Pixelation

Critique => Pixel Art => Topic started by: SeDiceBisonte on May 06, 2020, 03:37:08 pm

Title: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: SeDiceBisonte on May 06, 2020, 03:37:08 pm
Hello,

New pixeler here, looking to become part of the community and learn what I can! I have always had an interest in art and it's something I did for school and for fun until I went to uni and stopped (some time ago, now). I've also had an interest in pixel art for a long time and have decided to use my lockdown time more productively by producing some art and learning how to improve.

Here's a portrait I did of Ripley from Alien. It's based on the source photo on the right. I'm not too worried about the fact I've stuck so closely to the reference as my main goals were learning how to work with a restricted palette and how to render and imply forms and details at the pixel level.

(https://i.imgur.com/m7XSu9g.png) (https://i.imgur.com/a6HikyL.png)

I will attempt to improve this based on any critique I receive. Here are a few notes regarding areas I struggled with and some (questionable?) decisions I made:

The palette has a big jump in it between the second darkest shade and the next one along. The 'elongated' dithering was intended to ease transitions between these colours while evoking scan lines for that retro sci-fi feel, but other areas feel slightly wrong where dithering wasn't possible. The lips seem a bit too full in my version, for example, but I feel I've removed as much of the darker shades as possible without the mouth not reading properly.

I feel like the watch is a complete mess, but I wasn't sure how to go about improving it after my third attempt. I can see that the section on the right doesn't match the angle from the photo, but what's more important to me is that it doesn't feel completely at home in my piece. It lacks harmony.

The wrist probably has too much dithering on it but the big jump in the palette left me feeling like there wasn't an alternative.

Thanks for looking at this. I look forward to any comments!
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: DTE462 on May 08, 2020, 05:22:18 am
This is great. The teeth are really well done. After studying the piece that's the part I'm most impressed with (or rather jealous of). And the shadow on the neck throat area has some well done shading too.

The things that stand out as being problems:

1) Hair. But I definitely see the decision to use less detail. I still wonder what a bit of detail would do.
2) That bright highlight above her right eye stands out. It's easy for me to say simplify it, but maybe you've already tried that and you settled on what you did.
3) The watch was actually the first thing that stood out to me as not working, but then I looked at the original photo and I'd say you did a great job conveying whats there. In fact if you enlarge the photo it starts to pixelate anyway. So I'd say if you are trying to copy the photo exactly you did an excellent job, but if you want to take artistic license, I'd simplify that too so it reads better. It reads as a bracelet now instead of a watch.
4) I go back and forth on the dark shadow at her neck. I love the highlight and mid-tone colors meeting eachother, but then the dark tone is just a line with no dither. I think it works especially when you look at how the original photo shading is, but I think if there was a little bit more of a dither transition it may not stand out as being such a different color. But if that messed with how the left part and the middle part of her neck meet, then I'd leave it alone.

The eyes, nose and mouth look great (the parts that display her character/mood/personality). Other than the highlight above her right eye, the shading looks really natural to me. And this is a great example of how dither can work. I completely avoid dither because it always ends up looking like noise to me. This is a great lesson on how to use it effectively.

P.S I just noticed the necklace. Well done. It's got to be hard to convey subtlety with just 4 colors.
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: Chonky Pixel on May 08, 2020, 11:52:47 am
This is a lovely piece. You've got some great detail In there, and done a really good job with the dithering using that limiting palette. I love the way it suggests scan-lines. Hats off!

Now I'm no great artist, far from it, but there are three things that immediately leap out at me.

1: Lips. You want to learn how to imply forms, but you're using a lot of outlining around the lips. When outlining isn't explicitly part of the style, it can look unprofessional to me when it's used to separate areas like this. I would try removing a few outline pixels and adding a few just at the edges of where your two difficult shades meet. For example:

(https://i.imgur.com/nsV16BI.png)

My eye automatically fills in the shape, even though that mid-green bleeds into the rest of the face. YMMV. It's just an idea.

2: The way the original image is composed, you have the light skin, framed by dark hair and uniform, which itself is framed by light background. Honestly, I don't know if this follows any well-known conventions of composition or anything, but it does serve to make each element really easy to read and understand. By choosing a dark background, you've made the hair and uniform almost disappear. This seems like a shame to me, as you've got some great detail work in the uniform and the hair could be so much more! I'm sure you have your reasons though.

3: Jaggies! This is a bit of a personal bug-bear of mine, and some may think I'm being a bit too picky. But it's based on studying the artwork of pixel artists I admire, and jaggies are mentioned in the Pixel Joint pixel art primer so there's that. I just have to make lunch, but after that, I'll put a few examples together.
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: Chonky Pixel on May 08, 2020, 01:18:28 pm
I've made a few subtle changes, mainly taking things that look a bit jagged, straight, line-like or harsh and trying to make them smoother or more curved. This is partly a taste thing, partly a technique, but these subtle changes can add up and give a lot more polish to a piece, if done sensitively of course.

(https://i.imgur.com/l2hGJtM.gif)

Look under the eye, at the curl on the forehead, and the base of the nose.

On the right are some examples of the kinds of changes I'm making. Tapering the ends of staircases, smoothing out curves, turning little line segments into more satisfying shapes, and taking shapes made of right-angles and turning them into something softer.

Again, this is partly down to taste. Use too many hard angles, line segments, jaggies etc. in a piece that's all about curves (like this one) and it will start to look untidy. But how much time you spend removing them, that's up to you. If you go too far it can look a bit cartoony I guess. (Which is great for some styles.) And I have seen some great work that includes pretty obvious jaggies, so it's not like they can't ever be incorporated into a piece.

A while back I wrote a few "rules" about constructing curves in pixel art, which explains how to make things look curved without being jagged or untidy. If this interests you, I can dig it up.
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: SeDiceBisonte on May 08, 2020, 03:15:27 pm
Thank you both for the excellent critiques!

Here's my current version, with the very important caveat that I haven't sorted out the jaggies or done anything with the hair yet (the nature of which is a bit different with the new background colour):
(https://i.imgur.com/xtJwRQI.png)

1) Hair. But I definitely see the decision to use less detail. I still wonder what a bit of detail would do.
2) That bright highlight above her right eye stands out. It's easy for me to say simplify it, but maybe you've already tried that and you settled on what you did.

I haven't ignored either of these points. For half of its life, the image actually had some scrawled details in the hair and it didn't feel quite right, but I never refined them. With the new background, I think adding detail into the hair might be overkill but I'm still considering it. What I will definitely do next is work more on the edges of the hair, which I didn't think was as important before. My original intention was to capture the frizzy curls with small sweeps done on my tablet and I barely refined them after that, but now they definitely need work to fit in with the lighter green. After that, I now feel like some subtle detailing around the outer edges of the hair might work very well.

As for the brow highlight, I have an idea why it may not be working. It's one of the areas where the shading goes against the scan line philosophy and the lines are vertical instead. That may be causing issues, or is the entire presence of that section of highlight problematic?

I've dramatically simplified the watch, having definitely chosen the artistic license route. It's still a bit rough but I think I've cracked the general way I need to go about it. I've tried to emphasize the screen and the octagonal shape to help it shout 'watch!' instead of 'bracelet!'

4) I go back and forth on the dark shadow at her neck. I love the highlight and mid-tone colors meeting each other, but then the dark tone is just a line with no dither.

That completely flew under my radar and I've hopefully addressed it. Thanks as well for the very kind comments.

1: Lips. You want to learn how to imply forms, but you're using a lot of outlining around the lips. When outlining isn't explicitly part of the style, it can look unprofessional to me when it's used to separate areas like this. I would try removing a few outline pixels and adding a few just at the edges of where your two difficult shades meet.

Thanks so much for the helpful edit. I agree about outlining and it's something I'd like to avoid with the style I'd like to develop. I'm worried I may have gone a little overboard in removing the outlines, but I do think it's improved the resemblance and still reads as a mouth. I suspect it's possible to get rid of more of the dark pixels on the left side of the mouth (for ease, I'm describing the sides of the image rather than the face) but my current attempts have suggested that they're all load-bearing as it currently stands. The new mouth also made me realize that the philtrum area was too long, so I've moved the face down above the mouth.

2: The way the original image is composed, you have the light skin, framed by dark hair and uniform, which itself is framed by light background. Honestly, I don't know if this follows any well-known conventions of composition or anything, but it does serve to make each element really easy to read and understand. By choosing a dark background, you've made the hair and uniform almost disappear. This seems like a shame to me, as you've got some great detail work in the uniform and the hair could be so much more! I'm sure you have your reasons though.

I think my reasons were subconscious and bad, and I should've tested out every colour in my arsenal as a backdrop just in case. Suggesting the lighter backdrop has really changed the whole piece and I agree that the jumpsuit and hair look much better now (although, as I mentioned earlier, I am now going to work extensively on the hair to make it fit with the new colour).

Regarding the jaggies, I am going to hunt them down but I wanted to post an update first in case I've broken anything in my new version. If the piece you wrote isn't too hard to find then I'd be very interested in reading it.

Thanks again!
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: Chonky Pixel on May 08, 2020, 07:42:46 pm
Just a quick response. My opinion is that your instincts are right: you've perhaps gone a bit overboard on the lips. I liked it when the left and right extremes of the top lip were in shadow. (And you could probably get away with that as a deliberate lighting choice, as they curve down away from the light.) And while I can't stress enough that I'm no expert or great artist, I feel that the lips need something on either side to start off the suggestion of the form.

Currently, from a distance, the lips look to me like they're being pulled to the right.
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: Chonky Pixel on May 08, 2020, 07:49:16 pm
How to do smooth curves. A lot of this applies to edges as well. Obviously if you need hard corners, a lot of these rules cease to apply. Since making this I have softened my opinion on point 4 (staircasing.) Sometimes it looks OK, sometimes it looks awful. Use judgement, and try to soften it if you can.

And remember these are just my opinions! :)

(https://i.imgur.com/n4aMAfL.png)

In the image above, the lines marked "A" are good. Each "step" in the line is the same length, so they look smooth and consistent.

The lines marked "B" have jaggies. By alternating between step sizes (for example sizes of 1 and 2) a rough impression is created. Of course, many line angles require this kind of jaggedness to work, so try to avoid those angles if you can. Or use some subtle antialiasing, but that's another subject entirely.

The shapes marked "1" show straight lines at angles to each other. So if you want a smooth curve, avoid breaking off your straight line at 45 degrees. (Unless you're doing really tight turns, see below.)

The curve marked "2" is good. There are no alternating steps, and we've kicked off from the straight line at less than 45 degrees. After that (and this is a new rule for curves) the step size never changes length by more than one pixel. In this case, the steps are "straight -> 2 -> 1 -> 1 -> 1 -> 2 -> straight."

The curve marked "3" has a few errors. You've got an angle at the top, a step change of 1 to 3, and even a 90-degree angle.

"4" shows staircasing, where a double thickness line creates an obvious staircase pattern. Try and avoid doing this as it really looks like you intend to emphasise the step shapes, rather than show a thick line at an angle or making a curve.

"5" shows multiple errors, which are fixed in "6" based on the rules above.

Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: Chonky Pixel on May 08, 2020, 07:58:32 pm
Other quick thoughts:

I would experiment with using the horizontal style dither everywhere you need dither. I think it would help fix the bright patch on the forehead, and being consistent with your dithering is probably something to aim for?

I think you could carry that dither on the neck through into more of the dark shade. To me, it still looks like you're using two different styles of shading there. (Although I have been primed to see it by the other comments, so I may be over-sensitive to it now.)
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: dpixel on May 09, 2020, 03:36:28 am
To my eyes, the nose is too wide and long and too low.  The mouth a bit to wide.
It's hard to get the exact likeness on these.  Nice work overall.

Edit:
(https://i.imgur.com/ttCvxfb.png)
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: Chonky Pixel on May 09, 2020, 08:55:23 am
Back to the lips briefly.

Here are a few examples of phantom shapes being defined by occasional dark shapes. I can definitely "see" the squares, triangles, stars and wireframe cubes, even though they're "white on white" and they don't actually exist. They're just implied by other shapes on the page.

https://hinessight.blogs.com/.a/6a00d83451c0aa69e201b7c6dc5caa970b-popup
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/483714816199553390/
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/295548794269272541/

I believe this is the visual effect we're playing with when we're trying to suggest lip shapes with a low colour palette. If so, we need to highlight and suggest the shape at its extremities, and at places where the shape might do something we don't expect. For lips, we're very familiar with how they work, so we only probably need to work at the edges.

But again, this is just an idea. :)

When you're applying these ideas, make sure you're actually improving your image (and check at different scales.) I can often find myself happily applying techniques, then suddenly realising my image looks overall much worse for it.
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: SeDiceBisonte on May 09, 2020, 09:18:09 pm
Whew! Been a bit of a busy day so I haven't been able to work on this quite as much as I'd have liked. That means this isn't at the stage I wanted to post it at (I still haven't tracked down the jaggies although I did sort the curl on the forehead because I was doing the hair anyway). Hopefully the lines on the hair are cleaner thanks to your advice, Chonky Pixel. This is quite a dramatic update in other ways since Harmonica! on Pixel Joint suggested dropping to four colours (removing one of my mid-shades) and redoing the shading with the areas of light and shadow more consolidated (for want of a better term). His edit convinced me to try it out and I'm happy with the results, although my level of skill is impeding my progress as far as refinement goes.
(https://i.imgur.com/gVto3d1.png)
I think that's given her a more three-dimensional appearance, and the likeness has been improved by that and dpixel's points about the features. As it stands, the eyes are too big but I've run out of time today and wanted to post an update in case anything I've done was a bad idea.

One thing I'm particularly unsure of is my dithering. I've tried to retain the scan line look where possible, but the greater use of highlighting necessitates a greater amount of dither which I think is hard to get right, especially when you're the one doing it. After you've viewed it zoomed-in for hours, you do lose a sense of how it looks (even though I have a 100% scale window open all the time so I can see the whole picture). It might be hard to judge at all from this image since it's obviously in progress. I'm hoping that I develop a sense for it after enough practice.

Thanks for posting so much information. It's been very useful. I tried to use the horizontal dither everywhere but I couldn't get it to look right on the face for the most part. I'll continue smoothing out the shading as best I can tomorrow and hopefully move on to fixing all the jagged lines I can find.
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: fskn on May 10, 2020, 04:40:03 am
Personally, those colors are really hard to work with, esp. the second lightest green is super bright for a midtone. I would have chosen a more muted version of the GB palette, such as:

(https://i.imgur.com/irpnRBF.png)
DirtyBoy (https://lospec.com/palette-list/dirtyboy), or

(https://i.imgur.com/p3oDXMk.png)
Andrade (https://lospec.com/palette-list/andrade-gameboy).

But speaking of shape and form, and comparing your drawing to the reference, there are some noticeable differences:

On yours, she seems to be looking slightly to the left and her face seems tilted down a bit. Whereas in the reference she's looking straight at us.
Bringing the highlight of the nose up a bit and adding a highlight on the chin would bring it forward and up a bit.
The ears are just a bit too high.
The eyes on yours are more rounded at the bottom, flatter at the top. In the reference, it's the other way around. They could be slightly narrower too. And the eyelids just a bit thinner.
The mouth should be wider, and the part between the bottom lip and the teeth should be flatter. The inner corners of the mouth could be darker.
The jaw could be even more square.
You could use some softening on the shadow part of the chin, and a bit on the highlight of the forehead, bringing that to the right, over the right eyebrow.

I'm not really a fan of that single darker pixel on her teeth, as it makes it look like there's a gap in between them.

I guess that's it... But it's looking pretty good already. Just needs a few tweaks.
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: Chonky Pixel on May 10, 2020, 10:28:07 am
Some of your dithering reminds me of the work of "Yes I Do" on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Contra_Bonos/status/1257405915868913668/photo/1

https://twitter.com/Contra_Bonos/status/1250768681489125379/photo/3

https://twitter.com/Contra_Bonos/status/1237373036426342401/photo/2

I find this guy's work pretty inspirational. Some of the dithering techniques he uses may be worthy of a little study.
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: SeDiceBisonte on May 10, 2020, 02:04:36 pm
Progress update:
(https://i.imgur.com/atqjeIm.png)
I've done a pass for jaggies on the jumpsuit but I haven't searched over the rest of it yet in case anything drastic still needs doing. That'll be one of the last things I do before calling it complete.

Personally, those colors are really hard to work with, esp. the second lightest green is super bright for a midtone. I would have chosen a more muted version of the GB palette...
I felt quite married to the green initially because I felt it suited the subject matter (not sure why since, if anything, the film is very blue. Maybe the poster is influencing me) but I tried each of those out and both options looked so much better. Just from looking at the colours in your post, I thought I'd prefer Andrade but, after seeing them on the piece, I went for DirtyBoy. I've included the image in the other palette at the bottom of this post for the curious.

As for the anatomical points, I've worked on all of them although I haven't yet managed to get the highlight to work on the brow, so that's currently unchanged. I'm going to keep trying but I haven't come close to cracking it yet.

I find this guy's work pretty inspirational. Some of the dithering techniques he uses may be worthy of a little study.

That is incredible! I've had a look and will continue to study his work (and others) to see what I can apply to my own.

Thanks as ever for all the great critiques.

Alternate palette:
Here's the Andrade. I thought I liked it more for a minute but I think that's just because it's brighter. On reflection, I decided there was better contrast with my skin tone and the highlight with DirtyBoy which gave the piece more volume.
(https://i.imgur.com/y7xLGnx.png)
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: fskn on May 10, 2020, 06:43:47 pm
I spent a couple hours last night and early afternoon today working on your piece...because I thought it was a fun thing to do, but ended up going a bit overboard, especially with the dithering, but I hope it helps seeing what I did and what I think could be improved.
There was some cheating involved, I admit.

(https://i.imgur.com/DctseVE.png)

The bulk of the work went to the mouth/nose/eyes area, left shoulder, the part of the uniform that goes across her chest and the overall shape of the hair.
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: SeDiceBisonte on May 11, 2020, 04:33:21 pm
Thanks that's very helpful, although my edit will probably be very disappointing as a result.

I studied the changes for a while but attempts to replicate them looked odd, largely because the shape of the head in mine is off. Probably the main thing to take away from this is that I need to sketch a lot more faces (and general anatomy) and get my eye in more, which will be my next course of action. I'm inclined to post a WIP earlier in the process of my next image so it's easier to fix such large mistakes. I'd also intended to move onto a piece that wasn't copied from a single reference image although now I think it might be a good idea to try something else like this. Walking before running, and all that.

Here's what I'm calling my final version of this. I wanted to avoid large patches of dither and maybe this just isn't the palette for doing that. I haven't disregarded your edit, but I have reached the limit of my ability with this piece. Hopefully my next one will be better  :)
(https://i.imgur.com/U7lbwWz.png)

A couple of questions:
The lack of dithering on the uniform was an attempt to convey a different texture to either the hair or the face. Do I take it that this wasn't working very well? Your edit only uses it sparingly on the uniform, but I'm not sure if that's just because there are bigger problems with the head.

Similarly, the way I've done the top of the right (picture-wise) shoulder patch was attempting to convey the softer fabric of the jumpsuit creasing over the more rigid edge of the patch. I know I exaggerated the appearance a bit, but does this not read well?

Was attempting to evoke scan lines with the shading a bad idea?

Thanks again to everyone for all of the critiques and information.

[Edited to quickly add in a couple of pixels on the shoulder patch]
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: fskn on May 11, 2020, 06:26:33 pm
A couple of questions:
The lack of dithering on the uniform was an attempt to convey a different texture to either the hair or the face. Do I take it that this wasn't working very well? Your edit only uses it sparingly on the uniform, but I'm not sure if that's just because there are bigger problems with the head.

Similarly, the way I've done the top of the right (picture-wise) shoulder patch was attempting to convey the softer fabric of the jumpsuit creasing over the more rigid edge of the patch. I know I exaggerated the appearance a bit, but does this not read well?

Was attempting to evoke scan lines with the shading a bad idea?

I didn't work much on the jumpsuit because I was trying to keep myself focused on her likeness. Only at the very end I decided to look around for any other things that could be fixed, and there wasn't anything major with the jumpsuit.
Actually, I consider most of what I did were tweaks, except maybe for the eyes and the mouth.
By comparing your image with the reference, it seemed to me that some areas could benefit from a tone in between the 2 darkest ones just to give it a bit more detail... But it does work well without it. It was one of those things that I didn't know if I should do, but ended up doing anyway...although I probably should have added it in other areas as well, not just to a single spot.

I couldn't help myself in softening some areas with dithering, maybe I should have tried to keep it to a very minimum.

So, yeah. I used it to soften the face, then decided to use it on the arm, then said what the heck, let's use it on the neck and ...weeeell, let's put some of it on the jumpsuit as well.
Yours is much more consistent.

Oh the shoulder folds, it does read as that. I was just trying to copy the original image.

I really like your style of using lines instead of just dithering to soften some areas, it has a very cool look to it; I just didn't use it because it would be harder for me to try and emulate. As I have made some dither brushes in Photoshop, it was just a matter of grabbing those and painting in some larger-ish areas instead of painting dot by dot by dot.
But maybe it should have been used in the whole picture as a single style of "dither", similar to using hatching instead of stippling when you're drawing pen and ink, and not both things at the same time.
Not that that's wrong, but maybe it would improve the image? I don't really know.

Does it evoke scanlines? Sorta. It may need a bunch more to really sell that.
Title: Re: Ellen Ripley (Gameboy Palette)
Post by: SeDiceBisonte on May 11, 2020, 07:11:09 pm
I hope I can get to the point where I consider these revisions tweaks. It's quite major to my eyes!

A fifth tone would be good in there, but my original extra colour wasn't really adding much. I probably could've customized the palette but I was worried that if I added in an extra thing to worry about (working with palettes) then I'd learn less about any one of them. I intend to work on my own palette for whatever I do next, which is likely to be another portrait from reference.

I think if the dithering came naturally then it makes sense yours is consistent as well in its greater use of it. That's a good tip about the Photoshop brush. I used so little dithering that I hadn't developed a need for a dedicated brush, but that idea will likely save me time down the road, especially for quickly getting a sense of shading in large areas. I agree that the mixture of shading methods doesn't quite work but the lines started to look like objects in the image when used less sparingly. From the pieces Chonky Pixel shared, it looks like both horizontal and vertical pixel placement is better for simulating an extra tone. I think I was trying to do too much with mine - breaking up the long lines by offsetting them vertically to suggest form (which scanlines obviously don't do) and transitioning them into traditional dither. Maybe something to try again when I have more of an idea what I'm doing.

I tested out a scan line backdrop to hammer the point home but it got a little busy. I think an extra tone would help with that too.

Thanks for the replies!