The Mechanics of Creation 1: A DamienBlog

Jeff said I could start ANOTHER weekly column if I wanted, and I think this one is closer to the idea of what he wanted me to do in the first place anyway. So I give you Mechanics of Creation, an in-depth look with pretty pictures of how to do some really amazing things with HM3. I'll start off again with my recent winning entry, Fierra the Feyrune, since she took so dadgum much of my time to make look that good.

More after the jump.

I'm also going to take this opportunity to plug the program Paint.Net for those up-and-comers who continually ask about saving options and fixes. All my work is done with the PrintScreen button on my keyboard and Paint.Net. You can find it for free at and it works like the poor man's Photoshop it was meant to be. My greatest complaint, though, is the loss of an airbrush tool. The other is its default to paste directly into the current layer (my Photoshop always pasted into a new higher layer) but it does offer a "Paste into new layer" option with keyboard shortcut (Ctrl-Shift-V.) So it's all good for most things.

Anyway, the apparent highlight for some were the "beast legs," a trick that I've been working through almost since the beginning of the HM3 alpha. The trick is using the "jodhpurs" from  LegwearStandard:


The jodhpurs are great replacement animal legs because of the sudden narrowing at the ends of the legs; with the right shadowing effect, it can make them look like they actually go behind the wider legs at the top.jodphurs-2

Now, for my demontration here, I've copied 2 pairs of jodhpurs from LegwearStandard (note the red border behind) and a pair of upper legs from BodyStandard. Please note that for the right anatomical look, I've rotated the legs opposite their usual position, so the knee is on the outside. (This way the legs don't switch position every time you try to transform them.) They're on a 23-degree angle now, and twentyish  seems about standard for this trick, assuming no other major changes to the parts.

Now, I'm going to assume that you don't know about masking, just in case. Masking is placing one item inside another item's boundaries. By lining up the leg part correctly, I can give these pants the impression of having large muscles underneath. The only iffy part is the black lines (or whatever color you've chosen) poking through, but you can solve that with clothing, fur or the odd item cleverly obscuring the lines like Rob Liefeld hiding feet.

First, you move the leg on your left over the pants. When the leg goes transparent, it will help you to line the leg up the way you want it.  MAKE SURE THE LAST THING YOU CLICK IS THE LEG OR IT WILL SCREW UP AND CAUSE YOU UNENDING TORMENT TO FIX. Not that, you know, I've had any issues with that or...Um, second, move the mouse over and click the "Mask" button near the top of the window. Then click the black-lined pants and--presto! you have one buff leg.


jodphurs-41Repeat the process with the rightmost leg and the red-lined pants, move the red pants back under the black and all that's left is to resize the legs to however you want them. Also, don't forget the color differences you could add; like the example at right, where I changed the color of the jodhpurs underneath to give a shadowed effect, it can make a world of difference on the illusion of depth in your artwork.

Just remember, though--the one weakness of masking is category. If you were to mask these two legs like so and then choose, say, an arm or torso, the masking would click off, leaving your once-masked legs obscuring parts of your design until you remask them. One fix for this is to leave the items to be masked in the far back, lined up correctly and just waiting until you finish the basics of your project. Then you can bring them forward and put them back where they belong.

Another cool addition to your arsenal in HM3 is the new Shields category in the ItemRight section. Many of the shield selections were chosen to give you ready-made heraldry (which, to the less Ren-Faire familiar, is the shapes and positions of  colors to go with a royal emblem. And no, I'm not terribly familiar with the exact science of designing 18th century heraldry, so if you think mine looks like crap, that's why.) For examples, look left:



But why stop there? The possibilities are endless with masking! You can create a huge variety of personalized heraldic schemes with just a little color-tweaking and some creative masking.

shieldFor instance, I used two of the shields with the reflective shine (look above and right) and made the central section transparent. I masked the middle shield you see there to the first reflective shield, and the right-hand shield to the second.

By placing both masked items below the first reflective shield (with some creative resizing) I was able to come up with a unique heraldic shield item. Add an insignia of choice and you're ready to rumble in the jun--I mean 18th century England. Or France, or wherever.

And that is the power of masking, my friends. Experiment to your heart's content, and post that content in the next contest!

(If anyone has questions about Paint.Net, please leave a message here and I will try to answer it. Please remember, however, that I'm just an enthusiastic user, and might not know the answers you seek.)

13 Responses to The Mechanics of Creation 1: A DamienBlog

  1. Sorry this is up so late, guys! (And/or girls…) I told it to self publish, but I must have done it wrong. Enjoy!

  2. The Imp says:

    Nice tutorial Damien, but it looks as though you forgot to add a section on transparency – that’s how you managed to let the second jodhpur show through the top one, right?

  3. Nope Imp, though you make an excellent point. People, when you mask like that, the leg is still its own layer, but it’s only visible INSIDE the boundaries of the item in question. You can bring them forward or back as far as you’d like, as long as they’re inside the jodhpurs (or whichever item you use.) The red-lined jodhpurs are, in fact, positioned perfectly behind the black and don’t show at all.
    Also, if anyone has any questions that need answered, ask here and I’ll have a better idea of which tricks need more tutorials. Go for it!

  4. Hakoon1 says:

    Thanks Damien! This is a great help and I think it will help a lot of new members to start as they mean to go on. Great Job!

  5. The Imp says:

    Aha! I did not know that. Well, you learn something new every day – thanks, dude!

  6. Whit says:

    I need to experiment with masking more. I’m just now starting to figure out how to use hand-masking for holding objects.

  7. That would be the one exception, wouldn’t it? Lol, I need to think things through better when I write. But yes, in addition, items in hands reverse-mask, appearing to jut from each end and hiding the middle section overlapping the hand but not the fingers…

    Sheesh, this is like trying to teach English grammar!

  8. Dan Gonzalez says:

    I wish there was an option for reverse masking for all objects. There are many times I want hair to show under the brim of a hat but not stick out where it should be “under” the hat. Any ideas on that?

  9. Actually, that was one of the first questions I asked Jeff after I came to this new position. Apparently, Reverse Masking in a much more difficult and time-consuming enterprise than Masking. I also got something of a hint that it had to be done on an individual basis, though that’s not confirmed. Point being, with all the excessive amounts of time he’s spending on the program right now, trying to reprogram the base levels of HM3 to have it as a feature would destroy the usefulness of a lot of code he’s worked up over the last several months. And all for something you can TECHNICALLY do with some creative resizing and layering.
    So that’s unfortunately the official word. No reverse masking for HM3. Maybe HM4 though….

  10. Me Myself & I says:

    And to think. Before I realized what the Masking was I was screen capturing and exporting pictures to Paint and modifying them pixle by pixle! This is a great feature.

  11. Damien Stadler says:

    While I will admit that masking does indeed cut down on the work involved there, may I point you to Paint.NET? It’s a little bit of a resource hog at times (deselect whenever possible!) bt it gives you the basic functions that most people prize in Photoshop in a free package. You should be able to Google it or find it at . I use it all the time when I need to edit pictures, especially HMs–and it has layers!

  12. I just tried to grab the RSS Feed for your blog but it is not displaying in Google Chrome. Does anyone have any ideas?

  13. Damien Stadler says:

    This particular part of the blog is no longer updated. My apologies.