Critique => Pixel Art => Topic started by: Erik Leppen on January 08, 2013, 09:12:34 am

Title: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Erik Leppen on January 08, 2013, 09:12:34 am
Hi all,

As you can see I am new to this forum. I am actually more of a game designer than a pixel artist, but when I needed portraits for a game idea two years ago, I noticed I quite enjoyed "just" drawing portraits with no particular purpose, and later on I started doing existing people to see if I liked that too.

I have drawn several portraits since and I have certainly improved (I find my first drawings very bad, and that's a good sign). However I haven't seen improvement lately, and I thought, well, that's the moment to ask others for their opinions, suggestions, etc. So I'd like to hear anything you notice you think could be improved, be it lighting, anatomy, coloring, proportions, expression, method, etc. etc. on the pixel piece below:
This is the distribution of colors:
Color counts (http://www.erikleppen.nl/cbokwq/pixelart/pixel_ewout_540_result2013-01-06_colors.png)
Here's how I did it:
Progress image (http://www.erikleppen.nl/cbokwq/pixelart/pixel_ewout_540_progress.png)

Here's the two pictures I used for reference (yes, I am mixing pictures. I'm trying to depict a specific person, not recreate a specific picture :) ):
Reference image for face (http://www.erikleppen.nl/cbokwq/pixelart/pixel_ewout_reference_1.jpg)
I used this picture for the face, because it had good lighting, has a full frontal view and shows the right emotion.
Reference image for hair (http://www.erikleppen.nl/cbokwq/pixelart/pixel_ewout_reference_2.jpg)
I used this picture for the hair because I liked it better.
I used a third picture for the shirt, but I couldn't find it anymore.

So...what do you think?

EDIT 9 March: please refer to reply #17 (http://www.wayofthepixel.net/index.php?topic=15055.msg139465#msg139465) for an up-to-date sprite and accompanying reference picture.
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: DtFM on January 08, 2013, 09:56:13 am
Don't dither the skin. You have enough colours that it is unnecessary, and it adds a fuzzy texture to what should be a smooth surface.
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Terley on January 08, 2013, 01:00:34 pm
Don't dither the skin. You have enough colours that it is unnecessary, and it adds a fuzzy texture to what should be a smooth surface.

I don't think 'do or don't dither' is the way to look at it, you should use dithering as a blending tool 'where needed' but I agree that over doing it can result in unwanted texture. There are other ways to make colour transitions smoother by ensuring you have good values in your palette, consider un-dithering the face and then see if your at a point were any subtle uses of the technique can improve the smoothness or adds a texture.

But adding texture can improve an image, if a face was left un-dithered it could result in looking very plastic or cartoony; which is why I suggest judging where and when to use it. For instance crinkles, stubble, blemishes etc.
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Erik Leppen on January 09, 2013, 10:59:33 pm
Thanks for the replies so far, unfortunately I have not yet found time to try it out. I'm not sure about taking out the dithering because I'd figure that would introduce color banding. But I'll try it out, put it here and see what happens.
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Terley on January 10, 2013, 02:22:16 pm
I had a quick 5 minute attempt at minimising random dithering and clean edges, I've not completely got rid of the dithering, but do you see how having better control can help.

(http://www.erikleppen.nl/cbokwq/pixelart/pixel_ewout_540_result2013-01-06.png) (http://img23.imageshack.us/img23/2606/facedither.png)
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Erik Leppen on January 12, 2013, 12:01:41 am
Thanks for the edit Terley!
(http://www.erikleppen.nl/cbokwq/pixelart/pixel_ewout_540_result2013-01-12_1.png) (http://www.erikleppen.nl/cbokwq/pixelart/pixel_ewout_540_result2013-01-12_2.png)

Anyhow, what I did was first remove all dither, per the tip by DTfM, but you get noticable color banding and I don't like that. Also skin is not so smooth. Then I looked at Terley's picture to see what (s)he did and tried doing similarly. I noticed you're using checkered dither, where I used random dither. The reason I did that was to try to have a smooth transition of color, where with checkered dither one can only have 50% between colors. However after seeing the effect of your edit I think my random dither also creates more of a mess.
However I still clearly see the color transitions (forehead mainly), and I'm still not sure I like them...

(By the way I like what you did to
I do have to say though that looking at your edit I feel like "copying" even though I do not "literally" copy. But that might just be me.

Anyhow. Any advice is welcome! (right image in this post is latest)
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Facet on January 12, 2013, 01:12:53 am
Hey Erik, this is a good likeness :y: Looks much better with the more subtle dither.

There's a few things you could do about the banding effect; the first is just to lower the contrast and increase the shades for less harshness. That's not the usual way in pixels though :lol:. You can be a lot more particular in weighting your values ie, not evenly spacing them throughout the ramp. I usually minimise range in the darks, group midtones to the light side and leave space in the high end for highlights to stand out; try experimenting a little on the forehead.

Elsewhere I think the hair is a bit distractingly over-rendered; you could simplify and abstract there more in order to lessen competition for attention with the face. More detail is not necessarily more realistic; you almost certainly wouldn't notice individual strands either from life or a photo at this size and hair can be a lot of fun treated more loosely.

Colour-wise you're pretty uniformly saturated for the most part. A good range of saturation in the mix will only make your colours pop more where you want them to via the contrast.

Finally, and kinda personal preference, I much prefer the plaid in the second ref. to those stripes, maybe it's the colours again though :P.
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Erik Leppen on January 18, 2013, 10:26:17 pm
Better? Worse?

Anyhow, I tried to do somethingwith most of the remarks by Facet (so, thanks!). First I changed some colors. Face is a tiny bit brighter, not sure I like it but tried to do things with the colors there. Still not sure what you think was wrong with the colors though.
Shirt is now a pale blue which is more neutral, to try to break the high-saturation throughout. Also I changed the background to neutral light-gray, to not distract too much. Both might change to any other color any moment though :P

Also and most importantly, I completely redid the hair, in an attempt to try something different. Not sure what you mean by "abstract" but it's less detailed this way. Not sure I like it better than the original, but I like it better than I thought I would like it. I'd like to hear comments on the new haircut :D
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Facet on January 19, 2013, 08:11:01 pm
Better! Much more pleasing palette, It's still a tiny bit over-orange in the face imo; the first ref. looks to by taken by a warm source or else has been manipulated so it might be misleading. I made an example of some of the other stuff I mentioned for comparison, not actually the palette though:


The hair is pretty fun but I think in regular lighting he's a sandy blonde and all those dark lines are making it a little hard to tell. Treating the hairs as strands with full tonal range is also flattening; they all appear to be aligned to the same plane and it's hard to relate them to the forms of the face, I made mine curlier too. The face I dialled back in the low end too which I think helps with the gradation and I made some smaller changes for the sake of the likeness.

It's a bit messy still, but I don't think you've problems with detail work. The eyes in particular are good which is a common sticking point; just try and resist the urge to detail where it doesn't need it :P.
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Erik Leppen on January 20, 2013, 09:00:16 pm
That's an interesting edit Facet! Thanks! Interesting in the sense that I need to see closely what you did with the hair and see if I understand why.

I like what you did with the darker colors by the way. It makes me think...why did I have so many dark colors? No matter what the result of that thought will be; it's always good if people make me think :P

There's another interesting thing going on with your edit. Because, to be honest, my first thoughts when I saw it were "this is pretty nice....but it looks like it's someone else" (even when I put my hair on your face). Which is interesting as you said you made some changes for likeness's sake. That gets me wondering....why do I find it less recognizable? That's not a question for you to answer, just something I'm wondering myself.

Anyhow, I'll experiment more with the hair. Thanks ;D
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Facet on January 20, 2013, 09:47:39 pm
No problem :)

 If you squint at it a bit hopefully it's clearer what I mean about the benefits of treating the hair a bit more broadly. The guy's hair is very striated but with more deliberate grouping and arrangement it should be easier to read nicely as a whole; it's finding a sweet spot though.

The likeness: Yeah, flipping between them just now I might have lost something there; I was looking at the second ref more. If this is someone you know of from outside of those photos you'd have a better idea than me too :D.
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Erik Leppen on January 22, 2013, 10:49:02 pm

So I tried out Facet's hair idea. I think it's an interesting way to do it. I'm kind of in doubt whether I like it. It's more abstract than the rest of the sprite, but it's much easier on the eye.

Also I made some other tiny changes on multiple places, most importantly removing the darkest skin colors, adjusting the skin colors a little bit again, and adding the shadows of the collar.

And of course, I'm still looking for comments ;D
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: tehwexxl0rz on January 22, 2013, 11:08:49 pm
The new hair is really no more abstract then the rest of the piece. It's a vast improvement.  :y:

The shape is still off though.... It's very round on the sides giving the impression of a short afro.

But my main critique: why the fuzzy edges everywhere?
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: st0ven on January 24, 2013, 04:48:14 am

I took some time to just do a facial simplification to give perhaps some ideas about shading the skin, i probably should have checked out the actual reference pic though because now i fear this is totally pointless.

I was just going for a younger, generic dude look, but i think perhaps some points about the narrowing of lips and some other shading examples might still be useful.

essentially if i had any advice to give, it would be to block out the likeness and shape of the face first in flat color areas, you can attempt to shade and smooth after youve solidified a more coarse image that youre satisfied with.

no reason why pixels cant behave in certain ways like working in any other medium, starting rough, layering in details ontop of basics, etc. looking at the progress pic it looks like you really went for shading first. i think its really hard with pixels to shade, capture human form and likeness ontop of that.
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Erik Leppen on January 26, 2013, 10:10:57 pm
I played around with the colors and tried doing someting to the shading similar to st0ven, but I'm not sure anything actually improved (except the shading on the shirt, which is now more to my liking :) )...

thewexxl0rz, what exactly do you mean with "fuzzy edges everywhere"? Do you mean, in the hair? Do you mean the actual edge of the sprite (between hair and background)? Do you mean the anti-alias? I'm not sure what you want to know... If you mean the edges of the hair, I want to give the impression of curly hair and this seemed a good way. I don't see anything wrong really...
(haven't really paid much attention to the hair since previous iteration though).

st0ven, nice edit! No worries, it's absolutely not useless, because it's different which means I can learn from this. I like the dimmed colors idea, but it looks like you removed the ambient light by strengthening the contrast. It's not what I want for the final image, but it's great as a learning tool, so thanks! Is there any specific reason for the "reddish" and "greenish" hues of two of the colors in the skin ramp? Are they to imply a second light source? I'm asking because I'm not an artist... :sry:

About your tips, I'm willing to start over using a more proper methodology, after all I'm here to learn and not to produce sprites quickly. So I might just do that, just to compare.
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Cage on January 26, 2013, 10:31:46 pm
Stoven's version defines the face and the neck a bit better.


Notice how the shading separates the frontal planes of the face from the sides. In yours, the head/face seem kinda eggy ;)

Here's a quick ref for the planes of the face (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-1un7GNbiGPw/UBCQGNLpk1I/AAAAAAAAAlY/L5lzXWtR_wQ/s1600/AsaroHead_1.jpg), something I have to work on myself too!

Also, the neck could use some darker colours - the values you used suggest that his throat is in the same z space as his face 
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Dr D on January 26, 2013, 10:59:15 pm
About the reddish and greenish shades in St0ven's edit:

The reddish look comes from sub-surface scattering, which is basically light going through the skin and bouncing off the red blood cells, causing the skin to look more red. You can usually see this in midtones in skin.

The greenish I think is just reflected lighting, and also contrasts with the brown of the background/shadow of the skin.
Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: Erik Leppen on March 09, 2013, 04:35:46 pm
Huge bump :o

Also I notice that I forgot to thank Dr D and Cage for their replies. But it's not too late, so thanks :)

Anyhow, as I said earlier I was willing to try again from scratch, just because I can, but also because I still wasn't really happy and also to see if the new knowledge/experience would help me create a better sprite, so, armed with a new reference picture (http://www.erikleppen.nl/cbokwq/pixelart/pixel_ewout_reference_3.jpg) I did just that.

The result:

The progress, again:
Progress image (http://www.erikleppen.nl/cbokwq/pixelart/pixel_ewout_540_progress_2.png)

Again, opinions (also on the workflow) and comparisons are welcome, if there's anything you would change (except the background color :P) feel free to let know :D

I do have to admit that I used the reference picture quite intensively, by laying progress images over the reference transparently, looking at the differences and make adaptations, and using helplines. Not sure if it's considered cheating or would stand in the way of learning, but if I may say so myself it at least creates a much better likeness. Also I used the same light source as the reference.

Title: Re: Portrait: Ewout Genemans
Post by: YellowLime on March 09, 2013, 05:40:57 pm
Looks pretty nice :o

The thing I could say is that there are some weird lines, like the ones on the neck. I guess they'd look worse if the lines were "continuous", but then again they still look weird like this :blind: I'd consider removing them, unless you don't mind using a lighter shade (also you missed the leftmost pixel on the lowest line of the chin!)

In my opinion, the right ear looks as if attached to the front part of the face, and would need some darker line in the upper part to help distinguish it.

And also, the upper lip seems too dark and flat-colored, especially compared to the rest of the face. It's like he just had chocolate milk :crazy: