Friday, May 11, 2012
Fur rendering in oils
After the avatar painting and a few other tests I have a viable pipeline for working with oils. It's quite simple actually:
1) Pencil sketch
2) Underpainting in acrylics
3) Final color in oils
I used to do digital value studies for all pictures before coloring them in acrylics but that's no longer necessary now, I can design the values directly in the underpainting layer and the oil layer will mask any small mistake or change of mind. I guess I also developed a better intuition for values so I need less preliminary studies, but breaking up the work by doing some steps in digital and some steps in traditional media doesn't help concentration. For simple pictures where there is no background I'd rather do as much as possible on the canvas/sheet, it also saves a lot of time.
Rendering soft-looking fur is always one of my top priorities. Because of that I leave figure borders a bit blurred unless a neat border is necessary to make the picture readable, as in the detail picture above under the chin. Many anthro characters have complex patterns of stripes, spots and brighter/darker areas of fur which make it really difficult to keep the figure readable at a glance. Complementary underpainting is of great use here: even if the colors painted over it are quite different from each other (in this case they ranged from dark brown to dark blue to cool gray and white) the same color is visible in trasparency in all parts of the figure, so there is a nice color unity.
Crosshatching is also very useful to suggest softness. Many anthro artists who want to paint relistic fur resort to painting the individual hairs, but that creates a lot of regular detail all over the figure and looking at so much regularity quickly becomes tiresome for the eye. I prefer the slight randomness of crosshatching, which makes the surface look soft but also relatively smooth.
Also crosshatching doesn't need to follow the expected direction of hairs in every spot of the fur coat, so the strokes may follow any direction which is useful to enhance the volumes and the lines of action in the image. In the details above I directed the brush strokes on the shoulder, arm and torso so that they would enhance the muscle volumes and the arm's line of action.