Sunday, October 11, 2015

Strudel Bear Banner Process - Colors

Time to show the most time-consuming part of this banner: the colors. Oof. They took a while. So many elements and effects. So many light sources. Let's jump in.

These are the base colors for all of the objects in the piece without consideration for atmospheric effects, color composition, etc. Most of the colors here were eyedrop-sampled directly from images of the video games themselves. Other colors are placeholders for textures I would be pasting in over them, and so their colors at this stage did not matter (like the orange path that the barrel is on, the label of the NES cartridge, etc).

This layer started out as purely a rendering for the sky. I sampled colors from photographs of sunsets, and then went to work with some chalk pastel texture brushes at a 15% opacity, just building up some forms. I am super-rusty at computer coloring, and have never been good at digital painting, so this thing took a while. After a pass, I would do a slight motion blur moving from the bottom left to the top right. Then on a separate layer, I painted over certain spots to reincorporate the coarse texture of the chalk pastel brushes. The shot below is just the underpainting and the inks, showing how the sun is setting in the classic games section and night is upon us in the next-gen section.

As I progressed into the highlights and shadows of the piece (or as I like to call them, 'shads & higs,' which are coming up), I would turn off the flats layer to color, and I really enjoyed the look of the yellow highlights on the underpainting, so I eventually duplicated the underpainting layer and placed it overtop of my flats at a lowered opacity to get a bit of a complimentary color scheme going on between the purples and yellows. This also helped unifying all of the colors in the piece. This will make more sense as you read on, as the rest of my screen grabs will be with the underpainting layer turned on, and the flats and inks layers turned off.

I did all of the shadows with a 50% gray tone color on a layer set to Multiply, with a brush at 15% opacity. I would build up a shadow on a selected object, then with my Polygonal Lasso tool deselect anything I wanted to keep that level of gray, and then with an Eraser tool set to 15%, would lighten up the remainder of shadow I had selected, then repeat the process two to three more times until the shadows tapered off in a way I liked.

I colored this whole piece with a mouse, which I have been informed by some of my art friends is 'crazy' and 'ridiculous.' My tablet skills are non-existent at this point, so a mouse was my only option at the time of coloring this banner. I do acknowledge that a tablet would have been faster for coloring this thing. *shrugs*

HIGHLIGHTS! (or as I like to call them on my Photoshop layers, 'higlits' [rhymes with piglet])
This was by far the most work-intensive part of coloring this banner. Have I mentioned I was rusty at coloring yet? Anyway! Yeah, re-learning how light hits objects was a bit of a chore, and this piece had so many different sources. The left side of the piece thankfully only had the setting sun as a light source, but the darker, right side of the piece had the Dark Souls bonfire, the Bloodborne lantern, the friggin' MOON (which is the moon from Bloodborne with the Mortal Kombat logo placed inside it), and then for extra fun, I decided that the Street Fighter car would have one working headlight to create a better color balance throughout the banner, casting light and shadows on the Castle Crashers sword and shield, the dead Giant Tree from Dark Souls 2, and the Resident Evil zombie.

Much like my approach to shadows, I worked with a brush at 15% opacity over a selection of an object/objects, then would deselect portions bit by bit, and erase at 15% opacity to create gradient effects. I eyeballed the cast shadows emanating from the bonfire, lantern, and moon, but when it came to the car's headlamp, I actually made a little perspective grid to figure out how wide the light would be cast, as well as how big of a cast shadow would be produced from the 'Crashers sword.

Each of the four big light sources basically took me a whole session of coloring. I tackled one light source a day because by the time I had finished each one I was exhausted. Limbo City from DMC (underneath the big natural arch), also was its own session, but I had a very fun time figuring out how to add all of those little city lights. That one was a breeze, thankfully.

You'll also notice I added a 'majesty' effect of sunlight rays for the setting sun. In this screen grab I also include the color holds I created for the orange and blue portals from the Portal series, as well as the 'HOTEL' sign from the game LIMBO, since these objects also emit light, although I didn't actually have to create any lighting effects emanating from them.

Here I added some elements that would exist over and under my shadows and highlights, as well as in some instances, my inks. The lantern got a glow effect to suggest some dust mites and debris in the dry air. Same goes for the additional lighting I put over top the headlight. I made gradients of these two things and set their layers to Noise. I flattened those layers so the effect was permanent instead of an adjustable layer setting, then I blurred them up and lowered their layers' opacities a bit. I really liked the textures this process produced, and will probably incorporate this method into non-light-source-related coloring on future pieces.

The moonlit outline of the Dark Souls crow and part of Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen's Blue Moon Tower was created by inverting a selection of my line art, then copying those sections of the moon from its own layer and adding a glow effect to those scraps. The layer is placed over my inks and over the Moon layer. This way the scraps of the moon will match the moon perfectly anyway, and the glow emitting from those scraps will go over my inks of Blue Moon Tower and the crow, creating a slight edge-light gradient to them, the purpose being to show that the moon's bright light bleeds around objects directly between it and the viewer.

I built up the flames of the bonfire, added a general, bright firelight aura, and some embers rising up into the night, etc.

I also painted in tree texture on the dead Giant Tree to indicate the organic nature of the vegetation and wood growing out of the petrified flesh of the giant.

Other elements include the pixelized green grass effect that I made with a green gradient and mosaic filter effect, and I added a very low opacity cobblestone texture for the ruined road in the next-gen section. Blood splatter was put over top to compliment and unify the Bloodborne, Dark Souls, and Resident Evil elements. Added a little glow to Limbo City too.

Video games have a lot of them!
For this piece, I built up a lot on my own and then scoured the internet for hi-res ones that I did not want to make from whole cloth. Here are the big ones: 

Top row:
A screenshot of Asteroids that I built up from a smaller screenshot of Asteroids.
Wavy green lines that decorate the platforms in Super Mario 2, made from scratch.
The cartridge label for The Legend of Zelda that I recreated using a hi-res image of the strategy guide cover that I rearranged over a lo-res image of the actual cartridge's label.
The FEZ alphabet master list which I copy/pasted into the words I wanted to include on the obelisk.

Bottom row:
The checkerboard pattern from the logo of a 3-D Classics: Kid Icarus collection, made from scratch.
The checkerboard pattern from the ground in Sonic the Hedgehog, made from scratch.
The waterfall pattern from Super Mario 2 that I built up from a SUPER-low-res image from the game that I converted into a 300 dpi, indexed color file. I'm not going to pretend like I knew what I was doing here, but whatever I did worked out ok.
Finally A Tetris game I created 100% from scratch.

Here's how I did that:

I created one block in grays to look like a Tetris square, then duplicated it into a row of squares. That row was duplicated into many rows. I made a black block and placed one in each row so that, keeping with the rules and reality of a Tetris game, none of the lines would be complete and therefore not disappear.

I made all seven shapes in a different photoshop file (pictured above), then dragged and dropped them into the piece— their layers set to multiply over the gray blocks— and puzzle-pieced the game together around all of the black blocks.

The reason I did it this way is because if the shapes already had the block texture on them and I then rotated the shapes to fit into the image, the light source of the block would rotate too, and that's not how the graphics in Tetris work. Ridiculous, I know, but fun to figure out trial-and-error-style!

Other elements are the big Bloodborne/Mortal Kombat moon made in its own photoshop file, the pixelized planet Zebes from Super Metroid on the SNES, and even after inking a version of the Throat of the World mountain from Skyrim, I opted to instead just use a snapshot of the mountain from the game, run it through a few filters, and adjust the colors to subtler hues. I honestly did not want to spend the time coloring a whole mountain covered in snow, and I liked the look of the paste-up so I rolled with it.

I did the same thing for Pit from Kid Icarus and Halo's halo. I always planned for certain objects to be ripped right from the games, so there was no hesitation in incorporating these elements once I determined what would work best for the piece.

Those are all the effects, and so here they are with the flats turned back on. Notice that I scrapped the second moon from the inks stage, as well as the clouds behind the Ojo Del Diablos arch from Red Dead Redemption. The reason being that the second moon compositionally no longer worked with the other light sources, and I decided to recreate the clouds completely on the computer instead of paint under the line art of the clouds I drew.

The line art for the Asteroids game was inverted from black to white. A hi-res image of the celestial bodies Mage, Warrior, and Thief from the skills screen in Skyrim was hunted down at great length and placed, as was the regular sky map of stars from the game.

Here are the inks turned back on. Certain objects' line colors were adjusted to emphasize foreground and background, depth of field, and things like that. The Mario pipe has dark green lines, the Zelda cartridge has dark brown lines, etc.
For the Donkey Kong barrel, I made a blur effect to emphasize its movement by duplicating the finished barrel's colors and line art together into a couple different copies. Then I  motion blurred both of those copies and placed one at full opacity over top of the existing barrel, and lowered the opacity of the other barrel and shifted it to the side from which the barrel is rolling to make a tracer.

Here are also the finished clouds. After deciding not to color the clouds I drew, then attempting to paint the clouds from scratch but being unhappy with the results, I opted to grab a picture of clouds, grayscale them, create a Photoshop channel that selected only the white parts, colored the selection white, then motion blur them in the same direction as the underpainting. Then on a layer beneath the cloud, I painted in some white at 15% opacity with the chalk pastel brushes to flesh out the atmospheric perspective between Limbo City and the halo in the far background.

Now it was time to throw in the titular Strudel Bear!

1. Roughs! Drawn small, scanned into the computer, adjusted in photoshop to correct any balance issues by horizontally mirroring the image and moving things around.
2. Raw inks. This is what the physical artwork looks like.
3. Cleaned up inks. Adjusted the levels, thinned out some lines. Thickened other lines. The biggest change is I re-constructed his paddy-paw toes. The way his foot pad looks changes with every drawing I do, never quite happy with the look of it. I settled on the slight arch of the toes in order to make the true sole of his foot his toe pads. Made the most sense to me. Pretty happy with the result. It's the best it's looked.
4. Flats and adjusted line art colors (dark brown for his body, gave him blue pupils, etc). I positioned Strudel Bear onto the banner, turned off all the banner layers and colored him with the underpainting layer turned on.
5. Shadows. Since Strudel Bear is positioned halfway between the old school and next-gen elements of the banner, he got a central shadow because his body would be edge-lit from both sides.
6. Highlights. Golden yellow on the left from the setting sun. On the right I went with blue, which would technically indicate moon light as the source, but in reality the decision to go blue was because it was a good contrast to pop him out on the darker side of the banner.
7. With the flats turned back on, a texture was added. I found a picture of actual strudel, extremely adjusted the levels and contrast into just black and white, then put a reddish screen over top, placed the texture on Strudel Bear, set the layer to multiply, and lowered the opacity to make the effect more subtle.
8. Line art turned back on, and a layer with a yellow glow was placed underneath everything, set to Overlay so that the background colors of the banner would come through yet still successfully make SB 'pop' over the banner art.

And heres everything put together in animated GIF form!!

Snap! Clap! Voila! And that's how the race was won!

And of course, if you want to check out my friend Brandon's page, you can find it and my finished banner HERE.


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