Open Critique Day #5

After cancellation the last couple of weeks, it's time once again for another Open Critique Day.

If you have a HeroMachine illustration or another piece of artwork you've done that you'd like some help with, post a link to it in comments along with your thoughts on it -- what you think is working, what you're struggling with, etc. I will post my critique of the piece, hopefully giving some tips on how to improve it.

Of course everyone is welcome to post their critiques as well, keeping in mind the following rules:

  • Make sure your criticism is constructive. Just saying "This sucks" is both rude and unhelpful without giving specific reasons why you think it sucks and, ideally, some advice on how to make it better.
  • Each person should only post one illustration for critique to make sure everyone who wants feedback has a chance.
  • I will not critique characters entered in any currently running contest, as that doesn't seem fair to the other entrants. You can still post it if you like for the other visitors to critique, but I will not do so.

That's it! Hopefully we can get some good interaction going here and help everyone (me included!) learn a little bit today.

(Image © Mail Art Fun Club.)

47 Responses to Open Critique Day #5

  1. Captain_Kicktar says:
    This is my fourth rendition of Vorna, who I posted for critique in one of the previous critique Fridays.

  2. Fendaan says:

    This is a player’s character in a d&d game I’m running. He’s a northern barbarian, who is visiting the (relatively) southern kingdoms. This is his “walking around town” look.

    The player specifically asked for blue shirt, black vest and bracers, black armored kilt. The kilt is the part that I’m not too crazy for. Other than a more interesting pose, what can I do to improve him?

    Really enjoy HM3, btw. I’m using it to make visual aids for just about all the major characters in the game. My players seem to really enjoy it. Thanks for a really cool program.

  3. Jeff Hebert says:

    Captain Kicktar (1): I like the sprig of green hair in the bangs, that’s a neat effect. And overall the fundamental design is good.

    I think the biggest area for concern is still in the coloring. The armor being all the same yellow flattens it out and makes it hard to differentiate details. Going even a couple of steps darker (or lighter) on the yellow in color2 would help the whole thing pop a lot more. You might consider a more metallic looking yellow/gold for color1, too, the one you have now looks awfully bright and paint-like.

    Lastly, I am not sure about the green on the sword. Usually those bits are metal, and it’s a bit jarring to see such a vivid non-metallic color there.

    But like I said, those are all color issues, the basic design is solid. Keep up the good work!

  4. Jeff Hebert says:

    Fendaan (2): I like it! I actually think the kilt is awesome, that was my favorite bit. I never thought of an armored kilt before (although now that I think about it, someone might have sent in some links to such things during the “replacement prizes” discussion).

    I think the illustration is just fine the way it is, but if you wanted to try to make it come alive more, I’d probably focus on the facial expression more than the pose. Maybe cock one eyebrow or something, really try to add more character or personality.

    But that’s all purely optional, I like it a lot as-is. And if the player likes it too, I say call it done!

  5. Me, Myself & I says:

    I’m not to happy with the body below the torso for this image. Any idea’s how I could have spiced that up without taking anything away or being to distracting?

  6. Me, Myself & I says:

    Oh, here’s a close up of the same character.

  7. Alex says:

    He is an intergalactic bounty hunter.

  8. Zar says:

    this a character played in FFRP in a forgotten realms setting:

    she supose to have red streaked silver hair, but thats hard to make

  9. Me, Myself & I says:

    Alex (7)

    A really cool character. I like his hair the most. He strikes me as the kind of guy who doesn’t care what his hair looks like so its always a little messy. That being said, he doesn’t want it getting in his way so he keeps it cut short. Probably does his haircuts himself with his Wakizashi (a little to short for a Katana).

    I would suggest making the guns over his shoulders smaller. For me they dominate the image a little because they are so big. Kind of like many anime swords, etc. I’ve never been a fan of sword blade’s that are wider than the person who’s wielding them and over sized guns give me the same impression. I think you could still portray that they are really powerful guns and all even if they were a little smaller.

    Oh, and the arm band is cool to. A job well done.

  10. Jeff Hebert says:

    MMI (5&6): I can’t get either of those URLs to resolve, I get a “The web page is not available” message, in both Chrome and Safari.

    Alex (7): Overall a very nice character image. I like the colors and the basic concept. The armband, face tattoos, headband and hair, and clothing are all really good.

    I have a bit of trouble with, first, the bands on the leg. They don’t quite go to the edge of the pants and so are a bit of a visual break.

    The hand holding the big pistol seems like it ought to be the one with the trigger finger out, rather than the fist. That’s just not a comfortable way to hold a gun.

    Finally, I think the gigantic gun on his back is a problem for me. It’s just SO big … I can’t imagine how he’d ever unlimber it for use, at least not in a hurry. And the complete lack of straps for any of the weapons is also a bit off-putting for me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I understand he’s a weapon-toting hunter and that’s his thing, but … it just seems a bit over the top. On the one hand it’s super realistic, but on the other hand BECAUSE it’s more realistic you start to wonder how he would manage to actually wear all that.

    But definitely a good image and design overall. Those are fairly minor things to focus on.

  11. Me, Myself & I says:

    Captain_Kicktar (1)

    Overall, nicely done. I agree with Jeff regarding the coloring on this one. The yellow and green go well together but some differences in hue’s and shades of the yellow would help.

    I would also consider different footware. She is heavily armored everywhere else and her feet look unprotected in comparison. Were I a hobbit, I would totally own her :)!

    I have to commend you in your efforts. Being that you have revised the character four times it is evident that you are a person who strives for improvement rather than settling on your laurels. I’ve got to respect that.

  12. Jeff Hebert says:

    Zar (8): I like the basic character and setting, but it’s awfully dark. It might just be my monitor, but I can’t make out a lot of the details.

    I do like the glow effect on the sword, that’s neat!

    For the streak in the hair, you might try using either one of the swooshy insignia, or maybe the energy streak in Item-Right-Energy, scaled down and Masked onto the hair. That should get close to the effect you were wanting, I think.

  13. Jeff Hebert says:

    MartianBlue (13): Neat guy! The military uniform is very well done, particularly with all the insignia and medals and whatnot. I like the flag cravat as well, that’s a really nice touch.

    The only two things that bother me visually are the head, and the background. On the latter, I think maybe two colors instead of one, and something different from the green that’s so prevalent on the figure, would help set the background apart more.

    On the head, I think the two main things there are the mask and the lips. The lips are too rosy red for me, they seem incongruous with the rest of the design. And the mask for some reason doesn’t quite seem like it flows the way it would on an actual face, the lines going up the cheeks seem to be at too sharp an angle. Or something. I dunno, maybe a mask with a different bottom line would be more effective?

    But those are minor nitpicks in a very good illustration, as always you do nice work.

  14. MartianBlue says:

    Preciate it Jeff.

    I started to place a flag in the background but thought it would pull to much away from his neck, so I just landed on the one I have. I may go back later and try a few variations.

    Concerning the mask, I used the pre-made one that rolls up above the nose, then modified it for more of a batmanish nose, I’ll have to go back and try maybe more of a squared mask cutout.

    Preciate the feedback.

  15. Danny Beaty says:

    My submission is a redo of an Australian comic book character called “The Panther”. He is a jungle hero who was created to cash in on the success of Lee Falks’ “The Phantom”. First, the original:

    Now, my redo:

  16. Danny Beaty says:

    Forgot to mention: the escrima sticks on the Panthers’ back also shoot pepper spray laced with blue ink (the ink being the same kind of ink banks use in those ink bombs). Those devices on his arms shoot blades which (once inside the victims’ body) seperate into four claw-shaped, razor-sharp blades. The more the victim moves, the more the blades move in his body. The Panthers’ costume is made of carbon nano-tubes, the insignia and shoulder guards are made of graphine. Everyone please feel free to critique.

  17. Me, Myself & I says:

    Hey Jeff, try my links now. It wasn’t working for me either for a while but seems to be working fine now.

  18. Myro says:

    MMI (5): I think maybe it might help if you break up the area between the upper and lower half of the body, either a belt or the old “briefs on the outside” idea. For me, single bodysuits don’t always work for me, especially with male characters, and that might be the same problem you’re having with the character design as well.

  19. Myro says:

    Malfar (18): I like the design for the most part, the sort of dark/night elf wizard type. I did, however, find the idea that the difference in hair and facial hair color, and especially such a drastic difference, jarring. I’m not sure if you were trying to do that or not.

  20. Jeff Hebert says:

    Danny (17): Nice to see someone take on a character redesign, that’s cool!

    The original looks like a cross between the Phantom and Batman. I think you’ve done a nice job of keeping that basic flavor while updating it to a more modern feel. It’s a little hard to see the dark blue against the night sky (again, may be just my monitor), but I think the mask works better than the old skin-tight one. The black cutouts on the torso sides also looks good, along with the more functional forearm pieces.

    I’d have the same reservations about the bright yellow on the chest as I do about Batman’s, namely that it gets awfully hard to stay stealthy with a color that bright. And judging by your setting, I think you were going for a “creature of the night” kind of feel. I’d also like to see something a little less … “orderly” I guess, than the very defined circle with a panther head in it for an insignia.

    But a very nice update overall, thanks for sharing it!

  21. Jeff Hebert says:

    MMI (18): OK, that worked! Thanks for the update.

    I like what you’ve tried to do with the storm moving in from left to right, that clearly took a lot of effort. The lightning between his hands is probably the best use of that item I’ve seen to date as well, a very convincing and realistic treatment. Well done! The yellow cape on the sun side is also cool.

    I can’t say that this is my favorite character design you’ve done, unfortunately. The hair sticking out of the full face mask is something I’ve never been super crazy about. The full length body suit with no belt, but combat boots, also looks strange to me. I feel like I’m looking at someone who stumbled out of their trailer half-awake in the middle of the night, still wearing his long-johns but who slipped their feet into their work boots. It needs some kind of visual break somewhere along there, either a belt or some kind of shorts or something.

    One possibly interesting idea I had while thinking about it was instead of having the Star Trek horizontal top, what about masking the two-color gradient onto his body vertically, going from that blue at the top to black at the bottom? I think part of my problem is that harsh break going across his chest, then just nothing but black down to the big clunky boots. It’s the contrast between skin tight and big clunky that’s throwing me, I think, and the color just reinforces that.

    I’m also not quite sure what to make of the insignia. I get that it’s the same layout as the background storm, but the cloud is so realistic it doesn’t look like a logo. It looks like an actual cloud on his chest.

    Anyway, don’t mean to be so negative there, because as you know I’m a big fan of your stuff in general. This one just isn’t quite there for me, even though there are a lot of nice elements as I said in the beginning.

  22. Myro says:

    Danny (16): I really like the redos that you do on old costumes here. I especially like the chest emblem, given that I know that’s not a panther that you used, or even a cat, and yet, you convincingly made it look like one. Good job.

  23. Jeff Hebert says:

    Malfar (19): I largely agree with what Myro (22) said — a nice, solid character illustration, with the possible exception of the difference between the hair and beard colors. When doing such a streamlined concept, it’s important to nail all the details, and I think you pretty much did that. Nice one!

  24. Darth_Neko says:

    Jeff, I really want to break the mold and do some changes to my usual HM3 style. I enjoyed making ‘Cosmos'(as seen above) but it wasn’t to my heart’s content. Is their any advice you could give me to help me change it up a little?

  25. Jeff Hebert says:

    Myro (21): I remember that one. Seeing it again, I think what held me back on it was largely the foreground dead guy. It just didn’t seem necessary, and due to the way the bodies are drawn, it’s hard to make a convincing looking prone figure like you’re going for here. Not your fault, it’s the way the items are drawn, but that’s the consequence.

    The female figure is very good, especially the gauzy wrap. I also liked the background and the wall a lot. The only minor thing on the character is the way she’s holding that particular sword. I don’t know if it’s that the hand is horizontal while the sword’s at an angle or what, but it doesn’t quite fit for me.

    She’s great, though! Were it not for the foreground figure it might well have been a Finalist.

  26. Jeff Hebert says:

    Darth_Neko (27): I like the figure a lot, I think he’s got some good stuff going on. I’m glad to see you take a risk with the alternate body template, too.

    I think the biggest areas for improvement would be in the energy effects. The star aura and the atomic energy hands could both use some color in the lineart, as it stands they’re so defined that I think it looks less like energy than it could.

    The other area for consideration might be the mask, which seems to be a bit pinchy. Although I think maybe I just don’t like that mask in general, since it looks like the one I mentioned in Blue Blazer’s as well.

  27. Myro says:

    Thanks, Jeff (28). It’s actually reassuring to know that I was almost there with this one. I really wanted to put the dead legionnaire in the picture, and struggled to find a way to convincingly do it, and tried a bunch of different positions. Laying down seemed like the lesser of all evils, and that didn’t even work.
    I did try to tip the blade that she’s holding a little to get the blood-dripping effect, and I guess I didn’t angle the hand enough. Although, if there was no dead legionnaire there, that effect might have been unnecessary. I wasn’t even sure at the time if the gauzy wrap thing was a little superfluous, but it turns out you liked that, so…

    Thanks again.

  28. Me, Myself & I says:

    No problem Jeff, between your response (28) and Myro’s (20) I realize that you have both pin pointed what I was having difficulty evaluating. So to paraphrase, what you are both saying is that I should stop sending my hero’s out to fight crime in their footie pajama’s. 🙂

    Actually I think you are both absolutely correct. Consider it criticism well received and appreciated.

  29. Vampyrist says:

    here is a character I’d like some feedback on.

    So here is Macabre, a serial killer obsessed with the more ghoulish things in life.

  30. Jeff Hebert says:

    Vampyrist (32): Nice! Well, not NICE, but you get the idea.

    I dig the half-face skull mask, that’s a great effect. Ditto with the skull capper on the gun. The sickle works well too.

    I don’t really have anything to suggest in terms of improvement, I think you pretty much nailed it.

  31. Jeff Hebert says:

    OK, getting to be closing time here in Colorado, so we’ll consider this thread over. Many thanks to everyone who shared their creations and opinions.

  32. Danny Beaty says:

    @Myro: Thanks for the kind words about my redos. The chest emblem is the cat head from Animal-Head inside the circle from Insignia-Standard.
    @the good Mr. Hebert: Thanks for the critique. I’ll probably keep all the yellow parts yellow. I think Batman looked better when parts of his costume were yellow.

  33. Me, Myself & I says:

    Zar (8): I like it, especially the shadow and the tunic. The web pattern masked to the tunic gives a real Drow ind of feel. The shadow is really well done.

    I would suggest having the pony tail in front of the hood on her chest. It doesn’t seem right to be caught underneath like that. The stary sky also seems off because the starts are all stretched.

    You might also want to consider having strait black lines for the boots.

    Oh, I like the glowing affect on the sword by the way.

  34. Me, Myself & I says:

    MartianBlue (13):

    I have a lot of good things to say about this image. First the Dog Tag is just great. I suspect you used a shield to make it?

    Likewise the metals were well done. I’m sure that was a lot of work. It paid off in the end though as they really add to the character.

    Like Jeff, the face mask throws me off a little. wspecially with the bold green eyes. I would suggest toning them down a little, or if they are supposed to glow, making them a little more opaque so you can see through the glow a little.

    I think it is obvious that he is in a dress uniform. That is until you get to the boots. While I think the way you did the boots is pretty well done I’m not sure if they quite fit. The way the pants bunch up to fit into the boots makes them seem messy just there and that doesn’t fit the dress uniform theme. I like the effect but not for this character.

  35. Me, Myself & I says:

    Danny Beaty (17):

    I prefer your redo over the original so already your costume is a success.

    I would consider darkening the night sky to provide more contrast.

    Also I’m not sure what those yellow things are behind his shoulders. Without them being defined more they seem to draw my attention without adding anything to the image.

    Additionally, the yellow circle in the center of his chest draws a lot of attention. I’m not sure the best way to tone that down though. Perhaps just making the panther head a little larger to fill the space so less yellow shows through. Or alternately making the circle smaller and having the panther head spill over the edges a bit.

    I like him being on a roof top. Panther’s are really predators I would expect to attack from above so that element fits well.

  36. Danny Beaty says:

    @MMI: Thanks! The yellow is part of the shoulder guards.

  37. Me, Myself & I says:

    Myro(21): I like almost everything about this image. I like the wall and the cloudy sky. I like the adornments on the centurion, very well done on that regard.

    The most difficult part of this image in the making I’m sure was positioning a prone body. Really bloody difficult and all things considered, you did it well. Unfortunately, in my mind at least, it still detracts because its not positioned right.

    I REALLY like the centurion’s shield. Fantastic job on that for sure.

  38. Danny Beaty says:

    @MMI: I think I misunderstood you. The two yellow things on the Panthers’ back are escrima fighting sticks.

  39. Me, Myself & I says:

    Danny Beaty (41): In that case I suspect they are a pretty important part of the character. I would then suggest adding a pattern to them to give them a little more texture. Otherwise they appear something like spot lights.

    I still think it is definately better than the original though.

  40. ajw says:
    a guard to my sith lord like the imperial red guards but only slightly different, more human looking

  41. Nick Hentschel says:


    Sorry I came in so late, but at least I’m here.

    I’ve looked at the storm character, and I think it’s a good beginning. The costume colors do remind me a bit of early-90’s Nightwing, but you’ve done a good job taking it in another direction. Now, on to the ideas:

    You’re right that the “downstaris” needs some improvements. Although I don’t agree with Jeff’s criticism of the hair, I do agree that the clunky boots are out fo place. Also, the long, unbroken streak of black spandex, from the chest down, does indeed need tome “spice.” But there’s an idea that might help both:
    Although we can’t add any new details (like briefs) around the idesection, what with the lightning effects you’ve added. the legs & boots can be refined. I’d suggest that you revert to the superhero standard of tight, sock-like footwear, and carry it up to the knees or thighs in blue. Pick the right Footwear items, and you can add a top border to the boots in the same yellow color that you used elsewhere on the suit.
    Also consider adding a subtle pattern to the expanse of black, either instead of, or in addition to, what I just suggested. For example, a two-color fade, from black down to blue, could also be effective.

    Have fun!

  42. Melissa says:

    A little late, but maybe someone can take a look and give me some suggestions. I’m new to the character contests, so I would love to get some feedback on one of my prior entries:

  43. Nick Hentschel says:

    Hi, Melissa, let’s try to give you one, solid comment before we close, OK? 😉

    The use of atmosphere is well done: good background, lighting, and color choices. Her face is nicely distinctive. However, the translucent, grey column at the bottom is confusing (A bridge? Her reflection?) and you can use just a *tiny* bit more color in her costume, perhaps by turning her undershirt to black, white, or a different shade of grey. Beyond that, pretty nice!

  44. Rozenstal says:

    Oh( I wasn’t yesterday also I wasn’t in time(