They Came as Three

Its been too long since I made a Sketch A Day post.  I have a new theme however, and what I have been doing recently is going through my old art works, and redoing the ones I want to update or redesign.

This is the first piece I decided to do, back when I was working on my BA in Illustration, we were given an assignment to take a series of one line chunks from a novel, and do a child/teenage level illustration that you might find in a book.  I did several thumbnail sketches, the image I chose will be the subject of a future post and is one of the illustrations I did that I wish to take forward and make into a digital painting.  This is just one of the thumbnails I decided I needed to work into a more finished piece.

Here is the original thumbnail:

As Three they Came Original Here is the reworked version, which I also am considering taking all the way to a finished painting.

As3theycameDecided to make it a bit darker, and hint more at what might be hidden beneath the robes.


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Beyond the Shadows of The Stargate…

In speaking with a friend who follows this blog, a question was raised as to whether or not my plan had been to paint the Stargate.  As mentioned before, I always need to take a few days to review a piece before I finish it.  My plan had been to make a Warp Gate, basically a fixed point in space that anchors and maintains at least one side of a wormhole.

Warp Gates occur often in modern science fiction.  The Stargate is one example.  The numerous Warp Gates scattered around the EVE Online Universe another, the Mass Relay that knits the Mass Effect universe together.  Even in the Savaged Universe I created, FTL(faster than light) travel mainly circles around the use of Gibson Gates, giant rings in geosynchronous orbit around specific planets in each system controlled by the Humanity and her allies.

warp gate revisions, digital painting, Ryan Berry

Since my original gate seems to be a little too close, artistically, to the Stargate, I decided I needed to add something to it.  An inner ring, that might somehow move, or shift when the gate is turned on was my first thought.

Revision 2, Warp Gate, Science Fiction, Digital Painting, Ryan Berry

I picked a gold color for several reason, but mostly cause it looked cool, and compliments the outer ring well.

Warp Gate, Science Fiction, Digital Painting, Ryan Berry

I again turned to rusted and beaten metal textures, which I then layered over the painting and very specifically erased the parts I didn’t want.  I also had to decide on where to place the crystals on the inner ring.

Warp Gate, Science Fiction, Digital Painting, Ryan Berry

Again in this image you can see more added texture, along with the addition of the two crystals.  Texturing is really easy to over due, and it can be hard to remember that rule and erase.  I have found that it is better to be kinda brutal, especially if you are going to layer a lot of textures, or if you have some larger design.

Warp Gate, Digital Painting, Ryan Berry

In this case I wanted to add a texture that made the object feel manufactured, and a bit more high tech.  I choose a beehive styled texture, and then set about erasing that parts I didn’t want.  I then used a rock texture to erase and ware down a larger area which I then painted and blended to look even more worn and beaten.

These gates might be pinnacle of late 21st Century Human achievement, but they are old, and they orbit through space.  This means that they are thrust into a very dangerous environment, where pebbles are capable of destroying entire spacecraft.


Progress, and a lesson learned…

More work on, almost finished with the background images.. for some reason I always need to sleep on it before I decide I am done.

Colors and Values, Ryan Berry. Warp Gate

Here is the gate getting closed to finished, I have blended all my colors, and refined the values I wanted.

Texturing Step 1

To finish any good digital painting, a bit of time needs to be spent applying textures, and getting the final image to look right.  Here is the first layer of texturing I applied.

Second level of Texturing, Ryan Berry, Warp Gate

Here is the Warp Gate background after the second level of texturing has been applied.  I also refined the edges of the gate, and added some wear and tear.

Final Draft, Warp Gate, Ryan Berry

Here is the Warp Gate after the final touches have been applied to the painting.  I like the rough painted look it retains, and don’t want to make the image much more technical or bog it down under hard edges.  But I still feel it needs something more.

As with most of my art, I need to spend sometime away from the piece so I can think about the piece.  A valuable lesson I learned over the years work both in the freelance world and later behind a desk, never think something is truly finished until you forget about it for a few hours, go do something else, and then come back.


Back on the Old Work-House

Coming back to Illustrator this morning, something I recommend as there is nothing like a fresh morning perspective to help you figure out the bugs, and I decided I need to ditch the darker of the two shadow colors, and add a door.

House Icon, Ryan BerryTo make my shadows, I am simply making shapes, setting the color to a value just darker than the main house, and then turning off the outside line.  Same for the highlights.  Then it is all about making the shapes look bubble-like or organic in some way, that helps capture that Icon/Cartoon feeling.

For my hard lines, that is all I am using lines.  I play with the stroke value to get them looking more how I want.  For those of you looking to get a better grasp on how to use Illustrator from the ground up, I will be doing a few tutorials soon!

As I mentioned in my last post, those lines need to be expanded, or as you re-size they will retain their “stroke” and get MUCH bigger/smaller in relation to the object.  Once expanded they become filled objects themselves and are ready for the tweaking!  Once again I need to soften all my “door” line edges, and then I am just about done!

Here is my Final Logo!Logo Design, House Icon, Ryan Berry














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A question of Texture

Yesterday I talked about modifying an image to meet specific needs.  This is what we ended up with.  An image that is useful to show a client as a draft and possibly only needs a little work.

Problem is the image is not finished enough(for me)… It lacks texture and in general could just use some more work.  However as mentioned in my last post, it is passable, it will give the client a good idea, and if they like it you can put in the extra time to make it perfect.

In some cases you have to play it safe.  Say you have spent 25 minutes on a banner image (Which is roughly how much time I spent) it is done enough to show, but you decide to put another 25 minutes into the project.  Then you meet with the client and hear them tell you about how much they hates sailing, boats, and sunsets.

That isn’t the case here.  I essentially have free reign to design whatever I think is going to be needed, I am developing 10-20 themes for my clients, clients to use.  My first 30 or so quick headers were reviewed, I picked the 15 I cared about and wanted to work on, and moved to the next step.

Well kinda…. first I am gonna refine all the headers images(or banners) I did photo-manipulation too.  This brings us back to the sail boats at sunset, arguably one of my favorites, and one of the ones that needs the most little tweaks.  With just a bit more cloning and painting I get to here:

Now honestly I could call it done, I tweaked it just enough to get rid of what I thought were the two big glaring issues.. but I have come this far so I can afford the extra 20 minutes to do a bit more.  I am gonna specifically target two areas and then deal with texturing.

Blending, PhotoshopThe clouds on the left are a bit of an eye sore.  They don’t look bad, but I also don’t really want to call that much attention to that area of the banner.  The other big area is the fade to the left of the smaller boats sail.

There are a few ways to deal with the first issue, since the concept and image are already approved, but not set in stone.  So I can really do whatever I want, in this case I am gonna cut in a new second boat, move it a bit, and clone the background back together.

You can see the image as I cut it and bring it in, I want to move it back a bit more, and I want to stretch it to fit the background.  You can see where the old image still “peaks” out, this is something I will have to fix once the image is flattened.

You can also see with this example how different the original color values are from my finished piece.  I often jump in and out of Hue/Saturation, Levels, and Curves as I work to get the image’s color where I want it.  From here I adjusted what I wanted, and then cut a bit more of the original photo into the piece.

Make a mess, then clean it upI made a mess, the image no longer looks anywhere closed to finished, in fact it looks like I just started!!  It’s okay, now I get to refine by cleaning it up, and since I made all the important decisions yesterday I already have a direction that I am gonna move in.

After some work, a few more cuts and a lot of smearing/painting here we are:

The smear tool is your friend when cloning and blending, it allows you to really get in and cover up the areas that are not blending easily.  There are a few issues with the smear tool however.  The biggest is texturing, as you can see above some of the banner now looks too smooth, the grain of the original photo is missing in a few areas.

Another issue with the smear tool is that it is too easy to over smear, so always make sure you are saving often and incrementally, and looking at the whole piece every few moves, crtl-alt-z only gets you so far.

marque selectionsHere are the areas I think are too smooth and need to have texture re-introduced, thankfully there is an easy way to add a bunch of grain all at once.

 Filter > Noise > Add Noise, when that windows comes up we are going to have to make a few changes before we move any further.

Filter Power!Time to use “FILTER POWER!”.  Once this menu comes up it is important to change a few things right off the bat.  First choose Gaussian distribution, this gives the noise, or grain in this case, a more “natural” and random look.

By default Noise in Photoshop is very colorful, this is not what we want, so next step is to check Monochromatic, removing the colors that aren’t already in the image.

At this point you may want to turn on the preview so you can see what it will look like once applied.  Lastly you can either enter your own percent value or play with the sliders to get a feel for what you want to do.  In my case, I set the amount to 5% and then only applied it to the marque areas.

Closer and CloserThere are still a few issues, for one the clouds don’t look organic enough, and some of the textures look to repeated, so I will do one last Filter > Noise > Add Noise.  This time however I will do it to the entire piece, to give it a unifying element.  As well as going back to the clone tool to touch up anything it seems I missed.

And here we are.. ready to ship.

Boats at Sunset


Working with images

One of the things I do often as a working graphics guru, is use found/purchased images in fun and different ways to get an end product my client is happy with.  Sometimes I can afford the time to go and get my own images.  But scouting a location, collecting the shoots I need and then going through them is a process that can be long and wasteful.  Which a lot of times is not in my clients budget, or doable based on my deadline schedule.

In these cases I have to fall back on a number of tricks and skills that can save me time, but deliver an awesome end product that fits my clients needs.  In this short tutorial I will go over creating “header” or “banner” style images, which can be used in many different web applications.  I work mostly in Photoshop and on a PC so keep that in mind as you follow along, the tools I will outline and mention normally have equivalents in most other graphic programs.

The image I am starting with is a couple of sail boats at dusk.  I am going to fit this image into a 940 x 198 pixel banner (compatible with WordPress headers), so I search for a big image.  It is important to also find a high DPI or high pixel count image when you are planning a project like this.  Make sure you save the file and don’t overwrite it, often I will save and image as “sailboats_src.jpg”  or something along those lines.

Doing both of these steps will help you out in the long run.  It is always easier to shrink and image than it is to blow it up.  The nifty “enhance” trick made fun of in Super Troopers and often seen in shows like CSI is complete bullshit.  Yes you can do it.. But it is massively time consuming and just a waste, plus your end product will look grainy or pixelated.

After a quick search on Google I have a 1024 x 768 image I want to use.  After dragging it into my template I end up with something like this:

Photoshop, sail boats, sunset

You will notice that it doesn’t quite fill my work-space, I have a big chunk of white to the left of the boats that is a bit out of place.

This is what I will focus on fixing to make the image which is not at the right ratio, look right.  There are a few ways to do this, painting new information in is more artistic but ultimately almost as involved as going and taking the shot it wanted in the first place.

I could drag another image in, to hide it, but that isn’t what I want, I could clone it, which works but can look to “doctored”.  So what am I gonna do?  Mix all three of those methods of course!

Transform, Sunset, Sail boatsFirst I will cut and paste the image in again.  It some in on-top and I have gone ahead and used ctrl-t to transform the image so you can see the outside bounding box.  You can see in this example how big the image is and why I couldn’t just shrink it down to get what I wanted.. the Ratio is just to far off.

This is the Layer box, or Layers Menu.  As you can see the image I dropped in is currently “on top” of the other image, so it displays as if it is physically on top of the other image.  A good way to look at layers is just like that, each one is a new “photo” that has been dropper onto the stack.

However “Layer 2” is not the layer I want on top, so I will simply use the drag and drop feature to place it below “Layer 1”.  This way the white space on the left is covered up, just as mentioned above this is one of the ways I could have fixed the banner…

This is not enough however it is only part of what I plan to do in the long run.  Simply covering the white space still leaves something to be desired.  And this is what we end up with..

Now I need to get it the way I want it.  There are a few different methods for getting this done, but what I will do is use the Transform tool or ctrl-t to move it, resize it, twist it and even distort it until it looks good and like something I can use.

Here what I mostly did was shrink it to almost the right size and then distort it by stretching it to get the mountains and water where I wanted them.  Again I left the transform tools bounding box up so you could get an idea of how much I tweaked the image.

From here we are getting pretty damn close.  In my lazier moments I will toss some text, or even just a thick black line over the image to disguise the “weld” line but that isn’t enough for this project, so I will get into using my skills as a painter and the clone tool to get rid of that line and make this header really work.

Below you can see what I have started to do, and as in most good art projects, I started by making a

Sunset, Boats, Banner

mess, that then needs to be refined and perfected into a finished piece.

From here I start to pull out all my tools, burn, dodge, smear, and even some digital painting will go into making a finished piece.  This is really where you have to decide how you want to work, with what tools and how fast.  Remember MAKE A MESS!  Then refine it, also make sure you are looking at the whole piece as much as you can.

It can be tempting to zoom in and get lost on details, but my warning is this: You will waste time, and you will lose what you are working on.  The zoom feature is awesome, but your audience won’t see it zoomed in… so you can make the corner perfect! But no one can see it and it doesn’t match…

Sunsets, Boats, BannersAnd there you have it, I will continue to weak it a little one way or another, but I am happy enough to show my client and move on to the next part of the process.  I would stress that this is however a small element and just a draft, a final may include a different picture or even more refining.

Create Away!



City 7: Our Posters so far…

I have been splitting my time between all 3 posters, and my normal freelance workload.   It has really shown me one thing… I need a Patron!   Any takers?  🙂

Anyway on to my progress so far.

Zombies, City 7, Action/horror

As you can see in this screenshot, I am primarily just laying down my colors and tones as well as my design and themes.   I also tracked down the fonts I wanted to use.

Our City 7 logo uses Boston Traffic, I tracked down the Friday the 13th font to use for the tagline.  And a quick jump over to Google helped me track down a font called Steeltongs, that looks pretty good for all the promotional information!

This is as much as I have done for Poster 1!  Poster 3 will probably be the first I finish.

Keep an Eye out for more!