Open Critique Day #27

Folks, it's time 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.

77 Responses to Open Critique Day #27

  1. Kaylin88100 says:

    I have three vaguely Halloween-themed ones I’d like some critique on.

    Vampire (this one please Jeff)



    The idea is that there’s a school where half the students have some kind of supernatural/paranormal ability, trait etc. Oh, and nearly all the teachers, but I haven’t made any of them yet.

  2. Jeff Hebert says:

    Kaylin88100, while the other folks are welcome to comment on as many as they like, I only do one — please let me know which one (if any!) you’d like my comments on. Thanks!

  3. Kaylin88100 says:

    @Jeff, I’ve already indicated the Vampire, if you look. That’s the one I’d like you to critique. Thank you.

  4. Nick Hentschel says:

    @kaylin88100: Sounds a bit like “Monster High”! (Watch those little ‘toons if you can; they’re quite funny.)

    Anyway, on to MY stuff: I’ve kept on with a goofy cast of characters I was creating, for my stories about the big, red-haired ranger. This next girl I’ve tentatively named “Karla,” and as you can see, she’s a half-elf… and she’s black. (Her appearance is strongly modeled on a girl I used to know in college.) I first designed her as a kind of barwench character, and companion to “Piglet,” whom you may remember from a few months ago). However, as I went along, she evolved into more of a dancer, with the outfit to match. (There’s a sword over her head, because I imagined her belly-dancing with it.)

    What I need are some ideas for how to give her a better “dancing” pose, and/or for a good background to put her in.

  5. Asder says:

    Iยดll go with this one. Amaterasu the Shinto goddess of the sun.

  6. Kaylin88100 says:

    Asder (4): Nice! I like your colouring technique, the way you use a lighter colour for the line. I’ve only recently discovered that technique and I’m not very good at using it, but you do it very well. I also like the pose, which works well, and the concept.

  7. Jeff Hebert says:

    Duh, my apologies Kaylin — I didn’t look closely enough.

    I like the sort of Buffy vibe, with the youthful clothing and purple hair and matching skirt. She looks cool!

    The only bits that don’t work quite as well for me are the underside of the breast — there’s a color gap there where the skin shows through that’s a bit odd. And I think I’d like to see the cocked arm with a fist at the end like she’s resting it on her hip more than the open-hand version you have there.

    Good job on it, she looks great!

  8. Jeff Hebert says:

    Nick, I like the image! The clothes are great, with the green/red/gold color scheme complementing each other nicely. The stars on the underclothing work well with the tiger pattern of the overclothing as well.

    As far as a dancing pose, I’ll have to leave that up to the more advanced poseologists. And I don’t think she necessarily needs a background — I like being able to focus on her personally without getting distracted by other stuff going on. But, if you want to use one, I was thinking the interior tavern, masked onto a circle kind of like Imp does with some of this. I think that would help it still look like a character illustration, keeping the focus on her but also giving some context. But I am sure others will have better ideas as well.

    Good design, good execution, and an interesting concept ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Jeff Hebert says:

    Asder: Wow, this is great! One of my favorites of yours so far, for sure. The details are all superbly done, from the flower pattern on the scabbard to the positioning of the sword over one eye (very cool!) to the coloring on her kimono (or whatever the proper term is). I like the bandaging being on only one leg along with the leather straps, it creates an interesting asymmetry.

    The only bits I can think to point to are very minor. First, the gold bottom of the scabbard has a rounded edge at its top that seems incongruous — the leather/black part would slot into that, but instead it looks like it goes behind the metal parts because of the open oval. And second, the metal bands on her shins seem to jump out of the image a bit too much — I think maybe if you went with a darker gold instead of the bright yellow that would help knock them back a little.

    Stellar illustration, love it!

  10. Jeff Hebert says:

    Rozenstal: Neat! Very engaging and dynamic scene. You did a great job limiting your color palette to mostly variations on brown/red and I think it works really well. I like that the female figure is more solid and statuesque rather than the thinner, waif-like look you see all too often.

    My areas for a little more work are fairly minor and all have to do with lines being tangential to other lines. For instance, she’s holding onto a rope or cable of some sort, and the bottom edge of that cable touches the curve of the soldier’s helmet. That creates some visual tension that is hard to resolve — he should be behind the line given the position of the other figures, but having the lines touch like that makes them seem as if they’re right next to each other. Similarly, the soldier on his knees has his head touching the lines in the folds of her dress, making it look like maybe his face is buried between her legs … which may be what you wanted, but it’s a little confusing. There are a few other spots like that, where two different objects that are supposed to be on different planes touch at their outer edge, creating some figure-ground relationship issues.

    But, those are pretty minor, it’s a really nice image overall that I like a lot. Good job!

  11. Kaylin88100 says:

    @Nick (4): Try something like this:
    The red rectangle has an arm masked to it. If you like it I can send you the text file somehow.

  12. Albannach says:

    I was just tinkering around, and came up with this guy. Thoughts?

  13. maniacmick says:

    @Albannach it looks like a cross between Sephiroth from Final Fantasy and Shredder from TMNT

  14. Albannach says:

    @maniacmick (15)

    You’re right, he does ๐Ÿ˜›

  15. Tarkabarka says:

    Good morning or good evening all. I don’t make a picture like a week because i’m i a creative crisis, no idea, no inspiration. I work in a picture but i made very slow.

    So a review.

    @Kaylin88100 (1)
    Vampiress – Very convincing picture. The breast is a little bit looking out the clothes. If i make i use a pale skin. But overally i like the char.

    Witch – Modern style Harry Potter student ๐Ÿ˜€ – The items give me the feel this is a magic learning student.

    Werewolf – I can’t see any werewolf thing this character
    if i made i made male char or a little bit animal effected female char.

    @Nick Hentschel(4) Simply but elegant char. – Very hard to made a dancing pose. But i think not imposibble.
    A little help. Simple pose, but i think it’s perfect for you idea
    (text file)

    @Asder(5) – Great coloring and item use. I like the swordcase (sorry i can’t find the perfect word). Very complex character. Great work

    @Rozenstal(7) – This picture is so cool. The picture is tell me this is revolution. I very like her face so extrem. I like this picture i think my only problem is the background the color is so similar with the chars. I think black or dark grey is more perfect for this picture. Great work Rozenstal.

  16. Jeff Hebert says:

    Albannach: I like the design in general, and think the upper body parts are great. However, the lower body gets flattened out by comparison because the colors are all so close and you don’t get any detailing out of it. I’d try using some other color for either the lines or color2 in the draping coat to help that come alive a bit more, and something not-black for the color1 part — the problem is that the front part of the coat and the back part of the coat are all all-black, which makes them look like the same thing, which flattens out that whole portion.

    But a cool looking guy for sure!

  17. Jeff Hebert says:

    MisterDinoMan: Love the front, robo-arm! Very nicely done on that. The general design of the character is good, too. I think the simple black/red/metallic gray color scheme works well together.

    For me the main problem is in those background elements. I’d lose the yellow part completely, if it were me, so you focus more on the figure. The color is so dominant, especially as it’s right next to its contrast color of purple, that it kind of overwhelms the main focal point of the character himself.

    I like the overall look of him, though!

  18. BloodlessRose says:

    Hey Jeff

    i have 2 pics for everyone to look at but only the first 1 is for you to critique.

    JEFF’S PIC =

    Everyone else =

    Looking forward to everyone’s feedback

  19. Malfar says:

    Aquatic Rock. I made it with random name generator, but didn’t enter in a contest. Or did I? Hell, don’t remember. Hell…

  20. Jeff Hebert says:

    Good to see you back, BloodlessRose! OK, I admit I chuckled out loud on opening your pic. Very funny! I like the concept and I like the figures. My main areas I’d focus on for improvements are the blood (doesn’t quite read as blood, maybe due to the thin black outline?), and the white area at her midsection. I can’t tell what that’s supposed to be, quite, and having it echo the curve of the wolf head makes for some visual confusion.

    Very nice, though, I like it! RRH is awesome.

  21. Jeff Hebert says:

    Malfar: Nifty! I like the effect of the “flame” background and the inverted colors on the sand, that works great. The blue energy/wave effects are spot-on, too. The only suggestion I can think of that might (or might not) improve it would be to use some kind of lighter blue on the figure, so he looks a little more aquatic. It’s kind of an odd mix of rock and water at the moment, and I’m not sure how to take that.

    But, very cool!

  22. Tarkabarka says:

    So this is the picture what i want to ask it. I miss something for this picture, but i can’t know what i miss.

    He is Haruki the Ninja

  23. Kaylin88100 says:

    1. I agree with Jeff about the white section, it’s a bit ambiguous but I think it’s meant to be an apron, am I right? That just needs an edge – try using an insignia or something. I’d have done it by using the circle insignia and hiding the top bit behind the top of the dress. I also think the cloak needs to be quite a bit smaller so it looks like it’s hanging down rather than held up by wires or something. For the blood, try making the lines red or transparent (Alpha 0).

    2. The pony looks really out of proportion. I can see what you’re trying to do, but I think you need to decrease the X value (make it less wide) because at the moment it looks kinda squashed, as items tend to do when you make them very short or very thin.

  24. Tarkabarka says:

    (13)Albannach – Looks like Shredder ๐Ÿ˜€ – Very good strong char picture. So nasty looking.

    (14)MisterDinoMan – Great pose, Very moving feeling. My problem is the gradient use. I usually tell it, the full white or dark is not perfect, play a little with the color transparation. Without my problem i like the pose and the char. Good work

    (20)BloodlessRose – He he he. This call epic. Revenge of the little red riding hood. The white area in the body is
    problem, and i have some scale problem, i think the char is so little for the background. Btw i think this picture is so funny and cool

    And the other picture. Very good complexy picture. I have two visually problem. First is the feets, i think the direction is not perfect or the feet choosen, and the other is the size of the horse. Not the perfect size you choose.

    (21)Malfar – Great effect, nasty looking char, I only missing the water. I think a little bit more blue is tell me this is a aquatic being.

  25. Kaylin88100 says:

    BloodlessRose (20): Here’s an idea of what you could do.

  26. Zaheelee says:

    @Tarkabarka(24): I really like this pic and you can tell that you spent a lot of time on it, but I have a little problem with the shading. I find it really hard to tell where the light is actually coming from. Maybe you should move around the gradients a little so that the light looks like its coming from a specific point. Also, the left hand (which is really on the right side of the screen) seems to blend into the armor a little too much, and I didnt even realize that it was there until about the fourth time I looked at the image. Play around with the lighting, it might help.
    Well, other than that, this is a great image! Good job!

  27. Jeff Hebert says:

    Tarkabarka: Maybe if you were to add a rock he’s leaning up against? He doesn’t quite seem to be supported by the tree, and that bottom right area seems to be asking for something there. The right half of the image also seems a little bare … maybe a couple of birds flying around in the trees? Or some shrubbery mixed in with the trunks, some flowers maybe in the grass?

  28. TOOL says:

    Mine is not so much a character as it is a weapon this time. What do you think of my Death Dealer, its the perfect weapon for someone out there who needs a weapon that can adapt to the envirnment and situation. I just went with a customizable weapon with 4 modes. I almost went into heavy weapons as well to make a vehicle mounted version but I figured it would be overkill LOL.

  29. Myro says:

    Tarkabarka (24): Really like it, like most of your stuff. There are only two things I can see that might be throwing me off:
    First of all, the shading is heaviest on the left (our left) side of his face, but the right side of his body. I get that he’s in a forest, so light patterns would be inconsistent, but it seems off to me.
    Second, for a ninja, the bright yellow bits don’t seem very stealthy.

    But I do love the composition of your picture otherwise.

  30. Jeff Hebert says:

    TOOL: Not too sure what comments to make on these, but they look nifty. The top one seems like it’d be awfully front-heavy, and the bottom one looks the most real-world-possible, but … yeah. Neat ideas, I like stretching the envelope!

  31. Myro says:

    So, it’s snowing outside here. I thought it might be appropriate to send up Frost King here for critique:

  32. Jeff Hebert says:

    Myro, they say snow’s coming here tonight as well. Sigh.

    I like the concept quite a bit. The cool blue ice effects around the hand are great, and the cloud-filled sky is really good. I like the overall idea of the pose, but it doesn’t quite work for me, partly because being able to see through the legs (especially his right one, with the knee pointing at us) lets you see all the business going on underneath it to make the effect. Which kind of ruins the effect.

    Hope that helps …

  33. Myro says:

    Jeff (34): Wait, no, I overlaid some kind of effect over the leg, but I can see where you got that impression. Maybe I’ll just delete that stuff from that part of the body. And then recheck the alpha values on his legs to make sure that’s all it was. Thanks.

  34. Captain Kicktar says:
    This is Kyla, basically she’s been working for a mercenary, taking care of her garden since she’s never home, and she’s just been given her first merc job.

  35. Captain Kicktar says:

    Oops, didn’t size the pants correctly, here it is fixed:

  36. Tarkabarka says:

    Thanks the advices also for Jeff, Myro, and Zaheelee

    I remade some shadow, recoloring some cloth and some item for the background

  37. Nick Hentschel says:

    Thanks to all for having a look at Karla. My apologies for the wait on my response; I had to step out for work.

    @Jeff (9): Thanks for the compliment. I find that the subtle stuff, such as color-matching and shading, tends to be what I’m best at, using this program. I fuss over a lot of small details with this program, rather than coming up with wild concepts or inventive layouts. Poor me. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I’ll consider that idea bout masking the tavern layout; in fact, I may very well have an idea formulating right now! Maybe some of my discarded ideas from “Filet of Soul” will serve my purpose…… (heh, heh)

    @Kaylin88100 (12): maybe we should arrange that text file somehow; I’m not sure that I get what you’re indicating with the mask. But the pose does offer some ideas

    @Tarkabarka(17): I don’t think that I can convert the whole image to a 3/4 view, but the idea of tucking one leg well behind in a cross-leg pose could help. Thank you.

  38. Kaylin88100 says:

    Tarkabarka (38): That’s a lot better. My main problem with this version is that the fox stands out a lot because of the black line. Could you make it dark orange or something? I think the focus needs to be on the character, not the fox.

  39. TOOL says:

    @Jeff, yeah I was just trying to do something different, sometimes I get stuck and don’t know what to make but I thought I would do that. The first could be a close quarteres pistol/submachine gun, the second a battle rifle that is close quarters to mid range, then a shotgun, and finally the sniper rifle. The XM8 inspired me. I think now that I should gone with shorter blade on pistol/submachine gun or left it out completely. Also I may go back and try and add a grenade launcher on battle rifle.

  40. Fuzztone says:

    Hi all

    Here’s a spy-fi character I’ve been mulling over for a while. It’s all a bit monochrome and doesn’t “pop”, to my mind. All suggestions appreciated!

  41. Tarkabarka says:

    (30)Tool – I really Like a pimp my gun style weapons. I like the last one. I imaginary this use in any army for sniper weapon.

    (35)Myro – Yeah so coldy char you make. Personally i like the frost effect in his hand. Personally i think the head color is not so good. Great composition, and execution.

    (38) – For the arm and leg cloth i personally use green color, or i give her a chainmail. A soldier also need a dagger or short sword. Btw good concept.

  42. Nick Hentschel says:

    @Fuzztone (42):
    Very clever effect. It’s true that the colors blend a bit, but that’s exactly what a real spy would do, anyway. One possibility might be to make the “ripples” in the wall more of a contrasting color: that would allow for a little more visual interest, without the spy compromising her stealth.

  43. Vampyrist says:

    Here’s an image I’d like to get critiqued on.

    He’s Whirlwind, an aeromancer who is one of my main magical antagonists. Something about the way he turned out is just not sitting well with me and I have no idea what it is.

  44. Jeff Hebert says:

    Tarkabarka, personally I think that’s MUCH better, good job!

  45. Jeff Hebert says:

    Fuzztone: Neat effect! I think I agree with Nick that the colors are ok as they are since she’s sort of a spy, stealthy type. I think what the illustration needs more of is not in her, but in the environment. Maybe add some graffiti to the wall, the crumpled but open newspaper lying discarded, that kind of thing. Sort of “staging” the scene. I think the character and the portaling effect are great, though.

  46. TOOL says:

    Thanks Tarkabarka!

    @5, Asder, very nice!
    @13, Albannach, looks cool.
    @42, Fuzztone, I don’t think I have seen your name on here before but I like the idea.

  47. Jeff Hebert says:

    Vampyrist: I love the whirlwind effect on the arm, I think that’s one of the nicest such attempts I’ve seen. Outstanding.

    For me the problem is that the whirlwind on the lower body isn’t nearly as convincing. It’s kind of muddy and muddled and hard to make out — is he wearing chiffon, or is it a cloud, or a tornado effect, or something else? Partly it’s the very dark colors, but also I just don’t think the basic layout of the bits is as strong as it is on the arm.

    I think the hair is a bit of a problem as well. It’s like the wind’s only blowing from his back forward, whereas I’d think in a whirlwind it would be very chaotic and all over, so the hair would be much wilder.

  48. Tarkabarka says:

    (42)Fuzztone – Personally i think this is a great picture and a great attemp. Great effect. I really like the legs are going outs. I have some visually problem. For me the upper body looks like for cutted. I think if you rotate a bit it looks like the chest also going out. The other problem for me is the full white gradient circle in the weapon. Very steal my eyes the other side of the picture. BTW VERY good work.

    (43)Vampyrist – The whirlwind effect of the hand is great. I like the upperbody coloring. I think the loverbody whirlwind is so dark, it can’t see for me THIS IS A WHIRLWIND. BTW good attempt Vampyrist

  49. Tarkabarka says:

    I think i’m tired a bit, because i forgot to save the last version of Haruki. For me i finish the reviews, because i need to go sleep because tomorow i go for work. Everyone make a good work today. Good night or good day to all.

  50. Jeff Hebert says:

    Meniukas: Wow, really nice! Very cool concept that’s very well executed. The environment is great and the figure is quite distinctive and appealing. Awesome job! My only suggestion would be to save it as a PNG instead of a JPG so it comes out as clear as possible, it really deserves to be seen in full glory.

  51. adolfo carpio says:

    lo siento las dos primeras publicaciones esta mal hechas esta es la que quiero que critiquen

  52. Jeff Hebert says:

    adolfo carpio: Nice job getting a good 3/4 view pose going. That works really well. The basic character design is solid, although it’s so dark I can’t see much of what’s going on inside the outline. But it looks good, from what I can make out.

  53. Vampyrist says:

    Is this any better? I added a background and I messed with what gradients I had on the legs, which were supposed to be dark jeans, to hopefully make them more visible. As for the hair, I now am hopefully making the wind more at his legs and out of his hair, which is just blowing in the desert wind.

  54. Jeff Hebert says:

    Vampyrist, I think that’s better, yes, though still not “there”. Does he have to have his legs showing through the vortex? I just wonder how it would look if they were totally obscured (i.e. not there at all), if that would give you more freedom to build up a nicer or more dynamic twister effect.

  55. Jeff Hebert says:

    Yeah, I like that!

  56. Tuldabar says:

    This one I’ve had sitting in my files for awhile gathering virtual “dust:”

    He’s a slightly elderly Samarai warrior who’s leading a charge up a beach. At least, that’s what I HOPE he looks like. Any thoughts at all?

    P.S.: you should have seen his HM2.5 version: man did the color scheme hurt the eyes! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  57. Jeff Hebert says:

    Tuldabar: Some really nice stuff here! I love that you made the pointing fist bigger, that’s a wonderful touch. If I block out the colors, I like the design of both the character and the setting, I think he’s really neat. But, yeah, the colors … still need to be toned down and unified some, I think. The major issue is the use of the black — it gets really confusing below the waist, with the cloak and the armor both being the same black and blending into each other, but using it in the shoulder thingies is also visually confusing. I’m counting like eight colors in his clothing, and they’re sort of all over the place. I’d recommend sticking to no more than four total colors in the character’s clothing and on-body accessories for a challenge, to see if that helps declutter it visually.

  58. Jeff Hebert says:

    Ok folks, it looks like this one is winding down, so I’ll go ahead and officially end it. Thanks to everyone who participated and have a great weekend!

  59. warriorhier says:

    Hey Jeff,
    I just whipped this up and was wondering what you think.

  60. McKnight57 says:

    Sorry I didn’t participate this week. I was busy with work and finishing up 3 stories for the school paper and my reviews. On the bright side I’ll probably have some writing done to share for the next OCD.

  61. McKnight57 says:

    Actually, I do have one here that Joshua might like. It’s a slightly different version of Dr Doom. Much darker and yet somewhat flashy.

  62. Kaldath says:

    @Kaylin88100 (1) You should watch the Anime series Rosario + Vampire. Very similar premise to what you are thinking about with your images.

  63. Worf says:

    Oh wow… OCD. I totally forgot we did that on Fridays… Guess I’m just a bit late to offer advice and/or participate… Oh well, next time….

  64. blaq_aries says:

    how do you get the shine Effect on the characters or is that something we must do on our own?

  65. Kaylin88100 says:

    @blaq_aries (68): Go to Background – Shapes, go to the last page. Choose the shaded circle with (and this is important) the DARK CENTER. Make Colour2 what colour you want the shine to be, change the alpha on Colour1 and Line Colour to 0. Resize and reposition. Hope you find this helpful. ๐Ÿ™‚

  66. BloodlessRose says:

    thanks for the comments everyone ๐Ÿ™‚

    i have written them down for reference and will post the results next critique day.

    hopefully much improved by then ๐Ÿ™‚

  67. Hunter63 says:
    So what do you guys think of this one? It was in the random character contest, didn’t make the finals though, mostly because the image messed up when I exported it.

    Oh and here is the Silver Surfer with my version of Abraxas in the background.

    comments are welcome obviously.

  68. Arioch says:

    Surfer: You might prefer a “rounder” head instead of this one.

    If you’re really decicated and have a lot of time, you might also play with gradients and glows (like the best and most dedicated people here) in order to give it a truly metallic appearance.

    The greek warrior is nice, but you might want to have the spear and the shield on 2 different hands.

  69. Kaylin88100 says:

    @Nick (39): Maybe this guide will help. I’ve copied and separated the pieces I used for the arm with location, sizing and rotation. If no sizing is specified, x=100 y=100.

    If you still can’t figure it out, I’ll try – AGAIN – to register on the UGO forums so I can post the text file on there. Alternatively, if you want to give me your e-mail…

  70. Kaldath says:

    @Kaylin88100 (74) if you are having problems with registering on UGO drop Jeff a quick email ( ) and he can manually register you as he is the Administrator for those forums.

  71. Waaly1 says:

    My guy named Xix, The Space-Time Titan