January 28th, 2008

Someone asked if I could post a merged version of that Truetorial posts I made while working on the Wendy Milan pic. I decided to do it because it’s a good idea and it gives me a chance to improve it a bit. I call it a ‘truetorial’ because it’s a tutorial that includes all the parts where I screwed up. I think some people get discouraged by seeing flawless tutorials and think, “Yeah, well, whoever wrote this is a pro.” Showing the mistakes is a nice way of saying, “Look, if an idiot like me can do this, you can do this.” This one isn’t really in-depth but I hope it gives you a few tips for drawing fan art from sprites.

Wendy MilanStep 1.) First, you need to gather some reference. Internet image searches can help a lot but it depends on the character’s level of fame. Searching for a popular character like Master Chief or Lara Croft will give you buttloads of pictures and loads of butt-pictures if you don’t turn on ‘Safe Search’. If you’re drawing someone from an obscure SNES side-scrolling beat-em-up, you’ll probably just find a few random graphics on a fan site ran by some crumb bum. If you can’t find the pose you’re looking for, you’ll have to get your own reference. Fire up the game or pause it (if you can) or take a screen capture of it like I had to here. I sketch the pose a few times while trying to get all the limbs in the right places and add my own spin to it. This is also a good chance to get some of the surplus fail out of my system. Unless you absolutely must keep the same exact dimensions and shape of the sprite for game-related or contest purposes, don’t be afraid to fix anything mistakes the sprite has like screwed-up anatomy and broken perspective. If the pose is just impossible to do or is only possible due to the weird proportions of the sprite style, you may have to mess around with the anatomy a bit to get the pose right. If you’re afraid that people will complain about the changes in message board or art site comments, just remember that they’ll complain if you leave them in, too.

Wendy Milan 2007 - Crappy EditionStep 2.) After days of almost drawing the picture and then remembering that I had to do other things for about 3 other people, I decide to finish it on Saturday, a day where I’m usually stumbling around like a zombie from an accumulated lack of sleep. I take a first attempt at it that to solidify a few more things. Sometimes, it’s a mess of lines that I plan to go over later or just take note of any problem areas. With maybe 4 hours of sleep in my system, the first attempt here is horror beyond imagining. It is so ugly that I spend the rest of the night thinking of giving up drawing forever. At least once I think about awkwardly jumping out of the second story window head first with the futile hope that the impact would break my neck and kill me instantly. Just… just anything to not think about how I drew that. I crawl into bed, curl into the fetal position and fall asleep while listening to “Living Inside Myself” by Gino Vannelli hoping that tomorrow will be a better day*.

Wendy 2007 - pencilsStep 3.) After six hours of sleep, I take a second shot at the picture while noting everything that didn’t work the first time. The torso width and big boots match the sprite better even if it’s weird to see her with a realistic face. More adjustments are made to those weird shoulder pads after I see how they look in other animation frames. That brings up another rule to remember: get multiple pictures and/or sprites of whoever you’re drawing. Even if you’re drawing a pose from a single sprite, you may not have a good view of all the outfit details or might be drawing the only sprite where something was drawn incorrectly.

Wendy Milan 2007 - inked 4.) After I decide that I don’t hate how this one looks, I break out the .08, .05 and .01 Micron pens and begin to go over the pencils with ink. The .05 tip is for the main details, the .01 is for really small details like the fine linework in the hair and the .08 takes two trips around the outline so it’s not just a boring, flat outline. This one turned out okay but there were certain things that I was uncertain about. Her face gives off the exact ‘nice girl’ vibe that I wanted and I like how the hair turned out fine here. The boots… notsomuch. Since I’ll also be using for things where I’ll have to shrink it down to super-small size, I put a really thick outline around the whole thing.

Wendy Milan - line cleaning 5.) I scanned the pic in pure Black and White mode at 600 dpi. How big is that? 2492 by 6263 pixels. To look at that at full size, it’s probably twice as wide and six times as tall as your monitor. I don’t have a fancy-pants program that automatically cleans line work into vectors, so I have to clean them manually. My main trick is to use PSP7’s ‘Retouch – Smudge’ tool set just high enough to blur the out the stray pixels without bending the line then use ‘Adjust Brightness/Contrast’ to get crisp lines again. Sometimes I can use ‘Despeckle’ -> ‘Gaussian Blur’ (VERY lightly) -> ‘Adjust Brightness/Contrast’ on the side. But I usually have to use the line tool to redraw some lines that look too bad to clean. My computer isn’t powerful enough to color it at this size and would crap it’s soul if I even thought about it so I shrink it down to 836 by 2100 pixels. Still unsure about a few things so I posted a preview of it on the Prime Central Station board. Z_Sabre_User pointed out that the leading leg looked a bit oddly shaped. I think the way that the tall kneepad covers up where her knee is gave her leg that sausage look. So I went back to the original and added a slight curve to it and fixed a few other things I didn’t like. Glad I didn’t fully clean the lines at first because it’d have sucked to re-clean that mess twice.

Wendy Milan - color 6.) With crisp lines in effect I add a transparent Multiply Layer with base colors that are partially taken from the sprite’s lightest colors. All the shading is done on more Multiply layers. The shiny lighting was made with transparent Normal layers just to lighten it up a bit and Dodge layers which adds that funky, fully-saturated look that enhances the shininess. Once it was fully colored in, I posted it on the Prime Central Station board and sweated Bullet Bills until a few kind people told me that it wasn’t completely fugly.

That’s the end of this truetorial which shows just about everything I do when I do what I do, especially the mistakes. It’s not that I think I’m great or even good, but I hope there’s a few tips that’d help someone out. As for why I drew Wendy, you’ll have to wait a while on that.

* – Yes, that’s a joke. I just got to a point where I put the picture to the side and watched Kool Moe Dee on Soul Train. Besides, the window has a mesh screen that can’t be moved. So there’s that, too.

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