Open Critique and Burning Question Day

If you'd like to get feedback on an illustration you've made (with HeroMachine or even an actual personally-produced drawing), post a link in the comments and I'll do my best to provide a helpful critique. Actually, anyone is welcome to provide feedback on them as well, but keep it constructive. Just saying "This sucks, I hate it" is a perfectly valid emotional response, but not at all helpful in terms of actually helping the person make it better. You'll have plenty of chances in your life to tell someone you don't like their work, so just let this one slide by if that's all you can think of to say.

Also, if you want some help on how to use HeroMachine, this is the place. Or, if you have a general question you've been wanting to ask but couldn't find a way to slip it into the other posts, feel free.

(Image ©DC Comics, Inc.)

28 Responses to Open Critique and Burning Question Day

  1. Oquies says:

    I would like to say thank you for making hero machine. Its pretty awesome what can be done with it.

    Making female characters has gotten enormously better since last year however; compared to the male counter part they are some what limited. I was curious when you will be doing mix and matched sleeves for female and female version of items?

    I don’t care if there is no answer for that but, I would also like to know what the next project for the alph is?

  2. Tim K. says:

    I used a pose from Comic Artist’s People & Places, so its stiffer than I’d like. I’m still learning computer inking and need help getting better images.

  3. Idiosyncracy says:

    Yay, open critique ^_^

    Now, I’m still rather new to this place, so I’m not quite sure if I’m allowed to ask for critique on more than one, so if it’s one/each, just ignore number two.

    Anyway, presuming that someone’s still willing to comment on them, here they are:
    Taliba. Rather well-off, adept archer, loves horses. A rather simple character, really, not fond of extraordinarily adorned clothes, so she was rather easy to make. Still, I like the way she turned out, so I wondered if there were any tips regarding that.
    Yes, yes, it was a contest character – Nevertheless, if it doesn’t go against any rules, I’d like some critique on it. Though it didn’t get among the finalists, I like the way it turned out, I really did, and I’d like to hear what others think.


    Tim, if you don’t mind my critique, I’m sad to say that I really like your character. The combination of colours is a classic, with good reason, and you’ve done some great work on the shadowing, in my opinion. It definitely has a nice feel. If there’s one thing I’ll have to point out, it’s the perspective. As I don’t draw, myself, I’m not quite sure what’s wrong, but it feels somewhat off. I’m not quite sure what it is, but nevermind – picture is good ^_^

  4. Danny Beaty says:

    Hi Jeff! I have two guys I hope you (and any other interested parties) will critique. One you have seen before, the other you have not seen.



    Critique away!

  5. Oquies says:

    @ Tim: I like the colors and the over all look. I am not too great at drawing but, it looks like the proportions are off just a bit.

    @ Idiosyncracy: I like the second one you have there. The first one might need a quiver though. Just my thoughts.

  6. Jeff Hebert says:

    @oquies (1): Thanks for the kind words. Currently I am working on Fantasy Armor for the male, then I’ll have to convert that for the female. Tops in general are in a bit of a state of flux while I contemplate the right way to present Sleeves (considering moving them to Shoulders or something, I don’t know).

  7. Jeff Hebert says:

    @TimK (2): Tim, I’ve taken the liberty of putting this into Photoshop for some added emphasis. The first image has your basic pose laid out in green to make the overall concept clearer. I added a bit of commentary there, which I’ll repeat.

    Since you specifically asked about the pose that’s what I am going to focus on.

    Overall, you’re right, the pose is too stiff. That’s part of the problem with using online reference, since the photographer has to make sure everything’s just right, the model has to stand there, posed, which means you’re going to get a less dynamic look right off the bat.

    Plus, regular people aren’t super-heroes, and don’t have super-hero builds. You can see that clearly in the green line image. The head to height ratio for actual people is different, and the result if you try to base a super completely off actual anatomy is that the figure ends up looking kind of dumpy. You want to go for a total of about seven heads in a typical super. The model you have here is about five and a half heads tall, which is too short to look right.

    Part of the reason for that is the angle of the photograph. The camera was above the figure’s head, I would bet, so you’re getting a lot of foreshortening on the legs. Which is fine, as long as you carry that through in the execution of the illustration. But he looks like he’s staring straight ahead with a level head, when he ought to be looking up at an angle, if he’s trying to look us in the eye.

    The other main issue with the pose is that it’s not a very dynamic stance. His legs are close together for stability, but the essence of dynamic illustration is INstability. That is, you want lots of angles and stuff flying in and out and a look like you captured that character at the maximum amount of energy expenditure. If he’s jumping, you want him at the highest possible point of the jump. If he’s swinging a fist, you want that fist at the maximum impact point. That kind of thing.

    You can see some of this in the second green line I provided.

    Anyway, hope that helps! Keep up the good work. And remember, photo reference is good to give you a starting point, but you’ll find your illustrations really taking off when you get adept at tweaking them to match the expectations of the super-hero genre.

  8. Tim K. says:

    Thanks everyone! I do appreciate the feedback.
    Taliba is good but mesh is not a good look–especially so dark as her skin is–if that’s meant to be more concealing clothing it needs a lighter or dark color. Green lipstick isn’t working on her with that skin tone either. Also if that’s a mesh, where are her breasts? I understand if she’s meant to be flatchested and/or keeping it “clean” but more suggestion might be needed using a more classic covering to give a suggestion of it.

    Hexblade: Overall she has a steady gothic style that is pronounced. I’m going to assume the white-skin is intentional. I am not sure how she’s supposed to fight anyone in that skirt, but It suits her style. I might have switched the colors on her clothes a bit. going more purple and red suggesting elegance, than vampire with the red and near-black. It might clash though too. She might could use a bit longer narrower skirt (not a lot) to make fighting movement less likely to catch on things around her.

    Danny Beatty:

    Scarab is cool. I don’t like the thing on his forhead, it complicates his face a bit and isn’t significant enough a detail to be there if its not more pronounced. I know Heromachine has limits though. I might try a different belt too. He could use another color to offset all the red, he has a very Golden Age look so they’d probably throw in yellow. But a bit of white can break up the solid color. It also can trick the eye, despite the colors and break up his image if he’s being sneaky…

    The Angry American only issue for me is the skull and mask. Skull takes away from the otherwise “real” design of his costume, so too the mask. A more traditional mask (I’m thinking a bit of a bandanna mask worn under a baseball cap) might convey the “simple” nature of his real world costume. The Skull? I’d leave it despite its aspects. Simply because I know people who do put such things on clothes/trucks/gear.

    Anyway, these are but suggestions. Play around and see what you get!

  9. Jeff Hebert says:

    @Idiosyncracy (3): On Taliba, I think overall the design is good. You definitely get a sense of character and personality, as if she fits into a world and has a real presence there. Nothing jumps out as jarring or unpleasant, so that’s good.

    The bow being held like that almost as a cane seems off, though. I don’t think an honest to goodness archer would ever treat a strung bow like that. At most I could see them leaning on a longbow like a staff, but this seems out of place somehow. I’m also not a huge fan of the padded gambeson (hope I am using that properly) on top of her tunic. I always envisioned that as an undergarment for some reason.

    Overall, a strong effort, though!

    Moving on to Hexblade, I think she’s a stronger character in almost every way than Taliba. The various elements of the costume all work well together, helped quite a bit by sharing a common color scheme. The weapon being held like that looks much more natural as well. The combat boots are a great touch!

    The title with the glowing skull motif is also great, nice job on that.

    The only bit I would point out as a bit jarring is the control room on the lower left in the background. I can’t quite make that work with the city street on the bottom right — they look jammed in there together and they don’t fit properly unless you were going for some sort of split scene effect with the purple ice ramp.

    Otherwise, nice job!

  10. remy says:

    if we post a character here, will we still be allowed to enter the character for future contests?

  11. Jeff Hebert says:

    @Danny (4):

    I like the Angry American! He’s simple but effective, and I actually really like the mask. The insignia on it fits — sometimes that technique can look awkward or forced, but here it works well. And while I am not a big “skull” fan in general, I absolutely love it on the bat.

    The only suggestion for improvement I might have would probably be with the background and the title. The background’s a little overpowering, and I think the figure is more than strong enough to stand on its own. To me a good background element enhances what you’re seeing, but this one seems to be competing. And on the title, just something besides that yellow, I think — it tends to blend in and is a bit hard to read where it touches the similar color of the boots, and on the places where it crosses over the red-white transition of the flag. Of course, if you lost the flag background that would be less of an issue.

    But, I like it overall very much, you definitely get a strong sense of character. And the skull on the bat totally sells it, I would buy one of those.

    The Scarab is well put together, evoking a very Golden Age kind of feel. I definitely don’t get the same sense of personality from him as I do from the American, and I suspect part of that is how much scarlet there is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of consistent color schemes, but here I think having the shield the same color as the costume it’s being held up against makes the whole thing flatten out, visually, and that in turn makes the character seem flat as well.

    I also feel like the tunic or the leggings need something to give them oomph. Or maybe a different logo treatment — you’ve got circles on the forehead, on the chest with the logo, on the belt with the buckle, and then again in the shield (four of them there depending on how you count ’em!).

    I think the simplest and most effective thing you could do on this one is to pick a different shape of shield with some other dominant color (even the black) with the scarlet playing a supporting role.

    Good job on it, though, it’s definitely a tight concept.

  12. Jeff Hebert says:

    @remy: Hm, that’s a good question … I don’t have a strong opinion on that either way. On one hand, it doesn’t seem fair for me to judge a character I’ve seen and commented on, thus having some sort of attachment to, when the others in the contest will be coming at me cold. On the other hand, I don’t want to stifle participation.

    I’m open to persuasion, if anyone has a strong feeling one way or the other, speak up.

  13. Idiosyncracy says:

    Thanks for the feedback ^_^

    Tim: It was meant to be leather, but yeah, I can see what you mean about darker colour. As for the Hexblade, I honestly thought more about style than effectiveness.

    Jeff: Thanks a lot to you too. Regarding the bow – Yeah, I can see what you mean. The only reason she holds it like that is, that when I made it, I didn’t know how to mask. As for the background on the Hexblade… Yeah, you’re right. Was the only thing I could think to add, though, and it was so barren.


    Danny: I’d like to comment on your characters, but… I can’t see them. Access denied :-/

  14. Jeff Hebert says:

    Tim, yeah, the background elements (particularly for a street scene) are still kind of bare. And at some point I have GOT to put in an auto-mask feature for hand-held items, though I don’t really know how exactly that would work.

  15. John D says:

    Thanks for this Jeff. I am a hobby artist myself…I do it to keep from going insane. Here’s a few I’d like you to critique

    1.This Hawkman helmet is my favorite drawing I have done…I have never been able to duplicate the feeling of this one piece though:

    2. This one is done with pencil and a lot of sharpie….lol. I tried for a “moody” piece. I scanned it and adjusted the windows with a paint program:

    3. This was an attempt at coloring my art via Paint Shop Pro 7…the background is completely added by PSP7..however..this is my favorite Earth 2 character next to Hawkman:

  16. The Doomed Pixel says:

    Hey Jeff, here’s a piece you may or may not enjoy critiquing. Since I’m an anthro artist, here’a drawing of a lagomorphic character for a friend of mine. This was a little while ago, and I’ve really improved drawing hands since then, but go ahead and rip it to shreds anyway! Thanks!

    (P.S. The background was just something thrown together last minute so it wouldn’t just be a blank backdrop.)

  17. The Doomed Pixel says:

    HAHA and of course, here’s the link I forgot:

  18. Jeff Hebert says:

    @John D (15): Yes, the Hawkman helmet is nice! I always thought that was a completely ridiculous, totally impractical, and utterly cool helmet design, one of my favorite super-hero costume elements of all time. You did a nice job on the illustration as well. I know what you mean, sometimes it just flows and works and you feel like you’re in a zone. It’s frustrating when you can’t summon that feeling at will, but damn it’s nice when it’s there!

    The eyes and the chin and the helmet are all really strong, you did a great job on it. Be proud!

    The only nit I’d pick with it is having his ear completely surrounded by helmet, it looks like there’s no way it could poke out and instead is sort of part of the helmet itself, if that makes sense. I think even just removing the two little feathers just beneath the ear, making a space for it to have jutted out, would help.

    Batman: I like the scratchboard feel of this (if you’ve never used scratchboard, basically it’s black wax over a white sheet of paper, and you scratch away with a pin what where you want the white to shine through). Unfortunately I think you lose some of that cool effect in the background, particularly with the wall blocks and the windows. The window edges are so sharp and clean compared to the scratchy figure lines, there’s a bit of a jarring effect there.

    Definitely moody and cool though!

    Robin: I’m not a very good judge of coloring, as I am still figuring that out myself, but I think this looks great. I actually don’t have anything constructive to add, I think the coloring on it looks darn good.

  19. Jeff Hebert says:

    @DoomedPixel (17 & 18): I wish I had a dollar for every time I left a link out of an email or post …

    I’m not generally an anthro fan, so I don’t know how useful this will be. But here goes.

    I think overall it’s a strong illustration, particularly in the body and the hand holding the box. The lines are simple and clear and the composition is tight, it’s easy to tell what’s going on and there aren’t a lot of extraneous bits getting in the way. The gray shading is also very good, it supports the illustration without overwhelming the linework. I particularly appreciate the detail and time spent on the belt. Getting little stuff like that accurate seems insignificant, but when it’s right it makes the whole character sooooo much better. Good on you for not ignoring the supporting elements!

    You’re right, the pointing hand has a few issues, but it’s not horrific or anything. Tuck the thumb in front of the curled fingers instead of behind them and you’re most of the way there.

    The main problem compositionally that I see is actually with the way the head is looking. He’s pointing off to a sort of forward angle, but the head’s looking off to his left, behind where the arm would be targeting. It ends up coming off almost like a “Saturday Night Fever” disco dance move or something. Which, maybe it is, what the heck do I know.

    Oh, I almost forgot, I like the hair and general face design of the character also. He looks like a rabbit greaser, which is kind of fun.

    Good job!

  20. Tim K. says:

    Doomed Pixel:

    I like the character, its fun. I think the only issue I have is that one nail (pointing out) suggested pointy nails butthe others on the hand holding the package don’t. His nose also needs a better reflection distinction from the fur. Since its likely more reflective. Really just minor nitpicks.

    Love your faces. I like Hawkman but it seems a bit clumsy right around his ear with the helmet feathers. I’m not sure why. Perhaps its so much complexity at that point. A little simplifying of it couldn’t hurt.

  21. Danny Beaty says:

    Thanks to everyone for thei comments and critiques of my pictures. Some of you may recall that The Angry American’s weapon Slugger was one of my entries in the weapon contest.
    @Jeff: I changed the Scarab’s belt buckle, so there is one less circle. I also changed his mask a little, but I kept the laser device on his forehead. I wish there was a way to change the color of the edge of the shield. I tried layering one shield on top of another, but it just didn’t look right.
    Once again, my thanks to all who commented and critiqued my characters.

  22. Connor S. says:

    I wish I could put some of my sketches on Imageshack. I made an excellent viking (in my opinion) and some other good stuff. I’d like to try something like Tim’s.

  23. Connor S. says:

    And Tim, the only reason I didn’t like your drawing was because it lacked some detail and the posture was a bit off. But I’m a perfectionist, and you still are a good artist.

  24. AssassinKlown says:

    First of all, I love the site. HeroMachine is awesome! Good work, dude.

    Secondly, a few of my creations that I’d like some feedback on, please. I’m a huge Mech-head, so of course my fave subject is…. Mechs! šŸ™‚

    First, a Mechwarrior taking a break:

    Second, a combat Mech in a, um, non-combat situation….

    Another Mech:

    And lastly, a mech on patrol on a cold, dark world:

    Thanks in advance!

  25. Neon Sequitur says:

    I love this program. I run a lot of RPG’s and finding/creating appropriate character art can be a real challenge!

    Here’s a HM3.0 update of a HM2.5 portrait I did for a character from my old Dark Champions game. (which is no longer running) ‘Schadenfreude’ was a true iron-age vigilante, a psycho with an agenda. (I really liked the players’ reaction when they looked up her name in the dictionary.) I couldn’t quite do her justice in the weapons department — HeroMachine could use a straight razor. Here’s the latest version:

    Do you plan to add ‘bunny ears’ to the headgear category? I’ve got another villain from the same campaign who never got a HeroMachine portrait: Chainsaw Bunny. Gotta have bunny ears for that one….

  26. Jeff Hebert says:

    @AssassinKlown (24): I think I am going to have to do a “one per person” rule for next time, four is a bit much … Also, I don’t know much about mechs, so take all this with a grain of salt.

    The first one is nice enough, but there’s so much green it’s hard to get a handle on what all is going on. Making everything the same color flattens the image out, so in this one it almost looks like a disembodied head floating against the sky.

    The “mech on break” one is much stronger, there’s clear delineation between the figure and the background. The mech itself has a lot of personality as well.

    The third one is stronger still, with a much tighter color scheme. Leaving the background off actually helps the figure stand out more, too. There’s not as much extraneous stuff going on with the decals and emblems and whatnot which I like. I also like what you did with the helmet, the one big cyclops eye looks cool. The only bit that I don’t quite like as much is the coloring on the chest insignia. You’ve got a yellow and a gray that don’t appear anywhere else on the figure. I think one new color there is enough, probably making the gray black would help.

    The last one is too garish for my tastes, and the teeth make it look less like a mech and more like a monster in a suit. Not that there’s anything wrong with monsters in suits. But the purple and red are just too clashy for me.

    Nice job overall on these, though!

  27. Jeff Hebert says:

    @Neon Sequitur (25): I like her! Very sassy and kinky and fun. I don’t have a lot of advice on how to improve it, as I think you pretty much nailed the concept and execution. Well done!

    I am pretty sure there are bunny ears in the Ears Standard set.

  28. Jeff Hebert says:

    And with that I’m going to go ahead and close out this session. Thanks to everyone who participated!