Critique => Pixel Art => Topic started by: Mrwhitepantz on September 22, 2017, 03:29:22 am

Title: [WIP][CC]A little kobold, struggling with leg/arm anatomy.
Post by: Mrwhitepantz on September 22, 2017, 03:29:22 am
Thanks for looking, anatomy is so not my strong suit. If I have one at all. I'd love some pointers on making this guy look a bit better. I think the front arm looks alright, but the rear arm and the legs are both super meh. Maybe they just need to be more angular than rounded, but I had trouble making a good looking sharp angle at this size.


This was my original reference, but I've gone off-script with so much that it doesn't seem much help to me anymore.

Also, any tips on making this guy look a bit scaly would be much appreciated as well.
Title: Re: [WIP][CC]A little kobold, struggling with leg/arm anatomy.
Post by: Mrwhitepantz on September 24, 2017, 04:31:52 pm
I went ahead and did a bit more work on it, much happier with the legs! I didn't really change anything about the back arm, so I'm still not sure on that, but I think the legs are a lot nicer now.

Title: Re: [WIP][CC]A little kobold, struggling with leg/arm anatomy.
Post by: astraldata on September 24, 2017, 07:03:18 pm
First off, keep in mind, the way you constructed your image (outlines) vs. the way your reference was constructed (color) are fundamentally different, so you won't be able to mimic it without starting over entirely on the body.

What I mean is, your reference was created with a silhouette first, then light was added on the protrusions that came out of the shadows.

If you don't believe me, note that the number of colors your reference used on the lighting and shadows -- 2 for the foreground and the shadow of the foreground legs and a darker one for the background tail highlight and shadow respectively.

The anatomy isn't what's hurting you -- it's the lack of any 3D form that's making this look flat.

You could help yourself by using a higher contrast between your midtone and shadows and completely eliminate your highlight color because it's doing absolutely nothing for your 3D form (it's way too hard to see!) -- and your back leg is the exact same brightness as your front leg so there's no shadow or ambient light anywhere to help us see its true shape or depth.

Hopefully that helps give you a good start!
Title: Re: [WIP][CC]A little kobold, struggling with leg/arm anatomy.
Post by: Mrwhitepantz on September 25, 2017, 12:56:58 am
Thank you! I upped the contrast a bit between lights and shadows and you're right, it does make quite a difference.


Do you think they should pushed further? Definitely not going to look like the primary reference, but I'm okay with that now I think.
Title: Re: [WIP][CC]A little kobold, struggling with leg/arm anatomy.
Post by: astraldata on September 25, 2017, 03:23:33 am
To answer your question, yes, you should push the shadows in the darker areas as far as you can get away with and keep pushing them as long as you aren't worried about your guy getting lost in the background.

You should do what I call the "Squint Test" and squint your eyes about halfway closed (err on the side of open instead of closed if you think you've closed them too far) and you should be able to see the darker areas of your sprite (without having to do a "Grayscale Test" to test how its contrast reads. If there is enough depth while squinting to ensure every limb is clearly on its own separate 3D plane, then you've got enough depth/darkness to those areas -- otherwise increase the contrast in the shadows compared to the nearest touching area's boundaries, then rinse and repeat until it looks right in the squint test. Remember, only do the squint test at a resolution of no more than 100-400% (unless your monitor size or resolution is crazy huge) otherwise you won't be able to see anything useful since ALL the colors will be too large to see how they blend together.

I did the squint test on your lizard guy and the back leg reads well (except for the toenails) as if it's on another 3D depth plane, but the tail (nearest the body) could use some help there (try popping it in/out of the plane for practice), and the chest/vest nearest the farthest arm (his right arm) could use some deeper/darker shadows and hueshift toward blue (OR you could simply reuse the darker color of the tail outline to give it a bit more shadow if you don't want to add colors).

Finally, I'm not sure if those are scales are stripes (they look more like stripes), but if they are large bulky scales, they look pretty good -- just don't try to keep the detail in anything more than a dither if they're tiny scales, especially when it comes to shadow areas like the farthest leg. You can omit almost the entire highlight color off that leg for scale highlights (except for perhaps some very very tiny dithering (like 2 pixels worth here and there) if the scales are supposed to be tiny (i.e. like fish scales).

Hopefully this helps!
Title: Re: [WIP][CC]A little kobold, struggling with leg/arm anatomy.
Post by: Mrwhitepantz on September 26, 2017, 05:14:17 am
Your help has been invaluable! My little guy gets better each time I follow your advice :)

For this one I did try to darken the far side of the shirt, not sure if I like it with the darker tail color though, (maybe I need to do it differently?) so here's both:


 I also toned down the nails on the far hand/foot and tried to darken the tail some more as well.

As for the stripes, they are supposed to be scales. Lizard scales rather than big bulky scales though. I tried it with dithering different shades earlier on, but I couldn't get it to look good in the large upper thigh area/tail area. The calves and arms looked okay but I figured if it didn't look good all over that I should keep it more consistent.
Title: Re: [WIP][CC]A little kobold, struggling with leg/arm anatomy.
Post by: astraldata on September 26, 2017, 07:05:19 am
You're right, the leftmost version does look better in this style. My usual style is high-contrast and less painterly like yours, so I err on the side of higher-contrast usually, which is great because even painterly styles need more contrast a lot of the time..

Now, speaking of needing more contrast, the farthest leg needs a solid shade darker for all its green to push the shadow deeper (right now it looks as if he could stand on the toe of his other foot at any moment). Just drop the two darker greens down to match up with the darkest parts of the tail -- and get rid of the highlight on that back (his right) leg because it's not doing anything for the form (it's too hard to see!), otherwise, at least darken the other shades around it so that the highlights on the scales stand out on that leg. Do the same for the (his right) arm. You may find you want to keep the darker shade on his shirt when you do this.

As for your original question on anatomy, there's nothing entirely wrong with it -- instead your problem is the plane where the feet meet vs. the angle of the upper-body/hips (the pose, essentially.) It should be more like he's standing on a wide table instead of a tightrope. This means grab your entire leg and push it up closer to the body by a couple of pixels or so. The other option is to turn the angle of the hips toward the camera a little more and lower the exit point of the tail from the spine so it flows better. It's entirely possible that lowering the tail might help fix this weird appearance while also making his torso appear much longer (which isn't a bad thing with a lizard-dude, since they're sort of related to snakes).

Hopefully that helps. -- Just remember to make your guy pass the squint test a little better.
Title: Re: [WIP][CC]A little kobold, struggling with leg/arm anatomy.
Post by: Kellawgs on September 27, 2017, 08:45:27 am

Here's my best effort at keeping the same silhouette of the kobold, giving it a little more depth, and reducing the excessive colors and noise.
Title: Re: [WIP][CC]A little kobold, struggling with leg/arm anatomy.
Post by: astraldata on September 27, 2017, 09:35:09 pm
Nice edit, Kellawgs! -- That's closer to the construction method of his reference image and was pretty much exactly what I was talking about in my first post in this thread.

It's worth noting to the OP that the two 'styles' of coloring are both valid (I have seen both in various retail games, and each has its own charm), but eliminating the outline like this has many practical benefits (which, too, is a stylistic choice for a sprite of this size, but in smaller sprites, it is generally a requirement). For one, removing the outline gives you A TON more room to work in your details and shift your forms around while keeping your silhouette having the same footprint across the canvas. The sprite looks bigger, but that's because it's taking advantage of all the unused space the outline took!

@ the OP:

As you can see in the edit, his forms are much easier to read -- the outline removal gives you one full shade more to work with in your forms, plus a ton of additonal pixels to use too! The difference is that these pixels were sparsely varied (reducing "noise" in the image, but again, a stylistic choice!) -- And as much as I love the "clusters" theory of pixels (usually credited to Helm), it was THIS style (the noisy one!) that tended to look the most "realistic" and "painterly" to people as it helped to show that 2D pixel art could look like a genuine (modern-day!) 3D rendered model when it wanted to! There's an appeal to that, and when you render a model at such a low resolution, you get a similar "noisy" look (trust me, I've done it lol) -- and of course, when doing this by hand, the result can be hundreds of thousands of times better than a simple render, so don't be afraid to accept that the "no outline, no noise" method is the only way -- it's just a different way -- with pros and cons -- and the biggest cons are the noise (sometimes leading to a lack of clarity and unintended artifacts) and the time it takes to render it by hand (which is generally a LOT in pixel art timescales!)

Another point about Kellawgs' edit is that if both were on a solid white BG, and you performed the squint test, you could tell his distant arm/leg are on a separate plane to his body due to the darkness of the colors he chose. Additionally, Kellawgs put the feet on a wide "table" rather than a thin "tightrope" as I mentioned in a previous post. The thighs are enlarged, the tail is lowered from the spine to behind his legs, and the claws are more pronounced. There's no real need to distinguish the claws from one another with various shades, but it's possible to do with one of the "green" shades if you really wanted to give the toe claws some 3D depth in the foreground. I'd leave the toe claws in the background leg of his edit alone though. The important thing about the claws being pointed down like that is that they "read" better as curved, dangerous, claws compared to your straight ones.

I hope that helps give a little more insight as to the hows and whys of the choices in Kellawgs' edit and reasons to potentially stick to your own style (or even a hybrid style) too! :)