[Graphics] His and Her Nerds (Leaderheads)
Date: October 09, 2012, 03:26:47 PM
His and Her Nerds
…So I needed a new leader for my alternate/splinter Data Angels. After I collaborated to varying degrees with Darsnan on graphics for splinter factions he’d created for his Eye of the Believer scenario, I kept going to make a complete set of alternates to all the official factions. The alt. Data Angels were the 14th, and would complete the project.
(Actually I’d already done more than one alternate for some of the factions- if I include overhauls I did of someone else’s custom factions, the Cannabis League and Mindworms with Minds, I’d done the Gaians four times. [Then if you include the alt. Gender leaders project - well, I once played a novelty sp game with four Gaian variants and three Planet Cult that I called "Attack of the Eco-clones".])
So over a month ago [years now], I solicited ideas for the alt. Angels in the “Alternate Official Factions in Progress” thread. Sexymindwworm said “Microsoft”, Psyringe said “nerd”, and I said “Japanese”.
Thursday or Friday night, I googled for pictures of Japanese nerds. I was surprised not to find a lot more than I did - it was really slim pickin's. I saved a few nerd photos- you never know when you might have use for the images you don't use now, later - and loaded my favorite into Photoshop to begin working it over. The nerd was holding up a computer chip, and since it was hard to make out, I decided to take the hand and chip alike out of the picture.
Before I began working on that, it began to dawn on me that there was a problem. The big chin had fooled me in the thumbnail - this wasn't a very young guy, it was a woman. And a subtly good-looking one when you looked close, at that. See the before and after shots later on.
I pasted the picture into MS Paint, because the first step of turning her into a man would be some copy/paste work to alter the proportions of her face- and as I’ve said before, I find Paint easier to use for copy/paste work than Photoshop5 or Photoshop CS, though these days I use GIMP. I started by zooming in very close and selecting a box that took in most of her chin, and copied it. Then I pasted it back in moved down by one pixel. Then I did it again. Pasting twice moved one pixel each time instead of once moved two pixels keeps the edges of the box-of-face you’re pasting in from showing much as the shading of the face changes along its contours. Then I selected a bigger box that took a bit more of the chin in both directions- you don’t want to paste in the same edges too many times, or it makes a funny pattern- and did it again. The photo was nearly twice the dimensions of the portrait I was working towards, so this wasn’t a big change, but enough to make a prominent chin moreso.
I did the same sort of thing with her jaw line, moving it outward to make the face bigger. Likewise for lengthening her nose. Raised the peaks of the cheeks up and out- Japanese as well as male, remember. It looked like a dude with plucked eyebrows and light makeup now- but- I saw what it still needed then. I proceeded to widen his neck.
So after- I dunno, maybe an hour or two of this; it’s hard to keep track of time when you’re deep in right-brain concentration- I copy/pasted the whole shot back into Photoshop and began using the smudge tool to erase the hand and chip.
There’s a million things I did in the next couple of hours that I could show you if you were in the room with me, but can’t describe in any reasonable length - the process is too intuitive. I smoothed out suspicious irregularities/regularities I'd created around the edges of all the copy/pasting. I squared those tapered eyebrows and changed the shape of the eyes, removing all the mascara and eyeliner that didn’t stand out a lot, but definitely looked female- all with the smudge tool. I wasted a lot of time trying to select the upper lip and lower face with the magic wand- some things select easy, and others refuse to select just what you want no matter the sensitivity settings, and this was one of the latter. I eventually got something in the right neighborhood selected after far too long trying, and reduced the color saturation and brightness just a tad to make a (bad) five o’clock shadow. (Which, alas, later vanished anyway between the effects of processing the color to make it look painted and the limitations of the SMAC(X) palette, which is not kind to subtle shading.)
His lips were a bit too full and too pink to look male- I selected the lips and reduced the color level a bit, then narrowed them with the smudge tool. I did a lot of things to make him look male and Japanese, far too many to describe in full- if you have talent, you should be able to figure it out like I did. I can’t really draw, and have to depend on nit-picking patience and perfectionism to compensate.
I gave him a haircut- the hair was too full in back where it peaked around the neck, and shortening it there looked more masculine; same for making the hair on top less poofy. I left the long, full, bangs, though, because they looked nerdy.
An easy thing I did towards the end was to make his shirt look a little future-y. I did something I do a lot- removed the lapels from his collars. They stuck up straight now, and no one but me may notice, but the devil is in the details in these things.
It was time to make it look like a SMAC-style painting now. I pasted the shot into GIMP to use Filters>Artisitic>Oilify on very low settings - high settings, even medium, turn your image way too impressionistic. Then I pasted back into Photoshop and spent a long time fiddling with hue/saturation and color balance. It’s another intuitive thing impossible to describe in detail, but the idea is to end up with a narrower range of colors than a photograph. With the color balance function, I generally brought up the red, magenta and yellow at the expense of the blues, greens and cyans- real human skin has a trace of those tints, and paintings tend not to. I kept bringing up those rosy orangey colors, then reducing the color saturation to compensate. There was a good deal of fiddling with the brightness and contrast, too. Also blurring and sharpening to blend my mistakes rearranging in, and carefully reduce the realism further.
Finally, I loaded the SMAC palette- this is one of the only times you’ll like the limitations of the 256-color palette -when the image takes to it well, anyway- because it reduces the range of shades of the skin, making it look even more like a painting. The result was a face that was a little blotchy-skinned- which is ordinarily a lot of work to smooth out, but perfect for a nerd. All the processing had turned the highlights of his hair faintly red, so I selected his hair and turned it back to blue.
The faint background was long wiped out by now, so I selected it, deleted it to the white background color and went looking for a new background to paste the figure onto. The hacker theme made me think of the green on black Matrix thing, which I had no trouble googling. I pasted the figure onto that- and hey! The numbers of the shot I found were Japanese. Perfect. (That background ended up giving me the color scheme I used for the rest of the elements of the faction later- green and black.)
[I believe I blurred and sharpened the whole once or twice, too, to blend them together a bit. The alternative is a lot of time zoomed in very close with the Smudge tool scaled small at low power, working around the edge of the pasted-figure. (Anyone who's ever spent much time shooping any photos will have noticed that the edges of people in photographs blend in with their background, or it would be a heckuva a lot easier to make convincing slanderous fakes of Sarah Palin.) I probably spent a few minutes going around his edge with the Smudge tool, but I don't remember adding the excellently faint greenish tones near his edges, and that looks to be a happy accident of blur/sharpening.]
So I added scan lines and dropped the portrait in, then saved and went to bed.
… the next morning when I looked at it, I decided that his jaw was too robust to look really Japanese, so I ended up spending a while with a pre-scan lined copy I’d saved (always save a .bmp or .png before you do the scan lines- you end up needing to revisit the portrait for further alterations or something often enough that you’ll be glad you did) and spent some time slimming his jaw and making his chin more pointed. Now he looked reasonably Japanese. I re-scan lined and dropped him in again…
Voilà! The leader of Node Masters - he was project manager on the Network Nodes for MorganSoft before he struck out on his own; he left a backdoor in each one...
Not long after, as part of a collaboration with Maniac on fixing up the suckier SMAniaC (I tried to talk him into changing it to SManiAC for symmetry and the AC ending, but no dice) factions, I used the original shot again for a SMAniaC faction (The Genesis, replacing a pasty-white creepy mutate), leaving her caucasian and a her this time. Perhaps the difference in process will be educational.
[More than I regret my fuzzy memories of my process on a job I did three years ago, is now that I'm tarting up an old tutorial with pictures, I find that I saved so few pictures of the stages he went through. Fortunately, I have a little more of the female version.]
As you can see, she went through very simular, opposite, steps. I thinned her jaw line and made her chin less prominent - and took out the cleft. I made her hair fuller on top and longer in back, though I kept the unruly bangs untouched again - they're still nerdy. In fact, I deliberately added unruly escaped hairs around the edge of her hair, since the fluffing up had smoothed things out; it's perfect for a non-vain busy lab wonk. (ProTip: When it comes to straight up redrawing elements of a portrait, hair is easy, at least with the handy-dandy Smudge Tool.)
I tapered the shape of her glasses frames; it's a subtle cue, but squareness of the originals was one of the things that looked superficially male and fooled me until I took a good look. I gave her a nose job. I turned her shirt into a lab coat.
I am proud to say that I reckon I made her noticeably better-looking without making her too good-looking. She still belongs in a genetics lab, but has just enough of that sexy librarian thing going that grows on you until you'd totally like to make out with her if she'd let you.
Maniac reaction was "I love Dr. Nerdinia!" (my nickname for her.) He just meant that she's a good character image - I think.
[Amusingly, only as I edit this together do I realize that the original was wearing a cloth headband, strangely-placed toboggan, or a snood, of which more is left, when you look for it, on him than her. If my eyes worked, I'd be a very dangerous artist, but the much sharper monitor I have now helps. I don't think I ever spotted the nose ring before, either, but it's completely gone, anyway, for both of them.]
Neither leader stands out in my memory as being especially a lot of work, as leaderheads go, and people could play the two together with little more reaction than thinking they must be related - which ought to be a good characterization/background/story point. (Not the only portrait I've used on more than one faction - I could easily play another novelty game called plain "Attack of the Clones" with no hippies or completely identical leaders.)
Below's the line-up, original alongside both final versions. They're a good example of the universe of possibilities you have for taking source material in many directions if you're good and think.
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