should mention that: When i designed a castle like this for a project a few years ago, it was deemed "too pretty" so i redesigned it as a dark, evil, spiky, rocky floating castle with all of its offal steaming out the underside and laying waste to cities beneath. It was a cool image, but still unused for that particular project. And I don't think that it quite fit the mood i'm going for in this particular piece! ;-)

Art2 - Hmm, your story is a lot more intersting then what I had in mind. And a staircase might look cool there, I'll think about it and see if i can work it in.

MDN - I dunno, i think a giant rock could be moved just as easily by magic as advanced technology. (Just the fact that it has a castle on the top gives it a +20% roll for being controlled my wizards instead of space marines.) After all, if you've got a flying dragon, you need someplace cool to go to that you could only get to via a flying dragon, right? :-)

01 January 2005, 07:26 PM
Hey great to see you working on something else! :scream:

Of course now after the challenge you should go easy on yourself. Just have fun on this one.

If you want to work a little more on this pic you could do some stuff to bring out the 3rd dimension a little bit more :)
Lay a path directly towards the picture and think of dimensions. You could also tilt the dragon wings upper part towards the viewer. Wing tips to imaginary path of 3rd dimension

Do it for all the body parts. Start thinking of colors. check your prv mail!

01 January 2005, 08:32 PM
Wow, great work! Love it!

The linework is outstanding, but the shading could need some work. If you're going to stay in B&W I'll strongly recommend to add more darker values to really punch out the picture.

01 January 2005, 10:56 PM
I think the lines could be improved, especially the girl and her dress. Softer lines would accentuate her forms and grace as well as make her dress look nicer. The dragon looks ok with the rough lines but the girl needs some smoother ones. Apart from that I like the expression of the characters! Good drawing!

01 January 2005, 05:27 PM
Falcor_ - thanks for your message (all of them!) I am having fun with this, but then I had fun with the GSO too. Why do art otherwise? :-)

CgMonkey & Butterfly - thanks for your posts, too! Good points, I'll definately keep those in minds as I refine this image.

Line art to be posted later this week, all.


01 January 2005, 05:00 PM
Well, butterfly, you asked for better line art. here it is:
This is final line art that I'll be doing the coloring off of. The lines are very precise in the important areas, like the faces and torsos, and pretty vague in areas like the rocks: Those parts are more fun and effective to just start painting and see where it goes. I'll end up erasing 90% of the lines back there anyhow. But for this, I drew the whole thing at 11x14 ins. (that's the size of my tracing vellum!) but also blew up just the princess' upper half and the dragon's head to 11x14 and worked on them at that size to add more detail. I scanned both into photoshop and combined them to get this line art shot, and will now start laying in some block colors in different layers so i can fool around with color tests.

More later this week (with colors!)


01 January 2005, 05:29 PM
Well, good draw, very fantaisy style, i like the project now i wait the coloring for see your color choice, good work ( perhaps the floating castle :),, no it 's a joke)

01 January 2005, 08:15 PM
What's all the fuss about here... I can't see any of the images.

01 January 2005, 05:26 PM
Dunno what the problems is, Niva... Are you still having trouble seeing them? Can you see these new ones?

Anyhow, as the pencils progress, it's time for some colors. Thought I'd share the process with folks as it's moving along:

On a number of layers in Photoshop, I create large blocked ares for every major color in the piece. It's all flat color at this point, no shading or anything. In this case, there's something like 11 layers in this file underneath the line art, which is in the highest layer and set to "Multiply." These are by no means the final colors, the point is just to have separated areas all on different layers to work with. It looks like this: (The clouds, btw, are a separate layer from the blue sky, i spent all of 10 seconds airbrushing them in.)

So once that's done, I start messing with the colors on each layer seperately. Here command-U (the hue/saturation adjustment) is my best friend. One layer at a time I pull open this window and make all sorts of tweaks 'til I get something i like. When it's there. I flatten layers, grab the whole thing and dump it into another file, undo the flattening, and do it all again. All that shadowing that I really quickly put in earlier - the rush job that you saw in the pencil sketches above: I've dumped that into this file too, as a seperate layer on top set to multiply. It's not grey, either: Normally I'll keep that in the light purple range to cast cooler shadows. But that color too can change based on the needs of the piece. On top of that I may add all sorts of hasty layers: I have one seperate layer here just for the hazy fog in the background. It's seperate because I may want blue fog, or purple, or even green... As long as I keep it a seperate layer, I can color-shift the fog without messing up anything else.

When I get something I like, I may airbrush a little more of it to flesh it out some. You can see this most in color test 4, below: I wanted to convey that the dragon won't be white, it's more of a shiny gold/silver, so I dodged the hilights some. And I painted those waterfalls on the backdrop. Not to say they won't appear in the other versions, just that I didn't detail them out as much. You can also see, through the different versions, that I tried 2 different approaches with the cliffs in the background, two versions of the silhouette.

Here are my top 3 color choices:

Curious to hear what y'all think. More later...


01 January 2005, 06:29 PM
At least we hope thats water falling from the castle. I suppose the residents sewage has to go somewhere.

Hey thats what the fire breathing dragons are for, incinerators!

This looks great. I fancy #2, as your background is dark, light sky and the dragon falls somewhere in between. Good balance. BTW spend more time on those clouds dangit :) get a good feel for them from the Hildebrandts (they were my cloud painting inspirations).
Look forward to your next update. :thumbsup:

01 January 2005, 07:14 PM
Well all your color choices hold possibilities.

But none of them is absolute.

2. looks like the most cartoony choice. With pure colors. Pure colors will propably work on your work. Dragon is red. Looks cool :)

3. Has color palette more integrated with everything else. Most realistic choice.

4. Golden dragon also looks nice. But overall colors are bit too dark and black for such uplifting picture anyway.

Infact your first cartoony base looks the best for me :) No need for realism on this pic? Or what are you planning?

01 January 2005, 07:16 PM
Line art is much better! :thumbsup: About the color scheme, I like #2 (or the pic with the #3 on it). But I would rather like the first colors for the girls clothes. Maybe you could saturate her clothes a little. Also, the sky looks good in #2. I like the landscape with less cliff, as the cliff in #3 creates some heaviness, but maybe it's the choice of color in #3 that gives this impression. A lighter color might work. Try. Otherwise, it's coming up alright! Sorry for replying so late to you! I was a bit busy. :)

01 January 2005, 07:24 PM
Hi Mike,

ahhh....nice image. I very much like the line drawings composition. Do you still have some pre-steps of your line drawing? In terms of the colors I would prefer your second version. The arrangement of those colors looks best to me.

I know itīs not your intention but I would give the dragon an evil face expression. I think it decreases the overall impression when I see that the dragon seems to be harmless. But thatīs just my point of view. :)


01 January 2005, 11:18 PM
Thanks for all of your comments, folks! Good hearing from everyone...

V_Shane - what, 10 seconds isn't enough for you on the clouds? Don't worry, the reason this composition has so much sky is that I love painting clouds, I'll spend a sufficient amount of time on them. Yeah, the Hildebrandts do great clouds. So does Christphe Vacher, if you've seen his work, and Phil Hale, too, though he doesn't make the clouds the big focal point that the others do.

Falcor_ - Thanks for your analysis, as always. I wasn't plannign on going too cartoony with this... About the same level as my Space Opera pic, if you can picture that art style applied to this piece. :-)

Butterfly - I think you were right about the cliff, so I overwrote the file with a trimmed-down cliff. i think the silhouette works much better.

Fahrija - Well, page one of this thread has pretty much all of the pre-steps for the line art for this piece that I have. Not much to show, 'side from that. Some really rough thumbnails, but nothing really worth uploading. As for evil dragons, nah! The GSO piece had enough evilness, I wanted to turn around and do something completely on the opposite side of the spectrum for this image. And thus, a very, very happy dragon instead. Sorry! :-)

Anyhow, I've been fooling around with more color comps... I could fool around with them all day without commiting to a final palette. Here are my final 3: #4, a variant of the same one i posted earlier, #5, a little warmer, and #6, with a stronger warm/cool contrast. I'll confess, red dragons are a little bit of a cliche, so I'm tending towards the gold/silver ones. But still, I like hearing your input, so feel free to post on your favorites...


01 January 2005, 11:29 PM
Walrus, I like your nr6 best.
The red works very well on the dragon. It also sets it apart from the backgroundsky.
The girl in light dress in this case is a good choice. She draws your eyes attention first, putting her on the forground in front of the dragon.

01 January 2005, 12:49 AM
quit playin with the colors and finish the pic :P

I'll vote #5 , but any one of those would make a fine pic , promise :thumbsup:

01 January 2005, 01:25 AM
just me, but I like # 4 the best, probably

01 January 2005, 03:32 AM
wow, you go through more color comps than an M&M advertisment meeting (I don't really know, just joking about the color, y'know, M&Ms, get it? yeah stupid joke heh).

Anway I really like the lighting on # 5. Glad to hear your clouds will be magnanimous, look forward to them. Great to see your process.

edit: arrrggghhh! I keep slipping on putting " r " 's in.

01 January 2005, 05:45 PM
Hey Walrus,

Liked the new #4 till I saw the #6. Dunno, I really like the blue values, and 6 had them better than the purple'y' ones in #4.

Cheers, and can't wait to see more color and detail!

01 January 2005, 06:57 PM
The dragon is very successful. He should however have a bigger tail ( the extremity) to look of the depth to your drawing by introducing a stronger foreground....

01 January 2005, 04:51 PM
Thanks, folks! I have 7 more color comps to post... Nah, just kidding! I actually am working on a final piece now, though i appreciate the jokes about the number of comps, no offense taken whatsoever. What a great way to procrastinate, just keep producing comps without ever having to finish a painting, plus you can still say you're doing art! :-)

Anyhow, more later this week what I have some time...


01 January 2005, 10:15 PM
What a great way to procrastinate, just keep producing comps without ever having to finish a painting,

That, AND leafing through book & internet references :thumbsup:

aw, so no more progress pieces? your jsut gonna finish it and thats it? I was hoping for some play by play (at least thats what I'll be doing in my thread)...look forward to it!


01 January 2005, 10:57 PM
Hi mike,

Iīm looking forward to see how the skin-texture of the dragon will look like.


01 January 2005, 11:37 PM
VShane - Oh, no, I'll definately be posting shots all the way as I go. I just mean that they'll be actual progress images of the painting, not color-mock-ups of other frivolous "wastes of time!" :-)

Fahrija - Thanks! I recently did a neat illutration where I needed fish scales, and was so happy with the technique I came up with, I designed the dragon to use the same kind of scales so I could try it on a larger scale. That's why his tail is splashing in the water, and why I wanted it to be gold and silver instead of red, so I could try these new scales out. I'll show more detail of how I'm doing it when I get there...


02 February 2005, 01:51 AM
Can't wait to see, you'll have to post some close ups (nudge nudge). have you seen Todd Lockwoods dragon scale work? Heres a Elf/Dragon pic I posted here recently ( Hope you don't mind, just wanted to compare scales!

02 February 2005, 02:01 AM
I hadn't seen how that had turned out yet, it's looking good! The scales are nice. And yes, by all means, I've seen Todd's work. Been loking at his art book, Transitions, lately too. But my scales won't compare: Todd's'll be much better than mine! :-) I'm planning on making mine look a lot more shiny than any of Todd Lockwood's or Michael Whelan's: More shiny/fish scaley than lizard scaley... Yeah, dragons are just big lizards, but I think it could look cool. Guess we'll see...!


02 February 2005, 05:09 AM
Thats really good man! I love the emotions displayed. Great job that is pr0.

02 February 2005, 06:15 AM
I recently did a neat illutration where I needed fish scales, and was so happy with the technique I came up with, I designed the dragon to use the same kind of scales so I could try it on a larger scale. That's why his tail is splashing in the water, and why I wanted it to be gold and silver instead of red, so I could try these new scales out

hehe, u had a secret plan!

I did wonder why you didn't choose the red one :)

02 February 2005, 06:39 AM
Looks great :) Lets see some more updates. I like the composition and the expression on the dragons face melts hearts. :love:

02 February 2005, 07:25 PM
I really love the work that you've done on this piece... it's just fun to look at and see how you've been developing it, I think you did a great job with the coloring, and it reminds me of back in the days of watching those fun movies like the Black Cauldrin and other like that... Keep up the awesome work and can't wait to see the final posting.

02 February 2005, 05:29 PM
The Black Cauldron, huh? I'm sincerely flattered, thanks!

And as you requested, Airborn: Another update!

When we last left this thing, it was in dozens of layers, each filled with a single flat color. There are layers for the sky and for the clouds and for the water, for the foreground rocks, and for the background rocks, for the dragon scales and the dragon membranes, and about 5 layers for each part of the girl (bodice, hair, skin, dress, and extras.) One of the reasons to have these all seperate was to use the Adjust Hue/Saturation menu to make color tweaks. But there's another reason too... In this phase, I use a lot of Photoshop's ability to control-click on a Layer in the Layer Window to load its opacity area as a selection. This comes in really handy to paint shadows and highlights an a new layer. So now I work on the values.

I like to paint my values in two different layers. I call one layer 'Shadow' and set it to Multiply mode. I paint all of the shadows for the piece in a light, desaturated purple. I use the loading of other layers' opacity a lot to color within the lines. Why purple? Shadows aren't black, they pick up a lot of ambient light, and outdoors, they're rather cool and get hues from the sky. So I work with a cool, pale color. When I'm done I create a new layer called 'Hilights' and set it to Overlay. This is painted in a pale yellow/orange. Now if I were doing a different painting, I might use completely different colors for these layers. Either way, they're each on their own layer so at any point I can go in and Hue/Saturation shift 'em around some. But for an ourdoor pic, yellow and blue/purple work great. Here's a shot of what it looks like when I'm done, with the Shadow and Hilight layer both over another layer filled with grey. Anyrthing darker than they grey is from the Shadow layer, anything lighter is from the Hilights.

But let's get rid of that grey layer: Let's put the shadow and hilights over the flat colors that we established already from the color comp. Do that and you get this:

When I get here, there's almost entirely flat color underneath the shadows and hilights. But now I've started going in and making more hue variations on each of the base layers. Most I haven't touched yet, but You can especially see the changes in the foreground rocks (greens and browns) and the water (purples and dark turquoises.) The waterfalls (still in progress) and the mist is on a seperate layer in the back, too. As is some distance fog.

So overall, it's looking nice but there's a lot more work to be done. I'll start fooling around with more subtleties in the colors before flattening the image and really starting to paint in earnest. And I'll do a ton more tweaks with the shadows and lights. I want the dragon to appear more metallic, on this monitor the shadows are too dark, I think I need to cool down the clouds some... And that's not even getting into smaller details like water effects, clothing decorations, scales, clouds.... So much to do! But it's all fun.
More later...


02 February 2005, 05:57 PM
kinda funny.. i was making a dragon pic myself when i happened by your thread..
also, i've always liked Elmore's dragons and yours looks very much like one ..
u a fan of his work too ?

02 February 2005, 06:25 PM
No, I've been influenced by Whelan and Lockwood, mostly. In fact, I have no idea who Elmore is, in fact. If you have a link, I'd love to see 'em!


02 February 2005, 06:40 PM
weird !! u got no idea then how much that dragon looks like one of his!

ok, think u gonna like this then : Larry Elmore (

02 February 2005, 06:48 PM
hmm.. Lockwood might have been influenced by Elmore.. :D

they both have painted for TSR ( D&D, AD&D )

I played AD&D much way back when , and became huge fan
of Elmore, Clyde Caldwell, Keith Parkinson ,Jeff Easley and
others.. :)

02 February 2005, 06:48 PM
Hi Mike,

I love it -even if the panache has a peacefull touch :)-

I would probably add just a little more room at the top of the image to give it
a clear vertikal arrangement because the image size is almost quadratic.
But thats not really an important suggestion :)

Do mind if I ask you to attach a snapshot of the current layer-shelf or your colored

Indeed it seems to look like fun - Hmmm....Maybe I should also start a 2D-Wip thread. :)


BTW - I did not forget your question in terms of the metal texture. I try to
prepare a little making of at the weekend.

02 February 2005, 07:21 PM
Squibbit - Thanks for the link! I had honestly never seen his work before, or at least recollected seeing it. I'm sure he's had a picture in a Spectrum here or there that I've caught. some of his stuff is really nice, and there sure is a lot of it! And I can see how you'd see a similarity between this dragon and some of his.

Fahrija - Sure, I'll post a snapshot of the layer menu tomorrow. And glad to hear you're stigll going to show us how you did that metal work. The textures on it were great!


02 February 2005, 08:38 PM
My dragons were majorily influenced by Rodney Mathews and Whelan, when I finally got into dragon texture and armor I kept witht he Mathews feel with Lockwood painting. And try to keep the aerodynamicness of Whelans. I do have my own "style" with them, but itse easier to describe with known artists. SOooo you might find this thread useful as well (since both Elmore and Lockwood worked for TSR/WOTC). Looks great!
Dragonomnicon (

02 February 2005, 08:42 PM
looks pretty good i like the color scheme

walrus I didnt mean to knock your work man I just thoght the slight cartoony feel of her face might clash witht the sinister feel of the background sorry it didnt help ya dude

02 February 2005, 08:48 PM
wow lookin very good!!! I like the grey one more then coloured

02 February 2005, 09:00 PM
Great work! As I read through the thread, each crit I had was remedied by your next update. I like your choice of the yellow/gold against the purple sky and think that goldfish scales would look great on an aquatic dragon. Great details in that the dragon has fins on its feet and the hem of the girl's skirt is spiked like dragon wings. Speaking of wings, I wonder about the hooks since bats have little skeletal hands there. The girl and dragon's expression really make the picture, I love it.

BTW, I've got your GSO entry as my desktop at work (hope you don't mind) and I keep noticing new things every time I look at it. Good luck in the competition.

02 February 2005, 09:50 PM
hey great link V_Shane... i so wish i had the time to go through everything
i find here in cgtalk, such great stuff n great people.. :thumbsup:

02 February 2005, 01:28 AM
Yeah, cool link, V-Shane! I definately love those Lockwood dragon designs for WotC.

Ilikesoup - With all the other options, you've got mine as a desktop? I'm sincerely flatterred! As for the scales, yeah, I was thinking something kind of goldfishy... We'll see how it comes out! BTW, where in Mass. are you? I grew up in Swampscott, north of Boston.

An' everyone else, thanks for all your comments!


02 February 2005, 03:47 AM
Ilikesoup - With all the other options, you've got mine as a desktop? I'm sincerely flatterred! As for the scales, yeah, I was thinking something kind of goldfishy... We'll see how it comes out! BTW, where in Mass. are you? I grew up in Swampscott, north of Boston.


So what are you doing in California? (I checked out your website). Don't tell me you got tired of all the snow! :D I grew up in Andover and I've been living on the North Shore in Topsfield for the last 7 years. My cousins, named Nicholas, grew up in Swampscott. Any chance that you know them? It's a small world after all!

02 February 2005, 10:17 AM
this is going great, such a nice whimsical feel to it.
You have inspired me to try somthing similar, my fantasy work always turns out a bit 'nasty'
I will redouble my efforts to try and produce somthing as 'nice' as this. wish me luck.

02 February 2005, 11:41 PM
IlikeSoup - Snow? What snow? It's a beautiful 70-something degrees out and sunny, what would make you think I'd miss the snow? :twisted:
I was in a lot of classes in high school with a Karl Nicholas, any relation?

Ditchman - If you're going to try something cute, give yourself a make-over. first off, get rid of the creepy avatar and get something in a pink or purple. Secondly, sop fixating on zombies. And stop listening to all that depressing music, too! You'll be on the road to happy-land in no time! :-)

Fahrija - Here's the screenshot of my current layers for this image. Once I'm done with all the tweaks, I'll flatten it to a manageable 4 or so (girl, dragon, rocks, and water/sky) to really start painting it.


02 February 2005, 04:33 AM
You gave teeth and eyes its own layer? Jeez Mike a bit "over protective" on the redoing side, ya think ? :scream:

I normally stop at about 10 layers total, and at about 60% done everything is usually flattened. From what I can tell, you do what I do, not using the grouping folders. I try using them back and forth to Painter, but Painter always unpacks them and never puts them back in folders (back in ver. 7) so I stopped doing it. I'll have to check and see if 9 keeps them intact.

02 February 2005, 09:38 AM
Looking great man. The only thing that strikes out, in my opinion, is the lack of texture on the wings and clouds, but you probably didn't get there yet. Also, try to give shadows a deep purple or blue and keep blacks only for the darkest parts to define crevices and things like that.

Great improvement! Keep it up.

02 February 2005, 02:03 PM
:surprised (misc.php?do=getsmilies&wysiwyg=1&forumid=0#) Wouh!
Cool! Thatīs very interesting to watch your approach. Indeed many layers at the beginning.

I try to keep constantly not more than 3-4 Layers but mostly I have maximum two layers when starting and at the end when the image gets more complex I often keep some layers unflatten cause Iīm afraid to mess up things. I just recognized in case I leave an image for a while and itīs build up with many layers itīs hard to become acquainted with it again.

Thank you very much for showing.

Is the layer setting of the "Dragon Membrane" set on overlay and the "skin" on normal?
When I just watched the colored version I thought first the colors (orange/yellow) would be arranged vice versa. Thatīs really interesting.

best regards

02 February 2005, 04:36 PM
Yeah, okay, so I get a little layer-crazy. That's just me! :-)

VShane - This is about the maximum I ever have. I mean, things'll only get flatter from here. But this system lets me to a ton of quick color comps rapidly, as shown earlier. I haven't used Painter in a long time, so I don't have much experience with going back and forth. As for grouping folders, I have to confess, I've just never thought about doing it. I should, shouldn't I...?

Andreas - There's actually no black in this image at all, aside from the black and white line art (which will eventually be color-shifted to something more saturated anyhow. The whole reason I work with the purple shadow layer is to avaoid the trap of adding blacks in the shadow areas. And yeah, I'm just worried about color at this point, I haven't touched texture at all in any part of the iamge. After I flatten and really start to paint, that's when I'll bring out all of the textures: the clouds, the rocks, the dragon-scales, etcetera...

Fahrija - Pretty much every single layer is set to normal mode, with only a handful of exceptions: The Hilights (Overlay), the Shadows (Multiply), the Line Art (Multiply), and that Color Overlay at the bottom which is making the clouds cooler. Everything else, including the membrane, is just a single, solid normal-ink-mode color. (but I did do some airbrushing with the membranes to make it gradiate from yellow to orange.)

no new work to show today, so more later... Thanks for your posts, and glad the layer screenshot was helpful (or humorous or something!) :-)


02 February 2005, 08:12 PM
IlikeSoup - Snow? What snow? It's a beautiful 70-something degrees out and sunny, what would make you think I'd miss the snow? :twisted:
I was in a lot of classes in high school with a Karl Nicholas, any relation?

Yup. He's my cousin, a year older than me. When we were kids we'd play hide and seek. I'd hide but he'd get bored, stop looking and just leave the house. If I ever find him I'll tell him you said hello.:)

02 February 2005, 08:17 PM
That's so funny! Damn small world, isn't it? What's Karl up to these days? Definately tell him that Mike Dashow said hi, see if he even remembers me! :-)

02 February 2005, 02:56 AM
Great work. Thank you for posting your progressions. I see you are a fellow layer lover. I hate putting too much on a single layer.

02 February 2005, 04:46 AM
Well, I'm back! I had a flu for a week that really knocked me on my back. I was in bed for four solid days, and even now a week later still have this pernicious cough. <hack hack!> But I'm mostly recovered, so I can get back to work on this, and sharing how I got there.

As we last left the illo, it was in a whole ton of layers. The next step is to flatten it into something workable... But not before saving out all of the layers as selections. So i make a copy of the file, and save it as "dragonscratching_selections.psd." Systematically, I command-click on each layer, which loads its pacity as a selection. I save each selection as a new channel and name it something intuitive. Once I've done this with everything , I can flatten the image, turn it into a greyscale image, so as to take up less memory that way. At this point, I don't need this particular file to have any image data, just all of the selection channels. And now I can throw away all of those selections in my main working file and just flatten it, at least part of the way. If both files are open at the same time, I can load the selections from one into the other! You go into Selection>Load Selection, and it allows you to not just choose a selection channel, but a file that you want to select from as well. So you can store all of your selections in a seperate file, and then the footprint of your main working file is a lot smaller!

So back to the working file: At this point I flatten it into the main working areas: Sky and background, Clouds, Foreground rocks, Dragon, and Princess. That's about 5 layers. Most of the rest of the work will be done with the Photoshop brush tool, set to work with the pressure-sensitivity Wacom Tablet for opacity (but not size.) Most of the time I use a custom brush at 50% hardness, but that will vary depending on the areas: For example, I did the clouds with a 0% hardness brush and also using the airbrush (which I generally avoid.)

So now I'm working back to front. At this point I'm mostly done with the clouds and sky and the floating castle. I've touched the back cliff and the water, but both need more work. And I want to make the tail feel like it's splashing around in the water. And while I've added some new details to the princess' dress and made a few small changes with the dragon, I still haven't really touched those parts of the painting at all (So hold your comments on those areas, I'm getting there! :-)

So that's what's up right now. I'll hopefully post another update later this week.


02 February 2005, 04:51 AM
Lookig good, great clouds! I'm impressed :eek:
Just glancing at the piece, and it strikes me as a little off, your castle seems to need to be rotated about 5-7 degrees counter clockwise. Its on that edge of being just off in alignment. Just try it and see if it "clicks" in your head when you do it.

Coming along well, a bit saturated for my taste, but it could jsut be my monitor. :hmm:

02 February 2005, 01:56 PM
You gave teeth and eyes its own layer? Jeez Mike a bit "over protective" on the redoing side, ya think ? :scream:

a screenshot of the layer-panel tells enough about an artist me thinks :D I myself would even separate the "eyes" and the "teeth" into different layers. eventually I would get lost in my own layer hierarchy and merge everything down to 3 or 4 layers and start all over again.

walrus: I've just read this thread with great interest. It has become a lovely piece of work so far. looking forward to more. you already mentioned the parts that bother me yourself so I'll indeed hold my breath :)

02 February 2005, 05:23 PM
Thanks, guys!

VShane - interesting point on the castle, I'll give it a whilr and see what I think. As for the color saturation, I'd suspect that it's not your monitor! It's a pretty damn saturated piece. So sue me, i was in a cheerful mood! :-)

Garma - Because my main purpose for the multiple layers is to easily play with the colors, I'll often group togetehr two or more disparate elements as long as they can be individually selected... like, say, the princess' bodice and her shoes: Easy to draw a quick lasso around one or the otehr and mess with the color of that one element. Or I'll group together things with a similar color, which is what I almost always do with eyes and teeth: both relatively white. But now that I'm down to the part where actual brushwork is involveld, I'm conpressed to a simpler 6 layers or so.

I worked more on the rocks and clouds and water last night - glad you liked the clouds, btw, Shane! - but I still have a lot of work on that back cliff. And I haven't touched the girl or the dragon yet at all. I'd like to do a bit more to pull the girl out from the dragon a bit. And while she looks fine at this scale, there's a lot of detail work to hit. For the dragon, there's still that technique I want to try to give it shiny scales over most of the body, and I really need to add some sense of movement and splashing in the tail.

So anyhow, thanks for the posts, and more later...!


02 February 2005, 06:02 PM
Hello Walrus!

Looks great as always. Love the facial expressions. I think your girl blends in a lot with the dragon. Especially since her dress is orange. Maybe consider changing the color of her dress?

02 February 2005, 06:10 PM
Hi mike,

nothing to crit. - the only thing I would mention is the nearly same color range of the robe and the skin of the dragon. The separation is not very big but I know it has a special purpose. Iīm curious to see what how the skin texture you have in mind will look like.

best regards

p.s. blue eye lizard was a bit faster in writing posts than me :)

02 February 2005, 08:37 PM
hey, great picture!:thumbsup:

I really like how you explained all the process, it's almost like a tutorial, I think I've learned some useful things here! thanks for sharing it!
I've got a question ... this thing of merging everything together is just for keeping the file size low and the program to run faster or...?
I'll be looking forward to see this one finished, your GSO was one of my favourites, and this one looks amazing!

02 February 2005, 08:08 AM
Very nice pic, good wip, i like espacally the dragon

02 February 2005, 05:44 PM
Hey, all, thanks for the notes! It's great to see so many faces I recognize from the GSO challenge...

Fahrija and Lizard, you're right: I'll have to mess with the color of the dress a bit... or more likely, make the dragon lighter. I pictured it being shiny silver/gold, I just haven't got there yet...

elmasfeo - Yes, in part, I'm flattening to compress file size. I just don't need the file to be any huger than it has to be. But also, it's a matter of working in layers: In the start of the picture, I want everything seperate so i can fool around with different colors, changing, say, the color of the dragon seperately from changing the hue of the shadow on the dragon. But once I've got that all worked out, it get more in the way to have parts of the dragon on 7 different layers. I'm just using the brush to paint at this point, and it's a lot simpler painting on one flattenned dragon layer instead of more.

MDN - thanks, Laurent, glad you like it!


02 February 2005, 04:45 PM
Hi there Walrus!
I like the dragon! It looks great! The clouds are good too, nice texture. I am not too sure about the girl's dress color, I think it needs to be a bit more in contrast from the dragon. I think you could also work a bit more on the reflection on the water in the foreground.:)

02 February 2005, 06:03 PM
great job Walrus!
i love those clouds would you share how you make them


02 February 2005, 10:06 PM
great job Walrus!
i love those clouds would you share how you make them


YES! Please DO

02 February 2005, 12:40 AM
I love your work.:thumbsup:

02 February 2005, 01:33 AM
great progress friend,about the castle,since its pretty far away,should it be alil bit blur to create a depths for the main subject?nice job done for the cloud.some reflection and highlight on the lake would be good:)keep it going,

02 February 2005, 02:48 AM
Exceptional work going on there! Fantastic clouds and reflections going on. I can see where you're going with it, so I'll hold off any personal critique until later!

02 February 2005, 01:27 PM
amazing stuff mate! Love it to bits! Agree about the contrast of the dress!

02 February 2005, 05:07 PM
Thanks, all! Ugh, it's been forever since I've updated this thread... Sorry! I've gotten sidetracked by several things: I'm just finishing a big watercolor painting, and so I've been doing prelim work for a new one so that I have something ready to start. (It's a portrait of an alien.) And Ratchet and Clank 3, Insomniac's very polished and very addictive PS2 game!

I've done a lot of work on the rocks, and some on the reflections. I know I need to go back in and mess with the contrast between the girl and the dragon, don't worry, I'll get there!

But clouds, huh? Geez, and here I thought I was being so methodical and showing my work step by step, but I guess I did kind of skip over that. Truth is, there's not all that much to say! I started the clouds as you saw back on pages 3 and 4 just sketching out some very loose forms in abasic cloud color (i.e. white, or creamy off-white.) It's outside so I threw in some purple shadows underneath. Most of the time that'd be enough, but around sunset clouds tend to pick up a lot of midtones, so I added some oranges in the transition between the purple and cream. You can see this rough step on the comp on page 3.

From there it's simply a matter of feshing out the details. With my idea of where the lightsource is solid in my head, I start doodling spheres: White at the top/right and purple at the bottom. But they all sort of merge together and I just keep doodling them together like that. Mosly I'm using a brush set to 0% hardness, but I try not to keep all of the edges too hard. Here and there it's important to break things up a bit and get a bit softer, so for those areas I'll use an airbrush... like in the upper left clouds where they're just wisping off into thin air. I try to put a lot of small detail into the clouds: Think of fractal noise, that kind of detail is what I'm trying to emulate with the wispier clouds. (What is fractal noise? Set your colors to black and white, create a blank white layer, and Filter>Render>Clouds. That's fractal noise. I don't use the filter that much, but I do try to paint by hand to achieve some of the same kind of noise.)

Also, I have a huge library of clouds, mostly taken with my digital camera. I have used that thing more for clouds than anything else: Where I live we have gorgeous skies, big fluffy clouds, beautiful sunsets... I'll stop the car on the way home and take a few shots and upload them later. So while I'm working, I'll open the files that are the most like what I'm shooting for and have those open in the background, just as reference. There's nothing like looking at the real thing (or a photo of it) to try to get it right in a painting. (Now if only I could get my clouds in my watercolors to look so good! :) )

Hope that helps. Hopefully I'll have more to add, visually, soon. Thanks, all, for visiting and for your posts!


02 February 2005, 05:24 PM
Me again! Just looked through the whole thread again and wanted to thank you for an insight on how you work! Do you always use that method of shading using two layers for shadows and highlights? Looks like a great way of doing things and I'm going to give it a go on my next piece! Also, great site you have! Just been looking through it for the last hour. Exceptional 3d work you have there! Anyway, enough kissing booty hehe... look forward to the final posted image.

02 February 2005, 10:15 PM
Thanks, Tris! (And thanks for visiting my site, glad you liked it!) Yes, these days I pretty much always use that method of a seperate layer for shadows and another for hilights. (Normally the shadow layer is set to Multiply, but if you set it to Normal and give is a light enough color, it gives a misty depth-fog appearance, kind of looks like an illustration by Hyunag Tae Kim.) But in general, I really like getting to fool around with the hue of the shadows seperate from the local colors of things.

Despite the lack of updates, I have still been working on this illustration, and I'll update it again soon. Polished off the background this weekend, and made some color shift to make the girl and her dress stand out from the dragon more (thank you everyone who commented on that!) I'll post an update later this week, I hope. Thanks again for tuning in...


03 March 2005, 06:46 AM
Okay, I'm back. I promised that I'd update this again soon, so here it is. I still haven't done much with the dragon - that's next - aside from changing his color a bit to contrast a little more with the princess. But I've done more work on her, the water, and the rocks. Still more to do with the water, but it's a lot better now... or getting there.

Comments, crits, and questions welcome, as always...


03 March 2005, 07:01 AM
I really like your water! I recently completed a piece and the water wasn't as good as I had hoped it would be. How did you paint your water? Mirror the dragon, smudge the edges slightly to give the ripple effect? I'm very curious; it is pretty impressive.

03 March 2005, 10:21 PM
Well, V_Shane (Thanks, Shane!) suggested some Photoshop plug-ins from a company called Flaming Pear ( Their plug-in 'Flood' produces nice customizable ripple and reflection effects. I needed to use it in 3 passes: One for the way background and sky, one for the characters and rocks they're on, and finally, one pass for the tail in the foreground. Once that was done i had a ripply but very reflective lake. So I've been gradually painting over it to bring back in the turquoise and green colors i liked in the original color comp and make it look a bit more painterly and less programmatic. Still working on it, but it's coming along...


03 March 2005, 04:26 AM
Mike, glad that worked out for you. Filters are like medicine, you can't depend on them, but you can certainly improve your health with moderation and a good diet. Make sense? They are a good tool to help with effects, much like paint is useful in painting. :thumbsup:

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