[Shadowrun 5] SR5 Art Blog: The Character As The Hero
It’s time to throw out some good tips to those of you out in fandom who like to draw stuff for your games. One of the coolest things about working on an awesome property like Shadowrun is that there is a massive, thriving, active fanbase out there running amok without any constraints at all, and expanding the collective shadows in an organic way that is all their own. I freaking love that, and the fact that most of SR’s best artists came out of that creative mosh pit makes them all the better in my opinion. In fact some of my favorite illustrations were unofficial fan images. So it’s with the fans in mind (and the chance to expand my art corps) that I wanted to leak to the community some art tips and clues about illustrating a new generation of awesomeness here in Shadowrun, Fifth Edition.
In my first blog (about our process of crafting a cover image) I mentioned that there are three specific types of images – the first focusing on the character(s) as the hero. This is by far the most likely type of illustration that gets attention from the fans. When composing the scene and composition for a character pic, the #1 priority is making sure the character gets the full-tilt diva treatment. Here’s what I mean:
They get at least half the space in the image
2. They get the most detail. When illustrating the character in this type of shot, that character (and their various accessories) should get at least 60% of the details in the image, and should take at least 60% of your time when working on it. All the other elements added to the scene in either foreground or background are merely stage dressing to reinforce the cool-factor elements of your focal character(s.)
3. They get the best lighting. I recommend thinking of your shot like a movie set (with you as the director) and identify where exactly you want your lighting (and shadows) to hit in order to make the strongest image. If the lighting is coming from below, it will give it a sinister feeling. Harsh lighting from above can have more a gritty “interrogation” feel to it.
Remember that in a noir setting like this, the shadows you lay in are often more important than the highlights. I recommend fully 50% of your character and the background be dark, harsh shadows.
4. They get the focus. This is a great tool to use, and AAS (one of our main SR artists) uses this better than almost any artist I’ve ever seen. Everything else in the shot can be blurry but if your character is in focus the viewer’s eye will go right to it. This works for foreground and background elements as well. Great trick.
5. Body language reinforces their personality. I once saw a great tutorial using only stick figures where an artist drew Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman as stick figures, and it was instantly clear which characters they were simply by their body language. Since 80% of communication is non-verbal (split between body language and facial expression), it is critical to get body language right. If you don’t, no amount of shiny details is going to make it read correctly. Figure out what personality and emotion the character should be radiating, and get that right before adding any other details. This is the best time-saving trick I know.
6. Strong silhouette. In a character-centered image, we want them to stand out from their surroundings. Make sure the visible shapes that define them are clearly visible, and eliminate any element that may confuse their shapes with the setting. Nothing should make them blend in with their surroundings. They own that room.
7. Tilted or level – it matters. This is a simple yet important tool in your arsenal. If you want to give your image a sense of danger or to feel like something is wrong, just rotate it slightly in the frame so that the “ground” level and frame level are not the same. It doesn’t have to be major, but I find that a slightly off level of 5-7 degrees rotation will make a big difference. The flip side of the coin is that drawing your scene level within the frame of the image will give it a sense that everything is fine and safe, even if the scene you’ve drawn is showing something totally contradictory to it. The key is that your scene in the frame is the eye of the beholder, and if the viewer is seeing it level then they must be safe regardless of the danger they are seeing. So set up your scene either level or tilted depending on which reaction you want from the viewer.
8. NEVER use a soft edged brush on a Shadowrun character. Never never never. There are no soft characters in Shadowrun. If you ever even think of using that airbrush tool in Photoshop you should slap yourself, throw your stuffed animal collection under a lawn mower and then go eat some five-star Thai food to burn any lingering “furry” tendencies from your gut. Once you’ve crawled your way back to the drawing board you’ll be in a much better frame of mind for illustrating Shadowrun characters.
When it comes to crafting the character as the Hero, quite often the composition you choose becomes more important than how well you illustrate the character. We all want to dive straight into detailing the metallic gleam coming off the shells ejecting from the gun’s breach, or the tattoos and patches on gang leathers, but every artist needs to put in the time and build the image’s foundation right or the character will come off weak. Setting up the shot right will make or break your images – and when you get it right all your player buddies will notice. Fortune and glory must surely follow. Or perhaps a contract to draw for a mega gaming corp (not that I have one in mind of course.)
Catalyst Game Labs
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