Back to basics: illustrating



Ator Mondis years

To see what I did in the past, go here. The style and all is what I developed drawing on a very constant basis from age 14 until age 20.

Ator Modnis covers

Ator Modnis covers, 1990, 1991

Producing Gila Pradopo

When producing the illustrations for Gila Pradopo (and providing feedback to some of the illustrators) I got annoyed and was triggered to start illustrating myself again.

Why do it yourself when a machine can do it better

Most illustrators (I think) have aligned the “easteticly consuming mind” with the part of the mind with which we actually produce the illustration.

I start with some image in my mind, start “balancing out” my lines and from that derive the image I “see in front of me”. The sketches I produce are quite raw. Scribbles lead to the image that is closest to “what feels good”.

Corrections are done in that way as well. I work “to get the feeling right”.

Both images above are produced that way. All images below are made that way.

But some things a machine can do better than I can. And faster.

Shadows, shades, light, Blender, Daz3D and GIMP

Lacking the practice and wanting to get to acceptable results fast (trained illustrators can get to amazing results in 30 minutes to one hour, see this video or this one. I lack that training)

So I started researching the tools that might help me skip several steps and get to a proper starting point in as short an amount of time possible.

Face , Daz3D

Face , Daz3D

Daz3D offered me a quick and easy way to produce 3D models to render so I could produce the shadows and shadings without having to figure everything out in my mind.

Rendered result in Blender

Rendered result in Blender

Blender would then help me render the scene (with shadows and without color) so I could do step 3 of my process: get the shapes of the shades and shadows.

Getting to this face was impossible with the standard settings in Daz3D. So I had to build my own modifiers. That would look like this:

Deformers in Daz3D

Deformers in Daz3D

D-former in action

D-former in action

Each of these so-called D-formers consists of 2 parts: the area of influence (yellow and red dots) and the deformer (the thing on a stick). By “pushing”, “pulling” and “moving” the affected area you can shape any part of the object, making the jawline broader or less broad, the nose wider or less wide and so on.

I built around 20 D-formers for this and another shape. For instance: to get jawline, nose, skull, cheekbones and nostril shape right.

(The objects would be mirrored in Blender, probably due to a different way to coordinate things on the X axis. I did not take time to figure this out)

For this I used GIMP and Posterization.

Posterization is a process in which the colors or shades of an image are “posterized” using one or more thresholds to “flatten” the colors. Posterization of “4 levels” would look like this:



This I would then import into Adobe Illustrator and trace. (Converting a bitmap into a vector drawing.

I worked with several versions, to avoid having to do all this myself. For instance: this:


Body in black

The black silhouette would help me do get the outline of the drawing much quicker (30 seconds) and much more precise than i would doing this by hand.

Base shadows

Base shadows

Taking the base shadows would produce something like the image above.

And so on. Each “level” in the posterization process would reveal new shadings and help me get things right.

With the background, that would lead to variations like this:



Bottom line: a lot of work already done for me.

Work in Progress: on its way to get somewhere decent

After roughly 24 hours of work, this is where the illustration is now.


Illustration in progress

A lot still need to be done (the big cat’s front leg / elbow still looks “misplaced” for instance. The figures are not yet integrated fully with the background).

Why this process?

When you look at the render of Daz3D you might wonder why I take the effort to move an already very good result into a process that seems to take endless amounts of time.

The bottom line reasons:

  1. Time
  2. Control
  3. Strive for perfection

Daz3D has its limits as has Blender. The images that come out of those applications will still look artificial. You will never get the hair of the characters as you might like to have it. (And though you do get reasonable results, it is just not realistic enough)

Next steps

My strive is to be able to produce illustrations of higher quality than you see in the Work in Progress above. I still am figuring out how to get my shadows and shadings right.

I am discovering that sometimes “re-doing” the work that Adobe Illustrator and GIMP did for me with the Posterized images by hand is faster and delivers much better results.

Mucha and Waterhouse

I ma a fan of Mucha and the next step is to get towards results like this:



And this.



But also to more straight forward work like this (Goni Montes):

Goni Montes

Goni Montes

And black and white (by Sit):




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