Date: October 07, 2012, 06:04:45 PM
[This goes after "We interrupt our irregularly-scheduled program for this bulletin-". I've posted a few later ones out of order, recently. As always, these older entries in the series discuss some outdated technique, but also talk a lot about the why and the thinking process, which is eternal, and at least as important. It's the difference between hackwork and art.]
I’ve decided to change my format from talking about my working process on a faction I finished over six weeks ago to talking about what I’m doing now. I can go into more- and more educational- detail that way.
(Yesterday in the Beta Lyrae thread, Darsnan and I were discussing the possibility of changing the bases for his alt. Usurpers/Imperial Starlost Progenitors. I give these remarks about context of the work because the best game art doesn’t just look cool- it tells a story. These things have an important effect on the art decisions you make.)
The Starlost- my label, not his- were a naval survey expedition that was lost in space long before the Manifold disaster destroyed Prog civilization, or the schism between Caretakers and Usurpers. After many thousands of years in stasis, they ended up stranded on Beta Lyrea not long before the humans, and instantly came into conflict with the Autochthon- descendants of later Progenitors who were stranded there while the Starlost were in stasis and survived the Sentinels by achieving harmony with the environment. A lot of art decisions went to trying to suggest that the Autochthon are Progs gone native, and keeping a look consistent with their story.
(The Autochton are alternate Caretakers , part of my project, mostly in collaboration with Darsnan, to make alternate/splinters of the official factions. I cannot express how amusing I found it to put the aliens in log cabins.)
The Starlost want to create the infrastructure to build a starship and leave. I’ve gone for a look that says “Alien Captain Kirk down on his luck” with the art-
(From this to this . He has more scars, some of his tusks are broken and his armor is a little torn up, but somehow with the new color scheme, he looks less evil and more tired. The trimmed/capped rill horns help too, though that's largely a practical consideration for a starship crew...) thus the approach I took to the diplomacy landscape shot, changing the DL Darsnan pointed me at- of a ship in flight- to the ship grounded and very chewed up-looking.
With the bases, Darsnan liked my suggestion of running elements of Usurpers and Caretaker base designs together to suggest that these guys are from before the schism.
So last night, I did a little cut and paste work to put the top of Caretaker bases over Usurper ones. I did some minor fiddling with the Usurper struts to splay them just slightly and make them look a tiny bit more like Caretaker ones. I finished by trimming down a Caretaker subsidiary building to paste at the top of all the Usurper elements as a dome-cap.
This morning, Darsnan approved the design I posted last night, and picked one of the color schemes I'd done. We’d agreed on faction color and customizing changes to the Usurper logo colors, so I was ready to begin actual assembly of the graphic.)
I opened the Usurper .pcx, and copy/pasted the whole thing into MS Paint. I scan lined the diplomacy landscape I’d gotten approved and pasted into the Paint copy.
Now it was time to put in the bases. I opened the .pcx I’d saved before I made .jpegs to post last night- of the version of the bases Darsnan chose- I’d just done the first row of bases, and saved a copy of only that. I copy/pasted it over the Usurper bases in Paint- my design covers the originals completely, so I did it with Draw Opaque off. I did the same with the next two rows, leaving a bit of the shields showing behind- which will make it easier to get the surround when I get to replacing the rest.
When I got to the first row of water bases, I had a decision to make. Some bases look okay unaltered floating; I decided these stilted ones would not. I pasted them in, which left them on top of Usurper platforms –which are pretty generic- they’re brown, though. I copy/pasted that row of bases back into The Usurper file in Photoshop, switched the mode to RGB (Image>Mode>RGB Color) to get access to advanced functions, and sampled the dark brown of the platforms. Then Select>Color Range… I set the fuzziness (how close to the color sampled it needs to stay in selecting inside the select box around the row) to 60% -somewhat exclusive and hit okay. Sometimes it takes some trial and error to get exactly what you want selected- this looked about right, with most, but not all, of the water platforms selected- the darkest parts.
Image>Adjust>Color Balance, and I was bringing up the blue and cyan to 100%, with a touch of green, (about 20% was all that didn’t make it TOO green), resulting in a dark, slightly greenish blue that matched the blue parts of the bases proper, but left the platforms looking like separate pieces. I fiddled a little with the lighter-brown bits left over with an eye towards matching them with the pale-gold highlights of the bases, but they didn’t want to select cleanly, and I decided the platforms looked good the way they already were. I then copy/pasted the row three times into the Paint copy over the Usurper water bases. Now, all that was left was to put the shields back.
In Photoshop, I opened shields.pcx- a file I made long ago of both official sorts of bare shields (and a few I invented) for just such a purpose. I pasted the Progenitor shields into a third copy of MS Paint (the leaderhead is waiting in another, but I’ve already covered that part of the process) to erase the back halves. It’s another thing that’s easier to do in Paint.
I did so with the smallest stage-one shield and copy/pasted over the smallest shielded water base zoomed in at 800%- still with Draw Opaque off, so it only superimposed the shield over the base. I saw that the shield was far wider than the remnants around the back, so I found the pip on one edge of the select box and narrowed it. I tried to match the edges of the front with the back that was already there, narrowed again, and got a nice match. I repeated the process with the next size, taking a few seconds to draw in a gap on the left with the color sample and line tools. When I’d same the same with stage 3, and tried to scroll over to the next size shield, I discovered I’d accidentally skipped the smallest sized, making extra work for myself. Oh well. I pasted the largest size –it fit this time-, needing only a few pixels drawn in on the left, as the building covered the rest.
I zoomed out a little and selected the upper parts of the row of water bases I’d just shielded –the upper parts are identical to the land bases, so this way is less work- and copy/pasted them (w/shields) over the stage-one-shield land-base row. Correction: I wanted to do it that way, but concluded that the shields sat too low in front to leave all of the water elements out of the select. Instead, I repeated the process one base at a time. Oh well- I think it’s instructive to leave my missteps in the narrative. I was able to select enough of the water row and copy/paste first to avoid having to draw any gaps in twice. Without the drawing and resizing, it took only a minute to finish the land row.
(Then I pasted the Paint master copy back into the Photoshop Usurper .pcx and saved it in an in-progress folder while I went to run a quick errand. Artists, you want to be in the habit of saving your progress often. Stuff happens.)
When I got back to work, repeating the process for the stage-two Tachyon shields went much more smoothly without the wasted time resizing- and because I did it on the land bases first and thus could copy/paste the entire row on top of the water bases smoothly.
With the bases done, it’s now time to post this and get to work on the logos…
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