Disclaimer: I am a self-taught artist with obsessive compulsive tendencies and a psychotic need for absolute control. Some of the ‘tips’ or methods below may therefore be misleading, unhelpful, or downright bad. I apologise in advance.
[This write-up is based on the following painting I posted earlier: Light and Knuckle Dusters. I decided to go with this picture to illustrate this post because of all the different hair/fur textures available.]
EDIT: I just realised that Tumblr mysteriously downsized all my pictures. I’ve added links to bigger version of them. Just click on the images.
Where to start. Locks, thatches, bristles, beards, fur, manes… all manner of stuff that sprout from hair follicles, all with different textures and consistencies. And - unless you’re remarkably patient - probably the biggest annoyance you’ll face when painting an otherwise comfortably detailed portrait. (Especially when there’s as much of it as much of the damn stuff as there is in this painting!).
Some Basic Crap
For a start, here are the brushes and colours I used for the Dwalin portrait:
To be honest, that first hard round brush is the one I use most of all (although I will usually add some softness to it if I’m painting really soft, wispy locks of hair), whether it’s painting hair or skin or metal, with textured ones used only sparingly, usually to lay down a foundation for me to build upon. The reason is this: unless used carefully, strokes from custom brushes can look awfully stiff, especially if you’re laying down whole locks of hair. Sure, there are people who can pull it off. I’m not one of them - and besides, it takes control away from me, and I go berserk when that happens. LOL.
Here’s the thing about the colours I use: I don’t mix complete new palettes for each new painting I do! What I actually do have are several different palettes I made way back when, that I use as a base. If I need a new colour for something, I actually mix the colour manually on the painting with the colours that I have, until I get what I want. (Did I not mention something about bad advice???).
[And why all the strange colours popping up? Because hair’s never just shades of brown/red/yellow/whatever; it’ll always be influenced by the colour of the light hitting it, and the colour of things around it. Sticking to only browns for brown hair, for example, will only cause said hair/fur to look flat and boring.]
One thing I do when painting is: I lay on the colours in thin layers at very low opacity, rather than at medium to high and *then* use a brush to blend the colours. This is why:
The first example is what happens when I blend two colours by laying the second (lighter) one on top of the first in very thin layers. The second is what happens when I grab a blending brush and force the two colours to merge. You see that region of mysteriously hypersaturated orange that mysteriously appears in the second example? It annoys the hell out of me. Low-opacity painting is tedious as hell, but it gives me absolute control over what colours come out; the only time I’ll surrender and sparingly use the water blender is when two areas insist on maintaining a border.
(Again, I know there are people who can make blending work, and I salute you people because I can’t).
A Couple of General Rules About Painting Hair
(that you probably know about already but what the hey)
Whether you’re doing it painty or uber-realistic, the rule of thumb is basically the same: work your way up from the bottom. That means: from dark to light, and from the lowest locks to the topmost ones. It may not be so bad if you’re not going for serious detail, but if you try to detail locks from the top down, it will show. Unless you paint it on different layers and erase the errant bits. I prefer to do it in order. (Also, I always paint hair on a single layer, anyway).
Also, depending on the coarseness of hair/fur, you may or may not even see individual strands at all. (And again, this depends on your level of detail. Yes, you can see just about every last one in certain areas for *this* painting, but that’s because I’m doing it at 14” x 10”, at 300 dpi - which means that Dwalin’s head at full size is bigger than my own. Creepy). Soft hair falls in flowy locks, whereas oily hair tends to hang in strings, but unless you’re committing yourself to serious detail, the only strands you’ll actually have to paint are probably the errant ones, unless the hair is supposed to look really dry. Coarse hair - like in beards - on the other hand, are more readily distinguished as individual strands.
[You should probably always throw in some errant locks and flyaway hair anyway. Because no matter how you try to tame your hair, there’ll always be a small degree of disorder.]
One last note: highlights. When bringing out single strands of hair, you do *not* want to lay the highlight consistently down the entire stand. It just looks stiff and horrible. Instead, paint on the lighter colours as a gradient, with the area that’s closest to the light source being the brightest, and then scatter bits of light elsewhere on the strand. Also, two strands crossing one another tend to go PING at the intersection point.
Whether it’s human hair or animal fur, I treat short tufts the same way: first by laying on the darkest colour I’m prepared to go, then roughly laying the locks in lighter colours, before moving in for the detail. There’s quite a number of errant locks because this is supposed to be ruffled fur pulled out from under the straps. Remember: locks tend to taper off! (this is especially noticeable when said hair/fur is mussed up a little).
This is about the only time I’ll actually break out that speckly brush in generous doses, since the fur on the edges of Dwalin’s cape are short and coarse, and do actually lie more or less in parallel tufts (although detailing will still - always - be done with the hard round brush). The hard round brush is used to lay the base colours first, though. (Never start with textured brushes!!). Note that in #2, the fur came out too red/pink and too light, but then I fixed it by adding green in #3. More on this later, under Fixing Colours.
When painting highly detailed medium length mussy locks/tufts of hair/fur, once again I start by blocking in the general colours - but then switch to a really small brush and start adding highly unruly strands to the lighter bits, before moving to the locks/tufts on top. This helps add to the feeling of the kind of natural messiness you get when said hair/fur has been blown around quite a bit by the wind. (Plus that messy lower layer helps give the locks at the top texture, if you build up the latter in thin layers of colour).
Long Facial Hair
… is an awesome opportunity to switch off your brain and just scribble. Of course, you still have to lay on the base colours and rough out the flow of said facial hair, but then you can just go straight to a small brush and let your hand take over while your grey matter takes a well-deserved rest.
Still Not Enough Details For You?
Here’s something I picked up from a Linda Bergkvist tutorial that works wonders when it comes to kicking up the detail a notch: grab a very small brush (1-2px), set the opacity to very low, pick your brightest colours and just scribble all over the hair you’ve painted. It looks horrible at 100%, but it’ll look great when you zoom out. Really.
One Last Note: Fixing Colours
Even when I’m (supposedly) done with all that hair, I’ll go back and add dashes of other colours in areas (at low opacity!!!). Sometimes it’s to liven things up, and sometimes it’s because certain areas come out too pink or yellow, and it’s easier to just fix the entire section by painting over it later than try to get the colours absolutely right the first time.
Which brings us to… what happens if you’re painting a section of hair, and it comes out the wrong colour?
The problem with fixing areas that are too red/pink (and this applies to skin as well, and … well, basically any other bit that needs fixing, actually) is that if you simply try to lay on the “right” colour on top of the offending bit, the colours might still come out too red/pink. To solve this problem: add a non-warm colour first - unsaturated green is a good colour, if your painting’s in warm hues - before laying on the actual colour you want. (Or, if you’re only looking to tone down a finished section, just the non-warm colour). An interesting note: when I told a friend of mine (who’s a cosmetologist) about using this method to fix skin, she told me that it was pretty much how they fixed blemishes when applying makeup. LOL.
[Well, you could also use the clone tool, I guess. I refuse to do it, though.]
An illustration of laying on the “right” colour (unsaturated yellow ochre) straight on vs laying on green first:
[See the section on Stiff Thatches, where I messed up the colours. Notice that the ‘fixing’ colour I used was dark green.]
[Of course, if the problem is too awful, you could just paint right over everything and start over again. That’s my Golden Rule of Painting, by the way: never be so attached to anything that you can’t bear to throw it out!]
Thanks, if you’ve gotten this far, and I hope I haven’t made your brains ooze out from your ears. It’s sometimes hard to know when I make sense and when I’m simply babbling incoherently. ;)
mootecky said: That after effects animated Eevee IS THE MOST ADORABLE THING I'VE EVER SEEN!!! AAAA and if it's not too much to ask, can I ask where you placed the puppet joints on the paws? O: When I try it on my own it gets distorted too much ;; w ;; Keep up the awesome works!!!!
Ahhhh, thank you! And sorry for taking ages to reply here, I made all the images below like a few minutes after you sent this ask, then my internet decided that it didn’t like the idea of uploading things, and then I just completely forgot to try again later. Aaaa.
So yeah, here’s a break down of where all the pins went. In the legs, I pretty much put a pin wherever there’d be a bone joint in a typical bipedal animal. The placement of the anchor points were all very important too, as I also used the standard transformations (scale, rotate, position, etc) to get the look that I wanted.
I still made one or two mistakes though. as you can see, the soles of the feet are supposed to be fairly flat. But the final thing ended up slightly concave like this. (for some reason, tumblr’s only letting me upload one image in this ask, so there’s a link)
I do know how to fix that problem though. I should’ve starched the base of the feet. Simple solution, but went totally forgotten by me.
So yeah, that’s about it! Thanks for asking!
Oh, also, Ross Plaskow has some great tutorials on his youtube. I’d totally recommend looking at his stuff.