It's something like indies work versus commercial work. In the commercial world, you are expected to satisfy everyone but yourself. Page views and faves are of utmost importance. Whereas in the indies world, you just do whatever you like, and even if people don't like it, who cares?
For me, MT represents the "commercial" world while dA remains my "indies" world. I set myself an MT guideline of "must be good enough to get into the elite gallery". And then there are the users. I get stressed and anxious submitting my work to be scrutinised by such people. And when a wallpaper I submit doesn't quite prove to be that much of a hit (even if I like it a lot), I get irritated, depressed, anxious, and pretty much every negative emotion you can find in the dictionary.
In dA, I just don't really care. I know that there are lots of great artists out there, but I don't bother pitting myself against them. I just submit what I want and basically do what I want. That includes all the random tribal art and AMR wallpapers. There are no strict quality guidelines, and since I'm pretty obscure and I don't engage in self-publicity, I don't attract scrutiny from the aforementioned great artists. In fact, I don't attract much scrutiny at all, which is fine for me.
And now I am experiencing that MT backlash. It was the same back in the days of AnimePaper, and I guess some things don't change. I will still be a contributing member of MT, but I think I really need to get to work on something which I will not submit to MT. At least I can enjoy the creation process without worrying about what other users will say.
Anyway, I also need a break from work too. Luckily, I've managed to finish my more urgent work tasks recently, so now I'm more relaxed. I'm going on a holiday soon! Plus, there's M3-33 around the corner. I'm excited for Mamyukka's new "youkai-themed" mini album. Ishihara Keiko and Miyazono Yuria will be releasing full albums, while I can expect works from Wave, Deidara and Hatsuki Yura, among others. I just love the build-up to each event. It's far more exciting than the event itself
Needless to say, I didn't make much progress in Photoshop or Manga Studio at all. I haven't bought Manga Studio yet! I know there's a new update, but I haven't even had the time to properly use Manga Studio yet. I find it difficult to justify my purchase if I can't even find the time to sit down and use it. In the meantime, whatever little Photoshop time I have hasn't been good...nothing has really been going my way. I tried to do cliffs; ended up with crystals. Which isn't too bad, but I don't know if I should scrap several weeks of hard work to try for something which may not turn out to be good.
I still am very busy but I'm just posting this to say that I'm alive, and hopefully after 2 more weeks the workload should ease off a little. It's the M3-33 event in April! At least that's something to look forward to
Sora + Riku circle only:
The circle only (PSD):
The pattern I created for the border (PSD):
Background reference: link
Sora + Riku vector mask paint: link
Destiny Island Line Art: link
And finally, just for fun, Riku with black hair: link
Oh my GAWRSH it is finished.
But then again, when I survey this finished work, I realise that it is a poor wallpaper. I set it as my desktop background and I can’t really see the icons and my Rainlendar on the right side. Plus, the logo on the top right corner gets blocked by my widgets.
(Actually, I only have the picture slideshow and the Rainlendar widgets. But it is enough to block the logo)
Well regardless, I am proud of this as a picture. That’s because I put in a lot of effort and I felt that my Photoshop skills have improved. I managed to recapture the vector mask painting technique that went completely haywire after I learnt how to paint. I also learnt a few nifty tricks along the way, one being the importance of having large canvas sizes. From now onwards, I am doing my walls in a canvas size that’s twice as large as the final size.
So now, here goes the description.
Concept + Planning
Back when AnimePaper.net was still alive, I chanced across a fantabulous Aqua wallpaper by Ravenrogue. With AP down now, you can still see the wallpaper…on Zerochan. Not exactly the best place to link, but I really can’t find a post by the original artist. This artist describe how he (or she, I don’t know) was inspired by Disney nouveau pictures, the ones like the style used in the Kingdom Hearts awakening platforms. After that I decided that I was going to do a wallpaper of that style. Fast forward to 2012, when I haven’t done a single thing to start a wallpaper of that style. I was playing KH: Dream Drop Distance. When I saw the animation sequence of sealing the keyhole, I knew that I wanted a wallpaper with that. I thought of putting the keyhole on an awakening platform and having Sora and Riku images on the awakening platform. That’s how the idea for the circle came about. With my research done in Disney nouveau, I decided that I would extend the circle to fill up the sides of the wallpaper.
Again, fast forward to 2013. I still haven’t done anything for the wallpaper. One fine day, I was crawling through Pixiv when I found this user’s profile. When I first knew him (or her, but when in doubt, I default to “him”), the username was “Marlboro”. Not exactly a kid-friendly username, but ah well. Eventually he changed his username to “TAKUMI”. This person had done fan art for Studio Ghibli movies like Nausicaa and Howl’s Moving Castle. It is in the same Disney nouveau style. That was the much-needed push for me to start this wall.
I placed an awakening circle in the centre of the wallpaper, behind Sora and Riku, with Sora and Riku referenced from the KH3D official wallpaper. I referenced TAKUMI’s pictures and numerous KH official art, trying to extend the background behind the circle, but to no avail. The thing is that I fail at drawing stuff without any reference, and I utterly fail at drawing stuff that is randomly placed, for example, flowers and leaves. I need structure and form. As such, I couldn’t draw those amazing backgrounds in the style of the Disney nouveau, because they use a lot of foliage which I just couldn’t draw. I spent about 3 hours just going back and forth in my KH images folder, trying to come up with a suitable background. Eventually, I partitioned the background into 4 sections. Divide and conquer, so says the programmer. I actually wanted the whole lower half to be the keyblade graveyard but I didn’t have a good-enough reference image to draw it, so I ditched the idea. I placed 4 circles in each partition, and then I decided, why not put the KH insignia in those circles? KH was well known for its insignia after all.
After that, I was almost going to use this idea from this KHII Final Mix promotional artwork. Anyway, to prepare for this, I grabbed a Twilight Town image (as seen in the background reference) and placed it in the top left corner. And suddenly I decided, why not use four different worlds in the four partitions? Each world should relate to each of the insignia that I was placing in the circles.
My initial idea was:
- Nobody -> Twilight Town
- Heartless -> Traverse Town (of course I had to place this world!)
- Unversed -> Keyblade Graveyard
- Dreameater -> Destiny Island Secret Place (the cave with the drawings)
Circle + Border
I did the circle first, based off the awakening station for Roxas in KHII. I picked this one with Destiny Island as opposed to Ventus’ one with the Keyblade Graveyard, as I felt that the Keyblade Graveyard was not significant in KH3D. Destiny Island would be more relevant; in fact, it is relevant to all KH games, being the home of our heroes.
Instead of having character mug shots in the inner circles, I used the KH heart insignia. Then, I also created the keyhole image, surrounded by little diamonds, in the centre. This was based off the KH3D keyhole sealing animation. As for the border, it was initially plain white with a black outer stroke. I tried to put cutouts for Sora’s and Riku’s keyblades in the horizontal partition, but Sora’s keyblade was too simplistic and too small as compared to Riku’s keyblade. As such, it ended up looking unbalanced. Then, I decided that to counter the plainness, I should add a KH pattern, not unlike the ones you see on official wallpapers. I created that anyway, using vectors, and there’s a download link for the pattern at the top of this journal entry. To be consistent with the “ability to flip” the wallpaper, I had the pattern flip at the centre of the horizontal partition. I know it’s not very obvious, but yes, it does flip nicely.
The insignia was vectored based off reference images found all over the internet. Initially, I vectored them at a small size. To avoid the “curling” of pointed edges when using the outer stroke effect, I had a separate layer for the outlines. Unfortunately, this meant that it was very difficult to get an even stroke effect. I was all ready to submit, but the unevenness of the strokes just kept bothering me, so I went back, created a 1024x1024 canvas, and vectored the insignia again. I used an outer stroke effect, and to obtain the pointed edges, I created a black vector shape behind the main insignia and added the pointed edges there. The larger canvas size meant that it was much easier to obtain the even stroke effect I wanted. Plus, when I scaled down the vector to meet the wallpaper’s required size, it also meant that some unevenness which I might have missed would be eliminated.
Having finished the circle and the border, I moved on to do the worlds first, leaving Sora and Riku for later.
I decided that Twilight Town would be my white rat. It was from doing Twilight Town that I established my workflow:
- Draw the line art with my tablet. This would aid in ironing out details that I cannot make out from the scan. For example, do I gloss over some details or do I invent my own? This was extremely useful for reference later.
- Do the official line art with the vector tool. I used shapes, not paths. I also had to set the thickness of the line art from Twilight Town, and I set it to…very thin. This part is the most laborious process and often I got extremely bored. When all was done, I set the line art to 50% opacity.
- Block in base colours using the lasso tool and layer mask + tablet.
- Fill one additional layer with the base colour. With the brush tool set on screen or multiply, block in shadings roughly, using the splatter brush to smudge. This helps to create texture.
- Add detailed shades using the base colour, but on separate layers with layer effects screen (for lighting) and multiply (for shadows).
- Add gradients for lighting effects.
- Paint clouds.
I glossed over most of the details for the clock tower. I know the limits of my ability! Anyway, I filled in the clock faces with something simplistic and left the 2 “horns” as solid blocks (the original has several fine carvings).
With this done, I moved to my favourite world…
I was determined to put more effort into this world, and so I included many more details, to the best of my ability (meaning: whether my eyes were able to resolve the details based off the horrid scan). This scan is definitely an initial concept of Traverse Town…the Jewellery Shop is not next to the Lady and the Tramp fountain! Anyway, I was unable to draw the fountain, so I just replaced it with a generic door. As per usual, I enhanced the lighting – Traverse Town’s style is like that after all. Night sky, nostalgic music, yellow lights…and the occasional Sniperwild
I added stars using the same old LadyVictoire brushes. This time, I tried to add pink and yellow and green to the stars because that’s what I saw in official Traverse Town artwork. In the end, it looked weird, so I toned down the colours.
Yet another horrid scan in which I had to gloss over some details. I made sure that none of the bottom garden would feature in this wall because I couldn’t make out anything for the life of me. The gears were randomly drawn – yes, something that I managed to do that was somewhat random! Anyway, it wasn’t really random; I just stared at the scan and went, “Oh this part looks solid; it must be a pipe!” and I drew lines based on my fancy. I would say that the lighting wasn’t done correctly; I initially wanted the light source to be on top, but when I did the clouds, I realised that it wasn’t consistent with Twilight or Traverse Town, so I had the clouds with the lighting coming below them. By then I was too lazy to change what I’ve done for the building so I just left it.
By this point, I also changed the way I group layers. In Twilight Town and Traverse Town, I grouped them according to structure. So for instance, in Traverse Town, I have groups of “Shop”, “The Very Wooden Building” etc. But Radiant Garden had only one structure, which is the central tower. So I ended up grouping according to colour. I found this to be far less layer-consuming than my previous method, and so I used this method for Destiny Island as well.
Ah, the killer. The line art just floored me. I spent several months just doing line art. In fact, I almost forgot that I was supposed to add colours. See the Destiny Island line art scrap (link at the top of the page). It was foliage, and foliage was never structured, so I randomly placed points along the direction of travel to create the foliage shape. I worked at 800% zoom for this portion, so that’s why I said I learnt the importance of large canvas sizes.
Colouring the foliage was another matter. I couldn’t do the “every leaf can be clearly seen” type of colouring because that wouldn’t fit with the wallpaper.
(Plus, that would be really, really tedious)
Instead, I created a sort of leafy texture by using my splatter smudge brush in another manner. I didn’t blend in the colours well and created uneven edges. Then I added in block shades of light and shadow. All in all, shading wasn’t that difficult; it was just tedious due to the amount of leaves in there.
I also changed the way I shaded water for Destiny Island. I created sparklies near the horizon, which I thought looked much nicer than Twilight Town’s lava and Radiant Garden’s still water. Unfortunately, the clouds for Destiny Island happen to be the stiffest of the 4 worlds. I didn’t really bother too much with them; I mean, the excitement of finishing the colouring and line art for Destiny Island meant that I was pretty much unable to think of anything else by the time I got to the clouds.
Well luckily I still remembered to do my characters. I decided that Sora would be my lab rat because, well, I prefer Sora to Riku. Mostly because Sora has been the main character and he is extremely likable. Riku…I hated him in the first KH, was “okay” with him in KHII and subsequent games, and I only started to warm up to him in KH3D. And I prefer Sora’s joint attacks with his Spirits, as opposed to Riku’s drives. The drive mode meant that RIku would be the only target in battle with no one to assist him. Sora’s joint attacks rendered him almost invincible. Plus, I managed to Whomperstomp Xemnas. Need I say more?
So I observed the official KH awakening artwork. It changes from game to game, you know? In the first KH, the line art is uneven and not so thick. In KHII, the line art is more even and not so thick as well. In BBS, the line art is clearly done with an outer stroke effect. The outermost line art is thicker than those on the character, and it is very even throughout. I decided to go with the BBS style but without using the outer stroke effect. This means thick outlines. I also observed that the shading was relatively light, sometimes nonexistent, on all awakening artwork. I decided that I would have a bit more details than that. Also, I decided that I would do vector mask painting to achieve a very smooth look for base colours.
Sora proved more difficult than I thought he would be, due to his chain and his zips. His chain! I just drew in whatever I could see and didn’t bother tuning it. The part behind his neck looks weird, but honestly, I really can’t make out the details there. I simplified the zips on his jacket and his shoes.
Owing to my traumatic 800% zoom on Destiny Island, I wisely increased Sora’s size and vector-mask-painted (VMP) him at a large size. As such, I felt that I did a very good job. The best thing is that my vector mask painting is baaaaaccckkk!! My technique went haywire after I finished The Dreamers and I couldn’t bring myself to do VMP for a while…until now. I’m glad that I’ve reconciled my painting and vectoring.
Riku was far simpler than Sora, as his back is facing the viewer and he has less colours. To be consistent with “awakening”, I closed Riku’s eyes.
(Also so that I needn’t bother about painting his eyes HAHAHAHA)
The most difficult part of Riku was his shoe pattern. I couldn’t see much from the original scan so I had to draw it in based on gut feeling. As I did with Sora, I resized Riku to a large size and VMPed him from there, so the details on the shoe weren’t too bad.
One thing to note is that I followed the lighting in the original scan. There’s two sources of lighting: one for Riku and one for Sora. I guess it’s to make it easier to rotate 180 degrees!
Overall, I prefer the result with Riku than with Sora…but that doesn’t change the fact that I prefer Sora to Riku in game, any time.
In the end, I still added a 1px outer stroke to Sora and Riku, to make them stand out more. I also added an outer glow and increased their saturation. Then, I added 2 gradients to add emphasis to the centre of the wall, a cloud filter to add texture, and I added stars…with LadyVictoire’s brushes, of course.
As per the KH3D concept of being able to rotate the image 180 degrees, I created 4 versions of this wall. It’s just permutations of Sora and Riku rotated and the background flipped up and down. So you can get anyone that you prefer. Personally, I created the wall with the concept of Riku going up, and Twilight and Traverse Towns in the top half, so this is obviously my preferred version.
(If you want to be picky and say that I didn’t flip the background horizontally…)
- Background elements (includes border): 18
- Circle: 78
- Twilight Town: 99
- Traverse Town: 226
- Radiant Garden: 146
- Destiny Island: 165
- Sora: 52
- Riku: 50
So what’s next?
I managed to get my hands on a second hand Wacom Intuos3, and boy, I was blown away by how easy it is to use. The increased sensitivity is pure bliss. I wonder what drove me to buy the Wacom Bamboo Fun four years ago. Sheer ignorance, I guess. With my new baby and my newfound love for Pandora’s Tower, my next wallpaper is going to be a fully painted Pandora’s Tower wallpaper. I’ve already started work on it. Of course, a Wacom Intuos does not make one a great artist, but I can look forward to painting with far greater ease so there will be many painting projects to come~~
Well it’s the year of the horse. The horse is one of those preferred animals of the Chinese zodiac to do designing with. I’d say the favourite animal of designers is the dragon, followed by the tiger and the horse. These are majestic creatures, after all. Last year was the year of the snake. The snake is often regarded as evil and cold and as such, I hardly saw any designs incorporating the snake. But this year, tons of horsy designs have sprung up, many incorporating the horse head with the 2014 logo.
I decided to do something horsy as well, but it’s not to “cash in” or anything. Heck I don’t even sell my work! Anyway, I like horses and Rapidash remains my favourite Pokémon. Not exactly a very useful Pokémon, but my favourite, nonetheless. I could draw horses, many years ago, but I could only draw them from one particular aspect, so I guess that pretty much sums up my horse drawing ability.
I decided to do tribal art, after a long absence. But then again, when I Google images of “tribal art”, I realise that my style is far from what one would commonly tag as “tribal art”. So maybe I’m not doing tribal art after all. So what could this be? A mish-mash of shapes that would come together and form one main shape? Geez.
Anyway, my initial idea was to combine a horse head with the Chinese character for horse. After an initial sketch, I realised that it looked more like a mutant, so I scrapped it. Instead, I drew the silhouette of a horse based off typical Chinese paintings of horses and had a good, long, hard look at it. I imagined it in tribal form and…it didn’t have the “POW” factor; it just didn’t. I figured that the “POW” factor would come from doing a tribal of only the horse’s head, but so many other people were doing that. I didn’t want to do the same.
I deleted the PSD file, and let the idea vegetate for a few days before I realised that I had one particular horse that fascinated me to no end – the Hobby Horse from Alice: Madness Returns. So I grabbed the concept art for the uniform form of the Hobby Horse (my favourite) and proceeded to draw it in my “fake-tribal” style.
The bridle and chain went without many patterns as I wanted them to stand out. The mane was purposely drawn with no circles/squares/triangles/whatever shapes have you; I wanted them to look fire-esque so I restricted myself to smooth strokes. I improvised with the swirly pattern and deliberately left it in one block with no patterns so that it may stand out. Finally, I had the horn adorned in such a way that it looked like a crown of sorts.
As for the rest of the body, I just drew them in depending on my mood. I uploaded my initial sketch and my final vector, so you can see how much the final vector has changed from the initial sketch. I vectored in 4000 x 4000px. It was easy to deal with details, but it also meant that I went into overkill for many details. When I resized it down, many small details would be lost to aliasing. But I couldn’t help it! When I see a large block of black, I immediately want to fill it in with something.
However, as I went along, I somehow got kind of brain-starved for new patterns, so you may find that some of the patterns repeat themselves. I did try my best to think of other ideas, but there’s just so many triangles/circles/squares that one can use, and I guess I was fatigued.
(Plus, I was trying to finish this before CNY)
Anyway, I’m happy now that I’ve finished my horsy obligation for this year. The wall with this design came as an afterthought. I thought it would look nice to incorporate the cracks (from the Hobby Horse in-game poster) behind my tribal vector and do something grungy, so I did that. The textures are from Texture King; it’s just 2 textures which I quickly grabbed off the website and used as they were (with some layer effects, of course). It's very simple; I finished the background within 2 hours or so.
So now that this is done, I shall devote myself to finishing that KH wallpaper which I keep talking about. After that, as per my previous journal entry, I’m highly motivated to do that Pandora’s Tower wallpaper which I managed to think of. Following which, I hope to do wallpapers for Ico and SoTC too. Here’s hoping that I don’t screw up.
Upon realising that he was having a conversation with a mega KH fan, he changed tack and said that he did not like games with "kiddy" graphics. His opinion of great graphics was Final Fantasy, or the new Tomb Raider series.
This is not the first time that I've heard someone discount a game for "lousy" graphics. There was someone else who refused to play games on the NDS because he felt that the graphics were lousy. He only wanted to play console games. And he didn't want to play Ookami for its "lousy" graphics.
Seriously, I feel that these people are mixing up graphics and design. Bad graphics would be the days of, say, Kyrandia. The MS-DOS days, you know. Design has nothing to do with the graphics. Graphics is more related to the system hardware.
Also, these opinions I highlighted are examples of the typical "mainstream" gamers. I call them the cliche type, the ones who play Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty or MGS. Not that I mind them, but when they start to disparage games like Shadow of the Colossus or Journey, or criticise Ookami's "sub-par" graphics, it really ticks me off. And it gets worse when they say that they play Tomb Raider because "Lara is hot"
Why is it that they cannot appreciate different kinds of games? KH's design may not be "adult" like FF, but to me, the strong theme of friendship (not love! Friendship!), as opposed to the amount of
Yes yes I am far from a mainstream person anyway. I listen to Japanese indies music and my games, while critically acclaimed, tend to fall far from the mainstream track. I'd say the most mainstream game that I play is KH. But those people I call "overly cliched, way too mainstream"...as much as I understand that everyone has different tastes, it kind of ticks me off when they fail to see the value in such beautiful games.
(well I was generally okay at first, until he started to disparage KH. Nothing wrong with not liking KH, but the way he said it ticked me off. I mean, he could just say, "I don't appreciate such a game; I don't get its premises" instead of "The game is rubbish! Running around whacking with a key, so childish!" Even worse, he had never played KH before. Now you know what got my beef)
Especially games like ICO and SoTC. I wanted to recommend SoTC to this fellow, but then I stopped - he would never see the value in a game with no random battles, no levelling up, and hardly any back story. He would never be able to appreciate the feeling of traversing the landscape with Agro and the wind at your back, or the triumph mixed with sadness as colossus after colossus is felled. And if he can't appreciate these, I'm certain that he will never be able to appreciate running around a bare castle while protecting this completely helpless girl with nothing but a stick.
Am I pigeonholing them? Somehow I am inclined not to think so. I'd rather keep these masterpieces safe from the mainstream perspectives of these people than risk having them skewered by their narrow mindedness. Or perhaps it's just me being narrow minded. Hmm.
...maybe I should stop reading the papers. After all, "no news is good news".
Anyway, it's a new year regardless, and so for this new year, I hope to be able to up my ante in digital art. I have planned several wallpapers that are of a much higher difficulty than my usual, due to my progress in tablet painting (and the introduction of Pixiv into my life). Currently I'm still working very hard on a KH wall. I've finished the background and am working on the characters now. The irritating part of it was that I moved my working layers to a new PSD file, and then in my zest to increase the size of my working canvas, I accidentally decreased the size of the canvas using "Image Size" instead of "Canvas Size"...and I didn't know, and I saved the PSD and closed it. BAM! Now all my working layers are of a smaller size. I could just increase the size and hope that the blurriness isn't evident, or I could just hope that I don't need to do any amendments to the re-sized working layers. Ah well. So with the new year, as I just mentioned, I'm increasing the size of my working canvas from 4000px wide to 5000px wide (to be eventually decreased to 2560px wide in the final version). I should think it's more than enough. I don't understand how people can work with 10000px, considering that the poor computer would be lagging and screaming bloody murder (mine is already screaming bloody murder with 4000px), but I guess they have their reasons (and a high level of tolerance for lag).
I also got a new pair of sports earphones! After 2 years of suffering with Audio Technica's god-awful sports earphones, I changed to the Yurbuds Ironman. Audio Technica is the lousiest brand ever. The sports earphones never stayed in my ear and I had to keep taking them out to wipe the sweat off them and to readjust their position. Plus, the rubber band that supposedly helped to increase the friction between ear and earbud kept moving out of place, and one of them dropped out entirely (and it was lost forever). The last straw was when the earbud dropped out after I was toweling the sweat off it (and I lost it forever too). I was so angry that I tossed the whole darn thing into the dustbin, vowing to invest in a good pair of sports earphones. And I really like this Yurbuds! It really stays in place, no matter how much I sweat (and I sweat a lot). The sound isn't fantastic, but it's good enough. The only thing I don't like are the cloth cables, which become soaked with sweat. I should think that they should have used the normal plastic wires, which are waterproof...but then again, this Yurbuds model was supposedly developed by this fellow who was a frequent participant in Ironman triathlons, so I guess there must have been reason for the cloth cables...
Finally, I have given myself the deadline of "the release date of KH2.5" as the time to finish my KH1.5. Which will take a long time. I'm very much a believer of grinding. I'm at Lv33 now, and I've just finished Deep Jungle. I plan to be "no less than Lv40" when I head to Agrabah (I have a phobia of that world) and "no less than Lv70" when I head to Hollow Bastion (tough boss battle). And of course, to be "no less than Lv99" at the final boss battle. I know I'm over-leveled. When I took Cloud on, I was running around to figure out his attack pattern, and while I was doing that, Donald and Goofy beat the living daylights out of him. Donald and Goofy! I have no idea how they did it, considering that I didn't give them any Ethers (because they always use them up!). Well, I'm on Standard Mode. I don't believe in making the going so difficult that it distracts me from the gameplay. Anyway, the point is that I'm on Standard Mode, so I should be able to finish them game in due time. I hope. Re:CoM is the killer for me, because most of the time is spent pouring over my deck and figuring out the possible values for x, y and z in the equation x + y + z = 21. That's because the Sonic Blade sleight requires it, and I use a "Sonic Blade spam" deck as my boss battle deck. Oh, another equation I spend a lot of time on is x + y + z = 15. That's the Blitz sleight, and I use it for regular battles.
Ok that's all. Have yourself a happy new year!
Anyone who bothers to read my journals should know my big, big crush on Shinomori Aoshi. Been head over heels since, when? 10 years ago? More than that, since I knew Aoshi since...erm...I was 14 years old? I think that's about right. Now you know how old I am -.- Yeah I jumped on the digital art bandwagon late in life, that's why I'm still not particularly skillful. But then again, art is for everyone of all ages, so I shouldn't be too conscious of my age. But I am!
ANYWAY. The point is. That actor. Really. Looks. Like. Aoshi. In. Real. Life. I just can't get his image out of my head. I guess it's because of his face shape. It's rather...sharp. The features are sharp. Oh whatever that means. I don't seem to be thinking straight anymore. I saw the image yesterday, I closed the browser, and 10 minutes later I'm firing up the browser to look again. And today I'm looking at it again.
Seriously. The staff of the RK movie just proved that there are men who can look like Aoshi in real life.
Therefore, I have decided...to not settle for just any guy. I'm always of the opinion that there are no manga lookalikes in real life. Now that it's been proven that you can have manga lookalikes that look really great (without looking like cosplayers), I shall set my standard for my future boyfriend to look just like Aoshi!! Muahahahahahaha
...Okay that was lame. But I am unattached. Oh wait. I am. To Photoshop. Ha! You see, people spend weekends with their significant other. Therefore, since I spend my weekends on Photoshop, Photoshop is my significant other.
Oh dear...I really am not thinking straight...that trench coat!! That...expression!!
The reason is simple: these fan forums are full of trolling. Nope, they're not trolling other fans; they're trolling the very artist that the forum was made for. I find it very disturbing. Why join a fan forum just to troll an artist? The worst thing is that they will hype for upcoming releases and then proceed to damn it to hell after it has been released. Now, why hype over something which you're not looking forward to? You would know that you will not like it because most artists release audio previews before its release. So why the hype, followed by the trolling? Isn't that ridiculous?
(And the worst thing is, they don't even buy; they download)
Granted, I know that people engage in hate-reading. Yes I used to do that; but I've stopped it a few years ago. It was stupid and childish. Why put so much effort into making others angry when it will only make yourself angry? Just avoid what you don't like! It's that easy. Makes life a lot happier.
Well I used to follow these forums because they got news faster than official channels. But now I think about it, why do I need the news so fast? The CD is going to come out on that stipulated release date, no matter how fast you get wind of the news. So just wait patiently
Aoshi reference: link
Anyway let me try out using stamps:
Oh darn I accidently deleted my draft of this journal entry. It was 4 pages long. Dammit. As if this wallpaper didn’t have enough mistakes associated with it.
So let me explain why I say that this wallpaper is full of mistakes.
I started this wallpaper with absolutely no idea how to proceed. All I knew was that I wanted a Shinomori Aoshi wallpaper with that particular manga scan. Actually I was in a very Kingdom Hearts and Ookami mood, what with my recent completion of Ookami HD and my starting of KH1.5. But I had so many KH and Ookami wallpapers planned that I decided that I wanted to break away for a bit.Now I know that it’s a very bad move for me to force myself to do something which was I was not really in the mood for.
Yes, I bought KH1.5 HD in the end. I’m glad I did. Going through the motions of running through the First District, into the Second District, taking a detour into the Hotel, run through the Dalmatians’ House (I love seeing the house get populated) into the Alleyway, jumping across the roofs into the Third District and finally ending up in the First District…I love Traverse Town!
Anyway, back to the topic. I knew I wanted to paint. And I also wanted some sort of grand “clouds circling the moon”-esque wall. So I thought, whatever, I’ve done clouds before, can’t be that hard to do it again, right? Well, I was so very wrong. The only right thing I did for this wall was to start working on the background first.
Sky + Clouds (Layers: 42)
I did a dark blue gradient for the background, and then proceeded to paint the clouds. Then I deleted them and painted them again. AND deleted them again AND painted them again. I have no idea how many times I redid the clouds. That’s because I felt that they kept looking like (pardon the language) floating pieces of 鼻塞. Those Chinese words there refer to the stuff you find in your nose. Well that was the first phrase that came to my mind while I was working on the wall, and I felt that it was best expressed in its original form, so I retained the language.
In case you’re wondering, I am not particularly fluent in conversational Mandarin, despite having been exposed to it my whole life. I can read some, enough to get by, but I can’t really understand more complex terms, for example, I can’t really understand newspaper articles. It’s tough to be bilingual, and since I have an English-speaking family, my Mandarin naturally suffered. But still, I am able to converse in Mandarin, just not fluently (and frequently interspersed with English).
So anyway, after the nth iteration of deleting clouds, I decided to try and enhance the background first. I thought that maybe by adding more features into the sky, it could serve as a reference for the clouds. In particular, the moon would serve as a focal point for the clouds. The moon was easy enough; just a couple of cloud filters for texture and gradients for light. After I added the moon, Shikata Akiko’s “Buonanotte” (off the album Turaida) kept looping in my head.
To digress again, Turaida is a fantastic album. But, out of all the recent releases, I prefer AliPro’s Reijyou Bara Zukan (令嬢薔薇図鑑). Turaida is a collection of lovely songs; Reijyou Bara Zukan is a collection of lovely songs centred on a common theme. This theme appears to be missing from Shikata’s 4th album. It appears to me that Shikata was experimenting with different song types and instruments, and decided to compile them together, along with some tie-ups, into one album. No doubt the songs are lovely, but I would prefer a stronger binding theme, what with the lovely-sounding title of “Turaida”. Reijyou Bara Zukan’s binding theme is the “House of Rose”, and most of the songs are of the dark romantic type. Even if they aren’t of that type, they still fit with the theme. In any case, it’s tough to beat AliPro when they do dark romantic.
So, back to the wall. I did the moon, and used DanLuVisiArt’s brushes (yet again) to paint some faint cloud details. Then I added stars from the usual: LadyVictoire’s and BL1nX’s. I didn’t really bother doing the stars up nicely, so they may look a little sloppy.
After I did all of that, it was back to the clouds again. I kept pulling out “Demon Leader” and wondering, “How the hell did I do this last time?” Well, the answer is simple: clouds on a dark background are more difficult to do than clouds on a light background. At least that was what I found. On a dark background, every little mistake becomes apparent. Plus, the colours used are critical. Clouds at night are not white like their counterparts in daytime; they are a bluish grey, and not just any bluish grey. Being someone who finds it very difficult to pick colours, I had a hard time picking the right base colour and the corresponding colours for light and shadow. What worked for me was to use a gradient instead, and it was the same gradient I used for the background. So I brushed in the base shape first and then did a clipping mask with the gradient, followed by the merging of the 2 layers.
I did a different method of texturing the clouds this time. The last time I used a soft round brush on 20% opacity and drew random circles around until they resembled clouds. This time, I picked colours for light and shadow and blocked them in at 20% opacity. Then, I switched to a speckle brush (default Photoshop brush, 100px) and sampled colours off the picture to blend the light and shadows together. I used the speckle brush at 20% opacity because at a low opacity, it encourages blending and its speckle-ness adds texture. After that, I added separate layers for more lights and more shadows. So that’s how I did the clouds.
But how did I come up with the idea for the shape? I was going through my Pixiv folder, searching for some sort of inspiration, when it dawned on me that I could use the same concept as the KH Re:CoM promotional wallpaper. Just Google it; you’ll find it easily enough. I used 3 groups of clouds; the first layer is on box blur 2px; the 2nd on box blur 4px and the last is a box blur of 6px. The clouds did look a little too blurry to me so I experimented with reducing the blur, but after doing that, I thought that they looked better blurred so I reverted to my original setting. The parts I don’t like are the 3 “prongs” near Aoshi. They look like they are going to impale him. I did try to correct the shape, but it didn’t look good corrected either, so I left the 3 prongs there.
Grass (Layers: 13)
After finishing the clouds, I moved on to the ground. I was initially going to follow the reference manga and just use a rooftop, but…that was boring I guess. Then I came up with the ludicrous idea of drawing many rooftops and having Aoshi stand on one of them. Luckily I didn’t attempt it. I would have died in the process, no doubt. Then, I decided, in the interest of doing something easier and also, in the interest of hiding Aoshi’s shoes later (I didn’t know how to paint his shoes), I would do…grass. Well I’ve done grass before; how difficult could it get? Actually…not very. I used MissNysha’s grass smudging technique this time, and found that to ensure that I picked lights that weren’t overexposed and darks that weren’t burnt, I just had to…pick 2 colours of similar intensity. Seriously, why didn’t I think of this? I could always adjust the intensity later. It’s much easier enhancing intensity than toning it down. I think I got the grass right on my second try.
Aoshi (Layers: 151)
Finally, I moved on to Aoshi. I had the main reference manga picture, which was so tiny that I couldn’t see anything. I used another manga picture as a reference to do a quick sketch. I also changed his hands to holding his double Kodachi (as opposed to holding the severed heads of his friends…urgh!). I painted using the same technique as I did for my previous wall, which is the exact same thing that I do for all my other painted walls…but somehow I just couldn’t do Aoshi right. I think I picked the wrong colour for the shadings on his trenchcoat. Plus, I was also trying not to fall into the “Saturation Trap” – one where layer effects makes the darkest parts turn black and the lightest parts turn white. I call it a “trap” because while doing my final year project, on which one part was about adjusting colour using different colour spaces, I learnt that the ends of the “light” spectrum of the HSL colour space are kind of…dead, meaning that if you so happen to end up there, no matter how you change the hue, the colour will forever remain black or white. It’s known as over-saturation.
Anyway, in my bid to not end up with black as shadows and white as lights, Aoshi turned out looking too…flat. So, in post processing, I did everything I could to rectify the problem, and ended up with black shadows. The thing is that I liked it that way. Somehow I always like to over-emphasize the shadows. And to add more zing to it, I add a thin line of light beside the shadows. Maybe I can call that “my style”?
The next thing was that his hair ended up becoming an oversaturated purple. I desaturated it by using another grey layer and setting it on “Saturation”, but then it became too light-coloured. I chose to leave it that way, because I didn’t really know what end effect I wanted to achieve.
The shadings on Aoshi also were rather sloppy. I don’t know why, considering that I’m doing the exact same thing as what I do all the time. Again, I whipped out my “Demon Leader” and stared at Aion, wondering how the heck I managed to paint Aion to such a high standard, and at such a large size at that! Aoshi here would be resized to a smaller size (not as small as Sora in my previous wallpaper, but still small), he was wearing a similar outfit to Aion, and I didn’t even need to worry about his face because his back was facing me, and yet I just couldn’t get him done right! I would say that I managed to cover up most of my mistakes in post-processing, where I added additional lights and shadows and colour adjustments, but I still had to go back and remove some lines, and I created another layer called “cheapskate” that I used to cover up other ugly bits. The flappy part of his trenchcoat looks okay now, but I’m still not very satisfied with everything else.
Post-Processing + Others Miscellaneous (Layers: 8)
I’m not sure what I really did here…it was just experimenting with gradients and colours over the whole wallpaper. I enhanced the glow of the moon, and I do like this part because the moon is not oversaturated white, but it is intense enough to draw one’s attention. I added a dark gradient which oversaturated the grass, so there are some parts at which all you’ll see is black, but I liked the overall effect of the gradient, so I left it.
I used 214 layers in total. I find that while painting walls tend to use fewer layers, each layer contains more information and requires more work. This is in contrast to vector walls where one layer can contain a single line or something like that.
The reason why I’m not satisfied with this wall is because of the numerous mistakes I made along the way. I’ve done clouds, grass and trenchcoat before and yet somehow I couldn’t do it right this time. It’s like going for a mathematics exam where they ask you for the square root of a complex number, and instead of using the exponential form of the number to solve it, you express the number as (a + bi)(a + bi) and expand and compare coefficients and make careless mistakes along the way. Geez I’m sorry for that mathematics comparison! I just felt this wallpaper was like going for a test in which you knew all the answers but somehow made so many careless mistakes that all your answers are wrong. I’ve never encountered this situation during the real examinations, but I’ve encountered it lots of times while doing practice papers, and it irritates me to hell. Granted, the end result isn’t that bad – it can actually look kinda pretty. Herein lies the next problem – there’s nothing novel about this. “Demon Leader” was my first time painting clouds; “A Path of My Own Choice” was my first time painting grass while “Hidden Red” was an updated version of “The Dreamers”, but transposed to the Ookami world. This one seems to be a rehash of “Choice”, but unlike “Hidden Red”, this one doesn’t introduce anything new. Even the title is telling – I had no idea what to call it. Since the moon was supposed to be the focal point, I called it “Moonlight”, which is rather cheesy but I don’t have any other ideas.
Hmm…I’m thinking, since my previous wallpaper was called “Hidden Red” and it was full of red, maybe I should call this “Hidden Blue”? AHAHAHAHA...ha……ha…….ha….
So anyway what’s next for me is, of course, a Kingdom Hearts wall. Kingdom Hearts has proven to be the most versatile when it comes to wallpaper ideas, and that’s why I have so many ideas. Not so much for Ookami, but Ookami walls tend to require a lot more work. In any case, this current KH WIP is rather interesting. I’m trying out a new style, and so far it’s looking good! Though it will take a while to finish…it involves a lot of details…
Anyway, whenever I look through users' accounts on Pixiv and on dA, I notice that the art style is very consistent for each user. I look through mine and I see...a mess. It's probably because I'm still experimenting and learning, while the users I've seen have already established their workflow and process. The best example I can cite is しきみ from Pixiv; he (or she...no information on gender provided) has a super consistent clean style...which I can't really describe, you have to see it for yourself. Another example is the amazing ucchiey from Pixiv. He paints fantasy scenic walls, and his style is one which I privately call "HD details". That's because while other artists tend to roughly block in some colours and smudges for details like leaves and petals, ucchiey paints in every single petal/leaf. Everything can be seen clearly, like in HD, you know? The best example is his work ひな際城下町. The petals are really breathtaking.
So I was thinking that I should try and establish my style...but what would it be? Aside from making objects/characters too big for the wall and saturating the shadows and the lights, I can't really think of a style for myself. I started out as a vector person and am now making forays into painting...the best style that would use both vectors and painting is the vector-mask painting style so defined by Nysha, but after I started painting, I find that I just cannot do vector-mask painting anymore. I don't know why.
The only style which really, really makes me happy is the style I used in The Dreamers and Hidden Red. And I would think that that style suits me too. It's a paint style that's messy, has thick outlines, and is heavily textured as the shades are not blended well. And it looks nice on big objects. But ask me to apply this style to all of my future walls and I get stumped. To my now in-progress RK wall? Not suitable at all.
(Plus, using that 63px brush can be a nightmare, especially for line art)
Then I think that the best way to establish my style is to go into original art. In fact, I have been thinking of that for a while. I feel that it a necessary step to take to truly be a good artist. But honestly, I can't draw human anatomy for nuts. Objects are pretty difficult as well. Recently I was thinking of drawing just a girl, facing forward, kneeling, but I couldn't even get the proportions right. And I have a tough time visualizing designs, like clothes, say, how the dress ruffles and bends about. Stuff like that. Don't forget that my humble beginnings were at AnimePaper.net, where it was strictly forbidden to use fan-art to make a wall. All users had to reference some sort of official art, be it screenshots or magazine scans or art book scans.
(Fine, I did do some original art before. But they were disasters. 'Nuff said)
But then again, that's no excuse. Other walls at Minitokyo (and the now-defunct AnimePaper) have consistent styles as well. It appears that I'm the only one without any consistent style. Being a Jack of all trades means being a master at none, so I had better hunker down and do something about it!
Buildings Ref: link
Amaterasu Ref: link
Well, as I stated in my previous journal entry, I had one week of medical leave, so that left me with lots of time to work in Photoshop. That's how I managed to finish this wallpaper so quickly.
And, I love this wall! *covers ears to block out criticism*
…Okay fine I will read comments, good or bad…but I will ignore baseless mudslinging, of course. But that doesn't change the fact that I am totally in love with this wall. It's got the same hold over me as "The Dreamers", which, if you would be so kind as to take a look, you will immediately notice the resemblance between the two.
However, while the idea for "The Dreamers" was conceived at the beginning of the year, this Ookami wallpaper has been in cold storage since…2010. I first thought of the idea shortly after the release of 祈りの彼方 (Inori no Kanata) by 志方あきこ (Shikata Akiko). That was in May 2010. I was flipping through the booklet (yes I bought the CD; I support singers I like with my wallet, thank you very much) and I saw the graphics for the lyrics to the song 朱隠し (Aka Kakushi), the opening song for the indies game "Akaya Akashiya Ayakashi no" by HaccaWorks. You can see it in the WIP picture I posted (link above). I was intrigued. And I like the part in the song where she sings the Shinto prayer.
Let me digress a little. The song is of the 和風 (Wafuu, meaning Japanese) style mixed with pop. You'll find many songs of this genre in the Japanese indies music scene. Songs like "Kagome" and "Tooryanse" are constantly being adapted and used. However, as Shikata was given specific instructions by HaccaWorks to "not make it too Japanese-y", I guess that she toned it down by giving the chorus more of a pop spin and using a violin riff as the bridge…which I find really odd and out of place. I would have preferred it if Shikata has dove head-in the Wafuu style, but, since she was working for HaccaWorks, she had to take instructions…so well. It's a nice song, but it's not her best and neither is it that great a Wafuu song. I would recommend other songs like:
1) 獏、曰く by Nakae Mitsuki, on the album 童妖奇譚 (Douyou Kitan). It's composed by Okka, the composer for Mamyukka and one of my favourite composers. Nakae Mitsuki's 華唄 and 喫茶りどる are pretty good as well.
2) 宵闇花火 (Yoiyami Hanabi) by Hatsuki Yura, on the album 宵闇恋想奇譚. Personally, I would recommend this whole album as a Wafuu-fusion style album. I love it to bits. Don't ask me why.
3) 狐の社 by Queen of Wand, on the album of the same name. I love the bridge.
Okay. After that digression (and shamelessly promoting these little-known Japanese indies artists), I admit that after searching around for AkaAka (as the game is more commonly known) pictures and staring at the Aka Kakushi booklet, I did nothing. I let it sit for a while, until Ali Project's 刀と鞘 (Katana to Saya) came out. I watched the MV. Well, it was odd. Yes it was beautiful to look at, but as to what was happening…I just find it odd. But then again, Arika's Japanese outfit was so lovely; I wanted to buy a kimono after that. Luckily I got that thought out of my head. Anyway, the photos for Katana to Saya were absolutely gorgeous. So then I got the idea of combining the fox heads from the Aka Kakushi booklet and the backdrop from Katana to Saya. Of course, the only candidate for such a wall would be Ookami, and so I decided it would feature our favourite white wolf. I called it "Hidden Red", which is the English translation to 朱隠し.
So what I did was to open a new PSD document, draw a rough sketch of the fox heads, dump a blurry Youtube screen grab of the Katana to Saya MV, and I left it there for…years. I guess that I felt that I didn't have the chops to pull it off back then. My initial idea was to make it look like an in-game battle, but in late 2012, I came up with the idea of using a building backdrop, like those silhouette city horizon pictures you see all over stock image websites. Again, I did a rough sketch and left it. After doing "The Dreamers", I realized that I could adopt the same concept for this Ookami wall. It was back to "concepting" again, but this time I spent a good long time going through my Ookami official illustration book, finding relevant reference images and drawing the rough sketch. I created a "centerline" and placed Amaterasu, the moon and the torii right in the centre, my logic being that since they are in the centre, they would not be affected by the fish-eye effect.
(The Ookami official illustration book is my most heavily used official resource. Many of my Ookami references come from there, as opposed to using screenshots)
And finally, after breaking the paint barrier in "The Dreamers" and doing a few fully paint walls, I started this one. My initial idea back in 2010 was, of course, to vector it, but after breaking the paint barrier, I was so not going to touch the vector pen tool. The only pen I would be touching is my Wacom stylus.
Before I start, let me clarify that main brush I used was the default Photoshop brush that's 63px large. There're 2 of these brushes and they occur towards the end of the default brush set. The brush I used occurs later and it has a very paint-y texture. I like this brush because on low flow settings, it creates a very nice texture and when its flow settings are higher, it blocks in colours really fast. I also used the default soft round brush with pen pressure for small details. Finally, I used LadyVictoire's star brushes 2 and gvalkyrie's starfield brushes for added effects (will explain later).
The Houses (Layers: 79)
I started with the house because I felt that they would be the most difficult part of the wallpaper. The main big houses were drawn referencing houses from Sei-An city (in the game). The rest were largely from my imagination. As per "The Dreamers", I segmented them into 3 portions: left, right and centre. That's because these sections would have similar lighting/shadows, and also because it took up less layers (and less time) as opposed to doing one house per group.
Now, according to comments I got from "The Dreamers", others preferred a more fish-eye effect due to the buildings curving towards the moon. Hence, I made the horizon between the buildings and the ground curvier. However, after finishing the whole wall, I noticed that my buildings didn't seem to curve as much as "The Dreamers". I guess this would be better for me as less fish-eye would mean less distortion, which would explain the unaffected Torii and Amaterasu! Also, others commented that they would prefer more colours on the buildings. I tried to create more shades of colours on the buildings. Check out my WIP, where you can see the colour palette for the buildings. There are 5 shades in total. That, along with added light and darks, I thought, should give enough colour. Unfortunately, I ended up with a predominantly red colour. I tried to introduce random colouring effects by randomly painting in blue, green ,purple, whatever have you, but it didn't look nice, so I left it as it was. Personally, I like it predominantly red. I don't handle colour very well, you see. I always use layer effects to blend my shades. But at least I tried to introduce more colours.
Anyway, while doing the sky, I was looking at the Katana to Saya images for inspiration when I noticed that the lanterns had a yellow glow on the botton. I decided to incorporate that into the windows of the houses, so the interior looks fierier.
The Sky (Layers: 18)
I referenced the Ninetails moon from the official art book. It was a no-brainer to have that Ninetails reference, considering that the Aka Kakushi booklet featured fox head silhouettes. I painted the Ninetails moon first because I needed it as a reference for the centre of the sky. It was easy enough. I used layer masks to block out the pattern, as opposed to the eraser, because I wanted to wean myself off the eraser and get used to layer masks.
Once the moon was done, I got stuck at the sky. I didn't want any stars; because stars add an ethereal quality and there was no way this wall was going to be ethereal. I tried a blue background with red clouds, but the clouds I was accustomed to painting (see "Demon Leader") didn't fit with the style of this wallpaper. I thought of painting the swirly clouds with outlines, the kind that feature heavily in Japanese-style art, but it looked too layered and again, it didn't sit well. Finally, I decided to just use the normal gradual colours approach, as per "The Dreamers". However, it looked a little too plain, so I drew in some swirly tadpole things in a dark colour and lowered the opacity to add more swirl. The idea for this came from the reference image I used for "The Dreamers". It's a very charming illustration by Atポーキ (AtPoki).
Anyway, I also had to blend the buildings into the sky, as the buildings were standing out like, well, sore thumbs. I did this by randomly sampling colours from the sky and brushing them onto the buildings.
As an afterthought, I decided to add building silhouettes behind the main buildings. But due to, well, ahem, complacency, I didn't do it very well, so I just lowered their opacity such that they were barely there and consoled myself by telling myself that "details matter" T.T
The Ground (Layers: 39)
Okay fine so I touched the vector pen tool. I used it as a quick means of blocking out the shape of the ground for reference purposes. However, when it came down to the real deal, I used my tablet to paint in the base colour, and I discarded the vector layer. I was clueless as to how to paint the ground (despite my progress in "A Path of My Own Choice") so first I lazily added some random shades, one on multiply and the other on screen, for some texture. Then, I remembered that in "The Dreamers", people commented that the ground looked too empty, so I experimented with paths to each house. In the end, the paths looked more like a spider web gone wrong, and they did nothing to help the curvy perspective, so I dropped all except for the one that leads to the house in the middle.
As I was looking through random Ookami screenshots to observe the ground, I got to battle screenshots, and I realized that I could put in the words that appear on the battle walls on the houses. This gives it an "Ookami battle feel", I guess, so I painted the words based off several battle screenshots. Some of the words were partially blocked, but luckily, I do know Mandarin, so I could easily fill in the missing parts. The words that appear on the battle walls are negative words like "evil", "demon", "death", "anger" and the likes. I painted about 10 words and duplicated them to fill in any missing gaps, then put them on colour dodge and added a cloud texture to them.
So, back to the ground. While I was looking through the battle screenshots, I noticed that one path had pebbles on them. I decided to put these pebbles on my one and only path as well. The pebble outline is not very strong as I felt that it didn't fit very well if it were to be thick and bold.
Finally, I went back to the ground proper and added in more texture. I decided to call it a day by blending in the bottom of the houses with the ground. I did this, again, by randomly sampling colours from the ground and painting all over the border between the houses and the ground. I noticed that when this layer was of a higher opacity, it made it look as if there was a fine mist around the base of the houses, which I liked, so I left it that way.
Amaterasu (Layers: 45)
I would have done the torii first, but I forgot all about it, and went to Ammy instead. I got the image from the official art book, as usual. When I started painting it, I knew that I didn't want many fine details, as per the original image, and so I made sure that I smoothed over some details and added others where they were needed. An example would be the furs around Ammy's head. Those were initially extremely fine details, but I redrew them to be, well, as how you see them now. I added in some shades, but not too many, because I would be adjusting them in the post-processing later.
I used the Devout beads because I liked their colour. I know they are the lousiest beads in the game but I needed their yellow colour, so I used them. But seriously, I love the beads as a weapon. The only thing I miss when equipping double beads is the ability to counter when the reflector is equipped as a sub-weapon. And I will stop halfway in battle to equip the reflector if, during a demon gate trial, I encounter a round with lots of imps.
So, in post processing, I resized Ammy, added in more shadows to the bottom and more red lights to the top. I like how the bottom looks a dark red. It's as if there's fire from the ground reflecting upwards onto Ammy. Of course, the ground's not on fire, but now that I've seen the effects of this red shadow, I knew that I wanted a fiery wallpaper. I guess this would be in line with adding the yellows on the buildings' windows!
I wanted to add Issun too, but I didn't know where to place him. So I left him out in the end. I definitely won't leave him out again. Anyway, I also added a yellow glow around Ammy's neck, as if the power of the Devout Beads were radiating off her neck. I also added some of this yellow glow on the sides of the torii, though it isn't very visible as Ammy is not standing too close to the torii.
Torii (Layers: 32)
Well I remembered to do the torii, and how could I forget? The reference image you see in the WIP was simply there as a shape reference. As you can see, I changed the design and the perspective such that it looks as if you're looking up at the torii. Honestly, I didn't want that, but I felt that it made the torii look less flat, so I did it in the end.
The torii was probably one of the tougher parts of this wall because I had to ensure some sort of symmetry, while not using the vector pen tool and not copying and pasting and flipping. I certainly didn't want to copy, paste and flip, because I didn't want the 2 sides to be identical; I needed the randomness and the unevenness, something that can only be achieved by (my rather unsteady) hand. The torii was also the part of the wall where I fully got used to using layer masks, finally. That doesn't mean that I won't use the eraser ever again, though…it'll probably take me a while to stop hitting "E".
Initially, I wanted to place part of the lyrics of Aka Kakushi all over the torii, but after doing this, I realized that it looked out of place, so I got rid of all of them save for the 朱隠し on the signboard. The font used is a Unicode font called 剣; I got it from this website.
Well I was supposed to put two lamp posts beside the torii, but in my excitement, I forgot about them -.-
Foxtails on floor + Miscellaneous Effects (Layers: 11)
I referenced the foxtails from the official Ninetails artwork. My initial idea for the foxtails was to have them upright, as if they were so close to the viewer that they were only visible as silhouettes. However, after doing them, they looked stiff and obtrusive. It was then that I decided to put them on the ground. I didn't want to do this because it goes contrary with the light source from the moon. Perhaps I could say that the foxtails are not shadows; rather, they are the dark powers that are exuding from an off-screen enemy? As such, I added a "ghosting" layer, where I randomly added lines all around the main foxtail silhouettes to create a sketchy and unclear effect. I also had them warp towards Ammy, with the intention of showing that Ammy was the target. Putting them on the ground also helps the ground to be less empty, so maybe it was a good thing. Anyway, there are nine tails, so well…that's asymmetry for you. Not very nice, but accuracy is key.
I went back to observe the Katana to Saya album art again, and I noticed that there were sakura petals flying around. So I decided to add these. I made them sketchy and didn't focus too much on getting the shape right; I felt that it looked better this way. Also, since it was supposed to be a fiery atmosphere, I used the star brushes (as mentioned above) to add random dots around, as if they were ember. Finally, I grabbed my usual 63px brush and added random orange/red/yellow strokes all over the picture, and set this to a certain layer effect (I forgot which one; most likely colour dodge) and lowered the opacity. This created the effect as if there were some flames sprouting up from the ground, so I was rather happy with it.
You will see that in my WIP, I tried using layers on radial blur + hard light, as well as another one on linear dodge for post processing. I disposed of all of them in the end, because none of them significantly contributed much to the wall. I also noticed that the battle words seem to bit too obtrusive, but I like them around, so I created 2 versions instead, one without the words and the other including the words.
I placed the number of layers at headings of the respective categories, so the total number of layers I used is 224. It's not a lot, and it seems that nowadays I don't use so many layers anymore. Perhaps it's because I tend to use less layers when I paint. Or maybe it's just because the walls I do are overly simplistic >.<
But I like this wall a lot. Don't ask me why. I also find it ironic that I called it "Hidden Red" when there's red everywhere XD
I'm in a bit of a Photoshop block now, so my next wall may take a while. I am doing a Shinomori Aoshi wall that's fully painted. After that, I hope to do some vectoring. It's been a while, my vector pen tool.
Background only version:
Be careful what you wish for.
There was one fine day when I was totally overwhelmed by too much social interaction that I wished I could have one full day where no one would disturb me and I could work in Photoshop to my heart's content.
Well, I got that, and more. I had some gastric problems which saw me grounded at home for a week of medical leave. Not that I'm complaining; I love the "leave" part, but not the "medical" part. My stomach was rather fragile for that whole week. Luckily, it's getting better now. At least I hope it is.
This week has been extremely productive. I finished this current KH wall, made a lot of progress on my current WIP (Ookami, yay!), and I finished playing Ico. It's now right there with Shadow of the Colossus and Ookami, as one of the games that have moved me to tears.
So, about this KH wallpaper…any KH fan should immediately recognize this scene from the secret ending of the first KH game. I think it's more commonly referred to as "Crossroads"? Just go to Google Images and search for "Kingdom Hearts crossroads" and you'll get the original picture.
A few months back I attended a course that teaches life skills. It's one of those courses that you can either dismiss as "rhetoric talk", "easier said than done", or you could choose to try and apply those principles to daily life. Normally I would go with the former camp; this time though, I decided to try to be more open minded. I did find the stuff that they taught to be pretty interesting. Yes, "easier said than done", but interesting nevertheless. One of the things they taught was to not "live by default" and to "live by design". Another described the space between being confronted with a choice and making the choice as a powerful space. As you can see, there's a lot of emphasis on "choice". Something in there must have reminded me about this "Crossroads" picture, which remains one of my favourite KH screenshots. So with my newfound ability in painting, I decided that I was going to paint it – as painting practice for grass and soil. Ouch!
Well…I was also buoyed by the fact that I could paint clouds, as per my previous Aion wallpaper. I decided that if I could conquer clouds, my next frontier should be grass (and soil too).
(Many, many years ago, I actually did a wallpaper with the exact same picture. It was during a time when I knew no vectoring or painting techniques. You can see it here, but be warned…you should know why)
I knew the background would be the main cause of heartache, so I chose to do it first. And I also chose to go with the most difficult portion – the grass.
The Grass (DIE DIE DIE)
That was what I named the group of grass layers in Photoshop. To be truly good at painting, one must know how to paint grass without the use of Photoshop's default grass brush.
(Personally, I think it's been overly vilified by artists. I mean, I'm sure it has its uses; else Adobe would have taken it out altogether! Anyway, just for fun, see a very early wallpaper I did which uses the grass brush)
I referred to 2 tutorials: MissNysha's grass tutorial and Susiron's SAI Grass Tutorial. I didn't follow any of them exactly; I just used them as guidelines when I worked. I first tried smudging. It didn't work, because I needed distinct grass shapes at the borders and when I smudged at the borders, the smudge brush would take a mixture of coloured pixels and transparent pixels and merge them together in an ugly black mess. Also, I am extremely bad at picking colours, so I ended up picking dark colours that made the grass look like charcoal and light colours that were too faint. I always use layer effects to blend my colours in, you see.
Then, I tried creating the base layer in …layers. I would create one layer, brush in grass strokes, then create another layer on top of that layer, and brush in grass strokes again. This failed, because the grass ended up looking like they were in …you guessed it, layers. They were too regularly ordered. So I ditched this attempt.
There were many other variations of each method that I tried and ditched. I finally settled on first creating a large base layer, then adding in grass strokes on a different layer, starting from the back and moving towards the front. Then I merged the base and strokes layer and applied whatever filter/colour effects I wanted on other layers. I turned the canvas 180 degrees when drawing the grass strokes because I found it easier to move the pen towards me, rather than away from me. The colours of the grass strokes were also different and randomly selected. I used a range of colours, from yellow to blue to green. I then used other layers (with varying layer effects) to create the overall colour scheme that I wanted.
I used the Photoshop round brush on 50% hardness and 100% opacity. I used MissNysha's smudging technique for the layer effects, and to smudge, I had the smudge brush on 50% hardness and 85% strength. I had 4 grass patches to do, and each took about an hour to finish. As I used the lower left patch for experimenting, I did the lower left grass patch multiple times (at least 5 times). The upper 2 grass patches somehow did not have much depth, so I redid both of them, and yet somehow I couldn't get much of a sense of depth. I'm not sure why, especially since I used the same technique for all grass patches. The only one which I managed to get right on the first try is the lower right patch. I can't seem to replicate the effect on the other grass patches though.
After doing the grass, I realized that I had not a clue on how to paint ground. I went to deviantArt to search for some ground painting tutorial…and suddenly it hit me that I just needed to do the ground as I normally did anything else – block in the dark portions, add some highlights. I envisioned the ground as having a series of bumps and mounds; darker on the side away from the light, and lighter on the tops of the bumps and mounds. So I did that. As an additional texture, I used DanLuVisiArt's brushes to add in the uneven colour patches.
Now I had to blend in the grass with the ground. I created a layer on top of the grass and randomly picked colours off the ground and brushed them onto this layer. Then, I used the smudge tool to smudge this layer into grass strokes. Finally, I lowered the opacity to my liking. Yep, that's all I did. I also used this technique for "The Dreamers" and I know it works, so I just did it again.
At this point, I left my computer to walk about the house a bit. I didn't know whether to put in a moon, whether to have an intense star field or whether to have a dominantly cloudy sky. I went to organize my "Wall Refs" folder – that's a huge folder of images that I collect from the Internet, mostly from Pixiv, some from dA, some from MT and the AP of the past. I found one image from Pixiv which inspired me to try and replicate the effect.
I used DanLuVisiArt's brushes; this time I used the cloud brush. I set it on a lower opacity and added in the clouds progressively. First I drew in a base, then I added in texture by in quick circular motions. I wasn't trying to replicate the type of clouds I used in the Aion wallpaper, but I needed something that resembled…erm….flat clouds. You know there are some clouds which don't have much texture or fluffiness? That kind of clouds. Whenever I'm out jogging my 12km, I tend to look at the sky and observe the clouds, so I know.
(Yes I can do 12km. I trained myself, from a flabby young person who couldn't jog 2km to save her life, to someone who is able to do 12km in 1hr 15mins (approximately). The training has unfortunately taken a toll on my knees and I'm on glucosamine + some odd knee ointment that somehow works. I know there are people out there who can do 42km without breaking a sweat, but for me, knowing how I first started out, 12km is an incredible feat)
Anyway, I set the clouds on a lower opacity, because I didn't want them to be the dominant feature of the sky. I then ripped out star brushes:
1) LadyVictoire's star brushes one and two
2) BL1nX's star field brushes
3) Gvalkyrie's star field brushes
I modified the brush settings and added more shape dynamics and scatter. Then I added in the stars, first starting with small, low opacity stars, then gradually going bigger and brighter until you see that confluence of stars. Now, that was unintentional. Unfortunately, exaggeration and extremity appears to be forcefully fixed in my style. No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to make the darkest colour NOT-black, and the lightest colour NOT-white. I always end up using the full range of colour intensities. And, I always end up making characters/items too big. I tend to like to resize them such that a tip would be just touching the edges of the wallpaper you see. It's a habit and I just naturally fall into it. So this wallpaper is counterintuitive to me – Sora is so tiny! Maybe that's why I ended up over-emphasising the gathering of stars. I don't really mind – it provides a focal point, at least. But it wasn't in my original intent.
I left Sora to the last because I was pretty sure that I could paint him. I drew him from that tiny little picture, using official art as reference. I know most of Sora's details by heart because of "The Dreamers", where I had to draw him. So it wasn't too bad. The only thing was that by then I was pretty fatigued by the background so the shadings were a little sloppy. Plus, I knew that Sora was going to be resized to a really small size and I would be doing post-processing to fit his colour into the background, so I wasn't too concerned about getting everything down pat.
True enough, once I resized him and did some HSL stuff, the details in his hair could barely be seen. I actually did put more effort into his hair, drawing out the lines that would help shape the contour of the hair. This is as opposed to the official artwork, which tends to leave the hair in one solid colour block. But well, most of it can't be seen. To add insult to injury, I realized that Sora looked too sharp, so I blurred him over with a Gaussian blur. Then, I used a separate layer to add in light highlights, like those you see on the back of his pants. I did this because the highlighting from the initial paint of Sora was too weak, and I wanted to enhance them. But then again, the shadow isn't long and drawn out behind him. I didn't do that because I didn't want to portray a strong light source. Also, that would look rather menacing, wouldn't it? In the introduction part of the first KH game, Sora's shadow grows longer and longer and…well…Darkside comes out.
Closing and Statistics
As per usual, I experimented with numerous layers with clouds filters, colour filters and the likes. I settled on a radial blur with the confluence of stars as the centre of rotation, and I set this layer on hard light. It gives s sort of "tunneling" effect and to the sky.
Now, when I set this as my desktop background, the front of each grass patch is practically black. But when I view the image with Photo Viewer and in Photoshop, it isn't completely black. Remember I said that I blended the grass with the ground by smudging ground-colours into grass strokes? Well I can see that in Photo Viewer and in Photoshop, but not when it's set as my desktop wallpaper. I don't know why.
So, the layer breakdown is…
So back to my original objectives: to paint grass and ground. I did learn a lot about grass. I didn't manage to get the effect that I really wanted, though I admit I became really good at stroking grass after this wallpaper. The ground looks a little like water…kinda muddy, actually. Maybe I overemphasized the dark portions. The stars were a nice surprise; now I know how to use star brushes properly. In the past I used a large star brush such that it'd fill the whole wallpaper and I wouldn't need to do anything else except for "click once". I also learnt how to use DanLuVisiArt's cloud brushes properly.
Okay that's all. Now I'm working on an Ookami wallpaper. I'm very happy doing this Ookami wallpaper…it's a variation of "The Dreamers", but with user comments from "The Dreamers" incorporated into this Ookami wall. And I can't wait for this wallpaper to be done! I think I will like it a lot
Ico has officially joined the list of "games that have made me cry". Previously, there were only 2 games: Ookami and Shadow of the Colossus.
(Yes, despite being a huge fan of Kingdom Hearts, I have never cried during any of the games. Not even when Axel vanished. Luckily I didn't, for it would be rather embarrassing to have cried at that time, only to realize that Axel would return in Dream Drop Distance. Of course, that is not to say that I felt nothing; if I had truly felt nothing, I wouldn't be a fan of the series, right?)
Yes Journey and Flower were emotional journeys (pardon the pun), but I didn't cry. So now there are only 3 games on that coveted list. Note though, that I didn't bawl my eyes out. That's for babies. It's just that the tears came and I had to wipe them away, that's all.
(Not much mucus involved either, which is good - cleaner that way! But my eyes still felt sore after that)
I admit that I bought the "Ico and Shadow of the Colossus" HD collection because I wanted an excuse to get a PS3 and that was the excuse. I knew what to expect in SoTC because I had watched gameplay videos of it on youtube a long time ago. I didn't get a chance to play it on PS2 because when I found out about this game, my local retailers weren't selling it anymore. The local game retailers here are really bad. If a game is more than 6 months old, you can forget about finding it stocked anywhere. In fact, when KH Re:CoM came out for PS2, the PS3 had just launched, so many game retailers immediately ditched all PS2 games. That included Re:CoM, even though it was a new release! Luckily I did find one retailer that stocked the game, and I have stuck with that retailer ever since.
Anyway, back to SoTC. I really wanted the game, and so when I found this HD collection, I bought it even before I bought a PS3. At that time I was still holding out for KH3 on PS3, you see. But when rumours started flying around about a PS4, I bought the PS3. Luckily I did. I have Journey and Flower, Ookami HD and the Team Ico HD collection for PS3, and now I'm eyeing the KH1.5 collection. I will get it. Because, honestly, I'm pretty loose with my purse strings with stuff like this. Plus, with my PS2 dying (it was modded to its death), I think it's timely that I get KH1.5 for PS3.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. While I knew what was going to happen in SoTC, I had not a clue about Ico. When the game started, I spent so long trying to figure out how to pull the first lever! Then, after the first shadow demon came out, I didn't know how to attack it and I watched as it pulled Yorda into the portal, and yes, that was my first game over screen. After a while of waiting for a HP bar, I realized that Yorda was the HP bar. And I got irritated and tired because, you know, I always didn't like those "protect so-and-so missions" in Kingdom Hearts. So I felt the same way.
But after a while, I don't know what happened. After a while, when shadow demons attacked, I found myself thinking "Get away from my Yorda!" as I whacked them.
(But I still used Yorda as bait...I waited for them to grab her, then I would whack them)
I began to look at Yorda...she was truly ethereal. A delicate and beautiful creature, with no means to defend herself. And I liked her reactions to Ico, for example, when I spent a long time running around looking for a solution, and she would call out in such a sweet and delicate voice and point out the clues. My favourite reaction was for Ico running over the ledge. She'd gasp and put her hand to her mouth. Of course he would grab the ledge automatically, so it's all fine. And I experienced a heart-dropping moment every time I had to help Yorda jump over ledges. It's super scary! Seeing her jump and grab Ico's hand and with her feet dangling in mid-air is the scariest part of the whole game for me.
I had a few interesting moments in the game. One was when I let go of a chain and Ico went down, down, down..........and *splosh*! He fell into the water. All the while I was waiting for a game over screen, and when I heard the splash, the first thing I thought was, "Well, at least he's out of the castle."
The second was me trying to exploit the "Yorda is my HP bar" thing. There's one point in the game where Ico is on a high ledge with a switch. There's a chain behind him. Yorda is below, and she must step on a moving platform, after which Ico will pull the switch and Yorda will move to the other side on the moving platform. Right after that, shadow demons will attack. I distinctly remember thinking "YORDA!" and I had Ico jump all the way down to Yorda. Unfortunately, Ico was made a normal boy (albeit with horns) and he couldn't withstand a jump from such a height. So that's yet another one of my game over screens. Folks, please remember to use the chain behind Ico instead -.-
I cried at 2 points in the game. The first was when Ico jumped back over the crumbling bridge and Yorda grabbed his hand. The second was when Yorda put Ico in the boat and bade him farewell. And I was as stunned as Ico to see Yorda lying on the beach at the end. I felt the "Fin" word came up at the right time. I mean, there's no need to show anything else. It was a happy ending, and rightfully so. Though the last bit where Ico goes back into the castle to save Yorda was a little irritating because I couldn't save. But it made sense actually - there's no option without Yorda. Like the part where the bridge splits. I didn't think; I just had Ico jump back. It's the only action that made sense.
Thus I finished yet another masterpiece from Team Ico that made me cry. It's a beautiful experience, just like SoTC. And now I'm even more hyped up for The Last Guardian. I know some people are saying, just axe it, it's going to be disastrous, but I want to give Team Ico the benefit of the doubt.
...and now I need to do up my journal entry for my new wallpaper. I wonder if I will have the guts to attempt an Ico wallpaper someday?
I had been loyal to CDJapan for 4 years. They have always been reliable, but they were slow to put up advance orders for new releases. I was already eyeing Shikata Akiko's Turaida and Laylania concert DVD on HMV, while CDJ was still slowly doing the html for the page, with no news on when it'd be up. And, CDJ had given me a Psychedelic Insanity car decal and a 汎新日本主義 (Hanshin Nihon Shugi) postcard...but that's about all. Okay fine I got the 凶夢伝染 (Kyomu Densen) poster as well.
...Okay fine so I got quite a few bonuses from CDJ. But now HMV was offering the postcard and CDJ wasn't. And HMV was cheaper. And HMV was faster.
So I deserted CDJ. I ordered 令嬢薔薇図鑑 from HMV. But I ordered the Shikata Akiko releases from CDJ because, well, I guess I couldn't bear to make a clean break.
And when my 令嬢薔薇図鑑 came...it was in a large white envelope. I tore it out, lovingly took out the CD...only to find a large crack in the casing.
My first reaction was of dismay. My second was "this is the price of betrayal". My mum told me to give feedback to HMV. I didn't bother, because, well, at least the CD, the main objective, was still in working order. The booklet was gorgeous (one reason why I sometimes prefer physical CDs to digital purchases), and the postcard was too. It was of "Violet Rose", one of the fictional members of the "House of Rose", as depicted in 令嬢薔薇図鑑.
But, the casing was cracked. And of course, it still is. My very first purchase from HMV. My third reaction was thus, "This is why their shipping is cheaper than CDJ."
CDJ always packaged orders in a box, no matter how small the order is. Yes, sometimes I order only one CD. If the CD is offered by CDJ, and there are no other releases to package it with, I will just order it alone. Yes, I know, it's a waste of shipping. But seriously, I can afford it. Plus, I don't order CDs on a regular basis.
...Okay fine, I do. Every M3, at the end of April and the end of October, there will be something. But those are indies releases that come with a commission fee, plus I only buy if I can get at least 2 CDs.
Anyway, the point is that my 令嬢薔薇図鑑 is cracked. I don't think I will pursue this case with HMV, because the CD works and I'm listening to it now. This album is fantastic! Ignore the official description. Many of the songs are the dark, classical and romantic type which I so love of Ali Project.
Regardless of the album's content though, I doubt I will buy from HMV again. I paid the price for betraying CDJ. Given that CDJ has always delivered my bundles of joy safely in sturdy boxes filled with bubble wrap and green paper, I think their EMS shipping price is well worth it.
(This one below)
And as per usual, on DA, I got not much feedback aside from a few favourites. I find it very queer. There's this disconnect between what I experience on MT (and previously, on AP) and on DA.
I have this belief that if one's art is good, one will receive attention regardless of one's marketing efforts (ie. commenting madly, going premium etc.). That's why I don't do anything to promote my stuff, because I want my stuff to speak for itself. Not exactly working, but oh well.
Well...also because I hate doing these kind of social stuff. I recently read an article about the "23 signs that you're an introvert". I hit 22. The one I didn't fulfill was "you're dating an extrovert". I'm not dating anyone. Personally, instead of enjoying the company of an extrovert, I would think that an extrovert would drive me up the wall with comments like "you're so anti-social" or "you should speak up more". Nothing p*sses me off more than these kind of stereotypical comments.
ANYWAY. About the disconnect between what I experience on AP/MT and on DA. I really don't know why. On DA, I've seen users with really sub-par quality works getting more comments/faves/views than mine. Now I know this sounds like me being a bunch of sour grapes but I would like to think that after all these years, I am able to distinguish artworks of great skill as opposed to amateurish extraction and sticking together of images. So please give me some credit here.
(I know, because I used to do that too. Used the eraser tool to extract stuff and stick them together)
Perhaps it's because I don't connect/comment on others, which is why others are doing the same to me. 咎由自取, goes my internal monologue.
(Now those Chinese words actually mean something like "you reap what you sow". But I believe it's used in a more negative context, for example, a smoker who eventually gets lung cancer or something like that)
In this sense, I guess it was the right move to get onto MT. I get feedback; the good ones stress me out because I feel the pressure to maintain and get better, while the (constructive) criticisms stress me out as well because I feel that I've disappointed myself and others. Oh dear. Maybe that's the good thing about DA. No comments, no feedback = absolute bliss. "If ignorance is bliss, I must be ecstatic".
PS: The MT users gave really positive feedback about that Aion wall. Needless to say, now I'm absolutely stressed out
PS1: I actually experienced something very strange today. As my internal monologue was running off the hook with conspiracy theories and what-not, another thread of internal monologue went, "I wish this internal monologue would shut up!" Yes, that's one side of my brain telling the other side of my brain to shut up. Seriously?
PS2: (Ah, even more and I will reach PS4!!) I'm starting yet another blitz of wallpapers. I can't seem to focus on one without thinking of another. So I've gotten around to doing a mostly-vector-some-paint KH wall, a full-paint Ookami wall, a full paint RK wall and a mostly-vector-some-paint Ookami wall. Oh yes, there's also another full-paint KH wall waiting in line...so that makes 5 in total...but all are in the initial stages...
And, a doodle, just for fun.
I'm back with something that I finally find to be of an acceptable standard!
…Except that I still prefer The Dreamers. I have no idea why. I just love it to bits.
Anyway, see the scrap for the reference image. It's from the Chrno Crusade (CC) manga. I know that it's supposed to be spelt "Chrono" and the author mistakenly spelt it as "Chrno", but I'm more used to "Chrno". Besides, my (Mandarin-translated) hardcopy manga books are all spelt in the wrong way.
My reference is the scene where the reader is first introduced to Aion. The eagle is first shown, and then, in a puff of feathers, Aion mysteriously appears. I know it sounds all drama-mama and such, but it was really like that.
I said this when I first submitted my other Aion wallpaper many dog years ago, and I'll say it again. The anime sucks big time. Aion was portrayed as cruel, merciless, and worst of all, a pervert. Rosette suddenly became some holy chosen one or what-not, and she actually commanded Chrno to kill Aion. I'm serious! She pointed at Aion and told Chrno to kill him! By then my eyes and ears were bleeding from watching the anime, but the worst part of it was that I had bought the DVD. Oh, my money, wasted on such trash! This is as opposed to the manga, which was given to me as a birthday present. The manga was beautiful! I'll set the record straight here: Aion was no pervert. He was driven. He was angry at the system. He was charismatic. Yes, he resorted to cruel methods, but that's because he was determined to achieve his goal of eradicating the system (in which one's rank is decided upon birth). Even the CC wiki got his character wrong -.-
So, about the wall…I started off fully with the intention of painting this. This is my second fully-painted wallpaper, right behind The Dreamers. It's not my usual style to just use a reference image from the manga to fill up the whole wall…I tend to create a wall from several reference images, stitched together with some (shaky) hand drawn references. I also did not intend to start this wall so soon. But somehow, I just did. I also decided right from the start that I would not have any outlines (as per manga images).
I started with Aion's hair. I had referenced loads of lovely painted hair prior to this…I did this for my Aqua wallpaper. As you can see, the Aqua wallpaper was a disaster. Anyway, for this wall, I knew that I couldn't follow any hair painting tutorial to create the hair…because it was beyond my ability. What I did was to create the hair in my usual style: base colour, add a few strands, add shading for the major locks of hair. Then, I used JonasDeRo's hair brush to create the strand-y effect. It's not fantastic, but I don't think it's that shabby…right? Erm….
After the hair, I moved on to the skin. I realized here that I needed a colour reference, so I googled "Chrno Crusade Aion", and…OMG I found a few other people using the same reference image! The most notable one would be this one by Sioaoi. I almost stopped walling then. I did not like the idea of using an image that had been commonly used by other people. I guess that's why I like to pick horrendous reference images, like NDS sprites or YouTube screenshots!
(Personally, I think the one by sioaoi is pretty good…but there seems to be very few views…or is it that DA favours original drawings over fanart? I don't know)
But I forced myself to continue with the notion that I have already chosen a different style from the others. The others used line art; I didn't. I also had plans to paint the sky in a different manner. And, most notably, I chose to omit his glasses! That's because I felt that his glasses weren't needed. Aion had, after all, ditched his glasses throughout the last act of the manga. I know that Chrno injured his eyes, but seriously, does a demon need a human invention like that?
I know that persistent problems in my work involve lighting and perspective. In this case, I guess perspective wouldn't feature, as I am largely following the reference image.
(Unless the reference image has perspective problems…I certainly hope not!)
I also chose to follow the lighting from the reference image, which meant light from the top left. I did not want to put it behind Aion, as that would mean that I would have to darken Aion and I wanted Aion's features to be as visible as possible! Such a good-looking guy shouldn't be reduced to a mere silhouette However, I guess from the way I shaded the eagle, the light is somewhat in between the crook of Aion's arm and the eagle…hmm…what happened over there? Anyway, I had in mind MissNysha's Their Fated Realm, in which the characters were not silhouetted (not too much, as least). So I did make a conscious attempt to not overly emphasize the lighter and darker parts of the sky, such that it wouldn't make a case for silhouetting Aion.
(Of course I can't claim to have reached anywhere remotely near MissNysha's level, but I can hope, right?)
In any case, after seeing the dark part of the sky, I couldn't resist and added in stars with LadyVictoire's star field brushes. But not too much! I did not want a dreamy atmosphere.
Anyway, initially I wanted to slowly colour in the base colour using only the brush tool, not the lasso and not the paint bucket. Bad idea. My arm was aching and this did not add any value to the final image. So after suffering through Aion's trench coat, I gave up and starting using the lasso tool…after using my tablet to mark out the edges, of course. The parts I don't really like are the gold bits, which somehow seem out of shape. I tried erasing and deleting and everything, but I can't make the shape seem any better, so I gave up. Then…there's that black thing that Aion is holding. Don't ask me what it is. But I like his eyes. I like the purple I used but seriously, I am actually pretty bad at eyes so I think this one looks good because it's too small to see much detail. There's a mix of green and blue and yellow; it's not very visible but I'd like to think that there is an effect.
So. The eagle. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The original image had most of the eagle blackened out. I certainly didn't want that! That was a manga sketch style, which I was avoiding. So that meant that I had to add in the details of the eagle myself. I also had to extend its right wing. What I did was to Google images of eagles. Eagles are prime targets for photography enthusiasts, so that wasn't a problem. I observed their feathers on the chest and the wing area, as well as the tail area, to draw in the details. The tail feathers look a little wonky – I followed the shape of the manga scan and I got that -.- The manga eagle also only had 3 claws, for some strange reason. I chose to follow it as I did not have the confidence to add the last claw. I extended the right wing, but somehow it looks twisted. I did follow the manga scan faithfully though, so I left it. The feathers actually have more variations in colour. Most are brown, but some random ones are grey. However, I think due to my over-application of layer effects, the grey parts got drowned out. I actually enjoyed drawing in the feathers on the chest…it involved using dark strokes to mark out the shapes and light strokes to highlight them.
Now, I know that real eagles' eyes are yellow (with a black pupil, of course). My anime colour reference (yes, my eyes bleed from that reference image, but I needed a colour reference) had the eagle's eye in the stereotypical "evil animal look": red and glowing. Seriously? For an anime that over-sexed up the characters, they could only manage a childish cartoon image for the eagle?
(As you can see, I really hate the anime)
I decided that this was no ordinary eagle (Aion could speak through it), but I did not want that "red glowing evil eye" look. So I just changed its iris to red. That's all.
After that I did the sky. In the past, I chose to whack DanLuVisi's cloud brush, to…somewhat disastrous results. This time, I decided that I would do it with my favourite brush…*drum roll*…the Photoshop soft round brush with pen pressure. Honestly, what else comes close? It's the most versatile! I referenced kayoru's Cloud Tutorial, but I didn't follow it exactly. For one, I chose to separate the clouds into layers, with "random swirls", "dark shadings" etc. in different layers. I also chose to go with a brush with about 50% hardness, and I also Gaussian blurred some layers (the hard dots, for instance). Finally, I used the smudge brush, set to about 60% hardness, to modify the base shape of the clouds. This is because in my reference manga image, the clouds had these wispy tails…they weren't circular at the edges. Or something like that…I can't really describe it. Look at the scrap to get what I mean.
What was left was the structure behind Aion. Honestly, I have no idea what is that. I was thinking "air ship", but in no way does an air ship feature in the manga. So I just drew it to however I fancy…which means, sloppily. By nature I am rather lazy you see.
Anyway, I was also looking through Sandara's artwork. In some of her works, she adds an additional stroke on the outline of the character as a sort of lighting. It helps to add emphasis to some parts. I did that too…but it wasn't too great, so I lowered the opacity to a very low level such that it still added some lighting effect, but it was not enough to look out of place I also have the tendency to over-saturate the dark parts, such that they become pure black. That's what happened to the eagle's right wing…it's why its feathers are barely visible. Aion's scarf almost got drowned out as well… I had to force myself to adjust the layer effects such that the details on his scarf were still visible…barely, but still visible.
(Incidentally, his scarf is tied in the Ascot Wrap. I wonder whether he feels hot wearing a trench coat, a blazer, an inner long sleeved shirt and a scarf tied in a manner that keeps the neck warm during winter)
Anyway, I was all ready to publish when I realized that I had forgotten the feathers! Initially I was really reluctant to do them ("I'm happy with the wallpaper as it is!"), but I forced myself to do a few to see how they'd fit with the wall. And, they helped to break up the background, such that it didn't look so much like an "epic light-rays behind character" design. So I made myself do them. Initially, I was using my soft round brush on a small size to draw each feather, making them look very strand-y. That was wrong. I remember in the past, my siblings and I used to try and catch pigeons that flew into our house. We'd chase the pigeon all over the place, the cruel little brats we were. Imagine the terror the pigeon would be experiencing! Of course now I know better than to do that. Anyway, the point is that the pigeon would drop lots of feathers, so from my memories, I know the feathers to be:
1) Not strand-y, very solid, in fact, and
2) Having blocks of different colours
So that's what I did for the feathers. While I still stroked in each individual strand, I made the brush size larger. I also used an eraser (I still prefer them to layer masks) to go around the edges to achieve a more uniform look. I added in blocks of colours by 2 different layers, one set to multiply, and the other set to screen. Finally, the "puff" at the end of each feather was achieved by using both brown and white, and smudging with a strength of about 20% (so that it doesn't become too blurred).
So that concludes this wall. I like it, but well…I still like The Dreamers more. Don't ask me why. Here's a breakdown of layers:
Aion: 140 (part which required the most: eyes at 18 layers)
Background structure: 28
Total (+ some miscellaneous stuff): 261
A short background on this wall…I actually wanted to do this as practice for a Shadow of the Colossus wallpaper. Yes you heard right: Shadow of the Colossus! It's extremely stressful for me to do SoTC as the game is epic beyond imagination. The feelings it inspires in me is so strong, I know that I will never have the skill to translate that to a wallpaper. So now that I've done this Aion wallpaper, will I do the SoTC one? I don't think so. For one, it requires supreme painting prowess. Secondly, I can't seem to think of a design that would not look like an in-game screenshot. You see, with SoTC released in HD, there are so many HD screenshots floating around that it is pointless to recreate something that would just look like another screenshot. I need that extra oomph factor, which I can't seem to find…
Anyway, this wallpaper also ends my current blitz of wallpapers. "Blitz" because I was working on them simultaneously; not all at once, but a bit of each.
A Smashing Hit
I'm starting a new Ookami wallpaper but I'm hoping to focus and stop jumping around walls. But I don't know. I'm pretty distracted by nature, and I love starting new walls…so…we'll see…
I decided to sign up in Minitokyo (MT) because there are just so many amazing works there and I wanted to download them. So I dutifully keyed in my username (the same one here) and my email, and next thing I know, MT throws an error, "There is another user with the same username and email!".
........ SINCE WHEN?????
Lo and behold, I tried to log in using my usual password (I'm not very creative with passwords) and voila! I was in the system! Honestly, I have absolutely no idea when I signed up.
Okay fine, that means I'm good to go for submitting wallpapers. Unfortunately, I'm getting the jitters all over again. I always get the jitters whenever I visited AP; now the same thing is happening for MT. That's because I look at the stuff there and I can't help but sigh at my lack at aptitude. Seriously, my work sucks as compared to what's there.
(In fact, it's already pretty bad as compared to what's in DA as well, but at least in DA, there's no policy about quality and stuff. AP and MT both have quality rules to follow)
Okay fine, the fact that I managed to submit to AP last time means that my work met a certain standard. But I bet I barely scraped past. I always get problems with perspective and lighting which, no matter how hard I try, I can never correct.
But I still choose to go there because, well, at least it gives me the cold, hard truth. In DA, I can always not look at others' submissions. I can submit whatever I want (that comply with DA's rules of course). It's like in DA, it's a place where I can have sugar blossoms dancing in my head, to quote from the Peanuts comic (I believe Linus said it). But at AP and MT, I have to face the cold, hard truth that my work isn't, and can never be good. And it's always better to know the truth than to hide under the sheets. So there.
But then again, to quote from American McGee's Alice, "Should I be grateful for the truth? A lie or two might have been more persuasive."
Hmm...I don't know. I could just remain blissfully unaware of the severe shortcomings of my work, or head over to MT and become totally depressed at how bad I truly am.
Ignorance is bliss, after all. Again, to quote from American McGee's Alice, "If ignorance is bliss, I must be ecstatic." Hmmm.
(PS: The game and its sequel provide many food-for-thought lines of dialogue)