[Graphics] The Artistic Side of Leader Portraits - And Size/cropping the End Result

Submitted By: BUncle Date: October 16, 2012, 05:06:05 AM Views: 466

The Artistic Side of Leader Portraits  - And Size/cropping the End Result

So, for the SMACivilization SpaceMayans, The Astral Jaguar Cult, Alexander posted this:

Now, I wasn't wild about this shot - it has a lot going for it; a beautiful background and a strong sense of calculating, ruthless, personality in the figure - (the story-telling part of Alpha Centauri is very important, and the look/attitude of the leaders is the most important visual part of that) - but the face is drawn in a very stylized, unrealistic way, with heavy lines and little or no sense of depth. Also, the blue crown thing looks flat.

So, the first thing I did was set to working on the face with the Smudge Tool at small Scale and low Rate; I won’t try to describe every little thing I did, as it would take a week to write and no one would read it - also, I would still be working on it two days later, because stopping to type what I did every time I do something slows me down by a factor of ten, at least.

But I zoomed in close with the smudging at low power and started blurring the lighter areas onto the black lines, smearing them into something more diffuse, like the shaded lines in a real face, and less like drawn lines. I made the cheek lines around the mouth more curved, eliminated or lightened all those deep, sharp, straight, unrealistic lines radiating from the area where the brow, eyes and nose converge. I honestly can’t draw all that well, but I’m a pretty good sculptor who has studied facial anatomy, and using the Smudge Tool is rather like pushing clay around with my fingers.

I also used the Fuzzy Select Tool to pick out individual bits and fiddle with the darkness, too. That was how I freed up enough light skin in the ridiculously lined bit of brow under the crown to smudge around.

Basically, I did 45 minutes or so of smoothing out lines and moving shading around to give the cheeks, especially, but the entire face, too, a more realistic sense of depth. I made Montezuma a lot younger-looking in the process, which I hadn’t intended, but was okay. I regret that making the anatomy of the nose look right changed the shape/character of it so much…

I ended up with this:

Now, we’d already used shades of blue for two faction colors, so I immediately began Fuzzy Selecting the crown. That involved spending entirely too long zoomed in very close with the threshold set as low as 0.00 at times, selecting individual pixels around the edges, and dark ones that wanted to spread the select to the background and/or the face. Eventually, I ended up with the whole thing selected, as seen above.

Then it was simple to hue-shift it over to a vivid green - remember from the logo post that I was going for a Mexican red-yellow-green color scheme. Because this was for an imaginary Mayans-in-Space  faction, I actually stepped up the color saturation more, and blurred it a little to make it almost glowy.

In my opinion, the yellow of the cape was too red, and the red of the mantle around his neck was too yellow. More tedious Fuzzy Select pixel-choosing later, I had the above situation. I brought the color saturation way down to get rid of most of the yellow and used the Color Balance function to put the red back.

Then - oh. my. God. Selecting the pixels of the bracelets and the bleeping cape took forEVER. Over two hours, I think. I can’t believe I do this for free. When finally, a lifetime or two later, I had everything I wanted selected, I did the same as before - took the color saturation way down, used Color Balance to put the yellow back, and cranked up the contrast somewhat, trying to bring out the highlights and achieve a metallic golden look - that last part didn’t work so well, but I did get pretty, yellower, cape out of the deal.

As finishing touches, I selected few pixels of iris in those yellow eyes and made them golder. I wanted to give the hair a slightly unnatural blue tint, so more Fuzzy Select pixel choosing, and - it just made his hair look a lot blacker, but I liked its looks better that way, so I left it. I kept making Monty look younger accidentally, but why not? No story reason not to, and frankly, you want to cheat portraits towards looking young and attractive when there‘s no reason not to, because people would rather look at young and attractive.

I also decided to do something about the seeming flatness of the crown - the luminous swirly bits made shading for depth a problem, but it was a simple matter of selecting a pixel-wide strip at one edge of the crown where it curved around his head, darkening 40%, widening a pixel, darkening 20%, repeating three more times, then going about 10% darker for the next six or so. Then doing the other side the same way. Then doing roughly the opposite in the center. It’s a subtle effect, and the glowiness makes it imperfect, but the crown below does seem to curve around his head a little more.


Now it was time for the size/cropping. This part is less artistic and far more mechanical, so more how-to detail will be given than in the mostly why-to above.

I opened blankpcx.pcx and did the transparent background trick, then zoomed in on the big datalinks portrait box, selecting it - the box itself, not the inside.

I copied, then switched back to the portrait, pasting it in to get an idea of the size I’d need to fit Montezuma in the box.

This was zoomed in too tight, so I hit [ctrl]z to undo the pasting, and reduced him about 60%. When I pasted in the box and moved it around, this was about right (A little + appears in the center when I drag it around with the mouse, so it was easy to center the box on the bridge of his nose, nearly between his eyes. Perfect - so I deselected.

Now I zoomed in as close as would show the whole box on my &^%$#@! wide-screen monitor, 300%, and used the box as my select guide.

If I was working alone, at this point, I’d copy/paste into the assembly copy I already dropped the logos into. Since I am collaborating, instead I Image>Crop to Selection(ed), and saved a copy to post for Alex’s approval.

Today, he asked for a tighter crop. I gave him two crops,  (My initial choice was stronger, frankly, and the first below was rubbing his nose in it,)

Full-size and 80%. He chose 80%, and now, with a little time spent making the molding behind Monty a vaguely metallic blue to future the shot up a bit more, I can proceed to drop it into the assembly graphic and move on to the bases. (The Diplomacy Landscape shot goes so much like with the portraits that it isn’t worth a separate entry.)

Next: All about bases, some why and a lot of how-to.

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