Critique => Pixel Art => Topic started by: cels on March 28, 2021, 10:17:39 am

Title: Clouds and purple
Post by: cels on March 28, 2021, 10:17:39 am
Well, it's a bit quiet around here so I'll just keep posting.  :-[


Of course I'm open to all crits, but I'm mostly concerned about the robe, the tree and the lighting. Which is to say that I haven't found a good reference for either. I'm trying to recreate some kind of flaky, chunky oak trunk, when it looks kind of like dinosaur skin. But I'm still experimenting with different ways of recreating that with pixel clusters.

Anyway, open to criticism. This will be my next project for the coming weeks.  ;D
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: fskn on March 29, 2021, 07:08:47 pm
I think the stuff surrounding the lantern should be brighter... Maybe I overdid it, iono.
Made the light shine inside of the sleeve and tried to make it kind of like there was some subsurface scattering on the outside of it.
Put the hotter colors where I thought the light would hit it more strongly.


Tried to make the robe a bit smoother there too. For no reason other than it was getting too shiny when I added the lighter/warmer colors. EDIT: to clarify this, it was getting too many hot spots because of all the folds, so I decided to simplify it.

On the other side (his right) I tried to have the rimlight more on the edge of the robe, thinking again that there would be where the light would hit it... But again, not sure if I did the right thing.

The flaking on the trunk that I did looks too repetitive, yours look much better.

Do keep posting, though. I enjoy seeing your stuff (and of course enjoy overpainting when I think I can improve it), and that keeps this place alive and going.
Lovely piece, btw.
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: eliddell on March 30, 2021, 01:46:26 am
I agree in general terms with what fskn says about the lighting:  the lantern should be throwing more light on the objects closest to it (it needs to be brighter than the moonlight for there to be any point in carrying it).  Not sure I would make the light on the tree as strong as it is in the paintover, though. ;)

The figure's eyes strike me as too dark, like they should be picking up some reflected light from the lantern and aren't, maybe?  Right now, they almost look like empty sockets.  Or is the figure supposed to be wearing a mask?

The ground in the middle of the picture is difficult to interpret.  Looks almost like a mass of cloud or treetops with a rock hovering in the middle, where that one bit has more contrast.

I'm also not sure that having the faces of some of the taller background buildings exactly the same colour as the sky quite works.  Run a bead of highlight partway down from the roof right where the corner should be, maybe?
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: SeinRuhe on March 30, 2021, 03:00:46 am
Yeah, thing's have been so quiet that is sad to see...

Don't take my word like true when it comes to advice this piece since you seem way more well versed than me in this kind of pieces.

Before saying what I would do I want to take a little time to say this piece is quite sick, I wish I could have this kind of ideas. :'(

Anyway here's what I would do:

- Make the character the focal point of this piece by softening the contrast and details on the background

- Merge some shapes of the character, specially on the hand that carries the lantern since it's the one that has more contrast, this to make it look sort of dramatic

- Get rid of the harsh speculars on the robe, make it looks like leather wich makes me think of kinky stuff instead of something dramatic. :-[

- The town part looks beyond perfect please don't touch it ;)

- Lastly, always check your values by making the piece black and white (this can be achieved by putting a new layer on top, fill it with white and put the layer blending mode on color) this helps to spot errors like crazy

Here's a quick edit I did, sorry for butchering your piece.


Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: cels on March 30, 2021, 03:13:36 am
@fskn: Thanks so much for taking the time to edit and for the words of encouragement. After a five year hiatus, I'm hoping to be more active in the PA community.
- You definitely made the lantern brighter than I had intended but I think somewhere in between is ideal, so I am working towards that. Thanks for giving me a better idea of where the light would hit.
- In regards to the robe, I just have to admit that I am handicapped by not really doing any real practice on drawing / painting cloth. I want it to be rippling a bit in the wind (notice the direction of the grass), but my brain simply shuts down when I try to model the physics in my mind. Ultimately, I just need to imitate references for hours until I get a 'feel' for how fabrics work. But for now, I'm just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.
- Good idea about the moonlight on the edge.
- Your trunk looks a bit flat, perhaps, but I think you nailed the texture. I will try to emulate this while trying to find a way to make the trunk look like a cylinder.

@eliddell: Thanks for the feedback!
- The figure is supposed to be wearing a mask. Ideally something like a venetian mask (without a mouth) but I'm struggling to make it readable without making it comical / cartoonish.
- Thanks for your comment about the middle. It was indeed supposed to be cloud.
- I'll need to think about the most distant buildings blending into the sky. I don't really have good intuition when it comes to atmospheric effect at night. Adding a highlight doesn't make sense to me, because then the building is brighter than the background and has more contrast than buildings that are closer instead of having less contrast and blending more into the background sky. This feels wrong. Of course, there may be other issues I'm not considering.


EDIT: Now SeinRuhe has gone and posted another great edit while I typed this and so I have to reconsider everything, including my life. Fack. To be continued.

EDIT2: Here we go.


@SeinRuhe: Thanks so much for taking the time to help out with an edit and thanks for the compliments!
- Unfortunately, my idea was to show a fictional setting of a medieval city above the clouds. So while I love your idea of making the character stand out, I'm not sure how to do this while still getting across that the plains are made of clouds. On the other hand, I may have already failed, since nobody seems to read them as clouds anyway!  :ouch:
- While you suggested I should merge shapes on the right side of the character, I've gone ahead and added more shapes to make the character more interesting. Now I feel dumb and very conflicted, because I like your design.
- Interesting point about harsh speculars on the robe. I was trying to use the highlights to make the character stand out more, but I guess I went over the edge and made it kinky. I will play around with this. Wait, that sounded wrong.  :-\
- Great advice to check my values. This is one of the disadvantages of being stuck in the 90's and pixelling with MS Paint. But I'll do that in the future!
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: SeinRuhe on March 30, 2021, 07:59:43 am
Ohhhhh, I thought that was some kind of poisonous fog! But now that you mention those are clouds I even see a zeppelin that I missed before!

- You are 100% right about that far highlights, there's no way they could exist, my bad.

- You did a great job with the clouds that I misread as dense, poisonous clouds, thing is, I do suck doing clouds, that's why they look like mountains  ;D

- I think your character looks great with the details, to be honest the main and maybe only reason why I took so many details out of your character is because I suck at drawing folds and drapery. Merging shapes is just a resource that I find interesting because it makes the spectator complete shapes in it's head and as a bonus it's a good justification for my laziness.

- Disclaimer, this is a non paid promotion and no one is pointing a gun at my head I swear, anyway, I would highly recommend aseprite for pixelart, is cheap, is great, has animation features and looks like a software made for a 3 year old (So everything is easy to learn)

- Keep the great work and hopefully lets keep this forum alive.
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: fskn on March 30, 2021, 06:06:50 pm
Ooooh, those are clouds and that in the middle is a zeppelin? It all makes sense now, but boy is it hard to convey that.

I tried and... Well, wasn't that successful. I think maybe they will always end up looking like either trees or rock formations or clouds.


Played around with the robe as well, pulling it a bit to the left and added some waves to try and convey the sense of the wind blowing. It's still a bit (too?) stiff on the right, though...

As for the zeppelin, I think it could have a bit of, or a more pronounced fin.
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: eliddell on March 30, 2021, 08:57:39 pm
Quick, crappy paintover that attempts to make the clouds more clearly cloud-like:


If it isn't immediately clear, what I mostly did was lower the level of the clouds relative to the buildings, especially that one tower on the third hill back, and make the dropoffs sharper in spots.  I . . . think it worked at least a little bit?  Although the dirigible now looks like it's about to have a Controlled Flight Into Terrain-type accident. ;)

I also give the dirigible itself some (dim) running lights and punched up the contrast around the gondola to try to make it read more clearly without drawing attention away from the main figure.
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: fskn on March 31, 2021, 12:25:25 am
Good ideas, eliddell.

I tried something with the clouds, too. So, how about if they were more like wisps as they get closer to the airship?



Man, those buildings far in the background look so good.


EDIT: Oh, wait... How about a wisp going in front of the airship?
EDIT2: Erhm, maybe not. It could render the airship unreadable.



Yeah, doesn't work.
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: cels on April 04, 2021, 11:51:32 pm
Once again, thanks to everyone for taking the time to help me! Without Pixelation, I would still be using the MS Paint spray tool to draw clouds.


What's new?
- Tried to improve on the tree bark, borrowing from fskn.
- Tried to improve on the robes, stealing the swishy robes of fskn and the SFW-robes by SeinRuhe
- Tried to improve clodus in foreground (now with 50% more wispiness) and background (copied fskn, got rid of those warm purples that didn't belong)

I'm a slow learner, so sorry if I missed / ignored some good advice here.

- I totally take your point about the character design. In the future, I will steal your idea because I love the way you repainted him/her. However, for this particular piece, I want to add a little bit of detail to the character just to make the eye linger for a little bit, so I think I need something like exposed pouches, belts, weapons or something like that to keep it interesting. And I feel like more folded robes give the eyes more details to chew on as well. If I had a more eye-catching background, I think I'd swap to a simpler character design.
- Thanks for the tip, I will check out aseprite! It seems all the cool kids are using it on PJ Discord.  ;D

- I see what you did with the clouds and I understand it, but I can't help but feel that it helps if the clouds are hugging the terrain more (like water or like this (https://c8.alamy.com/comp/PDF32E/a-stunning-and-dramatic-view-of-the-weisshorn-above-the-clouds-as-seen-from-the-matterhorn-PDF32E.jpg)) to make it easier to read the clouds as a 'foggy ocean' rather than a collection of big clouds that aren't really touching the mountains. I actually started out with the approach you took, then I tried to make the clouds hug the terrain a bit more. However, there are probably better ways I could have done it. I don't think it's problematic that the clouds are almost at the level of the buildings, but I could be wrong.
- I agree with you that my zeppelin has readability issues. However, I think shining lights would attract too much attention to something that is supposed to be a nifty detail and might look too modern / steampunk for a fantasy setting. Maybe I'm being stubborn, I will think about whether my zeppelin needs to have better readability.  :-[

- Wow, 4 edits! Thanks! I've tried to adjust the clouds according to the version that looked best to me. I don't think I have the skills to have layers of clouds on top of each other or a partially concealed zeppelin. I'm not that good of a pixel pusher.
- Adding a fin to a zeppelin totally makes sense, however... as I understand it, fins don't actually do anything unless your zeppelin has some sort of propulsion, like a propeller. With this being fantasy sans steampunk, the zeppelin has no propulsion. That means it can only actually steer by changing its altitude and trying to hit a wind that blows it in the right direction. So why not simply have a sphere shape instead? Well... because... I don't know! I haven't worked that out yet.


Do you guys think it's realistic to have a cool looking diamond pattern? Or would it look dumb at this size, or even detract from the overall impression by simply adding a pointless distraction?

Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: eliddell on April 05, 2021, 04:06:53 pm
Actually, propellers aren't impossible with medieval tech—you just have to make them muscle-powered.  So inside the dirigible, there are a bunch of sweaty slaves (or dogs or goats) running on a treadmill to get the propellers to turn fast enough to give the thing steering way, and a power train made from pulleys, leather belts, and the big wooden peg-gears you see in windmills to transmit the energy along.  Another possibility is that it's effectively on rails, guided by a rope or wire strung between two high points.  The hydrogen to inflate the gas bag is slightly more of a stretch, but not too much of one:  oil of vitriol (AKA sulfuric acid, known at least from the 13th century) + salt + a metal spoon + some bright young alchemist willing to investigate the results.

I do think that if the dirigible is important enough to be in the picture, it's important enough that you don't want people to mistake it for a floating rock, as I initially did. ;)

As for the clouds . . .  I think you said in the thread with the wisent caravan pic that these were illustrations for some larger, combined work?  It's possible that the clouds won't ever be unambiguously interpretable without the context the larger work would provide unless you compromise your vision a bit.  It all depends on what you think is most important, I guess.

The diamond pattern could work, but not in that colour, I think.  It needs to fall in line better with the rest of the palette.
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: cels on April 05, 2021, 05:17:58 pm
You had me at goat-powered dirigibles! I think it's easy to handwave the lift, whether it's hot air or a gas bag. To handwave muscle-powered propellers is more of a stretch. Hm, there's a joke to be made there, but I'm too tired. I don't know. Maybe I'll end up reluctantly having some steampunk for the sake of having functional airships that aren't simply hot air balloons. And I take your point about readability.

In regards to the clouds, I'm definitely not opposed to having them clearly identifiable as clouds. I hope I didn't give that impression. I guess I'm just struggling because it's an unusual perspective, it's at night (with high contrast due to a full moon), it's a relatively small canvas and on top of that everything is inexplicably purple. So it's a combination of low skill level, weird impulses and picking unhelpful parameters, I guess.  :(

And even with a photograph, it can be a bit tricky to know what you're looking at without context. In this photo, I don't know that it's immediately obvious that the bottom half is clouds. The sunlight and the way the clouds hug the mountains kind of help, but it's still a bit weird.

But enough excuses! Thanks for the feedback! I'll drop the diamond pattern, it's too difficult and unnecessary.  ;D
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: fskn on April 05, 2021, 06:56:17 pm
Hm, yeah. They kind of read as being "white", maybe because of the little bit of sunlight, or just because of the relative value of the "fluffier" parts of the picture in comparison with the darker mountains.

I was thinking if it would be possible to show some of those clouds being dragged by the airship as it moves, and/or a trail behind it. That would read more as something fluid rather than, say, the top of trees. But having worked a bit on it thinking "clouds" as I was placing pixels around, I "can't not" read them as clouds anymore. They're clouds for me now.
Same goes for the airship. It's not some weird thing/rock/ovni floating there, it's an airship.

You did a great job with the robes now. It looks very, very nice indeed.
I just think that some of the light that goes over the part that covers the shoulders, wouldn't be there because the sleeve of the arm that's holding the lantern would (possibly?) block it.
Maybe the face too, now that I think of it, unless it's some light that's being bounced off from the tree. If that's the case, it would reflect onto the top of the lantern/ring too...

As for the pattern, I do like it as a concept, though maybe it's a bit too busy and the colors should (?) be closer in hue to that of the rest of the robe, because it's at night, and the only two lights that are there are very strongly colored.
I thiiiink.

But I don't know. It may look very cool...
Maybe try and make the sleeves seem white, and have a pattern that's a bit subtler as to not impair our perception of what those things are...
Or not even white, but some more contrasty color in comparison to the rest of the robe. Just to separate those some.

EDIT: That would make me think different things from what I'm thinking now, that that's a misterious figure investigating or just lurking in the dark. It wouldn't look as "stealthy", if that makes sense.
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: eliddell on April 05, 2021, 08:39:35 pm
Seriously, muscle-powered propellers do have some history in the real world, but it's with early submarines rather than dirigibles.

The clouds in the photo could possibly be rolling surf, but not treetops.  I think fskn is right about them being more readable because of value contrast.

Anyway, the figure in the foreground looks better now than in the original version of the picture, including the mask reading more clearly as a mask.

(And if you think your skill level is low, wait until I actually get around to posting the state of my current (game) project.  I expect plenty of laughter will ensue.)
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: cels on April 05, 2021, 09:54:21 pm
Thanks for your help, guys! I'll make some last changes and then start my next pixel piece, number 7 of 8. And then I'm taking a break from castles and clouds for a while!  :lol:

You've been awesome. Sorry if I've been too stubborn and pig headed about certain things.

I'm really happy to see more activity on the forum these days and I hope you guys get around to posting your current projects as quickly as possible, so I can (hopefully) try to reciprocate. ;D
Title: Re: Clouds and purple
Post by: fskn on April 06, 2021, 03:40:27 am
Sorry if I've been too stubborn and pig headed about certain things.
Don't worry. In the end, this is YOUR piece. You do it however you think it's best. We're just giving suggestions here.