Open Critique Day #10

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.

(Quote from Elbert Hubbard.)

85 Responses to Open Critique Day #10

  1. Aaron says:

    the second links dont work so when you get to the first one just click on it

  2. Aaron says:

    or copy the whole link

  3. Jeff Hebert says:

    Aaron, the first link doesn’t work either. Make sure you have the settings for the album turned to “public, anyone can view”. Then at the bottom of the page where the image appears there’ll be a link for “Share this photo with anyone by sending them this public link” — that’s the one you want.

    And I only do one critique per person, not three, so please choose just one.

  4. ams says:

    Good Morning!

    Here is SLAVEDRIVER, a down on his luck inventor who was tried of being pushed around. He decides he has had enough and builds himself a energy suit and begins to take revenge on all who belittled him, etc, etc, etc….

    I think I got the main image down, but it is the backgrounds I can’t seem to get my head around. I’m always trying use the backgrouds to make the subject pop out.

    Any tips?

  5. Jeff Hebert says:

    Aaron, I still get “content not available”. Please check your links before you post them — that’s six comments now and not a valid link among them. If you don’t set the album and or photo to public, only your Friends can see it.

  6. Jeff Hebert says:

    ams (6): Neat! I like the idea of an “energy suit” and this looks cool.

    In terms of the background, I actually think it looks pretty good. I like the energy burst, that fits the character and is a nice frame. I’d be tempted to either a) lose the blue rectangle completely, or b) change it so it’s taller and narrower, hitting the energy figure inside the wrists at left and right, and coming down to the middle of the arch of the feet or so at the bottom, and where it is now at the top. I’d also try taking off the border color of the blue box.

    Right now, with the box so short, you get a feeling like his legs are dangling instead of him standing there.

    But like I said, the figures are great and the background is already pretty good, so you’re close!

  7. Aaron says:

    ahhh forget it

  8. ams says:

    Thanks, Jeff! I see what your suggesting. Back to the drawing board….

  9. Aaron says:

    i would also like to say that ams did a good job on his slavedigger

  10. Captain Kicktar says:
    Assists Denla in training the peasants.

  11. Jeff Hebert says:

    Aaron (11): That worked! Although the better link is the one in the big “share this photo” box to the right, in the “Direct link” box, which gives this:

    That goes directly to the image without having to load the photobucket interface.

    Anyway, on to the actual character.

    The basic design is fine, but it’s just too basic, basically. The gray is kind of drab against the darkish blue, and with only the two colors it all washes itself out a bit. I’m not sure why there’s a toupee floating around, but I’m going to assume that’s a leftover from the secret id image, maybe.

    The lightning bolts are, I think, a major part of why this doesn’t jump off the page. Using the same blue as on the character flattens the whole thing and makes it look like they’re part of his uniform rather than an energy effect. The one on his left hand at least has the white center, which helps, but the black color2 again just adds more darkness and flatness to the composition.

    I think you’d get much better results using warm, energetic colors for those, like an electric blue-white, or intense yellow, something that will separate them out from the figure. I’d probably also make all three colors at least somewhat transparent, reinforcing the idea that they’re not solid constructs. Definitely need to change the line color from black to some complementary color of whatever you go with, though.

    Also, it seems like there needs to be something tying the bolts more into his hands or armor. Right now they’re sort of standing in front of him. I don’t know if that means a second glow surrounding the hands, or placing the bolts IN the hands, or what, but somehow tying them in more would help.

  12. Jeff Hebert says:

    Captain Kicktar (13): Like Aaron’s, this one feels fundamentally ok, but kind of plain. In this case, I think the use of the black background with all the earth tones in the clothing are the main culprit flattening it all out. I also feel like he’s just crying out for a belt. Something in the waist area anyway — you’ve got the item with the nice shading for the cape, but then the robe is just a straight one-color brown, and it goes on for so long you can’t help but fixate on the big wide open area.

    I’m also not sure about making the hilt green. It makes you wonder what it could be made out of, and as the only spot of color on the whole piece again you fixate on it.

  13. Runt82 says:

    I normally don’t do this, but I want to make this pic better. I already know that the scaling is off, but what exactly is off, I can’t tell. Any ideas?

  14. Jeff Hebert says:

    Runt82 (16): Actually I think it looks pretty darn good! I like the design of the character a lot, he’s one of the better “lumbering giant” kind of guys I’ve seen. The red on the arms is cool, I like the face/head, and the simple clothing choices are nifty.

    For me, the main problem with it the color — it’s so dark! You’ve got a dark gray on top of a darker gray, all standing on gray. I need some more contrast, as I am losing the character in the background. I think you’d be better off with NO background rather than this on, but an Imp-style circle would be better if you feel like something needs to be there. Or different colors in the gradient. Something to help separate the figure from the ground.

    In terms of the scaling, the two spots I think might be troubling you are the shoulders and the straps. He looks a little stoop-shouldered, so maybe if you were to rotate the arms (hands to the center, shoulders towards the outside) more, they might look more substantial.

    The problem with the straps is that they taper too much at the waist, since they were designed for a narrower body type. I wonder if you couldn’t maybe add a second instance of the same strap, only flipped and rotated so the broad side is at the bottom, too, with the narrow end at the top overlapping the broad end below it. So you’d have a total of four straps, two on each side, each pair flipped head-to-toe and overlapping. I don’t know if that’s possible or if it would work; you might get into a weird spot where the broad end at the bottom overlaps the figure, but I think that too-narrow tapering is the main “scaling” problem.

    But you nailed the most important part, which is designing a very cool looking dude. I’m really just talking tweaks here.

  15. Vampyrist says:

    Here is Doppelganger, a shapeshifting assassin who takes the appearance of fellow heroes.

    I thought he turned out well, but I’d love to hear your opinions on him/her.

  16. Runt82 says:

    Thanks, Jeff. I’ll see what the tweaks will do.

  17. Jeff Hebert says:

    Vampyrist (18): Cool! I love that curling shapeshiftery effect on the sleeve and pant leg, that’s awesome. It really looks like the clothing is shifting, great job on that. Very creative and convincing!

    I don’t think it works quite as well on the head, for some reason. I think it’s because on the body, it’s the black clothing transforming into red, while on the head it’s the red that’s transforming? In other words, maybe if it was the flesh that was given the tendril treatment it might be more convincing in that area. Oh, and also maybe if there weren’t that long straight (well, slanted) area, that makes it look more like a mask than the leading edge of a transformation.

    The only other tweak might be to the background circle element — I’d definitely make that bigger. Having it so narrow and close to the shoulders makes him feel a bit pinched — he needs room to move, baby!

    But I really like it, you had a great idea and carried it off really well. I don’t think I’ve seen that effect before.

  18. Mashlagoo says:

    I saw the framing of some previous works and was inspired to attempt a portal. The method for making the portal is different from what I have read of people doing for the frame.

    Let me know what you all thing and if you would be interested in steps to make one yourself.

  19. Asder says:

    I was messing around with HM3 and by accident I got this, but what a interesting accident 😉

  20. Jeff Hebert says:

    Mashlagoo (21): That’s cool! How the heck did you do that?! Definitely would like to know the steps.

  21. Jeff Hebert says:

    Asder (22): Groovy, baby!

  22. Mashlagoo says:

    Jeff(23) I am glad you are interested. I just don’t know where to send the steps.

  23. ams says:

    Mashlagoo(21); That is freakin’ AWESOME! Don’t hold back on the recipe for that effect. Great Job!

  24. Captain Kicktar says:

    The black background is because of uploading from my iTouch, computer’s still broken. The cloak is a problem, but seeing as how that’s how the item is, I don’t know how to fix it. Agree with belt, and the hilt just started as an idea that when a peasant completed his training, he built his own hilt, and as it’s set in a fantastical world, I allow colored metals like the hilt of Anakin and the armor of Denla and Vorna. Having said all that, I do agree that it would be nice to have a bit more of that color, or change it to an earth tone.

  25. Jeff Hebert says:

    Mashlagoo (25): You can send it to, thanks!

  26. Me, Myself & I says:

    Asder (22): Wow, way to work outside the box on this one! I think this image is great. The lighting effect is rather unique although I’m not crazy about the green & blue stripes on the floor.

  27. Aaron says:

    thanks jeff and the hair is what my character would look like without his mask

  28. Me, Myself & I says:

    Mashlagoo (21): I think I can piece together how you did this piece. From what I can tell, it would have taken a long time. Did HM3 crash on you during the process?

    It is really neet.

  29. Me, Myself & I says:

    Vampyrist (18): I agree with Jeff on his assesment (20) entirely. The facial change and the background are what throw me off. I thought it was a really good idea so a couple small changes and this could be a really great image. One other detail, and this is just because I’m a picky git, the characte’s right sleeve seems to overlap his hand strangly. The bottom corner of the sleeve should not be over the hand like that.

  30. Me, Myself & I says:

    Aaron (11): way to persevere. Now you know the secret to posting links nothing can stop you. 🙂 Glad you didn’t give up.

    I think some more contrast between the lightning and the character could help a little. I am curious about the blond wig floating in the air. Does that have some significance or was it some kind of buggy activity in HM3?

  31. Mashlagoo says:

    MMI (31): Yes HM3 did crash a couple times. Luckily I was saving constantly. I actually wanted to do more, but HM3 crashed just as I was saving my progress. I was able to get this most recent image though.

  32. Me, Myself & I says:

    THis is a drawing I mage simply with pencil and paper back in junior high for one of my DnD characters. I liked it at the time but I think it certainly needs some background.

  33. ams says:

    Pencil and paper? What’s that?

    Seriously, great image1

  34. Aaron says:

    check this out and i appreciate your feedback

    I experimented with the lightning bolts a little bit.

  35. Jeff Hebert says:

    MMI (35): I disagree, I think the simple slash background works great! Really nice work, I hope you kept up the drawing practice AFTER junior high … ?

  36. Jeff Hebert says:

    Aaron (37): I do think the lightning looks a lot better. I think with the reds and yellows of that, you can go back to grays for the character body, I’d just mix in different tones of gray rather than the one used throughout, to add the depth to the costume I was talking about. Or if you stick with orange, again use different shades of orange to add visual interest.

  37. Me, Myself & I says:

    Jeff (38) Unfortunately I didn’t really keep up with the drawing as much as I would have liked. I’m only now getting back into the groove with HM3.

  38. Aaron says:

    thank you Jeff and also thanks to MMI

  39. Firecracker says:

    Jeff et al;

    I was working with the new squating legs — doe the pose look OK and the skirt and top. I know there’s something wrong with the top.

  40. Jake says:

    This is a character that I had originally done in HM2.5. I think he looks even more creepy in HM3 (though I do miss the HM2.5 straight jacket *hint *hint).

  41. Me, Myself & I says:

    Jake (45): while you are right, “ERROR
    The requested URL could not be retrieved” is pretty creepy, I don’t think it was quite what you had in mind to show us. 😀

    You might want to check your link.

  42. Jake says:

    MMI, it works just fine for me. Is anyone else having a problem with my link?

  43. Me, Myself & I says:

    Actually it works fine for me now as well. I tried it twice before though and it wasn’t working then. In retrospect, I suspect it was likely something wrong with the connection or something rather tna the link.

    You are right about the “creepy”. I think the worste / best part is the tied under the bust shirt. Its a little gender confusing and adds to my difficulty to relate to the character; which in turn makes it creepier.

    I like the fact that you kept the image simple.

  44. Jake says:

    Thanks MMI. I should probably give some background into the character. Chunko is a mass murdering psychopath who uses mental knives to kill his victims. He’s a recurring antagonist in my DnD campaign. He’s a chaotic evil halfling soulknife, for anyone familiar with the game.

  45. Tuldabar says:

    This: is a character I hope to someday write a book about. I tried to go for the sense that his armor is all self-made and pieced together. The static orb in his left paw is supposed to indicate lightning powers, but it may be too much of a gimmick. It draws the attention.
    Another effect I tried to simulate was that he is sneaking into a balcony window.
    So there’s all I have. Any thoughts on the Wandering Werewolf?

  46. Jeff Hebert says:

    Rozenstal (42): Nice! Very cool thing you’ve done here, I like it!

    My only two suggestions would be to play around with transparency on the ghosts (assuming they’re ghosts and not statues) to make them look more ghostly by allowing the background to show through.

    If they’re statues, obviously ignore that! Instead, I’d apply the “dirt” pattern to them to make them look more stone-like.

    Second, I’d give Hamlet some eyebrows. But maybe that’s just me.

    Otherwise, very cool image, thanks for sharing it!

  47. Jeff Hebert says:

    Malfar (43): I like it! This is a case where a black background helps add some dimensionality and pop to the design, because you’ve got well-defined boundaries between the figure, and strong colors to add energy. I like those Havoc-like circular bands, too, those are nifty.

    My only recommended tweak would be in the clock insignia. I lose that hour hand pointing up in the line of the chest; somehow (either just by rotating it a bit or adding an outline color or something) you need to differentiate that out a bit more.

    Otherwise, great job!

  48. Jeff Hebert says:

    Firecracker (44): I think that works pretty well … the vertical leg looks a little short for some reason, though.

    For me the major issue (not that it’s THAT major) is that the line of the torso on the character’s right runs into the line of the dress/knee on that vertical line. It ends up causing some “ground” confusion, as to whether the leg is in front of the hips or not. Kind of a visual traffic jam at that spot, which I suspect is causing some of your unease with the pose.

    If you can get the knee to move even five or ten pixels to the left so it is away from the line of the torso, I think that would help a lot.

  49. Jeff Hebert says:

    Tuldabar (50): Maybe I’m getting old (maybe?!), but I am having a really hard time separating the furry part of the figure, including the whole head, out from the background. That makes it hard to make out just what’s going on.

    I definitely don’t get a “sneaking” vibe from it, though. It looks more like he’s leapt boldly over the balcony and is now charging pell-mell through looking for mayhem.

    I think just changing the sky background from black to a dark bluish would help make the whole thing scan better.

  50. Jeff Hebert says:

    DaRumblyTank (55): Nice! I think you nailed the Old West cowboy look really well.

    Were you going for a sepia print type of look? I can sort of see that, but there’s so little contrast that it all looks more like a gray film was put over it. In other words, I think you can still keep everything in the sepia family, but adding more contrast will help it look less washed out. It might just be a matter of maybe making the outline color a darker version of what you already have, or maybe going with a different (either much lighter or much darker) color for the sky.

    The more I look at it, I think maybe having the sky the same color as the mountains that abut it is the major problem with a lack of contrast. Plus, that’s really easy to try, so see if that helps.

    But, a really nice figure and composition!

  51. Jake says:

    Jeff, I think you skipped mine.

  52. Jeff Hebert says:

    Jake: Dangit, I had one all written up! I wonder what happened to it … I must’ve refreshed the page thinking I’d hit Post only I hadn’t. Sorry about that!

    Basically I said it was indeed very creepy and a cool image. I like the idea of the glow around the floating dagger, but I thought maybe if you used the two-tone gradient fading into transparency, it would read more as “glow” rather than “spotlight”, which is how it looks now. But if that’s the effect you were going for, no worries.

    Then I said I was going to find a nice, brightly lit room and shudder. VERY creepy!

  53. MScat says:

    This is a character I designed for my comic. I wanted to design his look on HM then draw him out on paper. Let me know what you think!

  54. Jeff Hebert says:

    MScat (59): I love it! Those slumpy sweatpants are perfect, along with the saggy head and long sleeves of the straitjacket. The padded room, floor, bear, and syringe are also spot-on, definitely setting the right mood.

    I think this is a great example of how you can make an effective, powerful character and image without going nuts with colors and items. All the item choices are perfect, the colors work well together, and the setting is exactly enough to be evocative without being so much as to be distracting.

    Great job, MScat!

  55. MScat says:

    Wow thanks Jeff!

  56. Myro says:

    I had originally wanted to do a four horsemen of the apocalypse thing for CC53, and I ended up running out of time, so I put it off, and started working on it in my leisure time. It might have been a little ambitious though, as the number of elements I’ve tried working with caused HM to crash a number of times. Finally, I gave up hope of trying to save this for a later contest, and just finished the picture for myself by doing each of the characters and the background separately, and then putting them together in photoshop. Here goes with my harbingers (because they don’t have horses) of the apocalypse.

  57. Jeff Hebert says:

    Myro (62): Nice! I like the War one the best out of the four, he has a real presence about him. The setting works as well.

    The only thing I can think to suggest is to crop it closer to the figures — there feels like a lot of excess “border area” around the edges for me that doesn’t really help the layout much, and which makes the figures feel a bit overwhelmed by the space surrounding them.

    But nice job! Nothing wrong with a little photoshopping for assembly, particularly given how crashy it is with lots of items.

  58. Myro says:

    Jeff (63): Thanks. War was pretty much designed last of the four, so there was a little more refinement to the design than the previous three. Also, I deliberately chose to make him larger than his cohorts, it seemed to fit.

    I still have each of the elements saved, I could actually make them larger in the picture and accomplish the same effect (to cut down on the excessive border area around them). That was pretty good advice.

    Thanks again.

  59. Violet says:

    Okay, I took a lot of what you did in your mock-up of my heroine character from last time and used it. I ended up liking the pose and cap-sleeves look better, so thank you for that. Seriously, she was driving me crazy until you helped me.

    There are no patterns and the streets aren’t done, though. The program got that far, decided it hated me, and I barely kept my sanity after it closed itself and I had to recolor and position the last fifteen items.



    I wish I could have made a flexing sort of arm work for her, since she has super-strength, but the guy ones were too muscled and I just have no patience to reposition all the little insignias needed each time the program goes berserk.

    Off-topic, I was wondering if it would be possible to have the fifties poodle skirt without the poodle on it. It is the only full 50’s/early 60’s skirt that falls precisely (believe me, I have tried resizing every single one), but that darn poodle can’t be covered without losing the fullness lines. I know you don’t do requests outside of specific threads, but I thought I’d mention it. I’ll gladly just bring it up again at a more appropriate junction.

  60. Aaron says:

    Sorry for the late entry
    My brother came up with this

  61. Jeff Hebert says:

    Violet (65): Welcome back! Glad to see you’re sticking with her, despite the buggyness of the app.

    She’s looking good! The main holdup for me is the face — it looks too big in the head. I’d scale it down 20-30% and I think it would fit in better.

    I’m not super crazy about those shoes in general, I didn’t draw them pointing the right way and the interface between the ankle and foot isn’t really right. But that’s not your fault. I definitely need to spend some time on the whole foot-boot process at some point, I’m not at all happy with the way they turned out overall.

    Anyway, nice work, keep it up!

    On the poodle skirt, definitely something to keep in mind should you win a contest or if we have another “vote on replacement prizes” effort, which I suspect we will. I am trying really hard not to add new items at this point unless they’re prizes or I’ll never get to the code rewrite.

  62. Jeff Hebert says:

    Aaron, I’ve already done yours but the rest of the commenters are of course welcome to offer a critique.

  63. Here’s Cree, the queen of mutation[A real copyrighted character of mine, OMG].
    Anyways, I can’t think of a better disign for her suit. I know what her weapon will be, but, the suit has me stumped.
    You being awesome, can tell me what to do.

  64. Jeff Hebert says:

    Nicholas (69): Wow, coming in here with images from not one, but TWO non-HM character creators, that’s some nerve!

    I like it better when the face markings match colors with the costume bits. I don’t like the leg pouches. I like the shoulder epaulette thingies, but I like the pink better than the purple. I like the choker. In general I like the one on the far left the best of the three.

  65. ams says:

    Nicholas(69) Now flesh out and finalize yer character with the truly awesome HEROMACHINE 3! (No suck up intended, Jeff…maybe a little.)

  66. Mindless says: i was going for a ninja appearing in smoke with the new crouched legs i think it turned out pretty good

  67. Jeff Hebert says:

    Mindless (72): Interesting! I like the idea and the general pose.

    A few suggestions, though.

    The bandage pattern throughout the figure isn’t working for me, mostly because of the way it stays horizontal throughout the thigh that’s going side to side. It ruins the illusion and instead makes him look like a cardboard cutout. I know it’s a pain to put clothing on those legs so maybe instead you could just use the two colors that come with it like he’s wearing spandex or something. If not, I’d just remove the pattern completely.

    The second thing is that I think the smoke needs to be darker. I would keep the line color on that the same, but change the fill to, say, 30% black or so. Or, even better, make it 100% white but add a gradient to it from medium gray to dark gray, and Mask it to the smoke. Then it would look more billowy. Right now it’s so pale that it reads more like steam than smoke, and he just pops right through it with the black outline of the figure.

    Hope that helps!

  68. Aaron says:

    no problem ill enter next weak

  69. Jeff Hebert says:

    ajw (73): You’ve already had my critique for the day, so I’ll have to leave discussion of this one to everyone else, sorry!

  70. Jeff Hebert says:

    OK folks, that’ll do it for this edition of Open Critique Day! Thanks to everyone for coming by and sharing both insight and your creations.

  71. ajw says:

    But that was ams who was critiqued! damn…

  72. Hairwhip says:

    I always miss OC day because you always end it it when I get home from my classes. Can you make an exception?

  73. Troy Prine says:

    [The MegaGoober]
    Alright, so I just wanted a little feedback on the latest rendition of my favorite hero to make, Infeas Firek.

  74. Troy Prine says:

    sorry, Jeff. Didn’t realize it was already over. I’ll wait till next time.

  75. 70. Thanks Jeff! I’ll take that advice! And the one on my website is from 2008 71.! xD
    I think I will make Cree on HM3…

  76. Rapthama says:

    Nothing fancy, nothing stylish, just a plain mind controlled woman made by my “currently-limited” creativity

  77. ams says:

    I think you missed the deadline by a couple of days, dude.

  78. Rapthama says:

    No matter I always seem to discover it too late, but that’s what I like 😛