Experimenting with Environments

I spent two days just experimenting with these environment concepts. These were quick thumbnail sketches using just one brush throughout the entire experiment. Two things I’m not good at are: Environment and Mech. With these experiments, I’m trying out something new that is outside of my comfort zone.

Casual Perspective

One of the excuses that I had for not getting into environmental concept at first was that I didn’t know perspective that well. But when you think about it, most people that do character concepts don’t know perspective that well either (just enough to get by). When you start to have realism in mind and placing them in an environment or finishing that masterpiece of yours, that’s when it really matters. Same thing goes for muscle names in your studies. The major muscles and bones are enough, and you can always learn more later down the road, but it’s not necessary to start off learning every muscle and bone (you’re an artist, not a medical student).

How often do you see artists on the street have their rulers out when sketching/drawing from life? I don’t remember seeing one. Which means most of them are doing it casually. Not everything has to be perfectly lined up. It’s okay if your perspective is off when you’re quickly fleshing out your ideas. Afterall, these initial sketches aren’t meant to be final. They’re there to get [the point across]. This is the mindset or attitude that you perfectionists (speaking to myself as well) need to adopt. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have carried out this experiment and learned something in the process.

Having said all that, here’s another thing to keep in mind: If you’re a [digital] artist, you don’t have to master perspective (you can if you want, if you got the time), anatomy or even lightning. Blender (or any 3d app) will help you with that. If you think that’s cheating, then you might as well go back to traditional medium :). The fact that you use the “undo” button and layers to assist you already say something.

SET 1

All the examples in this post were done freehand. And I quickly ran out of ideas because I’m inexperience in this area. Roughly 1-4 minutes each. Take note of the brush strokes…

SET 2

When you have nothing to look at, and you haven’t done environment that much, you will quickly run out of ideas. Scribbling is one of the ways that ideas can be quickly generated. To make it even more random, I did it with both eyes closed. Then I opened my eyes, duplicated that chaotic mess. And painted it over. Take note of the brush strokes. Notice how the last part of this second set is very different from all the previous ones. The first part of this second set is bold and straight to the point, with high contrast (dark/light). The brush’s opacity was at 50%. The second part of this second set has a lot more light values (brush’s opacity range from 10% to 50%). I was more relaxed and confident in the last part of this experiment, and it shows in the brush strokes.

Krita’s Line Tool

Testing out perspective theories

Krita gives you quick access to the Line Tool and it’s great for testing out perspective theories. However, I came across one limitation in Krita with the way the program handles straight line. Other softwares keep the line straight when you draw it while holding down the Shift key. I found out today that you can change Krita’s profile to function like Photoshop! Once you change the profile, the “Shift” will allow you to draw straight lines. But upon closer look, it’s actually a Line Tool. That’s where the limitation is.

On the left image, if you want to draw a perfectly straight line that covers both top and bottom, starting at the center, you can’t with a line tool. You would have to lift up your pen and repeat, and the problem is that it might not align with the first line perfectly. You can do it manually, image on the right, but without locking the initial angle/direction of the stroke, it will look off.

Features I wish Krita has…

I keep a personal list as I explore and work with Krita. I’m sure more will come up in the future, but for now this is what I have on my list:

1) Fit to Height: Currently, we have “Reset Zoom to 100%”, “Fit to Width” but “Fit to Height” is missing. Sometimes knowing where I am on the Canvas height-wise is more important than width-wise.

2) Hotkey to toggle on/off the below or above’s layer’s visibility, and still remain on the current layer while working on it: Useful for inking and working with reference images.

3) Hotkey to toggle on/off “Snap to Assistants”: This will definitely speed things up a bit when using perspective guides.

4) Visual Feedback: In fullscreen mode, it’s hard to tell what opacity level my brush is when I increase/decrease the brush’s opacity via a hotkey. When resizing the brush, we have an idea, but opacity, no clue.

5) Hotkey to change a brush’s size like how it’s done in Blender when sculpting: For artists who use both Krita and Blender’s Sculpting, sometimes it can be very confusing. In Blender, it’s “F” and then you move a mouse (not dragging) to change the size, click to confirm. In Krita, you hold down “Shift” and you drag the pen and then release the “Shift” to confirm. I try my best to make both Krita and Blender work in harmony, which means sometimes I have to change things in Blender to match Krita and vice-versa. Then there are times that it’s not possible.

6) Brush’s Tips selection: This is a bit more advanced stuff. Right now we can select colors, but what if we can select different brush tip on the fly? Instead of having 5 brushes with the same setting and everything, why not have just one and then change the brush tip as needed? Great for quick thumbnailing, working with texture brushes etc…

7) Expand Canvas in any of the four directions (Left, Right, Bottom, Top) via the arrow keys without. A quick way to get more space for drawing/painting during a study session without moving the Canvas away.

Vanishing Point

Randomly I decided to pull out the Vanishing Point assistant tool and scribbled a lot of random lines (with snap on). Then I removed all the assistant tool and I’m left with scribbling lines (image: left). Then I did the rest freehand, having the perspective guide as a layer below. This is the first time I have done anything like it, and I’m very pleased with the outcome. With the perspective guide below, I didn’t have to think about perspective, but instead focused more on blocking out my ideas, loosely and casually. This is a very quick way to thumbnail environments that will look a bit more realistic!

Snap to Assistants

The Vanishing Point in Krita is very helpful. I first saw its use in Autodesk SketchBook and was very impressed by it. I’m so glad that Krita has it! ArtRage has the perspective grid, but it’s not as flexible as the Vanishing Point. However, without a shortcut to turn on/off (in real-time) “snap to assistants” it can be a bit troublesome to use. Right now, I only use perspective theory casually. I have no intention of having it 100% accurate all the time, and therefore do not need to have “snap to assistants” on all the time. I find it extremely inconvenient to have to turn on the snap manually (and then off again) when I only need just a few lines in correct perspective.

Krita needs a shortcut for this. If there is, I can’t seem to find it.

Transform Tool

They looked a bit narrow. With the help of the Transform tool, I was able to widen them without having to reblock them manually.

I consider myself a purist, but I’m slowly breaking that mindset to take advantage of the tools that are available within the program that I use. When things don’t look right, I clear the canvas and start all over, and I believe there are times for that. But it’s not always wise, considering that we’re doing things digitally.

I don’t understand why Krita has two separate tools (Move, Transform) when they can be one. V for Move and Shift+V for Transform is my setup.

Notan Experiment

I took the default “Ink-7 Brush Rough” and modified to have a medium-thin straight square (vertical) brush’s tip. These were extremely quick sketches without giving much thought to the process. Just one value (black) and an eraser mode. This is a great way to focus on the overall composition/shapes. The mind has an interesting way of recognizing shape/pattern from chaos, so sometimes, it’s best to leave it unfinished and let the mind fill in the blank.