Critique => Pixel Art => Topic started by: lolzolaura on October 27, 2014, 12:10:38 am

Title: [C+C] [WIP] Exodus (Espiritus iudicium/ Espiritus botanica)
Post by: lolzolaura on October 27, 2014, 12:10:38 am
Hey guys.

I kind of need some help with this one.

It's a tree, which is sentient, and is puppeteering a suit of armour on one of its roots. That includes the sword and the soon-to-be-added scales in the other hand.
Also, it's helmet is fully closed, as if its wearing a bucket, a really fancy bucket at that one, as this boss is supposed to reference the sign Libra, and is a jugde. (and the jury, and the executionner, for that matter)
As for the leaves, I know those are pretty bad and that they need fixing (which is what I will tackle afther the suit of armour)

I have the feeling that the armour looks more like it is made of plastic, instead of metal. On the left, you can see the original palette, if you're curious.

So, let's hear your critiques,, show your edits or just give some tips.

EDIT 29-01-2015: Officially renamed to Exodus. His pseudo-Latin faux scientific names are how he will be (falsely) be classified in the bestiary. (the iudicium is the correct one!)
He is kind of a mash-up between Exodus, the Judge-Sal from Final Fantasy XII and Exdeath from Final Fantasy V, and largely my take on the whole judgemental tree idea.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Decroded on October 27, 2014, 10:13:17 am
dont get caught up in any details or texturing yet as u have lots of form work to fix first.

does this tree move around or is it stationary?
if it doesn't move, perhaps it is wiser to have the tree planted into the ground (draw the ground) and then some roots weave in and out of the dirt, then one of them is rising up from the dirt into the armor.
this should help with the whole weird balance issue.
u could even have the skeleton of the fallen warrior nearby from which the armor was originally claimed.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on October 27, 2014, 12:44:14 pm
It is a moving tree, how does it otherwise impersonate a guy wearing armour. All in all, it is sentient, and moves. Might draw a face on the tree as well, treant style.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: jams0988 on October 29, 2014, 06:13:45 pm
I would stick to pencil and paper for now. The basic construction on the tree and armour are completely off, so it'd be a waste to spend ten hours doing pixel level detail on this. You should just practice drawing normally.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: computertrash on October 29, 2014, 11:26:59 pm
the trunk looks more like a root than an actual tree trunk. try looking up references and use a specific tree type. it looks very strange overall.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on October 31, 2014, 02:35:03 pm
What if the armor is supposed to look "off"? I know you guys think in basic armor placement (and TBH, I am a lot better on paper) and then you have Blizzard-style pauldrons, and of course trees that not quite manage to wear a suit of armor without it looking like it is a tree using a suit of armor like a hand puppet.

I do have a front-view, slightly older drawing on paper though. I toned down the details on it for the pixel piece, because my intention was to animate it when done.

(this one is from 2012, mind you, back when I failed even more at drawing trees.)
I will look at some references, though. I have quite some nice trees in the area, even ones that are completely bent.

I was looking at help with the armor mostly, because I KNOW that trees doesn't work like that.

and in case you want to see it, an even worse sketch:
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Fizzick on October 31, 2014, 04:13:58 pm
Thanks for letting the Pixelation community know that we think about armor basically and make big pauldrons. There are actually a lot of people here who appreciate realistic armor, http://www.pixeljoint.com/pixelart/87916.htm this being an excellent example. Indeed the tree is not an ordinary one, but you would still benefit from better construction. For one, it is the same thickness all the way up and has thorns instead of branches. If you wanted the branches to look like that, it should be made more clear. The cluster of leaves at the top indicates that the tree branches out into a large group of very thin branches, which again, could be better done if that was your intention. Also, why not have branches/roots growing out of the armor at the cracks, maybe have some parts of the armor loose? You could have one root sticking out of the wrist holding onto the sword. These are ways to make your intentions more clear.

All in all, it seems that whatever critique the kind people of this forum have offered, you counter with "I meant it to look like that".
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on October 31, 2014, 04:58:53 pm
My apologies. Something about a language barrier and such.

I meant that yes, you guys think about more realistic armors. That does not mean that you guys like big pauldrons. The armor should feel impressive, while staying a bit realistic as well.
I have planned to change the tree a bit, as I just needed a basic idea. I already felt like that the leaves made no sense. It is the next step in fixing the sprite.

I do understand that the feedback is meant to improve the picture, I know that. However, I don't like it when people start commenting on "failed anatomy" when there is no human figure underneath. Also, it feels like people are being Captain Obvious, when they state again and again that the "tree does not work like that!". I already acknowledged that, and I asked about the armor, not about the tree.

(if I sound rude, my sincere apologies. I do not mean to sound rude, AT ALL.  :( )
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Fizzick on October 31, 2014, 07:36:30 pm
No worries. I understand now that English may not be your first language.  :)
Even though there is no human form underneath, it still helps to construct it more carefully. An accurate human figure would be a better starting point because it is more pleasing to the eye. Later on I will try to give you an edit, but I have to go party hard because it's pumpkin night.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on October 31, 2014, 07:57:59 pm
So, I should still put the human figure underneath for construction purposes, but make it clear later that there is none. Okay *noted on the bucket list of stuff to fix*
Have fun at the party :)
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on November 07, 2014, 11:49:13 pm
I have decided to start over. Trying to make the armor look more believable, and probably adding some little branches sticking out of it. I think that will be a better way of showing that there is no actual human inside it than offsetting parts of the armor.
So here I have a not necessarily better tree, with branches instead of thorns and some more "bushy" blotches for the leaves. Branches underneath will also be visible at places.

As the base I will be working from, with some basic shading added.


I will definitely do something with your feedback, don't worry :)
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Decroded on November 08, 2014, 07:42:06 am
i dont think working in such a restricted canvas is doing u any favors.

is this supposed to be a sprite for a game?
if so, u should post a rough mock-up of the scene in the game's resolution with the hero sprite shown.
i also wonder if this is a boss something that would be found running around the game world?
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on November 09, 2014, 07:56:28 pm
It is a boss for use in RPG Maker. If that is what you want to know.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Facet on November 09, 2014, 08:33:04 pm
I don’t think I’ve seen a tree puppeteer-ing a suit of armour before – it’s a cool idea  :y:.
It is a moving tree, how does it otherwise impersonate a guy wearing armour. All in all, it is sentient, and moves.

They’re saying - does it walk about, or it is fixed and just waves limbs?

I assumed a fully walking tree in a sort of mangrove style like a spider ‘cos it seemed more fun (if you preferred the big gnarly roots you could look at English Oak and Chestnut).

The comments about construction are probably aimed at some of the wobbly shapes and proportions; branches don’t seem to taper and idk what the spiky bits are. For the canopy I’d say less ‘blobby’ and more of a major mass with some ‘children’ for variety. Form-wise try lighting basic geometric stuff before texturing; the stamping patterns you've used I kinda like, but make sure they wrap around the underlying shapes. You seem to doing a bunch of this stuff in the pencil sketch already so apply it!
I didn’t get around to the armour, but it looks a bit invented: find a nice reference for proportions and materials first, and you can stylise however you want. atm your shading just doesn't look very confident; it’s hugging the edges a bit. I’d lose the legs of the latest ver. and probably the gauntlets too; you could maybe have the roots popping out to hold stuff.

Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Decroded on November 10, 2014, 01:38:02 am
What perspective are you going for?
I thought u were making a side scroller based on ur image.
I've never used rpg maker but from what I've seen it's normally more of a top-down engine?

In my mind this boss would be stationary, perhaps blocking access intentionally, and the roots coming up out of the ground make the Armour move. There could even be separate roots for the different parts of Armour even.
You COULD make the tree move around too, there's nothing wrong with that except it's like mixing multiple elements which seems unnecessarily complicated to make and to look at as a player.
Plus a large stationary tree would look more badass Confidently dominating more of the scene than having a smaller sprite that runs around all over the place.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on November 10, 2014, 04:52:56 pm
@Decroded: You know sideview battle systems? It is for use in that kind of system. I would animate it. I want to finish this first, then I'll start on an overworld sprite. More specific, it is Final Fantasy style sideview, with party on the right, enemy on the left.

@Facet: I got the feedback to start working from a humanoid base, even if there is no actual human in the final piece. For reference I have walked around in a nearby forest. The tree I want to use is an oak actually. ("Europese Eik" I have no idea what it's called in English. It has rounded leaves and a rather smooth surface on the trunk, as opposed to the spiky leaves of the "Amerikaanse Eik" American Oak) I'll take a pic if I go there again. Something with getting home from the archery range and it's getting late already.

The tree walks around AND waves limbs. The scene it would appear in would go as follows: The party enters a throne room. There is a guy in armor standing there. The guest member points out who the guy really is. Cue his transformation into the Tree in question. Some boastful ham-y text and start of battle.

(I probably should have added this information to the original post)

Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Facet on November 10, 2014, 11:08:15 pm
Ok, that's a bit different, I think, from what everyone was guessing at. keep the legs then, yes, that would be a giveaway.

I'm not sure that the second back to basics version is an improvement; like Decroded mentioned it's looking a little squeezed in, if it might be quicker for you to design on paper, why not do so and transfer it more literally?

The Europese Eik seems to be English Oak, yeah, we just have a short-sighted naming system here on my island. There's a whole bunch of oaks on the mainland but that one has distinctive rounded lobes at the base of the leaf and carries the nut on a long stalk. Can live for many 100's of years and get nice and twisty.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Decroded on November 11, 2014, 10:04:46 am
it is Final Fantasy style sideview, with party on the right, enemy on the left.
oh right, yeah that perspective is very forgiving.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on November 18, 2014, 01:35:47 pm
And again, an update:


Further working out the tree. The guy is next. Also, I want to get an idea of what it looks like when the tree is left bare.
Added in "the sun" for the direction of the lighting.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on December 12, 2014, 02:27:42 pm
Still working on it. Didn't have much time because of school and stuff.

Adding a texture to the tree.

I am still working in greyscale for this part. I hope to put down the basic shapes of the armor  after I finish texturing.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on January 16, 2015, 10:38:33 pm
Sorry for the long absence. School and stuff...

Finally adding color. Revising palette, more texture and starting on the armour.

Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: HarveyDentMustDie on January 17, 2015, 01:28:05 am
Your bark texture is not bad but that's the only indication that this is a tree. Problem here is mostly because you have some very thick branches that are very short and they become very thin very fast, like tentacles. As I know you wont find any tree like that in the nature. Try to find some nice photo reference and fix this, it will help you make this better.  :)
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on January 17, 2015, 02:16:35 pm
It will be covered by leaves in the future. I'm working on it in parts, so for now it's only the armor and the tree trunk.

For reference, I have trees all around me in the area. It is a walking tree, so yeah.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on January 23, 2015, 12:20:47 am
Working on the armor even more.
I took some inspiration from 16th century gothic plate armor, mainly for the chestplate.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: yaomon17 on January 23, 2015, 01:47:40 am
The art and technique seems fine, but the composition feels extremely restricted by the canvas size (as it has been mentioned before.. The branches are all curving around the outside and all of the branches on the left are cut off and much shorter than their right side counterpart, resulting in an overall sort of semi-invisible "box" around the piece akin to the old sort of optical illusion
. It feels as if there was a fully fledged tree and it got stuffed into a transparent box. Again the bark texture seems great, but maybe scale the piece down or enlarge the canvas a bit and give the branches some room.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on January 25, 2015, 10:42:01 pm
Trying to break the 256px box a bit, and adding more armor. Also, more branches!

Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Vagrant on January 25, 2015, 11:27:51 pm
Would you mind me having my take on this?

It's a good concept, but it's execution could benefit from more perspectives, like what I have in mind at the moment. I'd be pointless to describe, however. A sketch would be much more effective.

When I think 'trees', I quickly imagine solidity, firmness, deeply ingrained and anchored in the ground. Libra then brings to mind aspects of balance and justice. I imagine this massive tree statue just standing as a bastion, preventing entry, keeping the peace (Balance) with it's massive armoured guardian of the forest, in ways similar to the ents. This thing is (Or should be, given the elements present), in every possible conceptual core, a stout defensive wall.

Your work on the other hand looks flimsy, and if I may... Squishy and slippery. Like an octopus. It doesn't have any solidity and the armour feels as if it was left there rusting. It bends in many odd ways and it completely lacks firmness to the ground; it feels as if it could crawl and move at will, easily, like a scaled animal. There's little gesture of it being defensive -and- offensive. It's just not accomplishing much of any. Neither the defensive wall or the forth-lunging defender of justice. It's also 'small', without any qualities of grandness or epic. Like another one of those strange throned things in the forest, who could serve as normal enemies in a game. 
I'm not saying you'd have to follow my vision, but this is how I observe what's before me.

Was this 'your' original intention? The pencil drawing on the first page communicates something entirely different.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Decroded on January 26, 2015, 01:04:14 am
Personally I think the character has too many elements in that it walks around AND operates a full plate armour.
If the tree was stationary then it makes sense have some roots that grow up out of the ground into the armour.

I've been thinking the roots should be for walking only and the branches make arms that grow into the armour.

Have you considered a design where the tree has adapted the armour onto itself?
So it has the front of the breastplate on its trunk and there are separate branches for the sword and shield.
And there are bits of arm plates and pauldrons etc. adapted around it.

I also agree that the hard wooden texture doesn't lend itself to bendy tentacle-shaped roots.
That texture would make sense if there were straight lines with defined joint areas (put leaves and moss around them).
Notice f00l's design here along the same lines as yours suggests a texture that's halfway between wood and skin to make it appear more flexible.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on January 26, 2015, 04:45:53 pm
The game this guy is for was originally going to be an FF fan game and thus took quite some inspiration from these two guys:

Better known as Exodus, The Judge-Sal from FFXII, the non-elemental Esper.

and of course, good ol' Exdeath himself, from FFV

However, this was my own take on it. As for Exodus and Exdeath having origins as a tree, Exdeath also being a guy wearing full plate armor and Exodus being Libra personified, I wanted those two combined. Then I got some inspiration from Lady Justice, by giving him a sword and scales. Also, his helmet does not have eye slits, effectively blindfolding him. Wearing full plate armor also references the Judges in FFXII.

So that became a tree or treant, "wearing" armor and holding a sword and scales, who thinks he IS the law.

Originally, he had a slab of earth to sit on, but given his transformation sequence from just a "man" in a suit of armor, that would not make sense. Where did he get his slab of earth from? Why is the palace floor not destroyed? Think of it more like a tree that is growing out of the armor, hence it is walking around on its roots.

And yes, he looks kind of flimsy. Maybe I could make him more broad.

And Decroded, you may be right if putting the armor on the tree itself may make more sense. I'll see what I can do with that.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Vagrant on January 27, 2015, 01:57:18 am
That's awesome, since, I myself love the concept art of FFXII, probably one of my favourite games out there.
Noteworthy is the fact that I've also attempted once to make a FFT fan game, before being persuaded to go full-on original project.

Anyway, this here's my take on the interesting Tree-judge-armor-thingy concept, inspired in FFXII Judge armor, and some Shadow of the Colossus on the side.


May this rough sketch sit in my hard drive until I decide to revive it someday... Hmm.
It could be worth it if it's covered in moss... Though it looks like it came out of Ivalice.

Feel free to take any elements you like about it. It's all yours.
Except the lady. Please, don't take the lady. :y:
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: Decroded on January 27, 2015, 11:04:32 am
i know nothing about FF but it seems to ME if it was a dude that turned into a tree, it makes more sense the tree is wearing the armour instead of having some root holding it up (which is basically like trying to hold something up with ur foot).

i had another idea that there are vines wrapped all around the tree which do all the mobile arm-waving stuff and give stretch range to the sword attack as well as maybe being able to do an entangle move.

and by the way u could even give him a sword and shield and then have the scaled just hanging off some overhead branch for the reference to FF.

any chance u could drop ur character into a rough sketch of how the game is laid out at actual game res?
im trying to get an idea of the res and scale of this guy vs the HUD and hero sprites.
he seems pretty high res right now.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: lolzolaura on January 27, 2015, 12:33:18 pm
The screen I am working with is 544*416px. This is standard size for RPG Maker, fyi.

so the layout would be like this.
You have your party on the right, as per classic FF. Enemy/enemies on the right. And your battle screen at the bottom.
Everything is placed on a 32*32px grid, with subdivisions at 16px and 8px.

Hero sprites are being worked on though. And the size of the party battlers can vary too. Someone made a nice format for animated battlers, so yeah. With the Idle sprite fitting in 32*64px, and using the full 96*96px for the animations.


So more like this. Tried to make him less box-y, and now it's more of a tree-guy instead of just a tree with a needlessly sophisticated root.
Full new palette in the upper right corner.

ANOTHER EDIT: couldn't help but give our buddy a face.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Tree-judge-armour-thingy
Post by: astraldata on January 28, 2015, 08:27:10 pm
(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v84/aceallen/flyswatted-astraldata-edit-exodus2_-1.png) <-- single frame

Quite a bit of improvement overall. The texturing on the bark looks better too. That said, I've got a few things to point out though. I (mostly) addressed these in the following animation:

(http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v84/aceallen/flyswatted-astraldata-edit-exodus2_.gif) <-- animation

Firstly, there's one major thing you might want to be aware of in the new composition -- it's called "flyswatting".

In the case of your tree's value-contrast and silhouette combined, the image looks like a bug splattered on the page. It's difficult to see this unless you step back completely and look at the image objectively in its 2D contours/edges placed against the negative space, while also keeping in mind the contrast in color values across the form (as well as the 3d form itself in terms of light and shadow being cast).

The reason your image looks flattened is because, number one, your lighting isn't casting shadows which therefore leads to number two, which is that your image appears formless, which is probably caused by the fact that you were probably not considering its 3d form (or much of anything else aside from the subject matter you intended to draw.) This is definitely a beginner's mistake, but if it's not corrected, you could be drawing for years without realizing what's wrong with your art. :(

Thankfully there's hope -- you just need to be careful where you place your lighting values, and also be conscious of your silhouette while constructing your overall 2D form (i.e. limb-placement -- in this case, take that literally -- which must be placed in interesting ways in relation to the overall silhouette) in order for your drawing to appear interesting at first glance. I cannot stress how important this is because if the viewer doesn't care for your drawing at first glace, he's not likely to stick around to look at the details you painstakingly worked on either.

In this particular case, regarding colors, you have 5 values to work with -- and that's plenty. You have the lightest color (which should be used sparingly and only on the places you want to draw attention to) and you can use (up to) the next-to-darkest color to shade any closer parts of the form (i.e. anything that uses the brightest highlight color). The highlighted areas draw attention to themselves as being more important since they appear closer. Since our brains are wired to care about the things closer to us first (as they are likely to be the most dangerous!), we notice lighter stuff (such as the shine off a snake's scales) before we notice anything else. Only then does our brain process the darker areas (which generally get lumped into the silhouette in our brain) so that, ultimately, we will notice details in those areas *much* less and devote more processing power to the more important (read: dangerous) elements first.

  Form Composition:
You can think of the silhouette and darker areas as the brain's peripheral vision -- with that, everything is, by definition, much less detailed and more imprecise, which means more shape and color variation is required to get its attention. The more homogenous these 'peripheral' areas are, the less your brain cares about them -- this is the reason the silhouette must be interestingly-shaped and also the reason you must offer a reasonable amount of variation in light and dark areas across the whole sprite (in order to break it up).

Regarding the 3D form's casting of shadows onto other parts of the form (and the depth of the part of the form you are currently rendering), you can represent the deeper (more-shaded) areas with the second-brightest color as the highlight would be used on the closer forms and shade down to the darkest possible color (colors 2-4, with color 5 being the darkest color [and generally only used for outlining and emphasis] with color 2 being the brightest highlight on the deeper areas). In terms of shading, it is sometimes easier to use texture to make the form interesting (rather than shading it directly) because you don't have to be exact with it as long as your representation reads well (and, in pixel art, this is a HUGE time-saver) and this allows pixels to be more efficient than regular digital art in some cases.

  Shape Composition:
As a beginner pixel-artist, one might look at my edit, and at first glance think "whoa! how'd he do that??" -- but this reaction simply stresses how important the above information is to learn. Representing forms must be learned first before trying to refine them (after all, although a tree might appear formless at first glance, everything in nature has something behind it driving the formation of its eventual shape.)

If you open up a program like Graphics Gale, and look at the two image frames in the animation above, back and forth, it will be clear to you that the number of edits I made on this piece is relatively small -- and are also very simple too. At first glance, you might think it to look like a few random pixels placed in the shadowy areas -- and you'd be partially right -- except I placed them carefully with special care as to which values I used at what places, ensuring I had enough shadow between certain areas to define their form.

  Regarding shadows: 
It's always good to place the most-used color you want in a given area down first (but **don't** use the outline color in there though, and this applies even when you don't use a traditional outline!!) -- After filling this area, add lighter and darker colors to define detail and texture later -- but only after you have established a light direction and then used it to cast the respective shadows and placed them where you may. This is pretty fast in pixel art, especially when working with 4 colors -- after all, just as soon as you're done setting up your lights and shadows, you're generally almost done -- the only stuff that's really left is texturing and refinement. And that leads me to my last point:  Save refinements (such as texturing) for last.

  To sum it all up:
It's better to have a well-composed image with proper lighting representing the shapes and forms than one with refined lighting and details but also fundamentally broken shapes and forms. The latter (fundamentally broken 2D shapes and 3D forms) is the ultimate reason your image looks flyswatted.

In your case, this is because, alongside an incomprehensible and uninteresting silhouette, the bright highlights are used across the entire shape of the silhouette -- this blends every line and every part of the form into a single-colored shape (keep in mind, we're talking about the brain's perception here) making a single, large, bright, formless shape. The key reason for this is that all the colors being so similar makes the shape appear "homogenous" and the brain unconsciously interprets this homogenous shape as a lumped together single blob of color.

To illustrate this, try looking at your latest image with squinted eyes, and then try to discern where the individual shapes are -- now do the same to my edit -- Which is easier to see, and why is this so?



Hopefully you understand now that, to fix this, you'll have to "break-up" the shapes. This is best done by breaking shapes into imaginary 'layers' (in this case, just two) across the image to give a sense of depth in some areas. This can be done easily with 4 colors because 'layer 1' consists of colors 1-3 (which appears closer to us) and 'layer 2' consists of colors 2-4 (which appears slightly farther from us depending on the intensity of the color values chosen), which ultimately gives the illusion of depth across the whole image without you even having to be entirely conscious of it while you're doing it. When you focus on breaking up the 2D shapes by way of using depth to accomplish this, you automatically achieve a sense of 3D space without much effort. The lighting still is required to cast shadows on the form properly -- but these don't have to be accurate when the shape a shadow would make would break-up an existing shape up too much. In this case, the shadow can be consciously omitted for the sake of better readability of the image.

The below image should help you to recognize these "shapes" so that you can understand the difference in why my edit reads so much better as a whole than the original:

My Edit:

Your Original:

As you can see, there are a lot more shapes broken up in my edit than there are in the original. The brain distinguishes the boundaries by these broken imaginary 'lines' which are generally led by the highlights and darkness when separating the shapes using depth. As you can see in my original edit, it is quite effective.
Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Exodus (Espiritus iudicium/ Espiritus botanica)
Post by: Decroded on January 28, 2015, 11:34:15 pm
I'd go for stronger shading than that as it still appears a bit flat.
But most of all I guess if there's a theme that the dude somehow turned from a human into a tree, then it makes sense to primarily have some limbs that resemble the original human form.
And then add just a few extra branches selectively instead of just making so many of them to fill the square.
The way he looks now reminds me of a mime in a box:

Title: Re: [C+C] [WIP] Exodus (Espiritus iudicium/ Espiritus botanica)
Post by: astraldata on January 28, 2015, 11:50:00 pm
I'd have to agree with Decroded --

My edit was only intended to show you the basic idea of how to represent forms a bit more carefully, and also explain how to break them up for better readability.

To help with this, you can definitely throw more shadows on the tree than what I did in my edit. It should definitely help the depth to add an extra color or so to the palette and try using it to describe depth with a third 'layer' alongside better shading of the existing forms.

(Hint: trees have lines the bark follows -- use these to round out the forms better -- and also shade the trunk more like a cylinder instead of a flat piece of wood.)

Regarding the tree as a human idea, you could have some armor dangling from it like breastplates and more things that resemble toes and fingers/clothing/etc. to imply the idea that something horrible just happened to this guy (i.e. a pretty frightened look on the tree guy's face.)