A character illustration of Link


Back again with another character illustration. I am still sticking with familiar characters for now, I want to work on things people are familiar with as it makes it easier to establish where I go wrong on something that has a known existence than a unique concept that leaves the question of intentionality.

This work is of link, a full body illustration this time. My last couple works had lighting issues, I thought the second improved on the first but there still appeared to be flaws. I am fascinated by metal and reflections but the possibilities of the way light bounces around when dealing with metals leaves lots of room for inconsistencies to developed. I had already planned to work on this next, I wanted to do a full body and I wanted something that was going to require a lot of texture.

General idea of this one is Link standing in the forest holding the master sword as it was in a Link to the Past in a deteriorated state so the sword is going to be worn, with vine and plant fragments in it, etc. Link at this point I have him in appearance as he was in Skyward Sword but I am considering transitioning him to closer to his previous appearance to make him match up with the scene better. The background is currently a quick mock up of the forest scene I intend to have foreground elements in focus and perhaps the trees and plants behind fov blur. I also thought about having the stone he pulled the sword from in front of him but I don’t want it to hide his feet so I am still considering if that will be present or not. Known current issues I haven’t addressed yet, the wings on the sword are a little off angle at the moment and the sleeves on his left arm aren’t sorted out correctly and look over layered. Currently grey scale, going to add color soon, wanted to address the values and lighting. This is only the second work I’ve done where I started in grey scale, I noticed a lot of artist do this and was something I haven’t done in the past so I wanted to work in this direction. I am trying to figure out my transition point though, at what point do I start to work in color, after the basic shape and lighting or later when there is more detail.

As always, appreciate any feedback.


I’m not an expert but will offer a few thoughts.

The first thing I can see here is that the blade should probably be flat in his hand. Even a dull sword I don’t think people would naturally hold it with the blade touching their skin. Just a thought I could be wrong though.

The upper arm of the arm holding the blade of the sword is a little thick in my opinion.

I like what you got so far though. I wish I could offer more tips for the painting process but I’m still an amateur and still playing around with it all too. :slight_smile: Good luck!


I am also an amateur, but I enjoy giving feedback so take what I say with a grain of salt. :buttrock:

First off, I’ll start with value. I also start in grey-scale since you have to think about less at once and it also gives you a great representation of the solid masses you are trying to achieve without too much interference from color. I suggest don’t even touching color until you have all the details you are looking for such as small details, textures of any materials, etc. As of now, you have a pretty basic value structure. It’s a good starting point, but I would blend in the values more. You have some harsh jumps from 1 value to the next, which makes sense on the folds of the clothes, but not so much in area such as the left-hand-side collar. If this value structure is the style you are going for, which leans way towards cartoonish, then by all means it is looking pretty good.

Next, the lighting. The lighting is looking pretty good overall, except I think you are missing a few spots that should be more lit and some less intensely lit. For example, his entire left side (our right) should have a more uniform lighting intensity. You can see that HIS left hand is harshly lit, but what about his sleeve and his chest? It’s a huge contrast to the other materials that have a similar angle towards the light.
Places that are a bit harsh would be his left leg and the top of his head. If you were to add color to it, I think it would be blown out. Also, his feet get lost in the bg. Maybe a highlight would fix that.

One more awkward thing that I see is HIS left leg. The foot is pointing slightly outward, but the folds on his pants makes it look like he has a knee that’s pointing directly at me.

A cool addition to this piece sorta takes out of what Sweetjeannie was saying about the swords angle. If you had it at a tilt, it would rest in his hands nicely, but it would also give a lighting element to the face from the refracted light bouncing from the sword to his upper chest/face area. I tend to put the most contrast in the face, since it helps the users eye go directly to it.

I hope I didn’t lead you in the wrong direction with what I posted. Good piece and rock on. :buttrock:


Oooh I didn’t even think about the lighting with that… That is a great idea.


Back again, thanks for the comments so far. I wouldn’t exactly call myself and amateur at this point but I am trying to break into the next level so to say and gaining more experience with the tablet is a part of that.

Couple notes on comments so far, sword I kind of want angled like it is, Link has guantlets on and part of those are leather fingerless gloves made onto them so he isn’t going to get cut holding it like that and the real idea was that he was controlling the other end of the sword with it clasped between his fingers and thumb behind it that you can’t see over it. If that isn’t clear at this point then I will need to make sure as I detail things more that I make that more apparent than it is. Other reason is I want the sword detail to be seen; if it was lying in his hands you wouldn’t be able to see much of it really which would lose that detail from the image. As for grey scale and color, I waited real late on my last work to go to color but found my values were quite right, the colors didn’t come out good and I had to repaint a lot anyway. Decided to swap to color a little sooner this time so that as I paint in detail I can also mix in colors as I go for more natural hue changes.

You should be able to get a better idea of what I am striving for with this update. I brought in the color and did more mock up of the background to get a better idea of the setting I am visualizing. I’ve also smoother things out more, before was just a wip temporary shading to get some lighting idea, getting closer to the look I want now at least till I get into the texture. I worked on the arms and sleeves a bit and did a little work on the boots. Overall I am feeling pretty good about where it is heading at this point still open to any comments though the last image may of been a little early to really grasp the concept of the image hopefully this version is better.


I think it is looking really good, although in my opinion the way he’s holding the sword looks weird. It doesn’t seem natural… gauntlets or not. Sorry just my opinion.


Are you using proper references for this? If not, you should at least shoot references for the hands, because they are the most problematic areas right now. The way the left hand grips the sword make it look like the sword is clipped through part of the hand and eating into his knuckles area. The other hand also looks unnatural in how lacking in readability the palm area and the back of the hand is.

Be careful about all those bright specular highlights in your background–they compete for attention in your composition, and you need to control the values in your image so the overall tonal composition has a clear sense of hierarchy of where the main focal points are (highest contrast and sharpest edges), and what the supporting elements are (complementary counterbalance to the main focal points but never competing for attention).


I am back again with another update. Spent quite a while on the face and the right hand, painted them both then ended up repainting them over as the just were way too off of what I wanted. At this point, other than detailing out the sword and the ear everything is pretty well in order at least till I do the texturing. I will probably do the background before I get to the texture but getting closer to seeing this one finished.

As you should notice I changed the sword, tilted more, reshaped and rescaled a bit. I took the forearm cover off of the right arm as I found he only wears it on his sword arm. The chainmail is probably going to be one of the most difficult parts coming up, I changed my mind on the type of chainmail I am going with so the areas marked over with it in tan color are going to change quite a bit one I get the detail in.

As for the character fighting the background, I can see that I am going to look into what I can do to prevent that as I work on the background. I may add some atmosphere between him and the background to fade it out just a bit. Also going to look a little more into the hot spots on him, I used a bit of a reference pic for the lighting idea. Someone made a paper mache version of link and put it in a forest so that is a lot of where I got my lighting idea as far as hot spots and shaded areas but since my character isn’t in the same post I need to think over a bit on lit areas on the arms or shoulder and sword.


There are some contrasty areas that create too much visual noise, and the way you have a lot of random specular highlights everywhere makes the image feel less cohesive. In order to have those really hot specular highlights, there would have to be direct sunlight, but many areas with bright specular highlights aren’t in the direct sunlight, so the hot highlights look unnatural in those areas.

You should also consider the fact that any form/cast shadow areas are getting their light from the bounced sky dome, which is usually blue on a sunny day, so your form/cast shadow areas will have significant amount of blue bounced from the sky.


Back again, this time with the near final image. I say near because pending on what feedback I get here I may work on it some more. A lot has been filled in since the last one, background has been detailed in, the character worked over a lot, detailed and textured. I’m pretty happy with it at this point it caught most of what I was going for.

Also wanted to note that a lot of the lighting idea came from this image.

I found in when I was originally looking for images of Link and this fit toward the idea I had so it came in handy to get an idea of what he might look like in a forest.


Here are the things you can still improve on.

-The composition looks stiff because you have these almost perfectly horizontal strips in your background that looks too neat and not organic enough. We’re supposed to be looking at a forest in the wilderness, not a manicured landscaping park. There should be such a flat looking ground with almost perfectly trimmed leaves around it. There should be all kinds of stuff on the ground–fallen leaves, weeds, twigs, rocks, uneven soil, roots, etc. Although you have “stuff” on the ground it looks like discoloration patterns on a flat plane instead of lots of stuff with dimensionality and piling on top of the ground and overlapping each other. Even in that reference image you can see how the ground is just full of stuff piled up.

-Notice in that reference image the ambient light is very prominent–all that green color bounced from all the surrounding plants, as well as the blue from the sky mixed in a bit. I’m not saying wash over the entire image with a green/blue cast, but you need to make sure they are visible in your scene, otherwise, it isn’t even following the basics of how light/color works according to the physical laws of our world.

-Your leaves all tend to be from similar angles, and that’s unnatural. In reality, leaves are seen from all different angles, from straight on to almost paper-thin profile angles, and all those in-between. We can see this very clearly in that reference image also. Also don’t forget, leaves aren’t just going to have highlight, or are in shadow. They can also cast shadows onto each other, as well as being back-lit by the light (a very vivid, glowing green, as if it’s self-illuminating).

-Links expression looks vacant. What is he supposed to be feeling at that moment? How do you want his facial expression to read?

-Clothing folds don’t look convincing because many are too faint and diffused, as if you are afraid to commit to each wrinkle and fold to their full strength.

-There’s too much unnecessary high contrast in your image, making it look noisy and lacking a sense of careful value management for an effective tonal composition. The reference image itself is problematic–it isn’t an image with good composition, lighting, color palette, dynamic range, etc.

You might want to post your image in Steven Stahlberg’s very helpful paintover critique thread and have him show you how to overcome all the problems I mentioned above (I’d do one for you but I’m pretty swamped at the moment). You might also want to provide him with a link to this thread so he could see my critiques and address them. Here’s Steven’s awesome thread: http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=166&t=359226


I appreciate you taking the time to help Lunatique you seem to be offering me much in this and my previous work. However had I not dealt with criticism my entire life that heavy load you just gave me and in my previous one could of been enough to make me want to delete my files and sell my tablet. However that is not the case, would help some if you gave some feedback on what you liked while you were at it so I could remember what I am doing right as well.

To address the feedback, vacant probably isn’t far off to how he should be expression wise, I wanted him to be in awe and wonder looking over the sword he just found. The light coloring I did go over a few things with a little more blue tone since the last submission, the boots, the highlight on his left hand, the face, and other areas. As you mentioned yourself though I didn’t want to go too green like the reference image also that figure in it is a slick paper machete and could be reflecting strongly so I didn’t want to go as intense it. Also the idea of the clearing he is standing in also related to trying to take out some of that bounce back light from so much green. Which do you feel is giving the wrong tone more, the background or the character? Also the ground I kind of lost some of my original blurry version somewhere, in the old mock version the ground looked like it extended farther away and looked like it went down hill to the left side of the image like a trail. I tried to get that back but couldn’t find it again as I worked over the detail.


James - I can tell from the way you conduct yourself that you are an intelligent, disciplined, and positive-thinking individual, so I was fairly sure that you would be able to handle constructive feedback without all the sugar-coating. In fact, any serious artist–be it hobbyist or aspiring professionals would have to be able to handle straight-forward constructive critique in web forums if they are to have a chance at continual artistic development, because as we all know, the internet is not without the trolls and just plain rude people who get off on making others feel bad. Without a thick skin, a hyper-sensitive/fragile-egoed artist would be driven into becoming a recluse and never show their work or interact with others on the web again. You don’t fit that profile, and it’s a good sign that you’ll continue to advance artistically by leveraging all the available resources to you on the web for helpful critiques.

You’re right that I tend to be sparse on compliments and try to focus on how I can help the artist improve his work. My mentality is more like the character “The Wolf” from the movie Pulp Fiction. I’m here to help you solve your problems, because you wouldn’t be here unless you had a problem that needed help with. But like you said, that it can be hard to take for those who need more positive reinforcement. I guess I’m more like the kind of sifu you see in martial chivalry movies. If you’re not familiar with the genre, the closest equivalent would be the original Karate Kid movies with Pat Morita as the serious but sincere and caring sensei, or Morpheus in The Matrix. They are short on compliments too and focus on making you better in the most efficient way possible, but when they do compliment you, it really makes you feel special and tingly all over. :smiley:

I would say the good points in your image so far are that the figure’s proportions are pretty good and the rendering looks polished, and the forms look coherent.

Now, let’s get back to how you can become better.

When you consider ambient bounced light and the color cast it introduces (such as the blue of the sky dome), you have to remember that because something like a sky dome is so vast, it will bounce its blue onto everything it can physically reach, as long as the surface is: 1) not being dominated by the much more powerful sunlight (or any other more powerful light source) already. In situations like that, the more powerful light source will completely overtake whatever influence a weaker ambient light would have. 2) The surface is not blocked by another surface (called ambient occlusion).

So when you apply the bounced blue influence from the sky dome to your scene, that blue will be on everything in your scene in the form and cast shadows, unless it meets the previous described two points. It’ll be on the skin, on the clothes, on the weapons, on the plants, on the hair, etc.

I don’t know if you realize this, but you have put Link almost completely into cast shadow, so his entire figure should be getting a lot of ambient blue from the sky, since there’s very little strong sunlight to dominate that blue. But of course, we can also treat this the way we do in the handling of white balance in photography and “color-correct” it to look more neutral. But I’ll tell you this–the advanced artists’ work look awesome precisely because they include the sophisticate interaction of light and colors into their paintings, showing the effects of ambient bounced light/colors (radiosity). That is one of the most obvious and important marks that separate an advanced artist from the rest.

You can try to limit the blue bounced color only in the darker form shadows–this will help you maintain more neutral looking local colors, while still have that extra spice of ambient bounced color to make your painting look more sophisticated.

Whatever I’ve said about the blue, it’s true for the green too. But because green is a less pleasing color in general for figures, you can dial it back on the green a bit.

Another thing you can do to make your painting more interesting is to vary the greens in your plants more. In the wilderness, there are all different kinds of species of plants, and they can’t all be the same green. Some are a bit more yellow, or more saturated, or have dried leaves, or have a bit more brown, or have different levels of specularity (some leaves are waxy and some are more furry with tiny fuzz), and so on.

If you want Link to look like he’s in awe, you need to push his expression a bit more. Let’s say a clearly readable “awe” expression needs to be at a seven on the scale of ten in dramatic intensity, what you have is more like at the level of five. Widen his eyes more so it’s more obvious he’s in awe, as opposed to just staring down at the sword.


I am back again with a first run at making changes based on the feedback I received.


I’m going to add on top of what Luna has been walking you through, he’s got you in good hands for the overall issues.

The hands: they’re two different sizes, and the fingers on the left are too skinny, they look like the hands of an old man, not a strapping young man. The hand on the right, the fingers seem too long. The poses you have are simple enough that you could get a small mirror and pose your own hands for reference. Hands are important, we as humans notice them right away, it’s a visual bias that comes into play with any human figure. Also keep in mind this is a fantasy figure, so you have leeway to go a little more stylized instead of getting 100% realism. You can exaggerate a little to make him seem a little more formidable.

Textures: you have a lot of opportunity here to play with texture, but you have the same texture throughout - the face is the same texture of the clothes which is the same as the sword. Push it! Have fun with it. :slight_smile:

The sword: a metal sword would not be one color all along it’s length, even if it’s a scuffed, dull metal there are going to be graduations of color along it’s length. Rendering metal is a key skill to develop, and you have a good opportunity here.

Color: look at his tunic - the cloth above the sword is a warm green, but below it’s a cool green. They really should match.

And, one last thing - if you have any ambition to attend school for art, you’re getting a good start now on enduring and surviving a critique. The critiques I had to go through in college studying illustration were brutal - you had to put your work up in front of the class, and anyone could comment on anything, and you had to defend your choices (the teacher included). The idea is not to be 'mean", or overwhelm you, but if you can’t defend your work and your choices, you’re not going to be much of an artist. It also makes you think harder about what you’re doing, and think differently, and learn to see things others see, which will help down the road - some paintings will just happen with no effort, but imagine working on something where you don’t have any inspiration, or you’ve lost it, and you’re stuck - doing a self- critique and having experience looking at your own work critically can give you the tools to get the work back in focus and move on. It’s a pretty crucial skill to have.


Well in that case I will defend two things you mentioned. One on the hands I did a lot of self posing for these, the hand on the right may be a little long on the finders I will agree to that, the right one is suppose to be pinched together. When I pinch my fingers together like clasping somethnig my hand folds and the fingers overlap producing a narrower hand overall. Also the top part of the tunic and bottom being different color values I pulled this from Stahlburgs paintover, the upper part of the tunic is suppose to be getting bounce back light from the sword which is being hit by direct sunlight producing warm values where the rest is only being lit by ambient light in the forest which is suppose to produce cooler colors from the sky. I didn’t go as strong with the bounce back as Stahlburg did I don’t know if it is too subtle at this point or not, or entirely hitting at the right angle it seems like it should only be hitting his chest and not his face but the sword has contours so it could reflect forward and up at the same time.


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