Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Orissa and the Lich King

This image was made over the course of a week.  It would have been done sooner if I hadn't gotten exhausted as I was working on the Lich King.  It is actually three seperate vectors brought together as one.  Orissa, the forgetful paladin to the left, Arthas, the facepalming  villainous Lich King on the right, and the Frozen Throne in the background.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What!?!? It Matches My Nails!

Click for a larger size

It's a running joke in WoW that male blood elves are rather . . . feminine.  The dress he's wearing is a vanity dress you can get in game.  And yes, it looks just like that on male characters.  This was actually the first image I drew that I cracked up a few times while making it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Blood Elf Sorceress

The next two images are of a Blood Elf Sorceress.  The concept of a Blood Elf comes from Blizzard's Warcraft series.  Blood Elves were once High Elves but after Arthas the Lich King destroyed their precious Sunwell, they found themselves addicted to magic.  Blood Elves, the Sindorei as they call themselves, turned to demonic magics to satiate their eternal thirst for magic, giving them their distinctive glowing green eyes.

I made two images, one from the front, the other from the back.  There is nudity, so I'll only provide the thumbnails here.
Click for full: mature!
So why nudity?  Well mostly because it helps teach and practice shading.  Given how skin is about the same color with various shading, it presents a greater challenge to produce an image that has depth.  Clothing really helps because it has multiple colors.

Click for full: mature!
Secondly it is also about form.  The human (well, elf in this case, but close enough) body is not a simple object.  It has proper proportions and scaling.  Certain parts are in certain locations in relation to other parts.  For example, the eyes are aligned with the ears and centered to the head.  The nose mouth and belly button all align (if the person stands straight.)   The head is 1/7 to 1/8 the size of the rest of the body.  A woman's hips, I read, are wider than  her shoulders.  Remove clothing and it becomes easier to gauge these proportions.

There were parts that presented some challenges here.  The staff, you can guess I gave up on it.  That just would not come out right.  It is in two parts, primarily for layering purposes, the split is hidden by her fingers.  It is straight, but due to some illusion I can't seem to dispel, it looks crooked.  Hands were difficult too.

There was also a lot of learning.  The belts around her leggings have a texture I created by simply placing a blurred fill over the belt.  The problem with blurs is that they tend to spill into areas you don't want them to.  You can trim them with an Object Subtraction function (basically, drilling one shape out of another shape) but then the blur reshapes itself.  There's another solution though.  Clipping.  Clipping covers an object and basically says "okay, everything within my bounds is visible, everything out of bounds is not visible.  It is still there, but not visible.  So I took the blur and a fill for a clip, made sure the clip was on top and set the clip.  Voila.

I also learned a lot of technique for working on the strokes making up an outline.  Most of them were turned into paths on their own due to the fact that you cannot make a T shape or any combination with a stroke.  This allows me to separate the arm from the shoulder or to add lines to the hair to give it depth, all of which isn't possible if you don't turn the stroke into a path first.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Draenei Warrior

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This character is a Draenei.  I started messing around with not using strokes and to a degree I was successful.  However, I think for a project that is cartoony like this, I should have kept the outlining strokes.  They add a degree of depth and make the image less reliant on shading.  For example, in order to keep her left arm from blending in with her stomach, I had to apply some sort of shading to the arm to seperate the two.

She was based on my Draenei Shaman in WoW (I don't play this character in game anymore) but I didn't like the shaman costume I gave her (she had a kilt and pauldrons) and with the two axes she weilds, she looks more like a warrior, therefore, she is a warrior.  She's been in a fight very recently.  It was fun scratching her up and creating tears in her clothing.  Some people have made claims that Draenei blood is blue but if that's true, red sticks out better.

General Jack Ripper

Click for larger size
General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) was the paranoid general in Stanley Kubrik's Dr. Strangelove.  The movie was shot in black and white.  There's one amazing scene where General Ripper is explaining to the RAF liaison, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) that he "can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids."  As he says this, he's leaning back in the darkness puffing on a cigar.

So I made this image.  It was a lot easier than I expected.  I used a screenshot of the movie as a reference.  Every shading was pure black.  Everything not shading was made a dark gray.  There was a lot of trust involved.  I had to trust that these bizarre shapes would form the image I was going for once finished.  As I was making it, each shape just looked . . .  weird.  But put together, they created General Ripper as I had desired.  This one was relatively quick, took about two hours.

What is that Vector Victor?

Victor Basta: Request vector, over. 
Captain Oveur: What?
Tower voice: Flight 2-0-9'er cleared for vector 324.
Roger Murdock: We have clearance, Clarence.
Captain Oveur: Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?
Tower voice: Tower's radio clearance, over!
Captain Oveur: That's Clarence Oveur. Over.

Airplane! 1980, Paramount Pictures.  Great movie.

So just what is a vector graphic?  Well anyone from high school physics can tell us a vector is a line with a heading.  Essentially a vector graphic uses these vectors in mathematical equations to create points, lines, polygons and so on and so forth.  Now I know I said the big scary "m" word there, but the computer does the math, I draw the lines.  Vector graphics are different than your typical pixelated raster image (such as a jpeg image or any graphic file your web browser supports.)  In vector form, you can zoom in infinitely and never deal with pixelation.  A raster image has a set number of pixels.  As you zoom in, you lose quality because the pixels are displayed larger.  A vector graphic uses an algorithm to add more or remove pixels as the image is zoomed.

A vector graphic uses a system of nodes, similar to a three dimensional model (nodes are comparable to vertices. )  There are always at least two nodes and between those two nodes is a line segment.  If anyone remembers their geometry class from way back when, this follows two of the basic axioms we learned.   And with two points I can make a polygon, by drawing a stroke, connecting the end points with a backstroke and pulling the two strokes apart to make a sort of eyeball shape.  Furthermore, I can take these segments (called strokes) and pull on them with the mouse, creating what is known as a Bézier curve.  Now I don't know the mathematics behind Bézier curves and I frankly don't care, but a Bézier curve is basically an algorithm for the computer to calculate a curve between two points.  Once I have the stroke completed, I either leave it open or close it, and add a fill if desired.  A fill is basically the paint bucket tool found in MS Paint.  A vector shape can be without a stroke or it can be without a fill.

There is far more to it than I've explained but I believe I'm exceeding the scope of this blog.

So why do I work with them?  Well because it is easier to use.  I'm not good with a pencil or a paint brush because I can't draw as accurately as I want.  I'm always erasing and adjusting.  With a vector, there is no need to erase.  I grab the node or the stroke I need and pull it where I need it until it looks right.  I can add nodes and delete nodes or change the type of nodes as needed.  I can organize items by layers, allowing me to hide objects that block my view or my ability to target it.  I can change an objects transparency and do so much more.

The editor I use is a free open source editor called Inkscape.   I have a thing for open source software and/or free software, I also use GIMP (think Photoshop, but without the $600 price tag), TrueSpace (3D Graphics) and OpenOffice.  I cannot say how it compares to Adobe Illustrator, I never used Illustrator and I don't intend to blow hundreds of dollars on Illustrator.  Inkscape works very well for me.  Edition 0.47 crashed every so often, which got me in the habit of saving a lot.  I upgraded to 0.48, haven't seen a crash so I don't know if that bug was fixed.

Here's a screenshot of a graphic in Inkscape

Click for larger size

The grey dots (which may be hard to see) are the various nodes of the fill I selected.  The red line is the outline of the segments between the nodes.  What I have targeted is a reddish fill that forms the main color of this blood elf's hair.  It lays under a few fills, one black with a very low opacity, and one white with a very low opacity, that gives it some depth, as well as a black outline which further adds some depth and shape. There are gradient fills used in the pony tail in the back, two radial gradients used over her eyes and one to make the shine on her lips. This just an example of all that I can do in Inkscape.

Now once the image is finished in Inkscape, it is turned into a .png raster image to be uploaded onto the internet.

Well thats the tool I work with.  Following this post are the graphics I design in Inkscape.