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Submitted on
October 8, 2012


I am back, and down and out with a cold. I realize that the times at which I fall ill seems to coincide mysteriously with the times I need to do some sort of presentation. Geez.

So, this is a wallpaper with my favourite character from Rurouni Kenshin, Shinomori Aoshi. I watched it some 10, 11 years ago; can't remember exactly when. He still remains my top favourite character. Know what this means? It means...that I'm old D:

Anyway, this wall has a long history...of vegetating in my head -.- I loved the Aoshi image when I saw it. I believe it came out many years ago. After some time, I did want to wall it, but I had no idea how to proceed. If I left the image in its original position and docked it to the right/left, the wallpaper would have too much empty space, which I did not know how to fill up. If I rotated it, I would have to extend the scan, which, at that time, I was not confident of doing. Also, the large amount of black text over Aoshi deterred me.

Fast forward to this year, I was in a jolly Rurouni Kenshin mood due to the release of the new OAV (which sadly, was a retake on the Kyoto arc and not particularly interesting) and the movie (which I haven't watched, but I would like to watch). I found the covers of the new RK manga reprinted and in the midst of getting wallpaper ideas from the new images, POW! There came this idea of doing the Aoshi wall against a simple background and rotated to fit the wallpaper. I wanted to do it as if it were a faded watercolour thing, so I searched around my archive of images and found this from Black Cat. I also got the idea of the petals from that image.

Somehow, after the idea materialized, I got so obsessive with it that I could not think of anything else. In fact, there came a point when I spent such a long time on it that nothing was going right anymore, and I was forcing the paint to go in the direction that I wanted. When I realized that, I stopped myself and took a break -.- Remember: always give your eyes a break! :D

While I did vector mask painting and I vectored the outlines and the base colours, I made it a point to not use vectors for the shades. I think there are only 2 vector layers in there: one, for the light streaks on the hair, and two, for the light marks on the orange collar. The rest was painted and smudged into place. I used the normal soft round brush with pen pressure to block in the colours, and the soft round brush without pen pressure to smudge. My smudge levels are usually at 62%; however, for the lines on the handle of the kodachi, I used a higher smudge level of 87%, and a very tiny brush size.

And, I finally learnt how to use the non-destructive rotate tool (just hit "r" to use it) to get the smudging right. Initially, I tried not to smudge too evenly because I still wanted to retain the painted look. However, I realized that my normal smudging skills were so lousy, they were uneven at best. Hence, I had to aim to get my strokes as even as possible to achieve the uneven look. Confusing?

Anyway, in line with the original image, I decided to go excessively on dark shades. Actually, I always go excessively on dark shades. I like it dark. It creates a more dramatic effect. I believe that on average, I had 4 darks shades versus 2 light shades for each component. Also, I painted in the normal colours first because I was thinking that I could use this image next time. You can see the original painting here. So, I did the desaturation after the painting was done. I used a mix of levels, brightness/contrast and hue/saturation/lightness. I tried curves, but the result was so odd that I decided to just stick with levels. Oh yes, the eyes were the only part which I jacked up the saturation and the brightness/contrast.

I used the normal gradients, cloud/difference clouds filter and noise filter to achieve the desired textures. I also used a spikey smudge brush (it's one of the presets) to create the lines in the background. I used quite a bit of "colour burn", but after a while I realized that this effect was causing a lot of my darks shades to turn completely black in colour. While it created nice dramatic lines on the trenchcoat, it made his hands look flat. So I had to do a bit of layer masking to remove the effect from the hands.

To create the petals, I copied, pasted and transformed from the Black Cat image above. However, there were too little petals, so I decided to draw my own to fill in the spaces. This is the part where I felt the most insecure. I hate filling in stuff on my own. I don't really mind extending scans because there's always the original image as a guideline, as well as other images which I can use as a reference. But the petals had to look different from each other, and so in this sense, I was mostly on my own. Can you spot the petals that I drew in? I hope not. It would mean that I've done a good job! :D

With that done, it's down to wallpaper statistics:
Aoshi: 142
Petals: 4
Background elements, gradients and textures: 14
Total: 160

To be honest, I never guessed that I had used so few layers. That's because Photoshop was lagging so badly when I started doing the trenchcoat. At that time, I had done the hair, the skin and the eyes. That's about 42 layers. As I had done walls with more layers before, I thought that I must have used a lot of them, hence causing the lag. Now, I think the lag is caused by the large canvas size. I used a larger canvas size initially, so that I could paint in as much of Aoshi as possible. For the wall, I cropped him such that the "undesirable" portions (basically, the parts which I could not do well) were out of the wall. Hmm.

Anyway, this is the first wallpaper that I've completed in Adobe Photoshop CS6! Woohoo! Next up: ... I don't know. Recently I've realized that doing 2 walls at once was more productive. This is because focusing on one wall only could be boring. So I always had 2 projects open such that when I got bored, I would just switch over to the other one.

Currently, I'm working on both an Ookami wall and a Subarashiki Kono Sekai wall. I'm thinking of having the TWEWY wall as the main project and the Ookami wall as the side project. The problem is that I'm getting obsessive over the Ookami well...
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