BECOME A BETTER ARTIST!
Get to grips with fundamental skills you need to improve your art. 40 unmissable tips on colour, tone, anatomy and lighting…
o become a great artist, you need a solid grounding in the basics. There’s no point trying to be a comic artist for instance, if you’re knowledge of anatomy isn’t all that. Similarly, how could you ever expect to be a concept artist without an understanding of
colour, tonal values and lighting? Learn the basics first – and get them right – and your opportunities as an artist, both personally and professionally are certain to grow. In order to help you start your artistic journey, or simply refresh your memory, we’ve enlisted the services of four top
digital painters – Rebecca Kimmel, Marta Dahlig, Michael Dashow and Philip Straub. Over the following pages these artists show you some of the basics through snippets of essential advice. Then it’s up to you to continue your development as an artist…
COUNTRY: US Rebecca Kimmel runs the Artistic Anatomy and Figurative Art forum on CG Society. Her website has become a valuable resource for artists studying life drawing. Artists of all levels are welcome to take part in workshops. http://forums.cgsociety. org/forumdisplay. php?f=177
She is a talented artist and freelance illustrator.Artist insight Become a better artist!
COUNTRY: US Michael Dashow balances his time between illustration for fun and profit and Art Directing at 3D avatar site Meez. michaeldashow. com. Michael lives in Oakland. and has worked with Universal Studios in the past. California. USA. www. He loves painting humorous science fiction. He’s an expert in colour theory. and is a regular contributor to ImagineFX.com
. with his wife and newborn son.com
COUNTRY: US Philip Straub is Art Director for games company NCSoft.marta-dahlig.com
COUNTRY: Poland Marta Dahlig was born in 1986. fantasy and children’s images. www.philipstraub.
there’s more atmosphere between them.
8 SIDE LIGHTING
Rather than just using a single light source. Balance intense colour with more muted other colours in the background.
5 DRAMATIC SKIES
To really set a mood for your piece. I try out different palettes by using my paint program’s layers to block out areas of colour and shift their hues. they’re equally helpful for colour composition. such as the colour of your sky. Pull in your ambient colour. Instead. Areas around the eye reveal more purples. consider adding more light from a different direction. Use this contrast to call attention to the focus of your painting. That leaves green and purple as colours we don’t normally see. Blues are familiar from light reflected from the sky. whiter blues and greens.
Using several test thumbnails will help you to come up with the correct colours. Make some colour thumbnails before jumping into your painting.
The sky is orange so the buildings further back appear more dull orange too. your painting will have less impact. Light bounces off other parts of your scene. for example would add greens into your lower shadows.
2 COLOUR VARIETY
Objects in nature incorporate a variety of colours. choose an appropriate colour for the sky.
Don’t expect instant perfection.
10 TEST IT OUT
. I opt for colours to heighten the drama and emotions that I want the piece to illicit.
7 BOUNCE YOUR LIGHT
Shadows pick up bounced light from the environment.Workshops
TOP TEN COLOUR TIPS
Art Director Michael Dashow shares his favourite tips for effective use of colour in your artwork
Colours on opposite sides of the colour wheel stand out against each other. Add more depth to your painting by bringing your atmosphere colour into objects that are further away.
Colours on opposite sides of the colour wheel stand out against each other
6 AERIAL PERSPECTIVE
When there’s more distance between you and other objects. and can also have an exciting colour impact. Cool blues and greens have a more calming effect. Traditionally. Areas where the blood is closer to the surface show more reds. Strong reds get the pulse going. The additional light helps round out the forms more. Checking the image in greyscale can help you here. If your colours are all of a similar tone. Incorporating them can give a painting a mystical air. I rarely stick with the traditional blue. this means making them more blue and less saturated.
The bright. Grass. Just as sketches are important for drawing a finished piece. and impart a sense of drama or danger. too. Paint natural objects with many similar colours. Especially keep this in mind when painting skin.
3 COLOUR MOODS
Choose colours that best convey the mood you’re aiming for.
4 ADD A LITTLE MAGIC
We’re used to seeing light in warm colours such as red from light cast by the sun. warm colours pop against the cooler.
9 CHECK YOUR VALUES
It’s important not to neglect the values while you’re working with colour.
below. the resulting shadow is a darker version of the object’s colour.
8 HIERARCHY It’s one of the
most important qualities to consider when dealing with value structure. I’d argue form truly defines the shape of an object. all objects of nature assume form or shape. While painting also uses line as a means of definition. and the least emphasis on those that are less important.
The consistent visual language used in the shapes and line within the image below shows unity at work. is a simple example of the importance of light. FOREGROUND
Thinking of your value structure as three separate plains in space – background. 4 FORM It’s possible to have form
without line. Unity can be said to define how any one element or group of elements is related to the rest of the composition. however.
2 SHADOW If an illuminated
object is more or less opaque.
7 UNITY Like contrast. but usually where one exists so does the other. MIDDLE GROUND. The form of all objects in the world simply wouldn’t be apparent without light.
.Artist insight Become a better artist
TOP TEN TONAL VALUE TIPS
My editorial illustration.
Most drawing relies heavily upon line as a means of defining objects.
Positive space is usually defined by the areas of a painting or drawing that are occupied by a form.
5 CONTRAST Contrast is derived from a comparison between two or more elements. Most concept artists will create the highest point of value contrast at the focal point. Put simply. a painter places the greatest emphasis on those things that are most important. Negative space is the areas of the painting or drawing that are not occupied by forms. and to have line without form. hierarchy answers the question ‘what is important?’ in a composition. By making his painting hierarchical. or the place where they want the viewer to look. This infrastructure of line may be hidden in the final painting. unity usually describes such relationships within the context of the composition as a whole. Those that describe form should be applied to the shadow area of the object and should be darker. and foreground – will simplify how you deal with your overall value structure. when the light is obscured by that object. it often relies upon it as a sort of infrastructure upon which the rest of the value structure is built. Unlike contrast.
Need some help with tonal values? Philip Straub shares his secrets
1 LIGHT All objects in nature are
made visible to us by some form of light source.
9 BACKGROUND. yet the implications of hierarchy are often forgotten. By virtue of shadow. but its influence dictates what the viewer sees. middle ground.
3 HALFTONES Halftones that utilise texture and colour should be used in the area where light affects the surface of an object and should be made brighter than they appear. It’s important to remember the balance of positive and negative shapes.
An example of applying the use of line in unison with your value structure. unity is an
element that describes a relationship between two or more elements or objects within a composition.
Different textiles react differently to light. Analyse a golden object and you’ll see hints of grey.
2 LIGHT AND FLESH
When painting a body part that’s lit from the back. don’t limit yourself to merely adding a white outline around it (0). smooth transition. and remember that metal is reflective. when you choose shadows and highlights for your midtones.
Sketch an object’s most convex places (red lines). make sure they’re not only of a different brightness. there are two types of shadows: form and cast. Shading hair like this is different from usual because. mark the highlights (white lines). Silk highlights are bold and strongly separated from the shadows with a fast. Linen highlights are much more diffused and the transition is seamless. you have to take into account the additional light source. After you choose a light source.
5 REFLECTED LIGHTING
One of the crucial things for a painter to remember is that all objects interact with each other by reflecting light rays that fall on them back on to other objects.
Placing your light source behind your character helps if you want to achieve a halo effect in your painting. by following the arrows. This was done by adding some extra shades with a low opacity brush. In practice. it’s extremely important to pick shadows and highlights correctly. making the outer edges of the hair lighter then run over the outer strands with a moderately sized transparent airbrush to add ‘glow’. blocking the light from the source. ambient light is a good basis for a picture and it might be enough for simpler portraits.
8 GOLD EXPLAINED
A common mistake in painting gold is to only use colours from the yellow palette to render it. but also a different hue. you can easily implement this effect by adding some extra coloured shades with a low opacity brush (see arrows below for examples). There’s nothing better than a strong light source to add some drama.Workshops
Marta Dahlig reveals ten of her favourite pieces of advice on how to tackle lighting in your painting
1 HALO EFFECT
If you want to create an aura behind a character. placed in front of our primary one. highlights and shadows if you have characters lit by a boldly coloured. place the light source behind it. To depict that. how the dress interacts with the skin and the skin with the dress. the light will also shine through the skin and flesh.
9 SKIN TONES MADE EASY
Use Photoshop’s Colour Balance tool to match skin tones. This way. creating rays (1). The most convex areas are going to be the most highlighted.
3 COLOUR CHOICES
While it doesn’t matter what basic colour you choose for the skin of your character.
Here you can see. the cast shadow (2) is created by another object. While the form shadow (1) is naturally generated by an object in range of the light source. I ran over the hand with a light transparent airbrush. simply make the ‘softer’ parts of the body part more saturated (2 and 3). brown and green. and will also create a slight shadow (blue lines). Basically. you might sometimes want to spice things up a bit.
To depict rays of light between the lit objects. aside from the ‘typical’ shading of the strands in ambient light. the hair will seem to be glowing.
In general. strong light source.
7 STRONG LIGHT SOURCES
While the general. Remember the light will also beam between all the lit objects.
Copy drawings from various anatomy book. Studying master work enables you to pick up how artists denoted form and to incorporate this into your own work
3 OUTLINES DON’T EXIST
Think across form instead of in terms of a form’s outline.
Intersperse your drawings from reference with drawings from your imagination.
4 STUDY GESTURE
Gesture is the heart of drawing – if the gesture has no life. Notice how there are rarely in nature curves which are related to one another as parentheses. torso. which describes how offset curves interact to create form. things that twist and have human-like characteristics. There is no shortcut to understanding anatomy and drawing: you have to practise . Rebecca Kimmel offers some wise words to get you started
1 BASIC SHAPES
Always think of big. Try doing several cross-contour drawings. and legs can be broken down into spheres.
. cylinders and boxes. You’ll be surprised at what you know well – and what you don’t. arms.
Test yourself by seeing what you know using only what’s in your mind as reference
10 THINK NATURAL
Draw organic forms that aren’t human. This will give you a better feeling for depth. Outlines don’t exist. Use your eye to develop forms on the page. Gesture is about quickly finding the essence of the pose. rather curves in nature are offset in a DNA/ double helix fashion. ten or 15-minute poses. neck.
9 BUILD A SINGLE VISION
Look at figurative work and build your library of mental imagery. doing your best to imitate that artist’s form and style.
2 LIFE DRAWING
It’s always best to draw from life.Artist insight Become a better artist!
TOP TEN ANATOMY TIPS
Learning to draw anatomy is a lifelong process. If you can’t draw from a life model. Figure out what you want to say as much as how you want to say it. It’s an art form to capture something quickly and accurately. do a series of selfportraits to ensure you get a grasp of life drawing. This perspective will change the way that you draw. Usually a rendered drawing turns out to lack the life and vitality that a fast sketch captures. pelvis. in which you map the topology of form by drawing what you might think of as an ant’s tracks across the form. I wrote an article for the CGSociety called Opposing Curves. Try to spend as much time working in front of live models as you can. basic shapes instead of anatomy. Find the Renaissance masters that you love and analyse what makes drawings and paintings work for you. Test yourself by seeing what you know without using any reference but what’s in your mind. The major forms of the body – the head.
6 SKETCH ANATOMY
Draw large with charcoal to understand whole forms and gesture.
5 TIMED POSES
Draw and paint in timed exercise sets of two. and combine your artistic goals into a singular vision over time. then the drawing won’t either.
7 MASTER COPIES
A master copy is using a great artist’s work as reference. Remember that you are half of the ‘life’ in a life drawing. five. but draw in a sketchbook with ballpoint pen or pencil to learn anatomy.