Better Living Through References

I did a banner for a WoW guild forum over the weekend, and I thought I'd share. Actually, possibly overshare, as today I am also including my references.

(Bigger version is here.)

Because WoW stuff is sorta kinda already owned by somebody, I didn't feel the need to make up my own background. So I went background shopping.

Hey, this one looks good. ( This Borean Tundra shot lives here, along with lots of other screenies.) Since I was doing a banner, I was looking for a piece that could look good cropped to a long rectangle. The middle third of this shot has nice visual interest: a sloping plane, a good three thirds balance of light, middle, and dark tones, and an un-assuming but varied color scheme. It's also of a goodly size, so I used it for my base.

If you look back at the full version, you may notice a few differences though. Like where's the flippin ' bird?!

Knowing that I would be running filters over the background to make it look more painterly, I did all my 'construction' work up front. With judicious use of cut and paste and the clone brush, I edited out the bird and replaced him with as contiguous a background as I could manage. I also did other more subtle things: Those floaty platform things against the mountains? Gone. (They distracted from the llama.) I distorted everything to be a little less sloped, and I distorted the nearer ground separately to bring the flowers more into frame, because I liked them. Lastly, I did a few areas of spot distorting, so that the mountaintop and pointed roof would point vertically again.

Then it was filter time. Running the filters after my construction work helped to hide the gnarly edges where I'd changed things. This background is actually made up of two filtered layers: one that is painterly and accentuates edges, and one that is painterly and blotchy. I put the edged one on top, and then got out my eraser tool. At a low opacity (30 or so) I erased the more detailed layer in overlapping sweeps, following the folds of the land. It's subtle, but this means that the little white flowers are sharply defined while the house is much more blurry, but none of it has that 'oh, she used a blur tool' look.

Now, a closer look at the part I drew all by myself:

(As a quick aside, see how blotchy the background is? And how it totally looks better that way at actual size? )

I was a bit concerned when the suggested armor set (Tier two paladin armor, natch) had a hood. Hoods and greatly protruding ears and noses don't usually play well together. To avoid dealing with a foreshortened nose, I decided on a profile shot. Lucky for me, the profile shot lends itself to excessive nobility, which is a great counterpoint to it being a llama. Also that's a decent angle for the armor, although I got myself into a bit of trouble, because the armor page doesn't have a model standing in that exact position, so I had to flub (technical artsy term for futzing, altering, and approximating ) some things a bit to make it work. I'd also like to point out how much gets lost when the final image is tiny. Working at an artificially close zoom, it's easy to tone down color contrasts. Here, I did that with the hood, and other black parts of the outfit. In the final, that part looks mat black. I did a much better job on the gold bits, but the best are probably the 'pages' of the shoulder-books. (At least, I think they're books. That's a pally sort of thing to be wearing, right?)

Slightly less interesting are my llama references, here and here.