Critique => Pixel Art => Topic started by: Q.K. on February 23, 2016, 06:46:38 am

Title: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Q.K. on February 23, 2016, 06:46:38 am
It's really been a while since I posted here... anyways, I was fiddling around in GraphicsGale the other day, trying to rough out a fox. Started with a silhouette based on some reference images and then tweaked things like the ears and tail to be a little more exaggerated.

I've never been very good at rendering texture though, simple or otherwise. Not sure if I should try and suggest a coat of fur, which might be hard because fox fur has a pretty subtle gradient, or just keep a simpler colour block style kind of like what I've got going on now. If anyone has any suggestions, either for rendering or anatomy, I'm all ears!

Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Ambivorous on February 23, 2016, 08:08:18 am
Hi! Made an edit for you.


So, while fox fur is pretty short, some parts of their fur is nice and fluffy, so I only rendered those parts as fur and the rest I left pretty simple.

Picked top left as my light source.
Fluffy parts: tail! the lighter bits under the chin and down the chest, and the cheeks.
I also made your foxy look more strapping by reducing the stomach bulge (and shading the underside darker).
I bend the rear legs and gave the front legs a more active pose.
I also moved the cheek puff and the ears.

A lot of my changes are just personal choice. You are welcome to continue your style.
Things that you need to change are the lighter parts that come across the fox's front right leg (which I assume is in front due to the shading), and work with the light on your tail a little more.

As for how to shade fur. As you can see I've just made triangles facing downwards and to the back of the fox of the lighter colour in each case. sometimes this creates shade on the hair beneath. I also added more triangles to the silhouette to imply fur further.
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Pusty on February 23, 2016, 08:31:52 pm
Hmm well I tried but I gave my self not enough time (again...) . I'm kinda disapointed in my self for this edit haha :D Just ignore the back part and just look at the head I guess that would tell you my point.
My edit is way to noisy. A reference would have helped. (or something similar lol).


ah well Ambivorous edit is way better so you may ignore this haha ^^
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: API-Beast on February 23, 2016, 10:39:20 pm
The important part is Shadow and Light, Texture just adds minor variations to the lit part, a lit textured surface will never be darker than the same surface in the shadows.

Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Decroded on February 24, 2016, 01:25:48 am
I would argue that the light and shadow IS the texture.
The noisy texture in the lit area looks bad and has no place in pixel art imo.
Instead focus on how the edge between light and dark is disrupted by the clumps of fur.
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Q.K. on February 24, 2016, 01:32:25 am

Wow, thank you all for the critique and advice!

Ambivorous, thank you for the awesome anatomy fixes and shading suggestions.
Evidently my update borrows heavily from your edit, but I toned down the tail a little and added some fur texturing.

Pusty - nice avatar  ;) also, thanks for the fur texture example.
Initially I was leaning more towards flatter colour blocks, but after experimenting with texturing I think I like the extra detail it adds.

And finally, thanks API-Beast, that's a great way to explain it :D

So, thoughts on the update?

Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Atnas on February 24, 2016, 04:43:45 am

Decroded is right

Look at any object, its has a form, light and shadow is just a language to tell you about that form,

texture describes a surface with a lot of smaller forms on top of a larger one, usually the same material

but really the form IS the texture, like a chicken skin is bumpy, its actually raised and pitted. And fur is so much more than just bumps, its a lot more drastic

Your latest version is saying "this wolf has clumps of fur raised up everywhere EXCEPT along the edges when viewed perfectly from the side"

Like you used a hairbrush all over the fox but only down it's middle. Thats not to say the back isnt smooth on foxes, but to say that the hair you indicated with that texture doesnt make a lot of sense compared to where you can see the texture from the side as it rounds the back.

look at this beautiful fox

study the direction of the fur, and you can come to some conclusions about how to shade the fur texture
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: API-Beast on February 24, 2016, 05:57:15 am
Well, if I wanted to be accurate I would have used the words low frequency shading instead of shadows and high frequency shading instead of texture. I just tried to make the concept a bit more understandable.

Point remains, there are variations of brightness on any plane, but the brightest value of a surface in the shadows should always be darker than the darkest value of a surface in direct light. E.g. light and shadow should have two separate value ranges, which don't overlap. (If there is only one direct light source, which is the case in the vast majority of 2D art.)
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Q.K. on February 26, 2016, 04:48:51 am
Thanks, you're right of course, and that is a beautiful fox. I'll keep at it over the next couple days.
I really love the way the tufts of fur along the fox's neck have those dark roots that show the depth of the fur.
I feel like it might be hard to clearly communicate that at the scale I'm working at, but I'll try  ;D
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Decroded on February 26, 2016, 10:35:03 am
that will be hard actually I wouldn't try the black bits personally as its probably going to become noisy.
u could probably describe a layer of fur clumps though.
remember u dont need to do every layer, just one or two is usually all that's needed to suggest the rest of the clumps.
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Q.K. on March 05, 2016, 03:15:41 am

So I tried incorporating a more natural fur pattern, with the bristles flowing around the contour of the fox's torso, etc.
Version A is more of a subtle approach than B, but I can't help feel they're both too noisy. I guess that's what I get for trying to render hair at low resolution haha.

Edit: Added a version C as a midpoint between the two extremes.
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: API-Beast on March 05, 2016, 09:13:34 am
Don't be afraid to use larger areas of a single color, a lot of the texture can be implied.

Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Night on March 05, 2016, 09:48:41 pm
Consider the size you're working with, in relation to how the fur is perceived. At this size, making the fur the way you did will make it seem like there are huge chunks of fur sticking out, rather than continuous layers.
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Atnas on March 06, 2016, 03:24:37 am
Night beat me to the punch with that great edit  :y: :ouch: Been working on this on and off for the past day.

We could just do edits for you and show some thoughts on how we would do foxes. That'd be great. We could also focus on small things to critique, and leave you puzzled at the rest. That'd be great. But it wouldn't help you very much. You need to understand why. So lets start.

What is a fox?
Start from the beginning.

Foxes are a lot of things. You like them enough to know how to shape their back foot. You raise their head with pride. You spend presumably hours struggling to bring this fox in your head onto the screen. You do it with pixel art, a medium more intimately precise and close than most. You really want to draw a fox.

So lets actually draw a fox. Number 1 thing: a fox is an animal. You are an animal.  :-* There's a LOT of mechanisms you could research to understand how a fox works. But we can start small. You don't have to know a whole lot.
Lets gently study anatomy.

I looked up "fox skeleton". Then I roughed in bones in a similar pose to what you had. The proportions are maybe a little off from the reference skeleton, to fit your vision of a fox more. But that's fine. It's not so much about exactly copying, as it is understanding. If you understand it, you can break it. So look at skeletons. This is under the foxes you love. This is why their head is so round. And importantly: This is the deepest level to see how the fluffy fur you immediately appreciate is placed. But there are a few more steps before we can start rendering this fluffy fur (or even keep it simple, as the title of your thread asks)

The basic meat chunks of your fox
Skeleton helps to understand the basic forms. These are just flesh hunks. You don't need to know all the musculature with what you have set out to do. But you do need to understand exactly what masses are under the fluff, because that's where the fluff springs from. Color coded just for seperation.

What is this sloppy thing? lighting? Volume?

It's both. From looking at your progress, I don't think you grasp this quite yet. You're all about the contours. You don't seem to grasp this "fur" you're trying to render, because perhaps you don't understand yet: it is just more fox. So here's a simplified, not-too fluffy, smooth volume of a fox. It's lit in some arbitrary game-y way. Nothing extreme. Just enough light to define where things are, and where they are separate. With THIS step, we can see how you've been approaching it. Except you add some texture on top, like it's a 3d model. It's not. It's all fox.

A result.

All of this was preperation, and now you can draw foxes better. Well, now I can draw foxes better. I learned a lot. I hope you did too. Pixel technique is something you learn incrementally. Color theory as well. But the message I want to drive home: If you want to draw a fox really well, you need to understand the fox really well. All parts. The extent of your understanding is the foundation that all will follow from. You don't even need to understand anything that well, just better relative to the people viewing the artwork. So don't tunnel vision on the fur, or wonder about specific parts too much while ignoring others. Wonder about all of them. Until you understand where the bones are located, you won't understand how the flesh collides and how that bunches up the fur.

But you won't be perfect, and my edit isn't perfect. If you study this way too, you will find things I didn't find. Small things that contribute to selling the idea of a fox, that you can communicate in your own way.

A much shorter critique on your actual execution: Eyeburn. Ouch. Way too red. Neon Fox. Unless he's emitting light and made of fire, that doesn't make a lot of sense. Fur scatters light. It's matte, except where its smoother, and then its shiny. So in normal lighting conditions the light will desaturate the orange fur when exposed to light, and as the light is allowed to bounce around in the clumpy shadows, it will get more orange and saturated. Don't be afraid to use more colors. A big part of "fox" to me is that their fur gets darker as their legs go down. And you can totally include the dark bits at the roots of the white fur at this resolution, just understand it is the roots: so show it where the fur is facing towards the camera and the fox skin is more exposed. That can actually be a trick to milk some more volume, you're saying the viewing a plane is facing you just by adding a few detail pixels.

This might be a lot to digest at once, so if you have any questions I will always be around to answer and help.
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Night on March 06, 2016, 12:49:13 pm
Sorry  :P

That's really quite wonderful though, Athas, great job!

I think that your remark at the end "If you want to draw a fox really well, you need to understand the fox really well." is very true and is applicable not only in this situation, but quite broadly with art. When drawing any creature, I think it is at the utmost importance for you to understand the structure of that creature, the anatomy, in order to draw it well.
Furthermore, I think that this can be applicable to even non-living things; say you're drawing a landscape - you see trees, mountains, a small lake and a cloudy sky. In order to draw all of these things well, I believe you must know why they look they way they do, what causes them to bend the way they do, what causes them to be the shape they are, etc. While you might do a decent job without acknowledging all of these things, I think you can do much better when you do.
Take the trees for example, they have some very clear patterns in their branches (similar to lightning, river deltas, veins, and numerous other things I can't quite remember at the moment). Or perhaps the mountains (being considerably harder) -- their topology also has a predictable pattern.

It is quite off-topic, but I believe everything in nature has a pattern, rules; that is why nature is beautiful. And because of this fact, it is also possible to learn these rules and apply them yourself in your art. It is hard, but very rewarding.
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Q.K. on March 07, 2016, 01:54:36 am
I... wha...  :o Let me just pick my jaw up off the floor. Atnas, that was eye-opening, I can't thank you enough! I suppose it was foolish to think I could escape having a working knowledge of form & anatomy and still get by. I think my biggest struggle with art in general is visualizing things in 3D. That and colour theory apparently haha. I agree that it's way too over-saturated. For some reason, my instinct was to increase saturation as things got brighter. I'm going to read this over a few more times, take in as much as I can, and take another shot at this. Thanks.

Thanks also to API-beast and Night, I really appreciate all the edits and advice!

EDIT: Went ahead and spent some time looking at bones. And muscles. Then fur.
I tried working mainly from reference photos and anatomy diagrams but it still draws a lot of inspiration from Atnas' edit (especially the colours).
I'll keep refining this though (I deviated a bit from the bone structure in a few places, and his right hind leg looks a little off to me, for example).

Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Indigo on March 07, 2016, 11:46:39 pm
Awesome progress!  *featured*
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Atnas on March 07, 2016, 11:58:46 pm

You've made my day, Q.K. People often become intimidated by having their fundamentals critiqued, and they run away.

Excellent progress. And while I can see it's heavily influenced, you've brought a wealth of your own observations and decisions to the table, and I'm very excited to see that.

Some fresh crits:

There doesn't seem to be a clear plane separation between both of the back legs, so when looking closely I become confused. The lit interior of the recessed hind leg is whats doing it. Maybe it should be dimmer/flatter lit.

Looking forward to seeing what you do next! And gratz on the feature. :)
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Q.K. on March 08, 2016, 05:41:03 am
Whoa, that's awesome, I never expected this to get featured haha. Thanks!
And the critique was more motivating than anything :) I agree about the back legs though, so I'm going to try a few things...

Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Q.K. on March 22, 2016, 05:41:53 am
I normally wouldn't double post, but I made some minor edits to the fox.
Also tried going another route and making a simpler, tiny fox.
I've been playing Momodora lately so I drew some inspiration from that.


Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: astraldata on April 10, 2016, 04:51:20 am
Although I can't add much to this post (almost everything I'd want to say has been said well already!), I can offer general purpose advice to the community in the form of two ways to practice texturing in Pixel Art so that you can get better in a hurry with texture (as long as you are already familiar with pixel art and practice this stuff of course!)


I've offered two examples of practice in this image -- the first, of course, is learning to animate texture, such as fur or grass, by rotating it or disturbing it somehow using wind or other such means, and the second is learning texture by dramatically altering the light source while retaining the form/silhouette of the subject. You will need both to effectively animate naturally dynamic substances such as fur/water/etc.

Be warned -- Both of the following methods are pretty advanced pixel art techniques, so if you're not familiar with pixels as a medium to describe form in general, you're likely to have a lot of trouble using these as effective practice. You need to understand first how to render forms in pixel art via silhouette and use color/light to indicate depth and form to begin with. After which, you should be skilled enough using these methods to practice texturing.

Practice method 1: Texture Disturbance (Wind/Rotation/Shimmering)

The goal here (at least for the long hair) is to maintain the silhouette of the clumps as much as possible while offering accurate cast shadows across the form by keeping in mind foreshortening of clumps facing the viewer that are otherwise invisible. You will need to maintain a sense of the position in space of each foreshortened clump (independent of the pixels!) and convert that as best as you can into the pixels and resolution you have available. In a lot of ways, this is like doing a complex 3D shape transformation in your head, but instead of the computer doing it, you are doing it intuitively and then trying to fit the resulting 2D shape on the screen into a sort of LEGO pattern (using nice clusters wherever possible!) If this first method seems hard and/or time-consuming to learn -- it is -- but it is also possible, as I and many others have accomplished it (with a LOT of practice in most cases of course!), and we're no more special than you are. It's just practice at getting a sense of where the FORM is in space AFTER it has moved, and then translating that to nice looking pixel clumps in a nice-looking silhouette, all of which there is NO science behind, although basic art principles will help a ton here if you have them at your disposal.

Short hair or tiny substance disturbances (see the side of the big fox's stomach area) are a lot more simple to describe, as you generally tend to need only to alternate the dither grid pattern from dark/light/dark to light/dark/light and vice versa. In cases where there are minimal disturbances, you may only need to shift a single pixel or two of the dither pattern in far away areas to indicate a very light wind. Heavier wind requires more pixels to be altered, but the pattern alteration remains the same.

Practice method 2: Dramatic Light-Source Change

The second method is pretty self-explanatory -- you simply change the light source dramatically from what it was originally. If it's from the front-left, you make it directly overhead. If it's from directly overhead, you make it from the back and on the right. In the example image, I did this with the small fox. The original fox's light source was from the front-left, so I made it directly overhead as best as I could in order to still maintain the baby fox's form. This is when it's very important to have a strong 3D understanding of your subject, and this starts in the silhouette stages. What I basically did was reduce the baby fox to a flat shade (next-to-darkest orange) and redid the lighting from that point onward.

In regards to texture, once again, you must maintain a sense of any major three-dimensional protrusions across the form, so it's important to know where these occur from silhouette and beyond so that you can light them accordingly. In the case of the face, I altered it a little to have a more plane-like structure around the cheeks so I could indicate a hint of some fur there with the lighting. Places like these are very important to have to indicate form better since they offer an opportunity to cast shadows across the rest of the form which adds a greater sense of depth to the image. Practice this and not only will your sense of depth become more honed, your sprites (and drawings) will look a lot better too.

In Closing, and for any Beginners reading this:

Texture is generally technical in nature, as far as the creation process goes, so it's not very difficult to achieve in most mediums where you have more room to describe it -- although, at the same time, that also means you have to know exactly what it is you're describing. Those techniques I mentioned above help you cheat this a little, as pixel-art gives you very little room to describe specific materials and textures, since you generally only deal with shiny/dull/rough/bumpy/jagged materials/textures at most. That being said, you still need to know how they work, especially in motion. Even the thinness of a spider-web vs. the thickness of rope is possible to describe in pixel art, but these sorts of things can only be suggested if you know how both they and the pixels work together, although I'll save that explanation for another time.

In short, nothing can beat a full visceral understanding (if possible, not just reference images!) of your subject/reference when it comes to describing it in any medium -- especially when using more accurate mediums like good ol' pencil and paper. Pixels can only take you so far in how much you understand a subject (due to its limited resolution). Though despite this obvious fact, I see a LOT of new artists trying to learn art by learning pixel-art so they can escape having to learn to draw first (which is not necessarily WRONG, but it is very backwards and will take you [yes, YOU.] a LOT longer to get mastery over technical art skills in general if you go this route!)

Art, in general, as far as technical skills go, is, in a nutshell, learning how to describe form in order to achieve a certain impact on the observer.

Learning form (of which texture is also a part) through any medium (such as pixel-art) first rather than through intense analytic drawing studies of subjects (a lot more common nowadays with everyone wanting to learn to make games) is not something I would recommend.

Assuming you're learning art for the first time while doing pixel art, and you're just going to continue working to understand your subjects through pixel-art first, if I could offer any medium to do this in first, I'd actually recommend 3D sculpting. I suggest this for one reason only: you can't skimp on form at all, and it'll really show you just how much work you really need to put into your subject knowledge before you can render anything at all convincingly enough in 2D since forms can become very complex VERY quickly -- especially when you add lighting and materials, and in this case, texture -- and it ALL has to be done manually in 2D.

If you're serious about pixel-art, whether you ever intend to animate pixels or not, getting to the point where you understand how to render textures and materials to the point where you can animate them (convincingly!) is a place you should strive to reach, but if you're just beginning pixel art, don't worry if it's difficult -- as I said before, this is an advanced technique. You ought to first learn how to fully render basic 3d forms -- then, and ONLY then, should you begin to worry about texture, materials, and animation.

Remember though -- this is still art! So, no matter your skill level -- just have fun! Everything, even hard-won skill, comes in time! :)
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: LarryLarington on May 02, 2016, 03:48:29 am
Wow there is so much beautiful art here and plenty of great advice to boot. I'm a beginner pixel art so I'm not sure how much I can contribute, but you all inspired me to draw a fox of my own.


The first fox is mine (based on a reference image) and the following two are Q.K.'s (love them!). I used his or her color palette for mine to make one big happy fox family!

Comments/critique are totally welcome! :)
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Chadtech on May 02, 2016, 08:19:23 pm
Drew my own, also some what guided by Ambivorouss edit.


Then I realized it was more like a Shiba so I fixed its tail to match.


I kinda like the contrast in the fox tail version.
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Conzeit on May 02, 2016, 11:43:46 pm
much edits. many beige. so time. wow overkill
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Q.K. on May 03, 2016, 04:37:46 am
Haha I love the edits guys. Haven't checked this topic in a while, and I'm greeted by a fine doge? Wow.
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: quotingmc on May 16, 2016, 04:39:30 pm

I tried to use the techniques for a wolf, I am happy with it for a first attempt at pixel art in a long time
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: had0c on September 13, 2016, 01:04:19 am
so i used this tech to make a portrait but added my own flair (http://i.imgur.com/eZS0g8A.png) end result (http://i.imgur.com/GY8y9lW.png)
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: MysteryMeat on September 13, 2016, 03:15:37 am
Ooh, neat. I'll have to remember that dot-matrix look, that'd be handy for environment stuff.
Title: Re: Fox - Render fur or keep it simple?
Post by: Micro pixel boy on November 01, 2016, 09:33:53 pm
Nice work im new to this webstie and what ive seen so far is awsome
What i struggle with most is makeing my mind what to pixel well done ;)