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Print at Nov 30, 2020 12:47:46 PM
Posted by SilveRansom at Jul 2, 2008 8:53:32 AM
Silveransom's Avatar Tech
[Warning, many pictures]

It's come up a few times, and I've wanted to do a Photoshop tutorial since before my YPP days, so here's a whirlwind tour of my methodology of avatar art. It's actually a bit generalized, but this is how I wind up doing most of my avatar art.

1. Draw something cool in my sketchbook. I do this with a ballpoint pen, most of the time. It's personal preference... as is the definition of "cool". This particular monkey is actually a component of an avatar I did for Phillite. He works as a standalone critter, though, so I'm reusing him for this project. (Which also means that, as might be expected, I ask that the art in this thread not be used elsewhere.)

2. Scan it in to Photoshop, usually at 600 dpi. This gives me room to play with effects. I usually shrink it down once it's all painted the way I like it, but I like working big. It gives me more freedom to try big, sweeping brushstrokes, and more precision in tweaking. I bought a cheap Memorex scanner on sale for $40 years ago, and it's been fantastic.
By the way, if you're serious about computer art, do yourself a favor and get a tablet. Wacom Bamboo tablets are a great entry level product. The software doesn't matter all that much, since paint.net, GIMP and ArtRage are free and will suffice, and some tablets come with software. I use Photoshop Elements 2 because it's what I have handy. I also use Painter on occasion, but that's an indulgence. The tablet, though... that's almost essential.


3. Use Photoshop's Levels modifier to clean up the sketch. I make a duplicate of the scanned layer, just in case I need the original for some reason, and apply Levels (Ctrl-L) to the duplicate. Pulling in both end knots a wee bit cleans up most of the static that came from the scan.


4. Since my sketches tend to be a little rough, I need to do some Rubber Stamp surgery to clean up a bit. The Rubber Stamp tool takes data from a source part of the image, and replicates it elsewhere. You Alt-click to define the source, and then "paint" the duplicate, winding up with this sort of effect, here duplicating the alternate arm's thumb:


5. Rubber Stamp to clean the drawing, like this:


6. I then make a new level (on which I'll be painting), and move the clean sketch to the top of the stack, and set the level blending type to Multiply. This lets me treat it as an outline, and paint the color in underneath.


7. Start painting on a layer underneath the drawing. I don't paint on the drawing layer. All coloring takes place on layers between the drawing and the white background layer I've set up. This gives me the ability to tweak the painting independent of the background and the sketch. This use of layers is one of the huge strengths of Photoshop (or any program that uses layers), and why working digitally can be a very different animal from traditional art.


8. The base color for the monkey is in, carefully covering his space. Now, it's time for another layer for the shadowing.


9. The shadow layer is just a bit of paint that's darker than the base color. It's painted in a bit roughly at first...


10. Then the Gaussian Blur filter gets applied, to soften it up (I usually do this, as illustrated, on a copy of the shadow painting layer, just in case I need to go back a step and tweak it):


11. This makes for a nice rounding effect, and even gives a nice "reflected lighting" subtlety to the larger areas, like the monkey's torso. (The dark side of most objects in real space is tempered a bit by reflected light, which this neatly simulates.)


12. The Gaussian Blur pretty much obliterates the subtle shadows in the hair, so I make a new layer, and start painting in new, detailed shadows. These are brushstrokes, like the main shadow layer, but I don't use the Gaussian Blur on these. I just use the Smudge tool to push things around the way I like them. Here's a close shot on the hair in progress:


and the tail:


and I sharpen up the cast shadow under the chin with a few additive strokes:


13. Erase around the edges of both shadow layers. It's a subtle thing, but this shows how the Gaussian Blur pushed the color out of the outlines. I prefer to keep things clean, so I erase the blurred bit.


14. Now for a highlight layer. I do this the same way I did the shadow layer, just with a different color, and from a different direction. In other words, paint,


blur,


and make a secondary highlight layer for detail work, then erase around the edges to be clean:


15. Since monkeys in YPP have a two tone look to them, with the belly, feet, hands and face a different color, I make a new layer to try to get this effect.


16. Paint the relevant parts in a lighter color, then change the layer Blending options to get the desired effect. I settled on Soft Light. This allows me to paint in a second color tone, without losing the shading and hair effects I've made so far:



17. Close to being done, it's time for little tuning. I decided that the monkey's belly needed a bit more dimension, so I added a bit to the shadows:


18. Finish by painting the sword on a few new layers, using similar effects for shading:


Add a layer for his eyes and nose...
aaand he's done!


Since this was done at 600 dpi, it's not really ready for an avatar. It comes out to be this big, useful for seeing detail:
http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d155/SilverwingsArt/MonkeyTutorial/Monkey2Huge.jpg

After rescaling the resolution, a middle sized version looks like this:


And the avatar might look like this:


It loses a lot of detail at that scale, so this methodology isn't always appropriate. It's how I work because I like to have my art around at high resolution if I need it for my portfolio, especially if I need to print it out. Working high and reducing as necessary winds up looking a lot better than working small and magnifying it if necessary.

I would also usually go back and flatten some layers, erase the edges, throw in a background and/or a border... but that's about it.

Thanks for stopping by! I'm happy to answer any questions.

-Silver
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Silveransom
makes art like this or this &
Blender Eggs!

Posted by Libelle at Jul 2, 2008 9:37:57 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
Nice tutorial! Very thorough and easy to follow. You make it look easier than it is because you actually know how to do believable shading.
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Kolibri of Viridian
Libelle on Hunter & Sage
Avatar by Phillite


Posted by SilveRansom at Jul 2, 2008 11:47:41 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
Thanks! I'm glad it makes sense. I do presuppose a familiarity with Photoshop, and the idea that someone knows what they want to do. (And that anyone cares what I have to say about art.) This is largely a technique dissertation, rather than a "this is how you do art" thing. ;)

I'm mostly just glad it's comprehensible. I'm sleep deprived today, and wrote it before I was fully awake.
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Silveransom
makes art like this or this &
Blender Eggs!

Posted by frostyangelz at Jul 2, 2008 2:00:29 PM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
That monkey looks awesome.
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Frostyangelz - Everywhere
Frostease - In other places

Posted by Teallie at Jul 2, 2008 3:34:38 PM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

The monkeh is sooo cute!!!
I wanna hug it!

Very nice tutorial :D
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Commission an avvie ... or click here to PM

Current avvie, by me

Posted by N_o_v_a at Jul 2, 2008 5:10:21 PM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
I like the monkey in blue. :D

Great tutorial!
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Phillite, Emerald

Posted by SilveRansom at Jul 2, 2008 5:15:20 PM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
So you're not mad at me for using the monkey again?

*makes puppy dog eyes*

I figured blue was a fun color for this sort of experimental thing. Besides, I want a blue monkey. ;) Glad ye like it, mate!
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Silveransom
makes art like this or this &
Blender Eggs!

Posted by Gumptiongirl at Jul 4, 2008 7:02:44 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
Nice Tutorial Silver :)

something you said made me think of a question though..

 
Since this was done at 600 dpi, it's not really ready for an avatar. It comes out to be this big, useful for seeing detail:


Which do you recommend for when you plan to resize into an avatar size?
or does this not matter?

(bolded so you know what i was referring to, heh)

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Surrptitious/ Slurppie - Cerulean

Feb Frenzy
Feb Frenzy 2.0

Posted by SilveRansom at Jul 4, 2008 8:45:35 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
 
Which do you recommend for when you plan to resize into an avatar size?
or does this not matter?


Sur, monitor(screen) resolution is 72 ppi. Avatar size is 150x150 pixels. Ultimately, dpi doesn't matter all that much for the computer's sake, since things are always displayed at 72 ppi. It's just that if you change the graphic resolution to 72 ppi, you can see how it "really" looks.

It's the difference between dpi (dots per inch) and ppi (pixels per inch). Monitors can only physically display at 72 ppi, where printers can print at various dpi settings.

So, I work at print resolution (600 dpi is a bit overkill, since 300 looks great, but if I work at 600, I can effectively print at double scale) for my portfolio's sake, and so I can get in details. When I'm done painting, and want it at avvie size, I save it as another file (so I keep the original at big size) first. Then, I go to the Image Size command in Photoshop, change the ppi to 72, then the image size to 150x150 (which means I work in a square so that it scales properly).

...does that make sense, and answer your question? The difference between dpi and ppi is the heart of what's happening there. That, and that 72 ppi is the baseline for monitors.

Edited to add: As for "does it matter", well... yes and no. If you're working at 600 or even 300 like I am, it doesn't matter much. If you work at 150 ppi, however, when you rescale it, you may see some mild distortion thanks to the computer trying to cram 2.083333 pixels into the space of one. It's not a big effect, but it can get a little artifactish around sharp details. (Like a JPEG distortion, in a way.) Scaling down from the larger sizes means the ratio is different, but so much detail is lost anyways that it doesn't matter.

Working at 144 ppi or 288 ppi (2x and 4x the base 72, respectively) provides more accurate rescaling. Four or sixteen pixels get jammed into one that way, and the sampling is more accurate. Then again, sometimes it's nice to have that slight fudge factor, as it can sort of "blur" some of the harsher details, and make those Microsoft Paint pencil lines softer. It's probably just best to start messing around with different resolutions to see what it does for your work, and what effect you like best. :D

Thanks!

-Silver
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Silveransom
makes art like this or this &
Blender Eggs!

Posted by Gumptiongirl at Jul 6, 2008 3:57:00 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
Oh wow.

I had no real Idea of the implications those settings have.
(learning on ones own has its drawbacks ..-_-" )

Thanks very much Silver :D
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Surrptitious/ Slurppie - Cerulean

Feb Frenzy
Feb Frenzy 2.0

Posted by Shorty_Jack at Jul 6, 2008 4:53:14 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
I learned new tricks!

<3
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Shortyjack of the Midnight Ocean
Avatar Shoppe

Posted by frogkissed11 at Jul 6, 2008 7:27:43 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
I wish I had art talent. That munki is so cute, and the tutorial makes a fair bit of sense even to the artisticly challenged.. *grin*

So.. lets see you do a sheep ;)
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JainaSolo, sheepish jedi
Blazeblade says, "you're talking to a SHEEP?"

Posted by dan1701 at Jul 7, 2008 1:52:07 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
 
I wish I had art talent. That munki is so cute, and the tutorial makes a fair bit of sense even to the artisticly challenged.. *grin*

So.. lets see you do a sheep ;)


Roasting on a BBQ >.>
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Mrtickle/Mrtickles More commonly in plural form

Still Rioting if less than ever.

Posted by frostyangelz at Jul 7, 2008 3:23:46 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
 
 
I wish I had art talent. That munki is so cute, and the tutorial makes a fair bit of sense even to the artisticly challenged.. *grin*

So.. lets see you do a sheep ;)


Roasting on a BBQ >.>

With sauce.
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Frostyangelz - Everywhere
Frostease - In other places

Posted by starsapphire at Jul 10, 2008 8:41:32 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
As someone who is just starting to play around with CS3, this is extremely helpful!! I was only using 3-5 layers per project (for example my avvie only has 3) but looking at your tutorial I think I'm going to try useing your method.

/e wanders off looking around for something to draw....
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Falmari on all Oceans

In water they had great delight, and those that came at last to the western shores were enamoured of the sea.

Posted by Kirppu1 at Jul 11, 2008 11:07:57 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
I've got to tell you, just because this is so embarrassing..

Before I read this wonderful thread, I didn't know there's a motion blur tool in photoshop :S I've just been using that damn smudge tool -.-

Oh my god I'm so stupid.


ps the forums have started to CORRECT ME??? :o
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~Kirppu on the Meridian ocean~
Current avatar by Mangouste!

Posted by Aethas at Jul 11, 2008 11:24:47 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
Don't feel embarassed.. I still can't find that gaussian blur tool...
Looked like everywhere for it...
All I know about is the blur tool...
And btw, this thread totally pimped my avvies o.O
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Raphy sailing the sage ocean,
Avvie by me

Posted by SilveRansom at Jul 11, 2008 11:41:58 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
Motion Blur and Gaussian Blur are quick ways to get some nice effects. Both are considered Filters, and should be under the Filter menu.

SJ, I'm surprised you learned something here, but I'm glad of it. Just as I'm happy that anyone is getting something useful out of this. :)

Oh, and nobody tell Jaina that I'm working on something with a sheep in it. Distract her with this piece I did two years ago:

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Silveransom
makes art like this or this &
Blender Eggs!

Posted by fireopal at Jul 11, 2008 12:06:39 PM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
0.0
There are other blur tools? Oh me gee. I'm like a sheep without a Jaina. Ever since I found out about the Smudge tool, I've been a strong smudge advocate because it's anywhere from 50 to 200x more powerful than the Blur tool. The Blur tool is the cause for the terrible job on my avatar banner. :P

I'd like to see some more new tricks!
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Salmagundi on Sage | Proxima on Malachite
The shoppe is closed for good.
Retired. I pay my dues to my mates.

Posted by SilveRansom at Jul 11, 2008 12:36:11 PM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
 
Ever since I found out about the Smudge tool, I've been a strong smudge advocate because it's anywhere from 50 to 200x more powerful than the Blur tool.


I never use the Blur tool. The strength of the Smudge tool can be dialed back, so if I ever need something mildly blurred, I use the Gaussian Blur (Filter) or a low strength Smudge tool.

As Rhodin mentioned, you can draw around an area with the selection lasso and do the Gaussian Blur within that. I tend not to bother, since it's faster and smoother for me to just put it on a layer, GB it, and erase what I don't like. Playing around with the selection (especially if you alter the selection feather setting) can definitely make for some good effects, though.
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Silveransom
makes art like this or this &
Blender Eggs!

Posted by sirwinston at Jul 11, 2008 5:34:09 PM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
I seriously flipped out. That is the coolest/cutest/awsomest most amazing monkeh! ever. You have mad skills my freind, mad skills.
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BloodyBill on the Cerulean Ocean (of Cobalt origin).

Posted by frogkissed11 at Jul 11, 2008 7:38:27 PM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
*perks up* sheep?

I'm not so easily distracted though...

But that piratey ram is wickedly awesome looking.

*inches close* sooooo... new sheep project? do tell miss jaina more..
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JainaSolo, sheepish jedi
Blazeblade says, "you're talking to a SHEEP?"

Posted by jlybelly at Jul 15, 2008 12:39:57 PM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
Wow, I've been using Photoshop for years, and even I learned something new! Thanks a ton for the tutorial, I was wondering how people do such detailed avatars when they only have 100 pixels to work with xD I can't believe I didn't realize that.

/e runs off to make an avatar.
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Main Character:

Captinfashin of Hunter Ocean, Captain of Fashinably Slayed, Lady of Skellie Slayers

Posted by Gumptiongirl at Jul 23, 2008 4:44:41 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
 
I've just been using that damn smudge tool -.-


I feel that i must say on my own part.. since I really started using le tablet

the smudge tool is my best friend



...lol
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Surrptitious/ Slurppie - Cerulean

Feb Frenzy
Feb Frenzy 2.0

Posted by Kirppu1 at Jul 23, 2008 9:22:54 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
 
 
I've just been using that damn smudge tool -.-


I feel that i must say on my own part.. since I really started using le tablet

the smudge tool is my best friend



...lol

Well smudge tool IS very handy, but if you need to blur large areas it's rather slow and annoying to use smudge
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~Kirppu on the Meridian ocean~
Current avatar by Mangouste!

Posted by SilveRansom at Jul 23, 2008 9:28:22 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
Smudge can also introduce weird shapes, especially if you're using it at a strong setting, and/or trying to do large areas (and that's if the large Smudge brush doesn't crash your computer or lag so badly that it's unusable). The Blur filters provide more uniform blurs, and they are often better for large areas, especially the Gaussian Blur.

Both are valuable tools, it's just a matter of finding the most appropriate place for them. ;)

Edit2: Jaina, the sheep is part of a piece I'm doing for Saadskellie, by his request. I might just have to break it off as its own piece, like I did for the monkey here. Things have been stupidly crazy of late, though. (insert long rant about finances, salesmen and guillotines) I'll post it when I'm done, and after I've given it to Saad.
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Silveransom
makes art like this or this &
Blender Eggs!

Posted by lamour at Jul 30, 2008 5:57:02 AM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
Wonderful post! XD
I love that cool sheepy <333333
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I admire Dora
Back and moved to midnight as Hudie ^^
Avatar by meee~
Reopened my avvie shoppe

Posted by lcawte at Apr 17, 2009 1:42:24 PM
Re: Silveransom's Avatar Tech
You should sell these! I love em.. gonna save this as a word doc and try it...
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Lcawte All Oceans
Senior Officer, Privateers of Emerald Ocean. Former Governor of Barbary Island.
Sage: Lcawte - Captain Of Scottish Seadogs , King Of [url=tinyurl.com/lb


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