[Graphics] Leaderheads: Two Showy Examples of the Possibilities

Submitted By: Buster's Uncle Date: October 21, 2012, 05:45:39 PM Views: 1082

Leaderheads: Two Showy Examples of the Possibilities

This is from a 40’s Time Magazine cover:

The pleasant-looking chubby mature gentleman is Tse-veng Soong, Chinese politician and banker.  He was President of the Republic of China for a few years in the late 40s, reputed to be the only man the nationalists and communists both trusted.  He was Chiang Kai-shek’s brother in-law, and the richest man in China at one time, who earlier had financed the Flying Tigers - out of his own pocket. 

All irrelevant to the purpose of this article, but, a great man at the center of great events for a good deal of his life, and at least in the US, pretty completely forgotten.  Worth looking up, if you like that kind of thing.

So, the cover portrait struck me as a fine leaderhead - I simply do not remember how I got from that to setting out to do what I did - which was to make him a lot younger.  This was for an Asian faction leader to go with an artless custom faction of Darsnan’s, so it surely resulted from discussion with him as part of that collaboration.   

-(much later) It took quite a while to track that conversation down, but Darsnan’s faction was an alt. Hive, the Protectorate, led by one Kyong Shin, described as “a person younger than Yang, and more determined/autocratic looking.”  I posted two promising-looking painted portraits of Chinese leaders and Darsnan chose Soong over Chiang Kai-shek (I didn’t know at the time they were in-laws, Soong’s sister being the famous Madame Kai-shek, whom I have also since used as a faction leader.)  I don’t see the intensity Darsnan wanted in Soong, though the subject began younger than Yang.

Naturally, after so long I can’t be a great deal more specific in detailing the process than if someone else had done it and I was speculating how.  Reviewing the exchange over it with my collaborator helps slightly.

First, I put him on a diet.

I narrowed his head -20% springs to mind- in MSPaint - this is back when I did all I could in Paint.  You can see the marks on the background near his head and where his ear tips repeat.

Then, I pasted him into Photoshop and started working on him with the Smudge Tool, my perennial favorite.  The face needed general streamlining in shape, as simple narrowing hadn’t gotten nearly all the fat in his cheeks.  Of course I went after the lines in his face, softening, and more often, removing.

I brought his hairline lower and a bit further in on the sides - always a youthful cue, even in the un-baldest of older men. I added a widow’s peak, as Soong had what might be the remnant of one and that seemed somehow in keeping with an intense personality, looking a little predatory. 

I narrowed his ears slightly to make them stick out less and because ears grow slowly all your life, and are another subtle cue of age.  I slimmed the tip of his nose a good deal for the same reason, incidentally also adding to the intensity of expression I was working toward.

I took out the smile lines, both youthening and, well, taking out smile lines.  I worked the puffy lower cheeks in until I got a gentle, non-chubby/jowly jaw line - it tended to follow the hollow of the cheeks, making a nice, slender, triangular face.

It was a very long process, time spent deep in creative right-brain mode as I ended up virtually redrawing the face completely.  Right-brain mode being what it is, I would have had trouble detailing what I did in very high resolution at all five minutes after I finished.  A thing that surprises and impresses me now is that the posts I made at the time indicate that I did the whole job in under six hours - it looks so thoroughly redrawn that I’d been assuming I’d messed with it for days.


Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Kyong Shin. 

I fancied then that Soong might have looked like that in his youth, and have since seen a photo at around that age - Shin could be his brother, anyway.

“Wow! Thats pretty high quality,” Darsnan said.  This portrait customization was how I found out I had real talent for this - I was very surprised by how well it turned out.  The quality of what you see is reduced a little deliberately, because it looked so real that I worried it would look too much like a processed photo set against a painted backdrop.  The anatomy of the cheeks is off, but it looks like an original creation, not an altered picture off the web. 

All that was left to do was change his clothes.  Darsnan wanted something North Korean, so I redrew that suit into a green mao jacket.  Clothes are like hair in being easy to alter massively and get satisfactory results.  I think, looking back, that iconic as the mao style is, I should have futured the collar more - but it’s hard to see any detail in the collar, even in the larger, pre-scan lined and SMAC(X) palleted versions here, so it doesn’t really matter.

Kyong Shin has been my avatar at CFC for years - I wear one or another of my custom faction leaders for an avatar everywhere, and this early work is one of the ones of which I am still proudest.


I stumbled over this semi-colored line drawing while looking for a hippy woman to lead an alt. Gaian faction:


It looks very much like the sort of thing my sister had as posters hanging in her room when she was young.  The subject was framed in a non-traditional way for a leaderhead, (which I assume is why Darsnan had me make something different for alt. Gaians later), and too much work to turn into something I could use, but I just plain liked the shot, and decided to have a go at it.

This one, I did on my own, and therefore have a lot less old post commentary to refresh my memory about how I did it.  But my purpose in this particular tutorial is not to tell you how to do what I did, but to show you that it can be done, and figured out as you go, by an untrained artist with little experience and little expertise in Photoshop. 

However, here's what little that I do remember, just to get you started:  first I did a flood-fill, with the paint bucket tool, of a peachy  Caucasian skin-tone.  Erred on the side of a golden tan, because a nature hippy is going to get some sun.  That filled less of the white space of her face and neck than you’d expect, and I did some smearing around with the Smudge Tool on medium Threshold.

Coloring is easy; it's giving the work depth that's hard.

Now this next part is the big secret to converting a line drawing to a full-color painting well: I selected the lines that defined her nose and jaw and turned them into a much darker shade of the same peachy skin-tone, almost brown.  (Shadows have a little less color saturation, as well as being darker, because light carries color.  That’s why you see more-or-less in black-and-white on a moonlit night.)  Then I worked the lines with the smudge tool on low power, to blur them in realistically. 

I did the same sort of thing with the lines defining her lips, eyes, and eyebrows, all separately for the differences in color needed.

That was only the beginning.  I used the dodge/burn tool to darken or lighten areas to give her cheeks, and darkened her some eye sockets.  Blended all with the Smudge Tool. Made her some bosoms, and managed to not get carried away by making them too big or too obvious.  All much more complex than that, and I took a while doing it, but that’s the basic technique.  You just have to understand lighting and facial anatomy, and be persistent.  If I could figure it out, you can, too.

I was very happy with how it turned out:

Attractive, and a little more mature, with a hint of intensity the original didn’t have.  I like.  But this one was a bit of a heartbreaker - the freckles didn’t make it through the transition to the AC pallet and scanlining.  I’ve also never gotten any word that anyone but me liked it.  But I know good work when I see it, and I did very good work here.

(Incidentally, I don’t see the problem with the framing - she’s just sitting close to the monitor/camera.  We don’t have to follow the official style slavishly.   We just want leaderheads that convey personality and look like they could be video conferencing.)


Good luck with your future ambitious projects; I have poor eyesight and had a blurry monitor at the time, and had to figure these out as I went.  You can do it.

Rating: ***** by 1 members.


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