Sign in to follow this  
Trapper Zoid

Critique my vector art (please?)

Recommended Posts

I currently use Inkscape for the vast majority of my art, and I'm a fan of cartoon styles; they go well with my style of game ideas. To gain some practice I've been creating Inkscape header images for my GDNet journal every week, involving drawing a character from a game and substituting some cringe worthy word substitution based on my GDnet nickname. I've just completed the fourth of this series, and I'd like some feedback on what I need to improve. Here's the four game images I've done so far, in order of completion:
These are all vector art pieces completed in Inkscape. Since this is being done as a learning exercise, I'm happy for all constructive criticism so I can work on improvements in style with next week's header image. Thanks for viewing and for in advance all help provided!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Pretty. [smile] I can't see too much to critique... I'm not that familiar with the Zelda series, but is that slick look appropriate to them or should there be more blurry gradients like a nimbus around the fairy and sparklies from the triforce? Other than that, I think for all the people their skin could use either highlights or pink blush spots or something.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
Pretty. [smile] I can't see too much to critique... I'm not that familiar with the Zelda series, but is that slick look appropriate to them or should there be more blurry gradients like a nimbus around the fairy and sparklies from the triforce? Other than that, I think for all the people their skin could use either highlights or pink blush spots or something.

That particular look isn't truly correct for Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but it's more my own cartoon style that I'm trying to develop. The characters themselves are meant to be cartoonified, whereas the logos are aiming to be more towards replicas of the originals.

It might be a bit confusing since the logos themselves usually feature gradients, but I'm trying to avoid using them for my character work so I'm not sure if blush spots would work. I'm aiming for the solid colour look; (in theory) it should be quicker to draw, plus it compresses like crazy.

However from my memory I think I did try a glow effect for the fairy, or possibly just a white outline, but it didn't seem to go well with the rest of the image. I'm experimenting with the types of outlines as I'm not that happy with the thick lines I'm currently using. My main problem is I can't ink on paper worth a damn, so I'm using vectors instead, but I don't have the experience with real tactile media to intuitively know what I need to emulate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Overall looks pretty good. Nothing major stands out as a big problem. So that means... nitpicking time! [grin] Really these are just general tips more than critiques on these works.

Shading protip #1 - Pretty much everyone, when they first go to shade something, just grabs the base material colour and then "adds black" or "lowers brightness". Because shadows are black, right? Well, not really. Shadows are lights not hitting the object, which means the dominant ambient light in the scene is going to take over.
Example: Link is outside, the ambiance from the sky is blueish so any shadows should take a slightly blue tint.
Instead of using the eyedropper and lowering the brightness, try hand-picking darker tones instead.

Shading protip #2 - Keep in mind the properties of the material you are dealing with. Skin looks good with rimlighting because of the way light passes through it. Also a teensy bit of red in the skin shadows tends to make it feel more lifelike. Additionally, skin/hair/anything soft and translucent looks good with lighter shadows in general as it's letting light through.

Shading protip #3 - Be more consistent, foo. The shadows on Samus are pretty random, not showing up on certain parts of her, not following the same light source direction, and the highlights aren't really facing the same direction either. Link's skin isn't shaded at all, neither are his eyebrows even though the hair right next to them is, neither is his ocarina.

Vector protip - No excuse for round objects not being perfectly round. See: Samus' shoulder/elbow/gun connection. That round bit on the elbow should be wrapping around the cylinder. Unless the gun is supposed to rotate around it, in which case it should be spherical.

Obsessive Compulsive balance protip - In the first two pictures my eye travels from the left (human interest trumps all) up through the title to the top right (increased detail/contrast pulls focus) and then crashes down and gets stuck on the blank bottom right corners. Evening out the detail level just a tiny bit would help, like Navi usually leaves glowing trails and there could be a ship faded a little in the fzero background.

That one is super OCD grasping at straws nitpick though.

EDIT: Forgot, outlining protip!
Try this technique for getting your variable line widths right. Look beyond the edge and adjust the thickness of it based on how far away the object behind is. Pick 3-4 different widths based on different distances and stick to them religiously. Right now it seems like you've got just 2, which isn't really doing the effect justice.
Link's set up alright, actually, but captain falcon isn't working out. Then on Samus you're using it like some sort of foreshadowing, and on Cloud it's lighting? I suppose those can both work, but it's atypical so I would be careful. It's also causing the problem of your titles not matching the style of the image.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by LockePick
Overall looks pretty good. Nothing major stands out as a big problem. So that means... nitpicking time! [grin] Really these are just general tips more than critiques on these works.

General tips are far more useful, thanks! I'm probably not going to go back and change these four; I'll try to correct whatever mistakes I've made in the next one.

Quote:
Shading protip #1 - Pretty much everyone, when they first go to shade something, just grabs the base material colour and then "adds black" or "lowers brightness". Because shadows are black, right? Well, not really. Shadows are lights not hitting the object, which means the dominant ambient light in the scene is going to take over.

Yeah, I pretty much just took the CYMK, added extra K. Or just picked the next darkest colour from the palette. I'll try to keep this in mind; sometimes I do hand-pick the darker tone, but it's still pretty much the same hue and saturation.

Quote:
Shading protip #2 - Keep in mind the properties of the material you are dealing with. Skin looks good with rimlighting because of the way light passes through it. Also a teensy bit of red in the skin shadows tends to make it feel more lifelike. Additionally, skin/hair/anything soft and translucent looks good with lighter shadows in general as it's letting light through.


Everything looks a bit like it's made of plastic, doesn't it? That's a good point. I've been trying to keep the number of colours I use down to a minimum for my characters because I like the whole minimalist look, but I'll pay attention to which colours look best.

Quote:
Shading protip #3 - Be more consistent, foo. The shadows on Samus are pretty random, not showing up on certain parts of her, not following the same light source direction, and the highlights aren't really facing the same direction either. Link's skin isn't shaded at all, neither are his eyebrows even though the hair right next to them is, neither is his ocarina.


(This applies to all the shading tips:) My shading frankly has been pretty crap; up until this week I've mostly been using shading purely to show that something has a third dimension and only vaguely paying attention to light sources. It wasn't until this weeks Final Fantasy image that I tried visualising where the light source was with respect to Cloud and designing the shading to compensate.

Quote:
Vector protip - No excuse for round objects not being perfectly round. See: Samus' shoulder/elbow/gun connection. That round bit on the elbow should be wrapping around the cylinder. Unless the gun is supposed to rotate around it, in which case it should be spherical.


That depiction of Samus is a little bit screwed up all round. I learnt a little bit too late that it's hard to draw an action pose for a chibi-dimensioned Samus; she's all helmet and shoulder pad and looks frankly quite ridiculous. I spent a little too long on making a snazzy Metroid Prime logo and not enough time actually working on the character


Quote:
Obsessive Compulsive balance protip - In the first two pictures my eye travels from the left (human interest trumps all) up through the title to the top right (increased detail/contrast pulls focus) and then crashes down and gets stuck on the blank bottom right corners. Evening out the detail level just a tiny bit would help, like Navi usually leaves glowing trails and there could be a ship faded a little in the fzero background.

That one is super OCD grasping at straws nitpick though.

No, no, you're quite right; that's something I spotted myself and it really bugs me that it's bugging you [smile]. Both of those images need something in that corner, and I knew that at the time, but at the time I was too sick of adding in extra detail that I just wanted to finish the damn thing.

One of the biggest problems I know I need to work which doesn't show up in images is my speed of drawing. I suspect I'm spending too long worrying about fiddly little details that don't really matter that much and then ignoring the larger gaping problems. You can spend hours with vector art just playing around with individual nodes rather than just leaving something be, and no-one probably is going to notice, for example, those tiny little feet you've shaped into the glyphs of the "TRAPPERS" font on the logo, so you might as well just throw them in instead of agonising over it.

Thanks for the tips though; I'll keep them in mind for next weeks' image (I still need to select the game...)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by LockePick
EDIT: Forgot, outlining protip!
Try this technique for getting your variable line widths right. Look beyond the edge and adjust the thickness of it based on how far away the object behind is. Pick 3-4 different widths based on different distances and stick to them religiously. Right now it seems like you've got just 2, which isn't really doing the effect justice.
Link's set up alright, actually, but captain falcon isn't working out. Then on Samus you're using it like some sort of foreshadowing, and on Cloud it's lighting? I suppose those can both work, but it's atypical so I would be careful. It's also causing the problem of your titles not matching the style of the image.


My current outlining technique is a really big Inkscape hack. For the first three images I've pretty much just a constant border around each shape that the figure is constructed out of, then made a second copy of the whole figure, coloured it black, and used the "dynamic offset" function make a version slightly bigger than the original before sending it to the back of the order. You can get a nice outlining effect doing that, but it's really basic and looks cheap.

For Samus, I think I've done borders for each separate segment, such as the close gun-arm, the main body and the arm in the distance; the border width indicates its depth from the screen.

Cloud is an experiment, and is indeed a mix of lighting and z-distance. It's essentially the same technique, except I've shifted the image over a little bit in line with the light direction. I'm not sure how good it looks; if you find it strange, then I'll try something different for the next one.

I hadn't realised that the distance of the object from the object behind it would be the metric to use, but it does make sense. I'll try and give it a go. I need to use a different method from the hack version I'm currently using regardless.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
I hadn't realised that the distance of the object from the object behind it would be the metric to use, but it does make sense. I'll try and give it a go. I need to use a different method from the hack version I'm currently using regardless.

The reason it works is because heavier lines make the image "pop" off the page (or screen, in this case). So the farther away the background is, the more you want to stick out from it.

You can see the effect really obviously in your zelda image: Link and Navi appear to be closer than the title, even though you can see the title covers Link's hand (and titles are usually the top layer by convention).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Looks quite alike something one might see at VG Cats.
Have you thought about your own videogame themed web-comic ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by LockePick
The reason it works is because heavier lines make the image "pop" off the page (or screen, in this case). So the farther away the background is, the more you want to stick out from it.

To use a more mathematical term I've been trying to use line lengths to vaguely show the Z position of objects, but I didn't think of using delta Z; the distance between objects rather than the absolute position. I'll give this a go in my next image. I should also look up some more hints on lines and brush strokes; I've got a few cartooning and manga books on the shelves so there's bound to be info in there.
Quote:
You can see the effect really obviously in your zelda image: Link and Navi appear to be closer than the title, even though you can see the title covers Link's hand (and titles are usually the top layer by convention).

There's a real clash between the logo graphics and the cartoon art style. I've been trying to emulate the logos style as close as possible while retaining my cartoon look for the rest of the image, but I might need to look into creating some sort of buffer.

Thanks for the advice; looking at line widths is a good element to focus on for my next header. I might see if I can get in some more background work too, since I skimped on that with the Final Fantasy one.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Karnot
Looks quite alike something one might see at VG Cats.
Have you thought about your own videogame themed web-comic ?

Scott Ramsoomair's VG Cats strips are one of the comics I sometimes use as a reference. I'm pretty sure he uses Flash to vectorise his work as one of the production steps, except he scans in pen drawn images first. I can't ink to save my life.

This header work is actually a practice trial to see if I can improve my habits up to the level where I can create a webcomic. I've been wanting to improve my art for ages, and making a regular comic seems like a great exercise for self-improvement.

I'm still working on the theme; however If I do end up making a comic it's almost bound to have some game related angle. The only interesting bits of my life involve graduate studies and game development, and I don't think I can improve on Piled Higher and Deeper! However I doubt I'd do a standard videogame based webcomic (i.e. the "two guys on a couch playing video games" approach); firstly because it's been done to death, and secondly because I haven't really been on the ball with the latest trends in popular videogames since about 2003.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am envious, they look really nice.

Just one small note. The texts do not really fit to the other art styles. They seem a bit stamped on it.

It is not a big thing, I just noticed it at the third look.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this