Here’s the second part of my process creating Marth for the Pieced Together Collab. This time it’s about color!
When I went to art school, I always felt (and said) that I was no good at color. That may have been true somewhere along the line. However, that didn’t mean I couldn’t work on it and increase my skill. I think we all have felt taken in or overwhelmed by someone’s use of color before. Also, to be honest, I was new. No one can’t learn everything at once. I had to take it all in steps, and that meant the basics of line came first. Line became a large fascination for longer than expected too.
So for Marth, I started just throwing down color with my old method. Building up sections with a new layer for each part (when I remembered). But then I took a step back and meditated on what I wanted to achieve. I really wanted to push myself to be proud of this work. So often, in school, I felt bad for not pushing myself enough–for letting fear hold me back. I hardly ever felt as though I’d given it my all. Now I know that the most growth comes from mistakes.
The digital realm is full of magic when it comes to treatments of color. Right down to how one chooses to place the paint or create finishes, there are countless options. One of my best friends in college was a practitioner of Art Nouveau, after the great Alphonse Mucha. Basically, think bold linework, and smooth painted color inside that can almost dance. See, a lot of painters normally blend out the linework. Christine’s influence remains with me to this day. If you have some time, check out her work on facebook or at her website. My other influences would be Lois van Baarle (loish), Linda Luksic Sejic, and most of all, Stjepan Sejic. I’ve learned a lot studying their videos.
However, I was ready to try something else. A way to work smarter and learn the steps. I’ve become a fan of Jazza over the last year. I also wanted to get the clipping mask method down path. I’d only made a mess of it before. So I checked out his process video and gained a proper understanding of what to do. I created a bunch of groups and a ton of coloring layers–always set to Multiply.
So I can thank Jazza for these fabulous outfit color choices. All of those bright colors are so I can quickly tell if I missed a spot when I lay down the actual color. Simple, yet brilliant. For the small amount of time setting up the method, it saved me a lot more time I would have spent noodling around, not to mention worrying! You can also see I’ve placed my base palette colors near each section. I made a separate layer for the palette.
Another fun and awesome thing about digital is that it helps you with your color palette choices. If you see an image out there and like the color choices and lighting colors, you can color prick from it and put it into your own paintings. This goes a long way in helping you learn to use colors. It can be overwhelming to have to invent everything on your own. In the end, since Marth’s palette is already established in the series, I chose a few character images to sample as my base colors.
Above you can see that I’ve gotten down most of the base color with mild blending. In fact, most of the base color is blended out into shadow. I use the blending tool a lot, like Stjepan does, and adjust levels as needed. As for my brushes, I used the basic circle brush that has pressure sensitivity for sizing. The harder I press, the thicker the line. Plus, the basic brush. Nothing fancy at all. What I do, instead, is that once the base color is down, I paint in shadows by dropping the opacity and flow down between 8-20%. By doing this, I can build up the paint. I might blend a little, but this method kind of has built-in blending.
I knew what I wanted to do with the lighting, and how I was going to use one of Marth’s powers in the image. Don’t go into lighting blind. It’s too frustrating. If you have to, make a template so you know where to go with your colors and highlights. I’ve always had a good eye and a knack for the figure. So I’m fairly used to interpreting light bending over a person, thus, I was able to plan most of it as I went.
At this stage, I also tried to pay attention to the materials that his garments are made of. Being sure to represent his boots as leathery, the sheath as stiff with materials added over time, the glove as a stretchy fabric with stitching, and the ever important metallic nature of his armor. For instance, think of a pair of your own boots or shoes. They’re never pristine, and you wouldn’t want them to be brand new when you need to work with them on. They gain creases and have color change where they bend most. So I interpreted this into the boot in the foreground. Especially with the creases and bends, it gains in the ankle. I also began to create the embellishments on his clothes. On his boots, the edges of his armor, and then on the sheath for his sword.
I also gave some texture to his hair with a simple hair brush I got along the way. My advice is to gather as many different brushes as you can and find which ones you like best. Their versatility for use in different directional strokes, as well as realistic representation, are what matter most. Building brushes or learning to adjust/edit them over time is incredibly useful as well. I took some fancy brushes and on new layers pulled pieces off them, and built up variations to then stamp onto the armor and boots. I was careful to mask them so that I could add light and shadow paint on top after.
I finished building the embellishments into his sword sheath as well as making adjustments to his skin lighting, blending to show better form. Then I grabbed another custom brush to try constructing his power-up. A couple dabs with the brush and it was actually perfect. I love when it works out better than planned!
Another note on creating lighting. When I have the basics down and the lighter color thrown on and blended, I change my method for highlights. Again, credit goes to Stjepan. I change my brush function to soft light. Shift the color to a much lighter version of the original, always at the top of the palette, and turn down the opacity and flow to 10 or so. Soft light is a powerful function and can easily blow up and appear useless. But if you take your time and slowly build it up, you can see the highlight growing and shifting in luminosity. This is how I built all the rim lighting, shine, and highlight throughout.
I didn’t realize I had to create the background as well, but that was a quick addition after the fact. Some toying with the gradient tool gave me the desired effect similar to the game stage itself without swallowing up Marth and his passion for a blue color palette. And that’s the final piece above with my hidden signature included.
I hope these process posts have been helpful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment here or to contact me. I’m on facebook, twitter, and email a lot. You can also find me on instagram every over day. I can truly say that I am proud of this illustration. It was challenging, meditative, and a lot of fun to create. I’m so pleased to have been a part of the project, and I hope to get to meet all the artists.
Check out all the art and artists as well as the final work at Pieced Together NL’s facebook here.
Or on instagram here.