Looking for some advice on character illo
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  1. #1
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    Question Looking for some advice on character illo

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    Hey folks. I'm a bit of a n00b at real illustration. I'm hoping hone my skills with the help of the community here. I hope I can contribute in return.

    I've been working on this character design for awhile. Man of Many Faces was the concept.


    Points I want to drive across: A vagrant warrior that travels to supernatural ruins for lost treasures. Sort of a glorified grave robber who carries his shop of antiquities with him at all times, he sells the enchanted, ancient goods at towns he passes through. Though he keeps the best for himself. Carries all kinds of masks and different weapons, books, a lantern, maps, jizos and trinkets (Like a witchhunter). He's not keen on murder, being part merchant and an 'acquirer of rare antiquities', so he carries twin iron whips (chinese: Bian, sword-breakers) to literally beat the opposition. He carries a cursed ancient sword but uses it only against the supernatural.


    I just am not certain if I'm getting too colorful or too focused on polishing detail. I've never really made a full, finished character illo before. But I'd also like it to serve as a strong illo all on it's own, as my 'folio is pretty shallow. So I'm not too sure where I stand with it. What else should I really do besides clean/polish? Or is that even necessary? Is there anything remarkably amateur that I need to address?

    Thanks very much in advance.

    Last edited by JoeJEich; May 31st, 2011 at 08:34 AM.
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  2. #2
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    Wow that's a lot of costume!

    This really stands out to me. The style is like in your face. I think its great. As per your questions--I would say the upper portion looks like a professional quality illo.

    The only reason to paint a character just standing there is so they can be modeled in 3d. So ask yourself, would this character be suitable as a model? Maybe some others on this forum can better answer that question. I know there are different requirements for each company and project. In general, I would guess this character is just too busy but I'm no expert in that area.

    So another thing to ask yourself--are you making a piece suitable for a portfolio? What is this piece supposed to be for? If you want to develop characters for models, then maybe you don't need to render them so well, and maybe you need to costume them more simply? You may also need to do turnarounds so in the interest of time, make it all more simple. Do some research into what you want your portfolio to be for, and make it so.

    But there are some issues in his legs. His stance is not quite right. I reckon the perspective between his legs is too much. Also, the folds around his crotch and pants tucking into the boots is looking pretty fudged.

    Good luck!

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  4. #3
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    I like the overall idea of the design, and especially love the weapons you gave him. But one thing you are suffering from is something alot of character designers do; and that is finding the sweetspot of detailing. Some people dont do enough to make the characters noticeable or original, and some go too far by adding a hundred meaningless gadgets and trinkets. the sillhouette is great, the pose and "swagger" of the guy is awesome, but i think as far as your colors and details are concerned you are putting way to many unrelated parts in. Im diggin on the masks and faces everywhere, that is great, but you have far too many un-unified colors and far too many different objects. Why does this character have a strange English style scimitar, a middle eastern dagger, and yet he is carrying a pair of some kind of slimmed down fantasy kanabo? Its a kind of design schizophrenia. I think i posted in another thread about how important to character design the question "WHY" is. If your answer is anything close to "because it looks cool" or part of some convoluted back story that no one will find out, the element is most likely a bad idea.

    Hope that helps

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  6. #4
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    Thanks Artfix and Bullitbikini, this is how I see it now.

    This particular painting is more about communicating the idea, not the wardrobe specs. If I wanted to make a 3d model, I'd need to do a turnaround. Is it looking okay?
    Attachment 1244131

    And I need to go back into the concept drawing and work with the colors and trinkets/weapons.

    [...] how important to character design the question "WHY" is. If your answer is anything close to "because it looks cool" or part of some convoluted back story that no one will find out, the element is most likely a bad idea.
    That's what I really try to think about most. I'll rework the painting and see how well the second one lands. Hopefully it will make more sense. But I totally hear on the un-unified objects. Keeping at it.

    Thanks all!

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    Name:  red3sketch.jpg
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    Small update. Going in and making the cloth more frayed. Attempted to fix the perspective error. Made the back of his cloak much larger and very weathered. Added color correction layer (blue) to get more natural tones. Also took out several of the items that didn't fit in. Sorry if the flip and background shift makes it difficult. Still working on the design, and I work out of order when getting stuck.

    The weapon(s) I had in mind were asian. Damascus curved blade, an incredibly ancient looking una maratha talwar, and hearty whips. I still want him to wield duals, as many objects in his design point to two's and twin forms. I thought twin iron whips would not only be interesting and unique, but more importantly pin him a bizarre and practically ugly combination of grace and a ruthless 'thug'-like demeanor. He is supposed to be the killer you hire to kill that other killer who went all rogue on you. ... Like the Clive Owen of the Bourne series. I want to tell the viewer that he'd rather knock the door down than knock.

    Any thoughts always appreciated. I really don't know if this does a lot to it, but maybe someone knows. Been looking at it far too long.

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    Hi Eichelberg,
    The removal of the background was good. The textured look did not add anything and in fact made the image more confusing. You have a good concept right now, but unfortunately the image is not fully communicating the idea. This is partially due to some structural problems in the drawing itself. For example, even though I realize that it is stylized the shoulders and upper body (and head) seem small, possibly due to the pose or the perspective (which is a little ambiguous). His arms also seem a little short. It is hard to tell because of all the gear he is wearing. This brings me to the other point, which is that the level and type of detail is really flattening the character's sense of form. I would imagine that a dangerous/ intimidating character like him would be obviously muscular and strong and a view looking up at him would reinforce that feeling.
    I would suggest that you start out simply. Make a sketch of the character's anatomy and then place the detail on top, being careful to create overlaps, and silhouettes that communicate the volumes convincingly. Keep in mind that everything has volume and "thickness", even fabric. It will be easier to work out the lighting if you work from large shapes to smaller shapes and the character will be more unified. I did a quick sketch to show you what I mean. I pushed the stylization more towards a larger build, then I did a red-line of the costume on top of the gesture. I just guessed at the armor, as I didn't know exactly your intention for all the parts, but I hope it is somewhat clear.
    The next step would be to work out the lighting. Just keep the light source consistent for the figure as a whole and it should be pretty straightforward. Add all the bells and whistles last. It will be easier, because you will know what should be in the light and what should be in the shade already. Just keep the values consistent with the location and all the detail won't destroy the form you have worked to create. Hope this helps.

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  10. #7
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    Name:  wardrobe-study.jpg
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    Thanks Javier, those red lines were a lot of help. Seeing them brought to mind that I'm really not showing what the hell is going on along the waist cloth and belts. Then I realized I didn't quite have it figured out myself. (Particularly the kimono/single-sling-jacket) So I made a wardrobe study to straighten out my own mind. I'm debating whether or not to start taking things away.

    I thought I wanted him to look like he could walk down the street and not scare the townsfolk. Naturally, the more I peel away the more forgiving a 3d model would be. So I guess I'll have to seek a balance. Thoughts really appreciated, especially since it'd be my first complicated model.

    It seems the pose is still very lost. I have a post above with the turn-around of the anatomy/pose if its being missed. (no img, link attachment).

    Basically, shoulders waaaay back, but the chest is not forward, tummy and hips forward instead (so he's sort of doing a crunch) and feet shoulder width apart. Elbows pointed in and thumbs pointing down. Chin down, face forward. ...Tried standing that way myself and... its awkward. But I want to incredibly reinforce the weight of the two whips in-the-round.

    Going to make a final decision on wardrobe elements, then detail individual assets. Please if there are any thoughts on the anatomy and stance, hit me up with a lil' red. Really appreciated!

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  12. #8
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    Hi Eichelberg,
    The linework looks much, much better. I could tell what was going on with his costume fairly easily. The pose and anatomy are not "realistic", but they fit with the stylized look of the piece. If this is for a 3D model, then less detail would be easier, but don't change your design just to make it "easy".
    I would just recommend establishing the major volumes first, before starting in on detail for individual elements. Good luck with the next steps.

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    oh wow this is going really well! And way to impliment a crit effectively!

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    What would I give just for the first two line drawings on the left!
    I must say I really love the way you laid out the clothing and layers thereof, it makes it very understandable for me (beginner) and I hope you don't mind me saving this on my harddrive.
    I am not sure how you are going to proceed, but I just wanted to mention that I find the two sword/stick/candle-things he is holding are very distracting because of the detail and probably position- I couldn't help but staring at the sticks constantly rather than the figure. Hope this helps.

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  18. #11
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    Thanks for your feedback everyone. I've been out of town so haven't made too much particular process. I am thinking that I will finish and flush out the full body character illo before going to turnarounds.

    Maybe a little variation would be nice? Again, trying to look at some professional portfolios. I would like this series to serve as a very definitive, not to mention badass, character design that would make even the guys at LucasArts or Ubisoft go, "Damn."

    These 3 variants are some of my new thumbs to rethink the angle and pose. It's funny because I wish I could combine all of these looks and experiences into one, unfortunately I don't think I'm capable of that.

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    Also, I started making a second character illo. Some thumbs. Looking at them now they do need more work.

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    At the end of the day, what I would like is a large spread of a dozen or two thumbs, two or three developed character concepts, and one character pushed to turnarounds and a model.

    I don't want to limit myself to one genre, but I thought it would be nice to have a small brand for the characters. Or maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

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  19. #12
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    #2's pose is really good! #1 and 3 are a bit boring however. Edit: Critique for your first image.

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  21. #13
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    Good effort being put into this project. Well done, responding to the critique with much better work!

    The new poses for the male are all looking pretty solid (#1 a bit dull compared to the rest). The female ones aren't quite there yet. I know the feeling of wanting to get everything into one image all too well.. Not going to happen, though, and it'll usually just make it worse to add things. So all that's left is to pick one. Good luck.

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  23. #14
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    I took this back off the shelf to see what else I could do last week. Made a few decisions and would greatly appreciate your thoughts.

    I did a few more thumbs:

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    I decided to flush-out the thumb that was most similar to my original piece. I thought it might make a nice before and after showcase. Though I still really enjoy the feel of having the camera at this guy's knees. Might just make one of those a rough concept art or wallpaper? Would that be too impractical? I probably shouldn't obsess over one design. Thoughts so far would be greatly appreciated. I always fumble around at this stage, lighting and linework decision making = meh.

    Thoughts on eyes and the face HUGELY appreciated. Thanks again!

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