The first thing I usually do when I get a project is to collect all of the reference material that I am going to need. Most of the time you can find everything you need by just ‘Googling' it. Fig01 shows images taken from different museum websites. It is a good idea to start building up a large reference folder on your computer so that the next time you need some armour reference you will already have it. Now that we have our reference material, we can start the illustration.
This painting is going to be done primarily in Photoshop CS2, with a little bit of Painter IX at the end. I have included the Photoshop CS2 brushes that I have used so that you can try them out too. To load them, just click on the brush tool and then right-click on the canvas. Your brush menu should now open. In the top right corner is a small triangle button - click on it and go to "Load Brushes", then select the file that is included in this tutorial. As for what size of a file you should work in, I always paint at 300dpi and usually around 3000 pixels wide. This artwork is 2404x2905.
The Block In
Start by blocking in the main shapes of the figure (Fig02). At this point you are just trying to get the basic shapes of the figure, so don't worry about the details just yet. Next, lay in the basic colour and shapes for the face (Fig03). I felt the need for some more colours in the background, so I added some yellows to the ground and brought them up behind the character, and also onto his legs (Fig04).
Adding the Detail
Usually I block in more of the armour shapes before I work more on the head, but this time I am going to finish up the head first so that I can focus more on the armour (Fig05a). I wanted this guy to be a rough and tough knight, not just another big brute, but one that is proud and charismatic. Another way to make someone look more heroic is to elongate their proportions. Usually I make them around 8-9 heads tall. Now that I have the head down, I can start blocking in the armour. I wasn't really sure what the armour was going to look like, so I just started throwing down paint (Fig05b). The shape I put down for the pauldron didn't really make any sense, so I start cutting away pieces and trying to give it some more form and function (Fig05c). One thing you always need to be aware of when designing a character is whether or not they could actually function. It's nice to make them look cool, but a lot of the time, especially in the gaming industry, the character will need to be able to animate. This is where your references come in handy. Study how real armour is put together and try to figure out why it was designed a certain way and how it works. I felt like the character was leaning too much, so I rotated him a little counter-clockwise, and gave him hair and a beard (Fig05d).
There are many ways to paint in the highlights, one of which is to use the colour dodge tool (Fig06a & b).
I know people always say to never use colour dodge, but when used correctly it is a great tool. First you need to pick a dark colour. If you pick a light colour you will overexpose the illustration very quickly. Next, click on the brush tool and go up to the "mode" pull down and select "colour dodge". You can use any brush you like, but I find it easier to use a soft brush. Sometimes the area you paint will become very saturated, so just go back in with the desaturate brush. For the plates on the arm, I first paint in the curved shadows that they create (Fig07a & b). Then I put in some specular highlights, the core shadow, reflected light, and a highlight to the rim of the plates (Fig07c).
A lot of people ask me how to get textures in their paintings (Fig.08).
Most of the time I just paint my textures in manually with my brushes, but sometimes I will overlay a texture from a photo. I found this texture from Barontieri (www.barontieri.com). The easy way to add texture to a painting is to take the texture, copy and paste it into your illustration, and set the layer property to overlay. Then you can knock down the opacity to whatever looks good. In this case I lowered the opacity to 45%. I wasn't really feeling that his pose was fitting with what I had in mind, so I changed around his stance to a more confident pose (Fig09 & 10).
Again, whenever you are painting something, be sure to remember that there are several parts to describing form, such as the core shadow, reflected light, and the highlight (Fig11).
Another really cool part to paint of armour is the chain mail (Fig12 & 13a).
Painting chain mail is really easy and looks cool when you are zoomed out. This time I decided to make a "chain mail brush" for the purpose of this tutorial. Open a new document and draw a few "c" shapes. Make that into a brush and go to the brush controls. Click the box next to "Shape Dynamics" and under "Angle Jitter" set the control to "Direction." Doing this will cause the "c" shapes to follow the direction of your brush. Also click the box next to "Other Dynamics" so that you can have opacity control with your stylus. First lay down one row of chain mail by painting from left to right, then you can paint the next row simply by painting from right to left. The reason we can do this is because we set the angle jitter to direction, allowing us to paint the "c" shapes in both directions without having to rotate the brush. This will let you get the basic idea down. Now go back in and pop in some highlights and darken the edges (Fig13b).
The armour on the arm is going to be handled the same way I handled the chest armour (Fig14, 15, 16 & 17a).
First paint in the basic colour, then add in the shadows and highlights. After that I drop in a texture overlay layer (Fig17b). On top of that I use the colour dodge brush to pop in some more lights (Fig17c).
Go through the same process on the legs as we have used with the arms (Fig18a, b, c, d, e & f).
It is a good idea to occasionally take breaks from your painting, so that when you come back to it you can more easily see mistakes you have made (Fig19).
You should also regularly flip the image horizontally to see any flaws. I felt like his head needed to be a little bit bigger, so I enlarged that and changed his left arm as well (Fig20).
The Final Touches
Now I am going to move to Painter IX to add in some final textures (Fig21).
Open the image. It is better to add the texture to another layer so that you can erase out parts you don't want. To do this you will need to make a copy of your illustration. Select the entire canvas (Ctrl+a) and then, with the move tool selected, hold down "Alt" and then left-click. This will create a duplicate layer. Now go to Effects – Surface Control – Apply Surface Texture. A dialogue box appears with the different settings. Change the "Using" drop down to "Image Luminance" (Fig22).
Now go down and make sure that "Shine" is set to 0. Adjust the "Amount" to an amount that looks good to you and then click "ok". Finally, just erase out the parts that you do not want, flatten the image, and you are done. Next month I will show you how to create Ancient Greek/Roman armour! Keep your eyes open!