View Full Version : Celt [kind-of nudity] - advice on colouring B&W and general style

08 August 2010, 11:10 AM
Hello there. This started out as a B&W sketch for the DSF, but I'd quite like to carry it through to a really high standard. I'm fairly pleased with the quality of the face but I'm not so sure about the torc and everything below. I am not aiming for a provocative image, so I think the pose is a bit too forward, and possibly some problems with anatomy. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Secondly, though I quite like this as a value painting, I normally start out in colour, so I'd be interested to know how those of you who use this technique get good results: every time I've tried the colours never come out right, even from direct sampling.

Here's the DSF version, which I think has some benefits over later developments:

And here's where I'm at now:

I'd like to carry this off to the highest standard I can, so any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

08 August 2010, 02:38 PM
Wow, I love the new version...don't look back. This is really great work!

I have commented on a drawing on this picture before, was it you or someone else? The last time I saw it was drawn more abstractly and mostly in brown. I like this one better.

As for the colors, I think the difficulty is due to optical illusions. For example, squares A and B are exactly the same shade of gray, but because of what's around them they look different:

This same sort of effect happens with colors. Your mind tries to trick you into telling you the skin is all one color but you have to fight that and really look for the multitude of colors that exist. It helps if you keep in mind the hues of color that skin goes through under different lighting conditions. It also helps to keep in mind the fact that colors are the reflection of surrounding objects, and as a result diffuse reflected colors become more dominant in shadows than in lighted regions. That's probably the origin for the old "rule of thumb" to never use pure black.

The interesting thing about skin is that as it gets darker or lighter, you cannot just add white or black...I find that it usually goes from white to pink to greenish brown to orange to red to dark red. For example take a look at the skin color palette that I used for one of my recent drawings,

Now in this case all the red hues coming through her skin I think indicate the hot studio lighting, in yours you'll be getting colors from the sky and the land around her

08 August 2010, 09:38 PM
Thanks for the useful post, Stuh. Yes, it was me before, who did a pretty rubbish sketch around the same concept, and I like this one better as well.

A good little talk on colour relativity there, and you're right: this is a large part of what makes it hard to colour value paintings, but nearly everything I've done so far has been in colour, so I'm pretty familiar with colour theory, and I was more looking for advice in terms of the technicalities of photoshop. How do you apply colour without it looking either too saturated or like a WWII film reel? I've tried this half a dozen times at least but it never looks as real as if I'd started out in colour, and I know that there are quite a few people out there who always paint in values first. I know that I've found it's a great way of creating a painting because it reduces the number of technicalities you need to worry about and lets you get on with it, but I would love to be able to develop it into colour without losing something or ending up with mediocrity.

Also, any advice on brush strokes and similar would be appreciated. At the moment, the only part I am really happy with is the face, and that slightly feathery quality there: the body is too clean and uninteresting at the moment, so if anyone's got some advice I'd be glad to hear it.

09 September 2010, 05:17 AM
I was more looking for advice in terms of the technicalities of photoshop. How do you apply colour without it looking either too saturated or like a WWII film reel? I've tried this half a dozen times at least but it never looks as real as if I'd started out in colour, and I know that there are quite a few people out there who always paint in values first.

I hope I didn't offend you :) I'm not familiar with how other people paint, but my feeling is that the main purpose of doing a value painting underneath is to make sure you have a good composition blocked out...and to help yourself visualize the end result sooner as you're working. I think it should be entirely painted over in color, so I wouldn't have put quite so much detail into it as you did if that was the plan.

I will await other people's comments and hopefully I can learn some new techniques as well. Until then, I have some suggestions that may help.

First, I will assume that your intention is not to preserve the impressionistic brush strokes as you move into color...because that would be pretty much impossible to do without it being obvious that you started in grayscale.

So, if it were me, I would first smooth out the skin using the smudge tool (the trick is to jiggle it). Then create a gradient map of various skin tones and apply to the grayscale image for a very first start (though this is not necessary). Then I would get out some reference photos of skin, switch to "color" mode, and start colorizing with a fuzzy brush. Once that was as good as I could get it, I would switch back to normal mode and continue painting the skin...trying to start with shadows first, and using less and less opacity as I work my way to the brighter colors.

Keep us posted :)

09 September 2010, 04:28 PM
Don't worry Stuh... not easily offended and you weren't even trying ;)

I tried pretty much what you said. I'm still haveing a few problems in balance etc. but I feel I've more or less broken the barrier from B&W into colour. The beauty is I can switch back in three clicks at any point. I would still be very interested to get as much feedback and advice as possible, as I want to end up with the best painting I've done yet, and hopefully somehting I can enter for Exotique with a fair chance of being accepted.

I am

I've turned off the torc int his layer since the colours are way off atm:

...and here's teh area I've been working on most:

I'm still not entirely happy with the colours: they seem to saturated and samey for me at the moment, and I'd not quite sure what to put in the background. I've got the whole indigo/orange deal going on with the woad/eyes and skin and hair, so should I go for a blue-tinted background? what's in it does not really matter much at this point, since I can work around that.

I am also trying to think of ways to keep the focus on her face, particularly eyes, hence the sharp detailing at the eyes, and slightly fuzzier definition further back. I have also been considering putting some branch-shadows across her chest,a s a way of further illustrating form and bringing the focus up from all that bright skin, like Jussi Litvi... erm... somethingorother did here:

Any thoughts? What needs changing? What should stay the same? Be as critical as you can, short of telling me to sell my wacom, since i want to end up with something I won't decide is rubbish after 3 days ;)

P.S.: I have spotted about 20 areas for improvement just while posting this ;)

P.P.S.: Is it acceptable to post this in the normal WIP forum too? I've noticed it gets a lot more responses than here, some of them really quite good

09 September 2010, 12:15 PM
I would suggest that before you go to color on this you should go back and resolve, refine, and finish the b/w value underpaining. Right now it is very rough, too contrasty and simply way too dark in areas. You need to work on middle values and smoothly blend your modeling more subtly (as Stu mentioned in his last post) if you want her to appear more sensual. What you have now isnít going to work as a loose painting. It will just look unfinished.

Fix those clavicles too.

09 September 2010, 12:52 PM
You're right, it is a bit rough and contrasty at the moment, and there are some proportions that need fixing e.g. relative eye height, clavs, chest etc. but I'd rather not go back to B&W since that would mean recolouring it: rather just continue painting in colour and correct the value problems there. As mentioned, most of the work so far has been around the eyes, and the body is largely unchanged since a quick colour-brushing, so there's a lot to do there yet.

09 September 2010, 02:56 AM
but I feel I've more or less broken the barrier from B&W into colour. The beauty is I can switch back in three clicks at any point.

Yes, I think you've broken the boundary into color well. But you should not be able to switch back and forth between color and B&W, this suggests that you have done something ridiculous like putting all your color on a separate layer with a color blendmode. Merge those together! When you have multiple layers contributing to the overall color of a pixel it only makes it extremely difficult to continue to work on the painting, and this still needs a lot of work.

As Quadart has pointed out you need to smooth the skin a lot. It does not look good with all these circular blobs left over from your rough sketch. In my personal opinion there is no reason to go back to B&W to fix this, as I feel that a value painting underneath is really to help block things out in your mind and should be re-painted over again anyway (not just "colorized"). As Bwhitejr on the other thread pointed out your colors are a bit too plain right now and lack the sort of dynamic hints of other colors that exist in real life on something like skin.

In order to get good smooth skin I find it necessary to use large fuzzy brushes. To do this you will probably need to separate the braided hair onto a new layer to prevent painting over it. I also think you will probably need to paint over the tattoos in order to get smooth looking skin underneath, after that's done, I might try applying them as a new layer with partial opacity (temporarily), then finally flatten it in and continue to paint on one layer.

In terms of anatomy as Quadart has said the clavicles need work. Also the eyeballs are not wide enough and the chin and mouth are both slighted inwards on her left side.

as I want to end up with the best painting I've done yet, and hopefully somehting I can enter for Exotique with a fair chance of being accepted.

It is good to have high standards for yourself...but let's be realistic: your fair chance of being accepted into Exotique anytime soon is zero (no offense). Maybe after you've been doing this for many years, established a complete mastery of Photoshop and developed a unique painting style and creative vision that is respected and gets your name regularly tossed around within the community, maybe then you can start talking about submitting your works to Exotique with a fair chance of acceptance. Exotique is "World's most beautiful CG" and you have a long road to travel before your work is at that professional level.

09 September 2010, 03:00 PM
Well, I did ask for harsh.

I meant I can switch back to a value painting in three clicks, not jump back and forth. The woad (not tattoos) are ona different layer, which I switch off when painting skin, then bring u to standard, bnut as I've mentioned I haven't changed the skin on the body at all since colouring a couple of days ago.

I do need to smooth that skin. I'm looking at ways to keep it slightly feathery and out of focus though, just very subtly, but I don't like the look of soft brushes. Whenever I go for smooth I just do a lot of blending with low opacity hards. Maybe I should make a textured brush? Might be the time to try out that route.

Regarding Exotique, wow, way to shoot me down. The subtitle may be 'world's most beautiful...', and some of the work in there is to an extremely high standard, but a lot of it isn't. It's good, yes, and better than anything I've produced yet, but that's why I'm trying. Maybe it will take me years, but I'm going to enter this year. The worst that can happen is that they say no. I don't think I'll get in this time around either, but I don't quite see why it was necessary to put it so harshly. It's not like I'm running for prime minister; might as well try.

09 September 2010, 08:47 AM
Unfortunately I've had zero time to work on this for a while now, so the original intent of it has slipped by, but I had a bit more of a go tonight and would like to seek advice on some choices.

Here's where I'm at:

I am not sure about the backdrop, but not entirely sure why. Too saturated? too bright? poorly painted? Too one-sided? What do you think?

Also, I'm not sure whether the braid is the best choice, compositionally, so made a comparison shot with that layer turned on and with it off (though the braid shadow is still there on the skin with it off). What do you think?

And as ever, general comments and critiques are most welcome. Cheers.

09 September 2010, 07:19 PM
It's me again, haha. Nice to see that you are still working on this. I do want to see it finished :P

Personally I think the braid looks fine. The backdrop is ok but I wouldn't leave it just pure black on the other side. I guess it would be nice to see a little bit more of a complete environment behind her.

I like the colors in the shading of the spear tip.

What's bothering me the most are still some anatomical issues, the biggest issues I think are the clavicles and neck muscles, but also the left side of her chin is dented inwards a small but very noticeable amount and that's more important because it is the focus of attention.

I think there is something odd about the proportions of her eyes, the separation between them appears too great, and the eyeballs themselves appear horizontally squished (not wide enough), and maybe they are too low down. If you are working from a reference (can't remember if you said you are), you might want to try overlaying that to compare...or even just overlay against some face photos from the internet to check proportions. Obviously this photo is from a slightly different angle but maybe this helps

09 September 2010, 12:28 AM
Yes, I don't really have a` good reference for the body. I think the left (her right) collarbone looks right except for some shading near the middle, but the other seems to go in the wrong direction. I'll have another go at it. The neck looked considerably more ordinary before I put that shadow across it from the braid, because she's not tense so none of the ligaments and muscles are that pronounced. I didn't want her to look tense: the scars, warpaint and weapon should be enough to show that she's not a whimp.

As for the eyes, yes, they are still far apart. I am using a reference for the face, but it's mostly for lighting, yet because it's of a younger girl I think some of the proportions got influenced. However, I quite liked the look of far apart eyes because it avoids going towards the 'average' face that everyone goes for, yet I have noticed that the propotions are a bit too far off average, to the extent that they start to look wrong rather than simply characterful. I have nudged them inwards before, and they are closer together than on the reference photo, but it shouldn't hurt to give them another nudge.

I think I'll also grow the eyes a little bit, and lighten the brows and a few of the shadows. It was always my intent to have someone who wasn't every other CG woman with perfect skin etc. but I also don't want to make her too masculine/tired/disproportional.

As for the chin dent, yes, it's another accurate but slightly unusual feature. I don't think it was so obvious when she had the action-man cheek scar, but the jaw scar makes it s bit too obvious. I can always shade that a little, but I don't want to get rid of it completely.

09 September 2010, 02:02 AM
Hmm, after staring at that chin a bit more, I think I know why it looks funny. The left side of her face appears to be drawn with a slight angle to it, whereas the frontal + right side of her face is drawn as if she is directly facing the viewer,

This becomes most noticeable in the chin area because, from the side perspective, we should not be able to see her cheekbone...but from the frontal view, we should. So instead, we see what looks like a divot missing from her chin, and simultaneously "chipmunk cheeks." If I block out the top half of her had and fix the chin, it will look right:

but then you'd also have to fix the eyes and forehead area to make that look less frontal...

09 September 2010, 03:04 AM
Interesting. Thanks for the observations.

Edit: aargh! I had not flipped this painting in a while and I really should have. I've only just seen how horribly skewed it is. PLenty of work to do...

Edit 2: Ok, so here's a little more work. I've changed the facial proportions and shading: some of it what you suggested, other stuff I had seen too. Stilla lot to do but it's beginning to make more physical sense now

Edit 3 : Yeah, I know.. jaw reduced too much. She's not supposed to look cute. Oh well.

09 September 2010, 06:26 PM
This is getting very interesting!
I'd be out of my league giving you artistic advice, but I wanted to mention that Celtic torcs were mostly open at the front, like these examples:
I don't know if you`re aiming for archaeological accuracy, or if you want to bring back the torc at all, but if, I think it would look much cooler that way :-) Also I wanted to say that for me the
new spear point works much better than the first one.
I really like the last version, so keep it coming!

09 September 2010, 12:33 AM
Heh, yes, thanks.. I'm aware of how torcs go (being an archaeology student myself). This one is based on that of a fictional character from the setting, and will eventually be in gold and silver, which as far as I know is completely inaccurate, so I thought I'd do two versions of the torc: one that's right and one that fits the character. You're right to point it out though, thanks.

Having said that, there are some plaited gold torcs which make a full circle in the British museum, but none with animal forms on them and they still don't look as good.

And yes, as much as I liked the original spearhead, it was 1000 years too old for the intended period.

And don't worry about commenting on style etc. Often people see things that they wouldn't necessarily be able to do better than. I know my observational skills are way better than my painting ability (except where it comes to my own paintings, where I can't see the wood for the trees).

09 September 2010, 08:07 AM
I like your painting so far. It's a nice presentation. Here is a little deformed correction for you. I had to extend the canvas because the body needed elongating.

Click on the picture for a still correction with longer canvas. (symbols on the chest got a little messy) (

Good work so far and good luck.

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