Thursday, February 16, 2012

Computer Graphics: How I make Digital Drawings

Instead of focusing on games this week I decided I would dedicate this post on how I managed to make a digital drawing I was working on in my spare time this week. I put quite a bit of time into making it and the drawing consisted of my certain style of drawing and creating a background with great help from use of Photoshop layers and filters to create the effects I wanted so it suited with my drawing. I see now that these filters are actually very similar with what we’ve learned in computer graphics, they are just not processed in real time.

I’m going to look over how I created a character and then on how I made the background to mesh with that character.


The tools I used to work on my digital art was a digital tablet, along with Photoshop CS5 which is included in my school computer.


I decided to draw the character “Lux” featured in the Free-To-Play MOBA game, League of Legends. So the first thing I decided to do was get references from the game, taking the splash art they use for the character and putting it inside the canvas of my image in photoshop. I took as many of them as I could so I could try to get as much resemblance to the character as I could. Then I decided on a pose, drawing crude outlines to try and test what could look like a good pose. I finally decided on one that would represent her character best.

From there I made the outline more refined until it was good enough to represent the shape of the body I needed for the pose. I made sure to make a copy of it for reference later and then I began to add details that would shape the character. I started with details in the face and adding hair, then working to all the other details in armor, boots, gloves, etc. I continued to add details ,always referencing the images of Lux I was using to help me define her look. Eventually the final outline was completed.

The final outline completed

For my particular style of drawing, the outline is present all the time and I use solid colors rather than a painting-like style. I color in all the areas in the outline to the appropriate color, continuing to watch my reference images. I keep on doing this, eventually finishing all the color, without shading. Also every color and piece of equipment on the character has a different layer, so the skin is on a different layer than the pieces of armor for example. The reason I use this is so that it’s easy to change the entire color later if I need to.

Colored in

Now I move to shading, rather than choosing a color I use one single layer for shading. I take a normal layer, putting the opacity to 66% then using pure black on all the areas I want shaded. Due to the opacity it adds to the base color to make it look shaded. This method I discovered later on and it’s a lot easier than my old method which was to use the actual color I wanted to represent the shaded area. This meant I needed a ton of layers to represent each color since I have so many layers for every base color already. Highlights than follow using the same structure as how I did with the shading.

Adding shading


That pretty much completes my character now and then I move to the part I have the most trouble with, the background. I usually have no idea what background I want and is particularly difficult for me to even make one even if it comes to mind. I know I want to choose a background that fits with my character, so I choose an ocean and a bridge since I am so unimaginative.

Turning this...

To make my background, I looked around for a publicly available ocean image that everyone is able to use. I had to choose one that fit with the perspective of my character. From there I took the image in and now I began to make use of the Photoshop post-processing effects. I used the “Cut-Out” filter in Photoshop, which took the image and cut out the colors to look more in tune with the style of my image.

...into this, with the cut-out filter

I actually understand what the Cut-Out filter actually does as well, since all it’s doing is taking the image, limiting it to a certain number of colors, (I chose only 8) so that way it would still mesh with the simplicity of how I made my color palette but still retain detail of the base image. It then averages out the values of colors to a specific color in the image, much like how cell shading works. So say if there are a variety of different blue hues in your scene, it will choose anything from a certain range of blue hues and then force them all to look like the same blue hue. It allows me to maintain detail while maintain simplicity too.

Creating a base bridge

I then added the bridge, using the pen tool to make straight lines so that it would look proper. I use the skew tool as well to angle it properly so that it would go with the perspective and movement of my character. Once I got the base color in, I found a texture, overlayed it over top of the bridge, manipulating it and duplicating it so that it would look natural on the bridge. I made sure that it wasn’t too overlayed so that it wouldn’t look hyper realistic and not mesh with the scene.

Then making it look nice

Everything Together

Afterwards I added some effects after wards to enhance the scene. I used gradients to overlay over the ocean layer and make the scene brighter on the end of the sun while being darker on the far edges. This gave it a more 3D look. I applied another gradient individually on the bridge so that it would look naturally more lit since it wouldn’t look good if I applied the gradient all over the scene. I soon added a light blue shader over the entire scene, using once again the overlay option and messing with the opacity to find the right balance. This shader went over the entire scene to give even Lux a slight blue hue, but not too much.

Added gradients

Added blue shading effect

I went with some pretty simple Photoshop effects but it really helped to enhance the scene, compared to the original without the effects it didn’t look quite as vibrant and really made the picture look a whole lot better.

The final drawing

This is pretty much how I make all my digital drawings at the moment, though I am working on changing my art style/upgrading it with new techniques. This is what I am most comfortable with at the moment and I still see myself improving in some aspects over time. Though I don’t use too many crazy photoshop effects, it’s mostly due to the particular style I am using as well as some unfamiliarity with all the photoshop systems and also my lack of skill in creating backgrounds. I’m trying to learn more and more to improve myself in all these regards. Maybe one day I will be able to make another post with what I have learned.

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