Sunday, October 26, 2014

Illustrating an atmosphere

As a parenthesis I'll start with this: I have been havig a nice long time doing nothing at all. Well, when you do nothing at all you actually do something, so that was a lie. For starters I've been working a lot lately, and when I get home I'm too tired to form a sentence. To collect myself I've been drawing instead, Both digitally and traditionally, and since my mind follow the same track all the time, I always illustrate characters or scenes from the world where my novel is based:

Sorry for the bad resolution, my scanner won't cooperate. Lager picture here.
This, for example, is Ury. He's a shipowner, but to stay solvent he has to be the captain of his own ships and do some dirty work on the side. This has made him a bit of a workaholic.

It isn't illustrations in the traditional way I'm going to talk about this time though, so let's get to the point.

We talked about postwork last time, and this would be a way to continue with that. Atmosphere. How to add it. I'm not a pro, not at all, but I'll gladly share what I've learnt this far. It's fairly easy, and I'm sure you'll get great results quickly.

Ok, so let's start with a render:

I started out with building the scene in DAZ 3D. I used Stonemason's Modular Ruins, but to make the walls to follow the stairs I had to bend them in D-Former and make morphs. You can learn how to do that here, if you haven't read about it before.
The character I use is a Genesis 2 Female. She's called Ginger, and I've bought this one because of the nice detail of the skin. She's great for extreme close ups, but to make her work, you need Stephanie 6. Hm. My husband and I are obviously shopaholics. To make it sound better, they have sales at DAZ-store too ;)

Anyway, as you can see, I've added some morphs of my own to this character, For starters, the girl in my picture is extremely petite, her face is more triangular and so on and so forth. I've made loads of changes, really, but still she looks a lot like Ginger.

The outfit she's wearing is called Ranger Outfit, it's very well done, but sadly that's the reason why too many artists are using it. You can see it in loads of pictures.

I've used Age of Armours Advanced lights, but any lights will work for this scene.

  1. Backlight. A spotlight placed just around the corner on the top of the stairs. This to iluminate the wall rather than the character. This light is strong, about 80%. Shadows at about 50% and shadow softness at 20%.
  2. Main light. In front of the character, in the direction she's looking this time. I don't point the light directly at her, I point it just beside her head on her left side. This to both meet up with the lights from upstairs and to avoid making a circle of light pointed at her. This light is very low, about 20%, no shadows at all.
  3. Fill light 1. Comes in from the left. I placed the spotlight by the wall and pointed it a bit infront of her. This light is set at about 30% and the shadow at 70%. Shadow softness at 20% again.
  4. Fill light 2. I couldn't meet the first fill properly, so I had to do ths differently. The spotlight is placed to the left of the camera I'm using, just a bit closer to the wall. The light is pointed just over her left arm. light is set at about 20%, no shadows.
  5. This last light is just something extra to get details pop. Works very well if you use the Age of Armour Advanced Spotlights, not as well with the built in spotlights. on the other hand, this light is not something you need. I placed this light in the middle between the left side fill light and the main light. Pointed it directly at her, right in the chest. Made sure the spread angle was fairly wide. Changed the ilumination to Specular only. Set the lights at about 5%, the shadows at about 10%.

So. We have our render. Time for some postwork to add effects. I only know how to do this in Photoshop, sorry.

the first thing I did was to build something that would resemble a beam of light . I did it like this:

The problem with this techique is, that I still needed that effect you get from dust in the light, you know when lights become stripes because of the things floating around in the air? Here's a clip on how to get that light effet.

After that there was a lot of erasing to do. In retrospect I realised I should have rendered the scene first, then the character, saved them both separately as .png files. That would have made the postwork much more effective, and I wouldn't have to erase all the light stuff from the character. As you can see in the picture below I've already started with the hair.

When that was done, I did the usual: Drawing hair. You have a tutorial on how to do that here.

In he close up you can see how I start by painting a base layer and then add the strands of hair. Since I don't have a pen and tablet, I draw with a mouse, and that's why I do everything in several layers.

After that it's time for highlights and adding of shadows. This was my final result.

If you want a better resolution, go here.

That's it for today, folks! Have a nice Sunday everyone!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tutorials? Again?

Yup, I finally thought it was time to talk about postwork. When you've made your render (and if your renders look as weird as mine does, you'll like this post), it's time to fix some stuff to make them pop.

When I render a scene in DAZ it often looks a bit like this:

Rather flat, don't you agree? I'm still learning about how to set the lights right, but whn you master lighting the pictures will look much better. Also, you can see that there are some poke-throughs in the suit Fur is wearing. Usually, this is something that easily can be fixed in DAZ, but I didn't notice them until the picture was already rendered and I really wanted to move on to Photoshop.

You've read about how to render every scene twice in this post, haven't you? I mention IamUman's tutorial there, on how to make photorealistic skin.

When you've done this, the fun begins. I learnt a lot of how to use Photoshop through this clip on photomanipulation.

This is also how I add highlights where the lights isn't strong enough and shadows where I want more of that. Of course I also paint over the poke-throughs and stuff.

As you can see from my render up there, Fur doesn't have any hair. I draw that on my own in photoshop. It's a bit difficult doing with a mouse, but it can be done. This is how I do it:

When I'm done with highlights and all details I'd like to add, there's a plugin called Topaz Adjust from Topaz Labs that I just love. Of course you have what you need in most drawing programs among the filters, I'm just sharing what I use. 

After playing with these things for a couple of hours (painting hair takes time) the picture looks like this:

Why I still think 3D-rendering is a good thing compared to draw all the illustrations by hand (or digitally), is that I only have to make the character once. It saves me a lot of time. After that it's just posing in a scene, taking a picture and - as with any photo model - airbrush.

Here's another example of what happens with the picture after some postwork:



Good luck with your pictures!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Time for some tutorials - again!

So, yeah. I'm still learning new stuff with DAZ, but the most challenging part is lights. there are thousands and thousands of ways to light a scene and if you think you have the perfect solution for one scene, the next second you realize you were all wrong. If you want things to look realistic, that's when you're in trouble.

You've already seen a post on how to set lights in a daylight scene, the next issue you'll be having is mking a night scene look all right. I've had some problems with that, especially since I have a tendency to making all my pictures too dark.

A friend of mine helped me out, doing this tutorial for me:

Edit: I'll have to ask my friend for this picture again, since it's been removed. Will be up ASAP.

You'll find a better resolution here. I think this is the best part with dA. You will always get help from those who know more.
I could rant on about lighting forever, but I still don't know enough to say I have all the answers. All I can say is play with it and see what you get. 

The next thing I'd like to talk about is morphs. You know, those things you change how your character looks like with. I just learned how to make my own, and this is something you'll need to learn to really make your characters look like your own.

There is a thing called D-Formers. It's standard in the program, and here are some tutorials on how to use them. Remember: If you don't save them as morphs, the changes you've made is saved on this character only. If you want to use them more than that, you'll have to save them as morphs.

This first one is a little older, but very informative. From this clip I learned that you can do almost anything with a D-Former. I had no idea it could be used on plains and stuff before I saw this.

This next one is very good too, Medhue tells you all you have to know about using the D-former tool on characters. This clip is old, but really worth a look.

This last one is more up to date, but you'll need to have seen the two others to get what Medhue is talking about. Here, he shows you how to make the D-Formers into morphs.  By following the link you'll find his channel for lots and lots of other things on DAZ 3D.

Gud luck!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


This is a holiday that we really don't celebrate in Sweden, even though it's slowly crawled it's way into our calendar. I like all the orange, the ghosts and witches, and the fact that we really need something fun during these dark Autumn months to occupy our minds with. So far, we have All Saints Eve, when we light candles on all the graves, but nothing as interesting as ghosts.

The best part is all the costumes. I love them. As I find clowns kind of scary - Stephen King is only partly responsible for this - I'd probably shit my pants if a miniature clown came to my house to ask for candy. I wouldn't dare to not have any at home.

And since it isn't common place to walk around asking for candy during this night yet, and the kids seem to think you can do this every night through the whole holiday (we have a week long holiday around Halloween), this is still a bit confusing XD

Costume parties though, they are NOT confusing, and they are starting to become very common around here. Still haven't dressed up as anything as scary as a clown though.

So, here it is, the scary clown that MIGHT shop up on my porch in a couple of weeks:

You can see the drawing with better resolution here.

Since I will forget all about it when it's time, I'll say it now:

Happy Halloween to all of you!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is getting closer every minute, and this year I already have a plan on what to do. I just sat down to write a short synopsis, and through that I got some new ideas. No sunday scribbles today, I have nothing translated, but at least you may have a look at what Fur will be doing during November. I've still not decided what to do with the spelling of Fur's name, but I have some ideas :D

This year's project (yeah, I even made a crappy banner that I won't use):

"When you have nothing to lose, it is too easy to clutch at the first straw - the tiniest chance to pull yourself up, to stay alive - but remember to ask yourself: is it worth it?"

Fur is cautious by nature, so of course he questions how he is still alive and for what purpose. He does not have friends in the right places, does not have enough money to be able to bend the rules himself, but most of all: he is not important. Fur does not even have any useful skills, except for being a fairly good engineer.

The moment he regained his life, Fur signed, without knowing it; a life long contract. The choices: to die or to obey. When he learns that the price he has to pay is much higher than his conscience can bear, he begins a hunt after what is hiding behind the scenes. Fur finds himself provoking dangers he never thought he would face. 
After all: when you have nothing more to lose, you also have nothing more to fear.

I'm already looking forward to start writing this! One thing at a time though, have those other chapters to work with first. A second past midnight November 1st though... Can't wait!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Scribbles - another crude translation!

I guess it's time for another translate. This time I've been working on one of the chapters that were discarted from the novel, and as I've mentioned in this post, I'm working on a miniature prequel out of some of it. This part occurs some years before what you've read in A crude translation #2 and A Crude translation #3, and if you've read this interview, you know who Fur is by now.

The following text is a revised part of the first chapter, and even though I've worked a bit more on this translation than usually, it's probably not all that yet. Please comment if you see something that you find strange ;) Honesty may sound unpolite, but it's better than having the faults and not noticing them myself.

OK, here we go!

The usual lovely weather in Nerthal. Rain; this evening a fine drizzle that first presented itself as a veil on top of the clothes, small droplets resting on the fibres like microscopic diamonds. So far so good, but then they slowly and hardly noticeable sneaked into the fabric making everything invisibly humid. Fur couldn’t figure out which was worst - full metal pouring rain or this guerilla warfare of water. He opened the door to The Five Legged Mare and walked in.
"Mr Nidell!"
Fur hadn’t even entered through the door when the short man - yes, he was short even compared to Fur himself - flew up from his armchair by the fireplace. As he stood up, he grabbed his toddy glass from the side table, and Fur couldn’t help but being surprised that he didn’t spill it all out.
“Mr Nidell, I’m glad to see you, old boy”, the little man continued, “the evening wouldn’t be the same without you.”
"Of course, Mr. Tully, of course." Fur laughed dryly, "What would this evening be without my excellent company?" And what in the Mother’s name was going on? It appeared as if Mr. Tully had been waiting for him. Appeared, by the way. It was a bit too obvious.
Mr Tully laughed and sipped gently from the toddy glass while his eyes swept through the room as if he expected that someone would sneak up on him from one of the corners. An impossibility, since the room was almost empty.
"Well, what are you drinking? How many glasses am I behind?" Fur pulled off his dark blue coat and threw it over the hanger in the entrance while glancing at Mr Tully. The man’s combover was more carefully attended to than ever and the smile was rather stale. He was up to something, all right.
"Hot Toddy", said Tully, "In this weather you want nothing more than to have hot toddy. I'm on my first, but when it comes to Lords Wilgor, it’s been a while since I lost count.”
Ah, the Wilgor twins were here. In that case their fat cousin should be around too. Fur hung his hat by the coat and had a quick glance through the room.  By the fire sat two elderly men, reading today's newspaper. At a round table further in, four men were playing cards. Fur immediately recognized the two brothers, as well as their cousin, but he wasn’t familiar with the fourth player.
“You are absolutely right, Mr Tully”, Fur replied. “Toddy is exactly what I need.” Yes, in spite of a nice spring, early summer had been surprisingly cold and rainy. Down at Hofsted manor, he’d overheard the crofters complain by the forges; of crop failure and soaked fields. Unless the rain stopped and the warmth of summer came, it would be a hard winter. A toddy or two was just what Fur needed. He was tired, but satisfied with the day's work. The new spring he made ​​to Docener’s recent launch Trio proved to work better than expected. The little vehicle were both faster and could go further than any of the competing brands.
"You’ve lost count? Lords Wilgor may have planned a short night." Fur replied, stretched his back with a series of cracks, and sauntered off to the bar. "I'll have to hurry if I am to keep up." Fur unfurled her purse and took out two big notes. "Three toddy."
"You must excuse me, sir, I do not have enough change," the bartender wiped his hands on the towel that hung at his waist over the black apron, "You have nothing smaller?”
'"Keep the change." Fur waved away the man as if his words were a swarm of annoying flies on a hot day.
"Thank you, sir!" The well-starched man on the other side of the bar immediately wiped out three glasses.
Fur turned him his back and leaned against the bar's edge. "So Tully, what’s the news?"
"You have not read today's paper, Mr Nidell?" The little man with the narrow mustache seemed not the least bit concerned about the loss of the title. Or else he did not show. Probably the latter; what an oily slug. He must be out of money again.
"I've had more important things to do than reading the news." Fur attempted to quell a smile before it spread too far.
"The Queen and the Princess of Sakrinand are in transit, a ball is held in their honor at the City Hall Tonight" began Mr. Tully, but was quickly interrupted by Fur.
"Oh, that's why there are so many people everywhere."
"What?" Tully had already his next story on the tip of his tongue.
"Hotels are fully booked, even the inns are full to bursting - which you also could say about their guests." It was actually surprising that it was so empty at the club, when Fur came to think about it.
"Mr. Nidell, have you completely forgotten about the festival?”
Fur’s respond was dripping of snark. "Forgotten would give what you call the festival more honor than than it deserves. Repressed would be more suitable.”
"Oh, you can not mean that you do not appreciate the popular festivities!" Tully laughed.
"Mean? Absolutely not. I want to decisively authenticate how my most emphatical aversions against popular events is extremely cordial." Fur spoke calmly and smiled.
"I thought so," Tully laughed and raised his glass in a triumphant cheer. "Who can feel anything but cordiality towards something like that?"
Fur raised his glass too, still smiling. The Impulse stifled a guffaw, Fur hid it better. He emptied it and took the next in a light grip. "So, my good Mr. Tully, what do the evening have to offer? A game of Clubs? Or do you prefer something quieter, like Towers?”

Well, this is what I've finished so far, I could add that both Clubs and Towers are made up card games ;) Hope you enjoyed it, and if you didn't please comment why :D

And something I want to make clear: This is not a finished text just because it's posted here, It's a work in progress. I'm grateful for all kinds of critique ;)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Time for a change

How much I ever love orange, colour contrasts and rusty things; yesterday I realised I got a headache from proofreading the preview of my blog. That's the first change, let's see if we can stay focused now when the page is a bit calmer. I stll have some more things to fix that bother me - the header for starters - but my headache isn't as painful when I watch the blog today.

I'm also translating a novella into English. I have been working on it for a couple of weeks just for fun, but I got the greatest idea from reading on a dear friend's blog: Why not publish it?

The novella consists of a whole bunch of flashbacks that became way too long and frequent. I decided to cut them out, but as always I saved them. I took a trip down memory lane during August and read them, and that's when I started to put it all together just for fun.

If you've read A crude translation, A crude translation #2 or An interview with a character #2, you know that Fur is about to be hanged, we know that he won't die this time, since he's been promised a sequel. The short novella is about how Fur ended up where he is in the beginning of the book.

And since I'm doing a translation I have a problem. The nickname Fur sounds stupid in English. What could I do about that?

I found this picture over at English Cafe Online.
Acording to this chart of phonemics, I've always pronounced it [fu:r], but how would I write that in english?

If anyone would help me out I'd be super grateful!

Overcoming Obstacles

I'm feeling rather powerful today. Despite an inner ear infection making me dizzy, fever and a cold that have taken the next step and upgraded to sinus infection. Well, not empowered physically maybe, but I managed to overcome something that has bothered me for a long time.

Firstly I decided to do a total remake on that skin that I don't seem to agree with. Before, I've only altered skins that already existed in DAZ, but I realised that I'd never get the effect I wanted if I didn't make the skins on my own from scratch. I found some Seam Guides made by SnowSultan, who is kind enough to share them for free. Thank you! 

Seam guides are in this case pictures which shows you where different body parts are supposed to be on the DAZ character, they look like this:

These are the seam guides for the limbs on a male Genesis (the older model of characters for DAZ). The picture I've shown here is too small to work on, so if you want to try this out, download the zip-files here. As you can see on the page, there are  whole bunch of different files there for the picking.

After opening a picture I started drawing. Even though I know I shouldn't, I started with the texture map (the one that shows the skin colour), just because I really wanted to try out the skin in a testrender.
After some hours of drawing, this was the result. 

Now, you have to remember I'm sharing a work in progress here, there's still a lot to do, but the effects I wanted are there. A whole lot of smudging, detailwork on hands and stuff are to be done, but I'm getting the right effect.

At first I wanted this character's skin to look like metallic car paint; different colours showing in different angles. Since this didn't work out as planned, I decided to paint these effects on my own.
When I'm done I'll show the results, meanwhile I can tell you what I've done this far:
  • I started out by opening a new layer over the seam guide in Photoshop (there are several other programs that you can use similarly). After that I painted everything inside the lines dark purple. As you see here, I should have painted outside the lines too; the seams don't fit together, which is the reason for all the white lines. If you paint outside the lines it really doesn't matter.
  • To still be able to see the seam guide I pulled down the opacity to 50% on the coloured layer and opened a new one. In this new one I outlined muscles and other things that usually stick out from the body with a darkblue, almost black colour. I try to think of how to enhance a shadow when I do this, so I only paint where there would be a shadow if the light comes from above. I'm not completely finished with this yet, since I haven't started working on the hands. I need to outline the fingerbones.
  • I smudge all the dark blue until the lines are smooth, then I pull down the opacity on this layer too, about 50%.
  • In the next layer it's time to outline the outliner with green. I do the same thing again; smudging until it's smooth to make a nice gradation from the darker blue colour, then pull down the opacity.
  • After that it's time for yet another layer. In this one I used light blue, almost white. I highlighted everything that should be highlighted; the places that would stick out from a body. Like muscles, bones and stuff. Smudge again to make a gradation between the other colours. In ths layer I had to lower the opacity to about 25%, otherwise it was too pale.
  • I pulled up the opacity on the dark purple layer again to 100%.
  • To be able to keep on working on the skin later, I unmarked everything and saved the whole project as a psd-file before I took the seam guide away, flattened the image and saved it (remember to save it in another name than the seam map, otherwise you'll overwrite it by mistake).
  • In DAZ Studio I opened a basic male (Genesis in this case) and changed the coloured maps that already were there to the new one, then I made a test render.
Well, this is what I did. It sounds much quicker when I read it now. But, to actually do the job faster, you can copy and paste a lot. Since you have all the limbs to work on at the same sheet, you can start by colouring just one leg, then copy that layer, flip it and move it to the other leg, for example. If you do that on every layer, you don't have to do the same thing over and over again, and you can be sure that the structures looks similar on both legs or both arms. If you merge the matching layers together; all highlights in one and so on; you can also be sure that you use the same amount of effect on all the limbs, if you decide to do that.

As I said, when I'm done, I'll show the results ;)