Steampunk Character Creation Walkthrough


I had never used a character generator before, and it seemed to me that it was past time. This painting brought to you by:

When I ran it, I rolled:

A selfish mechanic hmm? Also, how am I supposed to have a mechanic with a rifle, I need those hands to be holding tools to indicate she's a mechanic! Although I like that this doesn't specify gender anywhere.  I could have drawn a men's corset.

But I didn't. I like the trope of the female mechanic too much. Two tries at sketching resulted in this. It's not bad, but there are several 'I'll have to look this up later' items: I know skirts can be hiked up with little rings on straps, but I'm not quite sure how that works. And I know that little victorian shoulder-shawls exist, but I can't really remember how they fasten. Ditto those high boots with the little buttons. And I know I'm going to need some reference for that shoulder/arm position, and for the cat. 

Behold, reference. Two interesting things: the good trigger safety on the arm reference, and the stark difference in modesty in women's steampunk attire. Both of these things are good little details to use to add specificity and depth to a character.

First, I drew the parts I absolutely needed the references for, and then rotated and tweaked what I'd inked until I thought it fit reasonably on the vague idea I'd sketched.

These heavily reference lines were then desaturated to the same level as my original sketch, so I could see them all together at the same intensity, creating a franken-sketch. Over the top of that  I re-sketched everything with an eye towards adding detail and making design decisions. For example, the shawl has been nixed in favor of a collared shirt, mainly because I had the idea to give her a mechanical arm, and work out how to show it well under a shawl. 

Once the 'ink' is done, it is desaturated to become the new sketched layer, and the old sketched layers are removed. Ahh. Now I can see what I'm doing.

Then, we do it again. This is the actual ink layer, or the beginnings of it anyway.

Flip, and finish inking. If I had one general 'pro tip' for drawing, the horizontal flip would be it. It's an extremely simple and easy way to instantly see your mistakes in proportion, balance, and flow. This one actually had very little in need of adjustment, although I (as always) had to reduce the legs to some kind of reasonable proportion. I'm not sure where this conviction that legs are 2/3rds of a person's height came from, but I know I'm not the only one with this kind of consistent WTF when it comes to proportion.

Now to the fun part: color. On a layer under the lines, use a basic palette (three or four colors arranged from darkest to lightest is a good limit. For a good mix of color, I like to pull my values from reference ) and lay out the most basic of color areas; highlights and shadows. This is your underpainting.

Put another layer on top. Using the eyedropper tool and a 50% paintbrush, soften the edges between your basic colors, and do some detail of highlights and shadows.

More layer, more detail. See the difference in the blunderbuss and mechanical arm from the last progress image to this one?

Once you're happy with your color distribution, erase everything outside the lines. You can still modify past this point if you like, but I've found that tends to be needlessly fussy rather than helpful.

And if you've read through this far, thanks for sticking with me. I know, it was a long one. Which is why I'm stopping here, and not going into how I did the background! :D (Hint: It was basically the same process, but much less interesting, because it was mostly pipes.)


Prompt: This totally awesome highly detailed panorama, which I will have to return to for little vignettes of city life. But at least initially, I wanted to do something that showed more of the skyline. tokyo


Aaand I didn't realize until I was all done that in a sunset the gold light is at the *top* of the buildings, and the red light creeps up from the bottom. Oops?



So I wasn't paying attention. Turns out yesterday was my one-hundreth post. I'm never sure what to do on birthdays, but there is a common theme to any birthday celebration: annoyingly self-indulgent behavior! Therefore, in the birthday spirit, lets take a closer look at that old post I linked to yesterday. It's old, but I still think that it's seriously awesome, and that it didn't get nearly enough face-time when it was originally posted.

I wanted to post this because of the slightly manic attention to detail. Since it's a little over a year old, I've of course learned a few things since then, but this still stands as a great example of what can happen when you say 'aw, fuck it' and jump in at the deep end of the pool.

The headshot is riviting of course (as anything with eyes tends to be) but I include this second one because it has more of the interesting scuffs, ricochet scars, and mud. Also, it shows that I learned how to steal textures: The pants have a clothy sort of texture that is a photoshop pre-set, but the differnent leather textures of the glove and the belt I created myself.


I'm not really happy with this, but I've found that's a recurring problem whenever I try to draw a character that really matters to me: I obsess, I still can't get it right, so I overwork it. (if I were working with regular old pencil and paper for example, I'd have erased a hole in the page.) The result isn't bad exactly, but it is overwrought, and it looses some of the natural grace of the original idea.

Oh, that's Agatha, by the way. She belongs to Phil & Kaja Foglio, and lives over at Girl Genius. Girl Genius has an artistic style that perfectly matches the thematic content, which is... Hmm. I'd tell you what it's about, but I won't because I don't want to give anything away, it's all too awesome for me to risk messing it up. Suffice it to say that it's relentlessly silly, (though with some serious themes about identity) manically detailed, and there's always a reasonable likelyhood that someone will throw a bomb at you.

War Photo

sepiatone_sized.jpg sepiatone_lines.jpg

I suggest clicking on the pretty picture. It's even prettier when it's all big.

This is an Experiment. It warrants a capital letter because of the number of new things I actually pulled off.

1: Machinery. I've been trying to gradually increase my tolerance for machinery. Generally, I have no intuitive feel for it. This has something to do with being unable to draw a straight line. In any case, I have stretched my boundaries to give you an Aliens 2 style boomstick.

2: Armor. Not only detailed, semi-realistic armor (god bless Google) but it's clearly, worn, scuffed, well-loved armor. Although I suppose well-hated might be more accurate.

3: Honest to God Texture: Not all photoshop pre-sets this time. The leather textures on the gloves, belt, and boots I put there myself. I learned to manipulate the texture so that the shading is entirely a separate function, and so that the texture bends with the form it's covering.

4: Facial Shading and Skin in General: Gotcha. Ha!

5: Reworking on the Fly: When I started shading, I realized the hand holding the helmet was wrong. I thought it was just a little wrong, so I kept going. By the time I was entirely done with the gloves, it was so wrong it hurt. At this point, I was stuck with re-drawing the glove in Photoshop, and then duplicating the textures and effects I had already used on the other hand. The surprise was that the result didn't suck. It was, in fact, an improvement.

6: Background. So I've been trying out the pastiche approach, and I think I've got it now. For your edification, about four (five? ah, who cares) reference photos were combined, altered, adjusted, re-worked and painted over to make that background. Looks reasonably contiguous, donnit?

7: Sepiatone. I'm still not entirely pleased with the brown that I chose, but all and all not a bad first stab at sepiatone. What I'm proud of in this case is that I didn't reinvent the wheel. Before I painted myself into a corner (somewhat literally) I asked the internet what it had to say about Photoshop and sepiatone. Low and behold, it can be accomplished by applying a few functions to a grayscale image.

8: Glow: I put a slight from-behind glow on the head and shoulders of the figure, fading out as it goes down. Bet you didn't even notice until now, huh? But it helps the figure stand out from the background quite a bit, and it is consistent with the lighting.

And now for the negatives:

I still hate boots. The little note on the bottom of the sketch? That says 'stoopid boots'. And the hand holding the gun isn't very natural. I still can't make 'holding' hands that actually look right. Finally, the helmet was supposed to have an antenna on it. See it there, in the sketch? Yeah, somehow that got lost in translation, and I've had too much booze to consider changing it now. Keep checking back, maybe I'll feel ambitious later this week and fix it.

Somewhat Indecisive

horsecycle.gif Work in progress. I have taken it this far to reach something of an impasse. I think that the reason it's been sitting in my 'in progress' folder for months is that I haven't decided on how realistic I want to be. I don't think I'm managing to maintain a consistent level of realism through the entire picture, and it's only going to get worse. The cycle itself is consistent, but I'm not sure how to make the background match, and I don't have a clear mental image of how the shadows are going to work.

Therefore, stuck.

I am very pleased with the horsecycle though. I usually shy away from machinery, but I had a neat idea and I executed it without too much hemming and hawing. Also, I planned through how the critter moves and functions well enough, instead of skimping and drawing something pretty but fundamentally 'locked in place'. I may never draw the horsecycle again. If I do though, it will be much easier to position it as I like, because I know how the limbs fall and the gears work.