Darkstalkers OC Contest Entry: Critiques wanted

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  01 January 2013
Darkstalkers OC Contest Entry: Critiques wanted

Here's my entry for the Darkstalkers: Embrace the Darkeness contest:


If someone could give suggestions on how to improve make more realistic shadows from an ambient lightsource or textures for organic materials, I'd appreciate it. I'm also open to any suggestions that may need to be fixed for future works. I know you guys are very honest, so hammer away.

Last edited by DavidBarnes : 01 January 2013 at 11:39 PM.
  02 February 2013
What you're asking, is a little bit like a beginner who just started learning music a few months ago, asking how to compose a compelling piece of counterpoint composition with excellent orchestration.

While I can describe makes an ambient light source behave the way it does, or how you can approach organic textures, they could only help you so much because you're missing a whole lot of foundational knowledge that you also need in order to really grasp and utilize the stuff I'll tell you. Artistic growth and development happens in phases, and you're at the phase where you still haven't learned to crawl and walk properly, and you're asking questions about how to jump and do cartwheels. But I know you want answers anyway, whether you're capable of utilizing them.

Ambient light is usually not as hard as direct light, because ambient implies it's been bounced off of various surfaces, including the sky, and that also means when you have lots of bounces from all kinds of surfaces, you get very diffused lighting, and that means you can't have distinct cast shadows like you have. If you observe cast shadows on an overcast day, you'll see that you barely see any distinct shadows. But ambient light isn't always diffused, as what constitutes ambient is relative. The torches burning from a village nearby can be considered ambient light, if you have other light source(s) that are stronger and more direct, but the torch lights from a village nearby isn't as vast as the sky dome, so while the light will be more diffused than a typical direct light, it'll still be only a fraction of the size of the sky dome. The cast shadows from the ambient light in that case, will be directional and somewhat diffused, but most distinct than an overcast sky. But keep in mind, if you have other light sources in your scene, they'll likely cancel out the cast shadows from your ambient light. It really depends on the light setup (and this is where you need to learn all about lighting, from the ground up).

So you need to work out what your lighting setup is exactly. What are your light sources, where they are placed, at what height, how strong they are in relation to each other, what color temperature they are, etc. Without knowing all that, you can't paint a credible looking scene.

As for organic textures, experimenting with different brush tips, brush settings (such as scattering, opacity, etc) while trying to reproduce textures you observed in real life (or in photos) is the best way. Look at the amount of grain in the texture, the shape of the grains, the depth of the grains, the specularity of the surface, the color variations on the surface, and so on.

It's often not necessary to be too literal with textures, because stylization often requires simplification, and the "vocabulary" of your varying surfaces can be a lot more limited than what we see in real life. In some cases, all you really need is to differentiate between smooth surfaces and rough surfaces with a smooth brush tips and grainy/textured brushtips, and that's about it. A lot of the times, the specularity of a surface actually says a lot more about the surface property than the texture does (but you really want to pay attention to both, as well as color variations).
  02 February 2013
Thank you VERY much for your input and appreciate the time put into your critique. This is gives me a much better idea on how to approach lighting and textures for my future works. Up until now, 90% of my 2D work has been cel-shaded/stylized art and I'm trying to move away from that approach.

Once again, I truly appreciate your input on this
  02 February 2013
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