Category: Tutorials

Why making vector shapes in Photoshop is useful and how to do it.

I have been in the game industry since 2000 and while most 2d art positions I have seen require knowledge of Illustrator, in these 12 years I have had to use it exactly once.

This is not to say that the ability to create vectorial assets is not important. But it happens that I have usually relied on Flash or Photoshop to do it. It’s more simple and easier to integrate in the final product (the game.) I realize that knowledge of the vector tools in Photoshop is not that widespread and that’s why I filmed this small tutorial to get you started. There are many other possibilities, and they are yours to discover.

I hope this helps. Unfortunately, my Photoshop is in French, so maybe I’m not using the exact same names as in English.

The Mighty Mugg challenge! (part 3)

I’m finished with my Strahd Von Zarovich Mighty Mugg project! And the final post of my Mighty Mugg series happens to be my 250 posts!Great timing. For the whole story, you can check the two previous posts here: The Mighty Mugg Challenge part 1 and here The Mighty Mugg Challenge part 2.

Strahd, assembled and dapper

I also found the “original Strahd” while cleaning up the studio so I had to take a group photo. You see, I started playing AD&D when I was in college and I was really into it, I read a lot of the novels and I really liked the concept of Ravenloft and all gothy things. This is also around the same time Interview with a vampire and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came out. When I was in third year of college I was in a paragliding accident and broke one of my vertebrae and other less serious injuries and spent a week in the hospital. It was shortly before Halloween and I go flowers with a tiny vampire finger puppet in it which I immediately called Strahd. It has been consistently sticking around my computer or my work desk since. So in a way he’s part of the inspiration for this Strahd Mugg.

Mini Strahd and Mighty Strahd

The next step was to give Strahd his signature cloak. I studied fashion design in college so I  had a fairly good idea of how I wanted to proceed even if I needed a little refresher for the math. The pattern is really just two truncated cones with the same slope. I dug in my fabric bins and I pulled out everything I needed: stiff raw cotton for the toile (the proof of concept for the pattern,) some black satin left over my a past Halloween costume and red satin kasha for the lining. So his cloak is really lined with warm winter lining.

I cut and assembled the pattern in raw cotton  and tried it on the figure.

Strahd the eco-conscious vampire wearing a recycled raw cotton cloak and hanging out with sharp objects. Yes these scissors are gigantic mofos.

And then I cut and assembled the real thing.

Cutting the kasha lining

Final Strahd

Final Strahd

And here’s the final Strahd, as close to Clyde Caldwell’s original as I could make it.

If you enjoyed this post, I’m also planning a complete Mighty Mugg how-to for Jon’s ArtOrder blog.

The Mighty Mugg challenge! (part 2)

As I mentioned here: The Mighty Mugg Challenge part 1, I have received a blank Mighty Mugg from the mighty Jon Schindehette and I decided to turn it into a tiny Strahd Von Zarovich with a big head. (Edit: there is now a Mighty Mugg Challenge part 3 that can be found here.)

There were a few challenges, for one, we never get to see Strahd’s feet on the Caldwell illustrations, in fact, we don’t see a heck of a lot of his feet even in the more recent images. Also, I like Strahd because he looks dignified and melancholy, his whole point is that he  made a choice that turned his existence into a tragedy, so even if some of the new Strahd illustrations are perfectly competent and enjoyable, I can’t imagine Strahd as a young punk in colorful clothes. It’s hard to speak of dignity and tragedy with a short big-headed cartoon silhouette but I’m doing my best. I also decided that Strahd is not Strahd without a billowing cloak, so I decided I would sew a tiny cloak for him. I’m a pattern designer by training but I have never done anything like that. We’ll see how that turns out.

I'm Strahd, I eat sparkly emo vampires for breakfast.

I’m not convinced I will keep the Louis XIV style buckle shoes, I feel that they might clash a little with his end-of-the-19th-century type suit. Strahd was a forward thinker, always before his times.

I also did some research on DIY toys and found a lot of advise. But I’m not entirely sure the figure I have is vinyl, I don’t know much about those but I was under the impression they were slightly soft and rubbery. The little guy I have is hard plastic, he’s also light gray and not entirely all of the same color, unlike the blank Mighty Muggs I saw on Hasbro’s website. Maybe he’s a production Mugg who just didn’t get painted? Nevertheless, I have figured that plain gesso should do the trick as a primer. But first, he got a dunk in the sink with dish soap and a good scrub to make sure the chemical stuff that goes into mold to make the plastic release easily is gone.

The mighty mugs...

The next step was primer. I used regular acrylic gesso that I already had instead of buying something specific that I might never re-use. I just brushed it on in 4 thin layers letting him dry properly between layers. Then I gave him a light sanding with 220 sandpaper and when he was cleaned of gesso dust and dry, I drew the lines on him with a colored mechanical pencil.

Reproducing my design on the figure.

I never entirely assembled the figure because I didn’t want to pry it apart with a knife or something if it got stucked, but I did assemble it partly to have a good idea of how the parts fit. I painted him with normal acrylic paint. I was careful to mix enough of it that I wouldn’t have to remix the same color, since I wanted him in rather flat colors. His body parts were stucked on skewers to dry.

Strahd gets skewered.

Strahd's torso and legs

Finished head of Strahd, doesn't sparkle in the sun.

Painting precise lines on a curved surface is harder than it looks.Now I just did a layer of varnish and in the next installment, I’m going to show what he looks like assembled, and I’m going to figure out how to give him a cloak.

I’m also planning a complete Mighty Mugg how-to for Jon’s ArtOrder blog.

Multiply, screen and overlay

Ah layer modes, some artists love them, and some hate them. It can’t hurt to learn how they work, what can hurt, is using them as a crutch, instead of learning how to pick colors yourself. They can, however, make your job much faster!

I’m thinking of doing a whole series on Photoshop tricks, layer modes, layer masks, adjustment layers etc. Here is the first.

It doesn’t replace Photoshop’s help in any way. Read the help, it’s full of useful informations. What is not in the help, however, is how to use these layers in your day to day work.

Multiply makes everything darker, you are never going to get anything lighter with a multiply layer. The darker the layer you use, the darker it’s going to make anything underneath. With some hint of the hue used, but usually, you lose chroma with a multiply layer (compare to the color you paint on your multiply layer, not compared to the layers underneath.) Black is useless in a multiply layer, it will behave in exactly the same way as in a normal layer. I like multiply layers to make shadows, but I usually use a color, not black or grey. It’s especially useful if you are making a shadow on top of something that already has a pattern.

Screen is exactly the opposite of multiply. White is useless in a screen layer, it will behave in exactly the same way as in a normal layer. The same way, black on a screen layer doesn’t show up at all (or white in a multiply layer.)

If you make a layer and fill it with exact medium grey (#808080) and set it on overlay, it’s not going to change anything on your image. #808080 (or I believe it’s 128,128,12) is the exact medium grey. Anything lighter will lighten your layers underneath and anything darker will darken them. So if, say, you take a layer of perfect medium grey, add some noise to it and set it on multiply, you are going to have the noise effect in values, but not in color.

What the heck does one use that for, you wonder. Well, using a layer mask, it means that you can paint in some textures, only where you need them. It also means that you can add some basic shading on stuff that has complex patterns. If you use overlay in cool and warm colors, you can even achieve that AND add the light and shadow colors.

Before you go nuts and use overlay, multiply and screen everywhere, it can be worth it to explore stuff like adjustment layers. I’m especially fond of curve layers and HueSaturationBrightness layers, which I’m going to cover next.