Open Critique Day #9

It's time once again for another Open Critique Day! I realize the cartoon below is about film critics, but let's be honest, a lot of the same observations apply.

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 © Matt Groening.)

91 Responses to Open Critique Day #9

  1. Malfar says:

    I forgot if I used this one before in design contests or critique days…if so, I will use another…anyway, here is a Cryojackal

  2. Captain Kicktar says:
    Very unsatisfied with the 3.0 version. Vezare is the Anti of Elves, and uses lots of magic. And my computer is still broken, so unsure of the quality.

  3. Jeff Hebert says:

    Malfar (1): Nifty! Love the glowing effects and the snowflakes around the hands, that’s very cool. Although I think maybe you could increase the contrast between the snowflakes and the background glow to make it pop a bit more.

    I love the halo glow reflecting off the banded metal backdrop, and the gradient you put into the backdrop itself. That all looks fantastic. Sometimes that item can be too much or too boring, but you really nailed it.

    I think, though, that having the wall have that much depth to it flattens the floor out even more. Maybe change the line color to a dark gray and maybe adding a subtle gradient shadow to it to help it match the attention given to the wall?

    The only other thing I might suggest would be to maybe put the glow that’s currently on top of the skull insignia piece BEHIND the insignia instead, or at least to tone it down some. Right now it kind of washes it out to the point that you can’t really see it.

    Great job, though, some very creative bits and a nice looking illustration!

  4. Rosco says:

    The first in my croquet pin-up calendar idea, which is crazy.

  5. Jeff Hebert says:

    Captain Kicktar (2): While it’s a good sketch overall, I think there are a few things you could do to get it where you want it to be.

    First, the chainmail links in the skirt and shirt are straight while the garments are curved. Instead of using the blank shirt, use the one in Tops-Female-FantasyArmor that has the chainmail links curved to match the arm. You can probably scale it vertically enough to make the bottom of the shirt become a skirt, which would also have the curved links. Or maybe a second copy of it would serve the same function.

    Second, the HM2 version’s top has a nice hard metallic sheen to it, which I didn’t add in the HM3 version. But I’m pretty sure you could get the same effect by choosing a crescent-shaped Insignia, scaling it and moving it to match the curve of the breast, then Masking it onto the top. That will help punch up that area of the drawing quite a bit, as right now it just looks too flat.

    Third, the cape back needs some depth. I can’t tell for sure if that’s the fur cape from Backplane-Standard, but if it is, color 2 is the interior and should be set to a darker shade of whatever color1 is. I THINK you have color 1 set to black, though, matching the black background? If so, definitely don’t do that — it needs to separate the character out from the background, not push her into it.

    Fourth, I’d make the boots a darker orange tone than the pants, or vice versa, but they shouldn’t match that closely. Presumably the pants are some sort of cloth while those boots are leather; the two materials should look different, and since color’s the only tool you have to do that, I’d recommend doing so.

    Fifth, the fire effect on the hand needs help. I’d change the line color to a dark red (or maybe even a yellow or something) — play around with it and see what looks best. I’d also lower the transparency on the red portions of the flame, right now it’s so much denser than the orange stuff it confounds the eye.

    Finally, the head area needs work. There’s just too much going on and conflicting there, with the multiple hair backings, the headband, the bangs hitting just above the band, and especially the stretched mouth covering. There are a number of good kerchiefs and scarves you could combine — I like the IDEA of that look, but it doesn’t have to be one item. You can combine to get the effect you want without being tied to matching the specific one you chose in HM2.

    Oops, I forgot one! I like the glove/armbands you have in the HM2 version, I’d definitely do something with her forearms in HM3, either wraps or straps or even the same thing you did in the other one. Right now they sort of look forgotten.

    Hope that helps!

  6. Jeff Hebert says:

    Rosco (4): Ha! That’s very funny! “The Women of Croquet”, I love it.

    Overall, a good image and design. I like the colors and the concept quite a bit. The boots rock, too!

    Areas that might need a little tweaking, though, would be:

    The character’s left arm looks too short where it’s hidden behind the mallet. I get what you were going for, but I think it doesn’t quite work. I keep wondering where the rest of the arm is. Maybe lower that shoulder some so it looks like her shoulder are turned, with the left one receding from the viewer?

    The proportions on the face look a bit off, like the top of the skull is too small for the size of the lower jaw and facial area. Part of that might be that the earrings are dominating the cheeks in a way that makes them seem like they’re hanging from something other than her ears. It might be as simple as moving the eyes down five pixels or so. And maybe increasing the size of the hat, and the ski goggles.

    Finally, I think there are gloves that will work instead of coloring the entire forearm. Right now, the lack of a finishing line where the glove ends looks awkward.

    Anyway, hope that wasn’t too much, but I think it’s a great idea and image that could really go to the next level with just a little tweaking. Great job!

  7. ams says:

    Here’s my entry for this week. I was trying to make the image show the character was ready to “pounce” on its prey.
    Let me know what you think.

  8. Me, Myself & I says:

    In retrospect, I’m kind of dissapointed with the heavy weapon in this image. It seems rather two dimensional whie the rest of the image is more 3D. Any suggestions on the armaments or anything else for that matter?

  9. dm3588 says:

    My little family of centaurs. Yes, their expressions are supposed to be that serious (centaurs are not particularly friendly), and yes, I deliberately left their fur unpatterned (adding patterns slows my computer down to a dead crawl). Aside from that, I’m mostly looking for guidance on the hands, and anything else you think might improve it.

  10. Captain Kicktar says:

    I’m pretty sure at the time of making her you hadn’t converted the armor. I’ll try the insignia idea, but it’s really hard to do considering I have to have a piece of armor for every insignia to mask to. The cape Bach is actually the closest thing I could find for her long hair, and I just scaled it down horizontally. Agree with the coloring issues as usually. The ‘headband’ is actually the skin, just badly done. The face covering was my main problem with the 3.0 version, so I’ll take a look at your suggestions. And the gloves I agree with, I’ll try to find some way to fix that.
    Hopefully I’ll have my computer fixed soon so I can work on all of these Antis.

  11. Me, Myself & I says:

    dm3588 (9) I would suggest masking the objects your centaurs are holding to their hands so that they appear to be holding them rather than the objects floating in front.

    Likewise I would suggest moving the, I assume, mothers left hand in front of her belt.

    That would make a big difference.

  12. Whit says:

    This is I think, aside from some of my fairy pictures, the best picture I ever did in HM3. I really tried to push myself and the programme in terms of style.

  13. Whit says:

    Oh, and of course, NOW I see that the left shoulder is screwed up, but not sure how I could have fixed it.

  14. dm3588 says:

    @Me, Myself, and I: I did try masking the bows, but it didn’t seem to make any difference at all. Maybe I was doing it wrong. I’ll reread some of Hammerknight’s guides and try again later. As for the hand behind the belt…ouch. I’m not sure how I missed that. Thanks for pointing that out.

  15. Whit says:

    dm3588 (9): I would slightly change up the position of the child centaur’s left arm. At the angle it reaches up to take the mother’s hand, it coincides with the mother’s left front leg, and is really kind of jarring and hard to distinguish.

  16. Whit says:

    dm3588 (9) Also, the fur on the legs is the exact same colour as some of the leaves on the ground, and it’s not clear what’s what.

  17. dm3588 says:

    Hm. The leaves were a last-minute addition I didn’t really pay attention to and don’t really care about. Should I make an effort to fix them, or just take them out?

  18. dm3588 says:

    On double-checking, the ground looks really bland without the leaves, so I think I’ll leave them in and try to fix them. Thanks for the advice.

  19. MScat says:
    This is my character Impact. I modeled him after Invincible a little but his powers are WAY different.

    I kept it in pencil cuz i do my best work in pencils. Inking and coloring are not my strong points.

    What you think?

  20. Jeff Hebert says:

    ams (7): Neat! He definitely looks ready to pounce, I think you pulled that off beautifully. I like the character design and coloring a lot. Very cool.

    I wonder if maybe instead of the squashed oval background, how it would look if you used the three-claw-slash item from Insignia-Standard, blown up as big as they’ll go. I don’t know that they can be made big enough, but it might be something to try. Or, maybe a regular circle with one of the jungle-ish backgrounds masked into it? I dunno, something to jazz the background up a little.

    The only two things I can think of on the character itself to help the illusion of imminent pouncing are to maybe add a really small square or round insignia with all three colors set to the same blue as the fur, positioned over the top of the fur patches on the feet to blend the top outline into the fur of the shins. That would help it look like part of the leg rather than added later on top of it.

    And second, maybe add a loincloth or one of the furry Briefs to hide the gap between where the legs meet the hips. Right now the bottom of the crotch hanging down that low looks a little unsettling.

    But even if you don’t do any of that, it’s a really cool looking guy in a very convincing pose, I think you did great!

  21. ams says:

    Thanks, Jeff! I’ll try those great suggestions and see what happens. I’m going to start experimenting with more of the backgrounds in my future pics.

  22. Jeff Hebert says:

    MMI (8): I see what you mean, the gun does look flat compared to the nice rendering on the figure and background. Maybe add a gray-to-transparent circular gradient from Patterns-Standard, rotated so the gray part starts behind his back and becomes transparent maybe a couple of hand-widths along the gun from his torso in either direction? So it looks like there’s a drop shadow of his torso falling onto the gun, which would be away from his back as his body curves.

    Or, since the gun is mostly rectangles, you could add a few scaled and rotated square insignias positioned to look like doodads or lights on the weapon, as well as shadows. That might work.

    Along those lines, I saw someone on the UGO forums post a fantastic globe where he’d, I think, made the water color transparent, then added a circle the same size as the globe just behind it with a blue-to-white (although blue to lighter blue would work better here) circular gradient. It was a neat effect, and I think something similar might work here to make the planet hanging outside the window look more three dimensional too. Although then you’d have to do the floor and/or ceiling too … So maybe just trash that idea because you’re looking at a lot more work.

    Or hell, eliminate the background altogether, the character might look even better without anything around him to distract from him, because he’s pretty darn cool on his own.

  23. Jeff Hebert says:

    dm3588 (9): You’ve already gotten some good feedback, which I definitely endorse.

    I do like the concept and the overall composition, it’s well thought out and interesting.

    The major issues are definitely with the masking of the hands. Masking the bow onto the mother’s hand would help a lot. And I don’t know if it will work to mask one of the clasped hands to the other would work, but it would be nice if his thumb was overlapping her hand to make them look more like they’re being held.

    As far as the leaves, you definitely need some sort of foreground there to give the figures something to stand on. I think there’s one Background that’s got sort of a curved forested valley surrounded by some creepy trees. If you scaled that up enough so the creepy trees were out-of-frame, that floor might be a nice one, with the leaves strewn on it and maybe a boulder or shrub or something.

    Good job, though, I do love me some centaurs!

  24. Jeff Hebert says:

    Captain Kicktar (10): I was thinking just one curved insignia along one breast or the other to make for a highlight kind of thing.

    If that cape back is supposed to be hair, that definitely doesn’t work — it reads much more as fur than hair. I assumed it was her cloak. I’ve got at least one super long, big hair in “Hair-Female-Standard” specifically designed to be moved to the back to represent long hair hanging down, I’d recommend using either that, or one of the other long hair samples scaled vertically to match.

  25. Jeff Hebert says:

    MMI & Whit, thanks so much for offering suggestions, that’s great!

  26. Jadebrain says:

    Here’s Augstruss Ofkatvadian Milandred, AKA Milandred II, the second king of Milandria, in all his glory. He’s a benevolent monarch who sees the relationship between him and his people as a mutual friendship, rather than a one-way servitude. He is both wise and charismatic, and his people are loyal to him, for he is loyal to them. After his father, the leader of the revolution that created Milandria, was assassinated by former servants of the regime that his family overthrew, Augstruss became the new king, and dedicated himself to rule in the manner that his father would.

    He wields a large mace which is hollowed out to make room for a device that allows him to put explosive powder into the mace head and use the mace as a portable grapeshot-cannon.

    Despite his age, he remains a mighty warrior and leader on the battlefield.

    The only problem I see with the picture is that, while there isn’t anything I can see that is inherently bad about it, there isn’t enough to make the character appear as amazing and glorious as he should be.

  27. Jeff Hebert says:

    Whit (12): That’s neat! I definitely appreciate seeing more stylistic stuff like this, it’s a lot of fun. On the shoulder, I think just moving it over to the right and down a smidge or two would make it right. So it’d be underneath the shoulder pad round part more. That would also move that hand down a little so its outer edge wouldn’t meet the outer edge of the opposite shoulder, which is visually a little jarring. Having the hand fully inside that biceps will help separate the two from each other.

    Thanks for sharing, that’s a fun one!

  28. Nick Hentschel says:

    Hello, all:

    First, i wanted to share with you some of the corrections I made to my earlier drawing, based on your suggestions. As you might recall, it was a big, red-haired, half-orc ranger/barbarian character, heavily armed and cast against a sunset (which I still need to arrange a “recipe” for).

    First picture (for reference):

    The new version:

    I moved her quiver comfortably farther down, as Jeff suggested, adjusted the colors, and *tried* to give her a split-dress design, with her mail just barely visible underneath. (I realize that the front panel may look funny, but I couldn’t figure out how else to give this dress a colored border, to match the top.) Comments welcome, but mostly, I just wanted to show what I’d done with your ideas.

    Secondly… my character has a friend, and i’ve drawn *her* up, as well. She’s an elven-bard character, and a damn sight prettier. However, I could use some suggestions for the setting/background. I’ve come up with some well-coordinated colors, I think, but I wonder if the scene really suits. I also think that the sky still needs some work, and it’s hard to put in very subtle starfields.
    For the character, herself, the image is supposed to be that of a rather well-heeled young woman, *trying* to dress down and be practical, but not quite pulling it off. I also went for more of a Greco-Roman influence than is usually found on the elves, hence the bronze-y jewelry and gladiator sandals.

    Fire away!

  29. Jeff Hebert says:

    Rozenstal (15): I like the overall idea and the character’s costume a lot. The idea of a desert hero is a good one, too.

    I think the environment here needs some work to be as interesting as the character himself, though. Take a look at some of the Nature contest finalists, particularly Atomic Punk’s “Ash”, Gargoyle323’s “Smoke”, and MMI’s “Fireball” for some ideas on how to do nice wind/dust effects. Someone recently also used that same swooshing wind item you have, but with the “dirty” Pattern applied that looked pretty cool.

    I’d also recommend DiCicatriz’ “Adia” from the Weather contest for a more specifically desert-type of look.

    Bottom line though is that the character himself looks good, which is the most important thing, right?!

  30. Jeff Hebert says:

    MSCat (20): Great! I can definitely see the Invincible architecture there, but the pencils are nice and tight and the design is great. Even the shadow patches with the feathering are spot-on. I like the rectangular patches on the costume and the logo itself is niftily abstract while still very cool.

    The only minor thing I can think of to point out would be at his … um, crotch area … There’s a shadow there that points down into a highlight area on his inner thigh, but the effect is that he’s got a very large, very droopy, problem going on there. Ahem.

    Fantastic job though, thanks so much for sharing him! You’ve got some real talent there.

  31. Tuldabar says:

    Now here: is a Star Wars smuggler character. I tried to make him be sitting on the chair, but it could do with polish (yeah, polish. Right ;)). The lower drink shelf glitched on me, so I know about that. I like the window effect, and eventually I want to put in a bartender behind the “counter.”
    So that’s my shpiel. Any thoughts, good or bad, are welcome.

  32. Jeff Hebert says:

    Jadebrain (27): Man, if that isn’t the central conundrum facing every fantasy illustrator, I don’t know what is — “The only problem I see with the picture is that, while there isn’t anything I can see that is inherently bad about it, there isn’t enough to make the character appear as amazing and glorious as he should be.” That pretty much sums up the way I feel about everything I do!

    I think you’re right that there’s nothing really wrong with the character himself, he looks great. I think maybe the lack of “oomph” you’re feeling probably comes from the coloring more than anything. The biggest thing I think is the cherry red — that’s a very cheerful color that’s more a “fun” than “glorious” red. I think going with a darker, more somber red would be a huge help.

    I think the yellow burst background takes away from the impact as well, mostly because that color (while paler) still is too much like the yellow or gold in his armor. I think dropping the circular gradient masked onto that background would help, maybe going with a cooler color like a deep royal purple fading out to transparency or something would help. But even if it stays yellow, I think adding some depth with the gradient would help.

    Or, lose the background altogether and let him stand on his own.

    The only other thing I can think is to jazz up the shield a little. It’s kind of plain-Jane for a leader of his stature. I’d either add some flair to the one you’ve got, or choose a different one altogether.

    He’s pretty awesome and glorious as he is, of course, but if you’re looking to juice him up a little those ideas might help.

  33. MScat says:

    Oh I see what you mean Jeff hahaha. Thanks

  34. Jeff Hebert says:

    Nick (29): I do think that looks better! The quiver definitely rocks in that maroon shade, very nice. I like the dress a lot more than the mail of the first version, too. You might want to make the animal-skin cape darker than the part that hangs over her shoulders, but I do think this is much improved.

    I like the bard character design quite a bit. Did you make that flute up or is that a pre-set item? It looks cool. I like the sandals and the outfit, you did great on her.

    The background in general is good, but the backlighting on the clouds ends up making them look like they’re embossed. I’m not a super big fan of that outlining effect on the moon either, unfortunately, although I could live with it. I think it’s the clouds that are bothering me the most.

    Other than that fairly minor thing, though, I like it a lot, great job!

  35. Jeff Hebert says:

    Tuldabar (32): Wow, that’s a lot of work! Very intricate environment, I really appreciate the work that must’ve gone into that. He looks like an interesting character!

    The three things I’d point to as maybe needing some work would be:

    1. The hat blends right into the background, mostly because the color in it is so similar to the wall it’s against. I’d change one or the other to a value that’s not so close to make the head area pop more.

    2. The kneepad on the character’s right knee should be flipped — with it facing the way it is, it looks like he’s dislocated his knee. Both knees are pointing in the same direction, the pads on them should match how they’re facing.

    3. I don’t think the arm along the bar is working for me. To get your forearm perfectly perpendicular to the body while keeping the upper arm tucked into the torso would be very painful. I’d try for posing it instead where the elbow is behind him, resting on the bar, with the hand facing the viewer and hanging off the edge of the bar. The forearm would be quite foreshortened. I’m not certain there’s a hand that would work in that pose, but it would be worth giving a shot — the way he is undermines the general feeling of a relaxed, competent smuggler lounging in his favorite spot, because it looks so uncomfortable.

    Hope that helps!

  36. Nick Hentschel says:

    Thanks. Your point about the ranger’s cape is perfectly valid; I actually *did* apply a similar principle with the other character (note the leopard-spots). So that suggestion isn’t unsurprising; I can simply switch the colors around.

    I can get rid of the backlighting for the clouds; I wasn’t sure about it anyway. It’ll give me more opportunity to concentrate on getting their colors right. And I can make the moon’s “outline” more subtle; I’ve done it before. I just want to create a “glowing” effect.

    Yes, the flute is a stock item: ItemRight-Music-. What I did was, to double the x-axis and make it semi-transparent (it’s supposed to be something crystalline). Luckily, the “bulge” rested comfortably in her hand. As a finishing touch, I gave it a shade of blue to match the character’s eyes.
    What I *wanted* to do, was to make a completely new flute design from other parts, but that proved to be much too hard. I do imagine her instrument as looking somewhat different, but this will have to do for a picture.


  37. Rosco says:

    Jeff: thanks! I agree with everything you said: I actually made that one before I realized that 3.0 (like 2.0) had separate categories for arms and gloves. I can actually make all those changes you suggested; I’ve actually finished everything but April, so I imagine you’ll see a few more of these.

  38. Captain Kicktar says:

    Ah, k, that works better, I’ll try to use that long hair, but it’s a bit to spread out.

  39. Rosco says:

    jadebrain: I love the way the king’s mace is slung over his shoulder. Altho it’ll be tricky, perspective wise, I may try that with a croquet mallet on a future project. Thanks!

  40. Jeff Hebert says:

    Captain Kicktar (39): If you have an item like the long hair that doesn’t fit onto the character, masking is a great solution. In this case, you have a rectangular item that (I am guessing) doesn’t work because the top part sticks out around the shoulder — basically you’re fitting a square onto a triangle and you’ve got bits of square that stick out.

    The solution would be to get a rectangle or square or trapezoid type of shape from Insignias (or even Backgrounds-Shapes), and position it where you want the bottom part of the hair to show, but where the top end is hidden by the top part of the body. A triangle might work better, I dunno.

    Anyway, position the shape so it will enclose the bottom part of the hair you want to keep, but where the top part of the hair would fall outside the bounds of the shape. Then with the hair the current item, click Mask, then click the shape. Only the parts of the hair that intersect with the shape will show.

    Click on the shape itself, and set all the colors to 0% transparency so it disappears, but the hair that is masked to it still shows.

    Not sure if that’s applicable in this case but it’s a good technique in general for fitting in items that otherwise overspill the bounds you want them to have, and where squishing them makes them look bad.

  41. Jeff Hebert says:

    kyle (42): Love that song! One of my all time favorite fiddle songs. You’ve done a great job rendering it here, I like the design of the devil, the setting is just enough to establish itself without being obtrusive, and I like the effect with the musical notes flying out.

    The positioning of the arms isn’t quite right, though, I don’t think. When holding a fiddle, the arm on the … what is that, the shaft? The neck? I don’t know the proper term … Anyway, that hand would be turned the opposite way, with the palm next to the instrument, not facing outward.

    The other arm doesn’t fit either — the coat cuts into the elbow join and makes it look awkward. Maybe if you were to squish up the biceps more, move the forearm higher and over a bit to cover the join?

    But that aside, nice job!

  42. Rosco says:

    Okay, we worked on Miss January a bit.

    1. The eyes and left shoulder are lower.
    2. Despite your compliment, I changed the boots
    3. I lowered the braids, which I think helps the face a bit
    4. You’ven’t gotten around to the girl gloves, as far as I could find, so I actually did have to use hand pieces. This means Miss January is now ineligible for contests hereabouts, as I photoshopped her fingernails away, drew a line to demarcate her glove, and filled in the missing part of her arm. I imagine I could’ve done those things with tiny insigniae and other layers, but it is nice just to be able to draw some bits, after you’ve done all the hard drawing for us.
    Thanks, Jeff!

  43. Rosco says:

    Kyle: While Jeff is right that, upon close inspexion, there’s something funky going on with the arms, the overall impression and design are perfect. Well done.

  44. Jeff Hebert says:

    Looks good, Rosco! Although you could actually use a male glove and just mask it to the arm, this way works too.

  45. Violet says:

    This is a heroine I originally created in 2.5 eons ago. She’s the best friend to a main character in one of my stories, so I’ve spent a lot of story planning/writing time with my mental image of her resembling this. (I was going for a Donna Troy-inspired look, IIRC.)

    Translating her to HM3 is…tough. So, no matter how long I try to work on her, it always ends up back to this. Frustrating.

    I’d rather not have to alter the design too much, but I may have to. I can’t get the same revealing aspect to her top and all of the collars are in one piece, so I can’t spread them apart. The sailor collar without the bow is too much and I have been through all of the cape shoulder pieces with no luck. Any ideas? Please?

    Though I liked making her look more her age and the hair is pretty much everything I wanted.

  46. Zyp says:

    Hi! I’m new with the whole digital drawing so I thought it’d be cool to get some critique from an more experienced artist (or anyone really!). I have a Wacom bamboo tablet and have been using Macromedia Flash for drawing. Here’s something i made.
    Be as harsh as you want, you’re not gonna bring me down! 😀

    Also found a great tutorial of using layers in Flash on the hm-page which has been very helpful so I wanted to thank you, Jeff, for that.

  47. Kytana says:
    At the time i work on a story and this is a flashback scene
    from two enemies in different colours.At that time the dont hate another. Its a peaceful moment.
    But i think the background with the rain is not peaceful enough. Something is missing.

  48. Myro says:

    Still a bit of a work in progress, trying to upgrade a few earlier designs to HM3. This one is Disease Sugar, one of the members of a B-list villain group.

    I haven’t tried to add a background yet, or mask the spoon into her hand.

  49. Vampyrist says:

    Here is an image I based upon a quote by Friedrich Nietzche.

    “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you”

    I thought it turned out well, but I’d liek to hear your opinions.

  50. Nick Hentschel says:

    NIetzche? I thought it was from “Andromeda”! 😉

    In any case, Vampirist (52), it’s a very nice picture. The shadowed figure, the glow around him, and that striking backdrop are all very well-integrated. I’m not even sure I can see what you USED for that backdrop, as a matter of fact!

  51. Nick Hentschel says:

    Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice…..

    One last look at our elven friend, with some slight tweaks based on jeff’s suggestions. I’ve adjusted the position of the flute in her hands, toned down the moon’s outlining, gotten rid of the backlighting, and adjusted the shading. I hope that I’ve been able to create a more interesting “transparent” effect with the clouds by monkeying with the LineColor, instead, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve created both a much slicker depiction of both the moon’s penumbra, and a clearer delineation of the diagonal path of its beam.

  52. Jeff Hebert says:

    Violet (47): I’ll be honest with you, creating just the right female character at this time can be a pain in the butt because I haven’t converted over all the items yet. And this one was really tough because of the collars, which I don’t have in just that form yet.

    But, I took a crack at it and this is what I came up with.

    One of the key things to do on this one was to build the body from its pieces. So the torso, both legs, and both arms are all separate items. That let me put one of the male boots with the tops pointing down masked to each leg, since without masking they don’t fit over the female calves.

    The other super tricky bit was the top. I used the scoop-necked sleeveless one from Tops-Female-Spandex, set Tops to Multiples, then added the strip down the middle, colored like her skin, to turn the spandex top into a split one.

    I then added from Tops-Female-Bustiers on top of those, colored to match.

    The hardest part was the collars. I chose the close-together dress shirt collars from Neckwear-Standard, and put two of them on the canvas, rotated more or less 90 degrees, with one facing left and one facing right, placed appropriately.

    I then added two plain squares from Insignia-Standard, and placed them so the covered up top half of each collar, the part that you see in the end product. The bottom part of each collar was left outside the bounds of the square. I chose the first collar, clicked Mask, then clicked the square that was on top of it. Voila, I had only the top part of the collar showing. I then set all three colors for the square to 0% alpha, so it disappears and all you’re left with is the collar that was masked to it.

    The rest was all basic item placement, using rotate and positioning tools when necessary to get the piece where it belonged (like the glove tops).

    So yes, this is way more complicated than it needs to be. On the other hand, it shows how it’s possible to push the program to add in your own items that I never thought to draw, whereas in 2.x you were stuck with only what you had.

    Over the next month I hope to get the rest of the male-only items (at least the clothing) converted over, so that should help.

  53. Jeff Hebert says:

    Zyp (48): Hey, that looks great! I draw exactly the same way, with a Wacom tablet in Flash. Glad that tutorial helped! I have a couple of YouTube videos up where I was tracing a guy with a sword (in the interest of time), and one or two where I was doing Sketches of the Day. All those are done with the tablet, in Flash, too.

    I actually think the drawing you’ve done here is great, I wouldn’t change anything. Keep up the good work, I’m impressed!

  54. Jeff Hebert says:

    Somebody (49): Looks good! That’s one of the nicer cityscapes I’ve seen.

    The only suggestions I’d have would be to maybe do more of the fully-rendered Humanoid Companions, only colored all black, to serve as the silhouettes. That way you’d get different profiles instead of the three exact same ones you have there now, to enhance the illusion that they’re different passers-by.

    The other thing would be to see if there’s a way to not have the headlight lights overlap in that area, where they become solid, right in the middle. I hesitate to suggest this, BUT, I think maybe one of the two standalone breast sets from Body-FemaleStandard, with color 1 and color 2 both set to that transparent yellow and the line color set to 0% transparency, might work better, as there won’t be the overlap discoloration.

    Just a minor tweak, though, even if you leave it as is I think it’s pretty great.

  55. Myro says:

    Vampyrist (52): I don’t think you need to do anything with it. It turned out pretty well. I really liked the way the purplish glow bled through around the edges of the silhouetted figure.

  56. zaheelee says:

    Hey Jeff, I submitted this a while ago during the bounty hunter character contest, and all you said about it was that it was a very well put together character. Don’t get me wrong, I like the complement, but I am just wondering what I could have done to make it into the finals. I would really appreciate the help. Thanks!

  57. Jeff Hebert says:

    Kytana (50): I like the basic scene, and the characters themselves, very much.

    I think you are right that the rain is not as peaceful as it could be. You might try doing something like we saw in the Weather Contest from either Jack and his Rain Coat guy, or Jenna’s “Pua Ua”.

    Right now it looks like they’re standing behind a waterfall, rather than with rain falling around them. I think using the slanted-line item from Backplane-Auras is the key.

    Good job though, the characters are very nice!

  58. Jeff Hebert says:

    Myro (51): Good job overall! I like the expression on her face, it looks like she just got done eating a little diseased sugar herself.

    I think the things that could be done to make this one even better are all fairly small and subtle. For instance, I think if you were to use the side-on, loose-gripped hand instead of the fist, that would help reinforce that general feeling of “Uuuugh, I just ate something I shouldn’t have” I get from it.

    Similarly, I think if you were to use some sort of line color other than black on the wings, that would help the figure itself attain more prominence. I’d probably also move the wings up some, because right now the tops of the wings butt edges with the bottom of the hair, causing a bit of a visual traffic jam. Letting the hair overlap the top of the wings right there would help establish the various planes the items are on a lot better, I think.

    That’s all little stuff though, the character’s great as-is!

  59. Jeff Hebert says:

    Vampyrist (52): WOW! That’s what I said when the image came up, “Wow!” Right out loud — scared the dog and everything.

    I agree with Myro, I think it’s perfect as-is. Love the glowing effects, the silhouette, the position of the background and foreground elements, the glowy purple things, all of it. Just a very creative, very effective, very VERY cool looking image. Well done!!

  60. Jeff Hebert says:

    Nick (54): Yeah, I like that much better. Good job!

  61. Jeff Hebert says:

    zaheelee (59): Well, I didn’t say much more at the time because I think she’s pretty darn solid as-is. I think the biggest overall problem with the illustration itself (as opposed to the character design, which I think is great) is just the lack of contrast. Everything’s in a fairly narrow range of values; there aren’t even any real whites.

    I think you could probably leave the character exactly as she is, but change a couple of surrounding elements to give the illustration as a whole more “pop”, and it would be much more visually arresting. For instance, I’d get rid of the line color on the ground runes. The black on them pulls the eye down from the hair and you end up focusing on it more than it warrants. I like having it there, but it’s a distraction rather than feeling like part of the whole setting.

    Second, and most importantly, I’d get rid of the light gray background. I think that’s the major thing sort of depressing the impact of the illustration. Just that — one deletion — would, I think, make an enormous difference. You could then experiment with some different treatments for the background, maybe trying for a more dramatic black and white arrangement, but I don’t have anything concrete to offer there. I think the character herself is good enough and has enough going on that you don’t need anything more than just those ground runes (without the black lines) to suggest a broader setting.

    Hope that helps!

  62. zaheelee says:

    thanks a lot! i really appreciate it!

  63. Myro says:

    Jeff (61): Thanks for the advice. I was actually going for a bit of seething bitterness, but the “Ughh, that tasted rotten!” impression you’re getting from her is something I should try running with a bit more. Huzzah, serendipitous discovery in the creative process FTW!
    Think you might be right about the wings as well. I’ll try going with a darker green color instead for the line color.

  64. Jake says:

    Jeff (60): It’s great to see one of my characters used as an example, but the name is Jake. 😉

    Anyway, here’s my character. He’s the owner and barkeep of the Melting Pot tavern.

    Originally, I wanted the shelves to be full of bottles and to make bar stools too, but I think I was having issues with HM crashing on me. Anyway, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

  65. Jeff Hebert says:

    All righty, headed out for the evening, so we’ll draw this edition of OCD to a close. Thanks everyone for your participation, and have a great weekend!

  66. zaheelee says:

    I implimented the changes you recommended, and it looks great! I think it is absolutely amazing how a few simple colors can make or break a picture:)

  67. Jake says:

    What about mine, Jeff?

  68. Violet says:

    @Jeff: Oh, that was really sweet of you to take the time to give me such a detailed example! I like what you did with the legs too. It make for a much better pose with her outgoing personality. I’ll play with your suggestions/directions and, of course, eagerly await the rest of the items. You’re just terrific!

  69. Troy Prine says:

    Aight, so, I’ve got a little question here.
    I entered Houston into a contest a while back, and I saw it (now as well as at that time) a pretty darn good creation, in my eyes at least. Now, not that I have anything against the guy who he lost to in the contest, but I don’t really see how I lost. Was there anything about my character that you think I could have done for it to have been a little more easily favored by the general public? I thought that my rival’s entry was very well done and very creative, but I just couldn’t get past how I lost that particular incursion.

  70. Mysterious Zed says:

    I created this assassin character in HM2 and no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to recreate him in HM3.I’m not sure if its because the same knee leg guard things arent there or what but i was wondering if someone could help me.

  71. Hairwhip says:

    This is my character, back story on the forums. He has the ability to lengthen and control his hair.


  72. D says:

    It’s because the gloves and S.W.A.T. armour are slightly different and because the thigh and knee pads you used aren’t there. There’s no way you’re going to be able to recreate him exactly, so you’ll have to settle for some minor changes.

    One suggestion I’d make would be to add a second colour to the bodysuit and mask to give them more definition; the suit’s too “flat” and the mask blends with the neck.

  73. zaheelee says:

    @Troy Prine: personally, i think the image was just too busy. if you got rid of/ toned down some of the multicolored elements, it might seem more pleasing to the eye.

  74. Jeff Hebert says:

    Jake (67): Sorry bud, didn’t see your comment before I posted and took off. Since you were in under the gun according to the time stamp, here we go.

    I like the barkeep a lot, he has personality. The rag in the hand, the dirt on the shelves, the color palette you’ve selected, all work towards a common end of depicting a common man in an uncommonly good way. I definitely see what you mean about the “set” not being dressed fully, I can tell that it is waiting for more props to be done. But what IS there is very good, it just needs to be finished.

  75. Mysterious Zed says:

    @D thanks for the advice man and maybe ill wait until the swat armour and knee pads are in HM3 *wink wink……Jeff

  76. Jeff Hebert says:

    Troy Prine (72): Zaheelee is right, there’s just way too much going on in this. Visually it becomes very difficult to separate out one element from another; the eye just gets trapped. Just looking at the waist area, for instance, there’s a disc belt on top of vials, which sort of puzzles the mind because who would put glass under (and atop!) metal like that? But beyond the logic of it, you’ve got a two colored circular belt on top of a three-colored set of vials on top of a two-colored metal belt on top of the waist armor on top of the underarmor … there’s just way too much going on in that one little space, to say nothing of the rest of it.

    You’ve got a nice red and chrome color scheme going on, then all of a sudden there’s the brown in the undergarment. But that’s cool, it provides a layer of depth there, that makes sense … until you get to the boots and the brown is on the OUTside, causing visual confusion. And it’s the same brown on the outer, upper arm portion, blending right into the exact same brown on the wings, which are supposed to be a layer behind the torso. Ditto on the reds — try making the tones on layers at the back of the figure a step or two darker than the same color on the foremost layer. That helps create some dimensionality to the figure, so the eye can easily understand the spatial relationships between what’s supposed to be where.

    I think the background also detracts. You’ve got this super busy, super complicated figure, and then you’ve got more stuff going on all around him, topped (or not) by no ceiling. Why is this room outside?

    So you get stuck on the visual elements of the figure, compounded by some of the logical confusion of why things are positioned the way they are (vials under metal, no roof, an interior building outside), and as a result the viewer doesn’t know where to put his or her attention, where the eye is supposed to go, and how to start to interpret the image.

    In short, I think this is a case where you definitely need to simplify, simplify, simplify.

  77. Jeff Hebert says:

    Mysterious Zed (73): Ok ok, last one for the night, I swear!

    D (74) is right, the main problem is that there isn’t a direct analog for most of the leg items. You’ll have to improvise.

    I started to make a stab at this, as you can see here, but the kneepads I was adding to stretch into shin guards glitched on me and I couldn’t get rid of them. This program’s a piece of crap, who coded this steaming pile of lizard dung?! Oh, wait, that was me. Crap.

    So I didn’t get super far, but I think you can see where I was going with it. In general there’s a lot more DETAIL in HM3 items than there was in HM2, as you can see from the vest. There’s a simpler SWAT vest, but it has the dangly-down crotch protector bit that didn’t look very sleek. So I swapped it for a more technical looking one.

    Similarly, the Space Ghost wrist guards aren’t in the app, but I improvised with some Insignias that I think look pretty decent. I hadn’t yet thought about how to do the thigh pieces, but there are definitely some padded bits in the various Legwear sets that I think would work.

    Long and short, I definitely have some items to add that are missing from the 2 to 3 changeover. But that’s after the code rewrite — when I get done with the prizes and the male-female conversions and the rewrite.

  78. Jeff Hebert says:

    NOW we’re done! Or at least, I am. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves, there are a ton of people here that are a lot better than I am at making characters and coming up with imaginative ways around various missing bits.

    Have a fun weekend!

  79. Troy Prine says:

    Hm. And here I thought that was one of the simpler heroes I created. Thanks for the advice, man. Thinking back, I probably SHOULD have put stars in the background, and just to clarify, he’s got grenades under his belt, not vials. The whole idea behind Houston (which is very similar to many of my creations) is that he’s got a full set of under-armor which allows for a degree of flexibility, while the over-armor adds more protection. There’s a reason I made his legs generally unprotected, because he’d usually be flying around and they’re agile enough to evade – nevertheless, I’m ever so grateful for your insight. The dual jetpacks was probably excessive too… but I’m glad you liked parts of it overall. If I was to redo it (hold your breath!), I would definitely add in some gradients and try simplifying it. That should be pretty easy, seeing as I have some new toys to mess around with this time around.

  80. Tuldabar says:

    So here’s my new version, I followed your suggestions, and he does look a lot better. Now I just need a convinving bartender… Thanks again (even if you don’t look at this ;P).

  81. D says:

    @Mysterious Zed: No prob. Cool character, btw.

  82. Hairwhip says:

    what about mine?

  83. spidercow2010 says:

    @hairwhip 85: Your “link” goes nowhere.

  84. Hairwhip says:

    copy and paste, I dont know how to add a link.

  85. zaheelee says:

    @Tuldabar 83: i am definitally a fan of the new design! i like how the bar looks like it has some depth to it and the guy’s pose is WAY more interesting. overall, well done:)

  86. spidercow2010 says:

    @Hairwhip (87): I did copy & paste. My mistake was I copied too much of the surplus text and it of course informed me the link was no good. I know better now but, sadly, I’m currently at work where the firewall prevents me from going there.
    My reason for pointing out the link-following problem was to point toward maybe why Jeff didn’t give you input. He’s got a wacky net connection and limited time to deal with iffy links, if I may use the term. That’s my conjecture; he may have other reasons. I wanted to at least give you my humble opinion of your work, for what it’s worth.
    I would offer advice on how to post a hyperlink, but not being able to get to your site (see above), I’m not at all sure what the procedure is in your case and might just make things worse.
    I’m telling you all this in case you took my comment (86) as just an attempt to make you feel foolish; upon re-reading it I can see that its tone could easily be construed as a bit condescending. Sorry.
    Can anybody out there access (#74) and fill Hairwhip in on how to post a link from there? If possible?

  87. Asder says:

    This is my firs time in the open critique and i thought that could be a good idea to post here this 2 images created with HM3, cause i think i did a good job (excuse my modesty). By the way i don´t know if this is closed already, ´cause like i said before this is my first time, and i really don´t know a lot about this section

    With this one i tried to do something artistic.

    With this one i was just messing around.

  88. Jeff Hebert says:

    Asder (90): This particular Open Critique Day is over, but there’ll be another one on Friday. Be sure to repost one of the links then (there’s a limit of one per person, at least for me to comment on — the other folks here are welcome to talk about whatever and however many they want).

    The links are right, though!