Category Archives: Digital Painting

Studio 2 Showreel

Below is my showreel for Studio 2:


The Role of Colour in Character and Scene Design


According to psychological market research, colour can account for up to 60% of the acceptance or rejection of a product (Kissmetrics, 2015). In the same way, a character or scene will look thrown together or implausible if colour is not carefully considered throughout the design process. This is because colour greatly contributes to the mood and story of a piece (Price, 2014). If compelling and meaningful choices are made, colour can be used to imply a characters personality or role within the story (Diaz, 2011). To use colour effectively, we must first understand basic colour theory, the different attributes of colour and to use them harmoniously.


Basically, all colours originate from the three primary hues: yellow, blue and red (Lovett, 1999).


Secondary colours are created by mixing two adjoining primary hues and tertiary colours are created by mixing two adjoining secondary hues (Lovett, 1999). Compound colours are mixtures of the three primary hues (browns and khakis) (Lovett, 1999).

While this is important for blending colours, even more important is understanding the different attributes of colour and how they can be used to achieve a mood, focal point or atmosphere.



This is the identity of a colour separate from its saturation or value. The hue establishes whether the colour is blue, orange, green-yellow etc (CGCookie, 2013).


Saturation and Value

Every colour has a hue, saturation and value. Saturation refers to the intensity of a colour while value refers to how light or dark it is (Price, 2014). These can be used to guide the viewer, set the mood and tell a story.

ColourMost commonly, saturation and value can be used to create a focal point. For example, areas of high saturation draw the eye (Price, 2014). This technique is used a lot in fashion photography. As seen below, the focal point is the bright lipstick.

fashion-photography-for-Marie-Claire-8449Similarly, areas of high value contrast, that is a difference of light and dark values, become the focal point (Lovett, 1998). For example, in Howard Pyle’s Marooned, the contrast between the bright sky and the darkened figure of the pirate make him the focus point of the piece.

Marooned_(close_up)However, it is important not to overdo saturation or value. High saturation and high value contrast should be used sparingly on selected focus points. Too many saturated colours gives no focal point and becomes confusing and ugly (Price, 2014). Some cartoons or animations try to use this as a style but it can look garish.

3nogifekeyimageidAdditionally, saturation can be used to influence the mood of a piece. High saturation gives a vibrant and joyous feel while desaturated colours feel serious, dull, old and sad (Price, 214). For example, the first shot of Shanghai in Skyfall is bright and vibrant suggesting opportunity and adventure.

vlcsnap-2015-11-30-09h37m57s984While the first shot of Skyfall is desaturated and dull symbolising the old memories and ghosts the James Bond associates with the estate.


But how can we use this in character design?

In terms of saturation we can try to explore the characters personality. In Edward Scissorhands, Kim wears bright colours to show her vibrant, outgoing personality while Edward wears tones and even has pale makeup to demonstrate his more reserved and serious personality.

edward scissorhands53Alternatively, we could use saturation to direct of the eye of the viewer. Lilith, from Borderlands 2, wears slightly desaturated colours while her bright red hair is quite saturated. This creates a focal point on her face which her hair so nicely frames.

According to Diaz (2011) main characters should have values that make them distinctive, even in black and white. Looking at Spike from Cowboy Bebop, consider how the contrast of the yellow shirt and dark blue jacket catches the eye. This effectively frames his face, thus making it the focal point.



When looking at the colour wheel, we can cut it in half. On one side are the cool hues, on the other are the warm hues. A colour’s temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin (K) but this is more important for editing photos than for design.

eveyyiqrlhnaxwzu9fhuCooler colours give an introspective vibe (Diaz, 2011). They tend to be calm, calculating and soothing and will often receded into a scene (CGCookie, 2013). In contrast to this, warm colours have an energetic feel (Diaz, 2011). They tend to feel brighter and more vibrant and will often ‘pop’ out of a scene (CGCookie, 2013).

With this in mind, temperature can be effectively used to convey a character’s personality. Consider Miguel and Tulio from The Road to El Dorado.

307544-the-road-to-el-doradoMiguel has a warm colour palette reflecting his optimistic, outgoing personality while Tulio has a cool palette reflecting his calculating, more cynical personality.

For design, using a harmony of both cool and warm colours is highly effective (CGCookie, 2013). However, combining excessive amounts of both can make the design seem busy, chaotic and ugly (Kissmetrics, 2015). For this reason, it is good idea to pick a dominant temperature and use the other temperature as a highlight (CGCookie, 2013). For example, in a predominantly cool design, a warm colour will pop out and vice versa. This can be used to great effect when designing both characters and scenes.

For example, Aang, from Avatar: The Last Airbender, is composed of warm colours with the cool highlight of his arrow tattoo.

avatar-the-last-airbender-flyingThe warm colours reflect his sunny, outgoing personality and make the blue tattoo stand out even more. You can’t help but to notice it thus constantly reminding the viewers that Aang is the Avatar (as signified by these tattoos).

Katara_Aang_Sokka_-_The_Avatar_StateIn addition to this, Aang is the only character that has a combination of cool and warm colours (other characters have only one or the other). This again makes him stand out against the rest of the cast and positions him as the main character. Not to mention that, in the beginning of the series, the secondary characters wear cool colours to provide even more of a contrast.


Colour schemes are different ways to harmony between colours within a piece. Different schemes and different levels of harmony can create different moods or feelings. Extreme harmony can make an image seem boring or flat while no harmony can seem chaotic and messy (Morton, 2015). A couple of basic schemes are explained below:


A single hue is used while the value and saturation is varied (Price, 2014).



Three adjacent hues (Morton, 2015). As this is frequently seen in nature, this scheme is harmonious and pleasing to the eye (Kissmetrics, 2015). It appears natural, serene and comforting (Price, 2014).



Two hues on opposite sides of the wheel (Morton, 2015). As this creates maximum contrast is it good to use one as the dominant colour and the other for splashes or highlights (Kissmetrics, 2015; Price, 2014).


Split Complementary

A variation of the complementary scheme (Price, 2014). Uses the two hues adjacent to one of the complementary hues (Kissmetrics, 2015). Again, this scheme has a high degree of contrast but is not as drastic as the complementary scheme. This scheme creates a joyous mood (Price, 2014).



A triangle of hues. This is hard to do well and can seem childish. If all three are used in equal amounts it will look chaotic and ugly (Price, 2014). It’s best to use one as a background and the others as highlights (Kissmetrics, 2015).



Also called rectangle, two sets of complementary pairs (Kissmetrics). Again, equal amounts of each will be chaotic. Works best when one pair is used for the foreground and the other for the background (Price, 2014). Warm and cool hues need to be balanced well.


From Nature

Nature has an abundance of unique and interesting colour schemes that might not fall into the traditional schemes or rules (Morton, 2015). Have a look around and see if you can find something that captures the mood or feel that you need.

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The colours of this Nudibrach could work well for cyberpunk / hacker story.

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The colours of this Mantis Shrimp could work well for acid trip or similar.



When designing a scene or character it is important to understand what you want before you begin choosing colours. You must consider what you are trying to say or convey about the character. Remember characters don’t exist in a vacuum, they live in a world or environment. Consider the colours around them and what it says.

Do they fit in?


Earthy tones in both character and scene design suggest that he belongs.

Or do they stand out?

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Contrast between bright colours and dark tones suggests he doesn’t fit in.

Think about how you will demonstrate this through hue, saturation, value and harmony.

Additionally, if a character appears in a single environment it is important that they work well in that one environment (Diaz, 2011). While a character that is in multiple environments must be able to work in all of them.

17474-desktop-wallpapers-fireflyNeutral colours help the more action orientated characters from Firefly blend into every environment. This makes them seem competent in every situation.

Finally, don’t overdo it. Colour can be used subtly to great effect. Think about interesting ways that you can incorporate colour and what it can say about your characters and world.

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CGCookie. (2013). Getting Started: Color Basics. Retrieved from

Diaz, A. (2011). Tips on Character and Costume Design. Retrieved from

Kissmetrics. (2015). The Art of Color Coordination. Retrieved from

Lovett, J. (1998). Tonal Contrast. Retrieved from

Lovett, J. (1999). Colour Theory. Retrieved from

Morton, J.L. (2015). Basic Color Theory. Retrieved from

Price, A. (2014). Understanding Color. Retrieved from

Digital Painting: Apply feedback

Over the last couple of weeks, everyone in the digital painting specialization has been actively using Slack to share designs and give feedback. In addition to this, Katie has been holding feedback sessions during class. This has all been helping to develop my character design.

In the first session, we looked at this concept:

06From this session the feedback was:

  • She is unbalanced – needs something on the feet or legs
  • The thread looks messy and out of place
  • Cloak doesn’t fit well with the rest
  • Include more of Norse pattern
  • Change physique: make her more demi-god like

Using this feedback, I tweaked her design. In these iterations, I tried to balance the design more and have more repetition of the certain elements like the runes and black crosses.

08In the second feedback session we reviewed the bottom left iteration. The feedback is as follows:

Erika_fbIn addition to this, it was suggested that, for the feathers, I start with a black base and add purple slowly. I also think the purple was a bit much but I will definitely work it into the feathers.

From here, I tweaked her design again, fixing up the leg wraps, cloak, runes and adding raven feathers:

refinementI posted this iteration on Slack. Jo pointed out that we should be able to see the back of the skirt. Both Vanja and Chris suggested that I make her much taller. Again I applied this feedback:

new-physiqueIn response to this image, Chris said that I could make her even taller (around 9 heads tall). He suggested that I look at Wonder Woman and fashion sketches as reference.

From here I will try to exaggerate her height even more. I think I have been playing it safe so far, so I will do several tests really trying to exaggerate the proportions. Additionally, I will also begin to test colours for her clothing and working purple into the feathers.

Digital Painting Exercise

In class today we did a digital painting exercise that explored the importance of colour and tone in environments. First I choose this lineart:Ancient_Forest_FF7_Art_3From here, I created several tonal thumbnails. With these I was experimenting with how different values created a different focal point and also how they gave the appearance of a different time of day:value-studyMy two favorite were the top right and bottom left. For this exercise I choose to use the top right. In the next stage I created a couple of coloured thumbnails using images as references:

colour-thumbnailsI ran out of time with the sunrise thumbnail so I used the daytime one instead. I also really like the green tones. Using the thumbnail as reference I coloured my scene:

forest-colour2After this I spent a long time using images to add texture. I used leaf, grass, moss, rock, cliff and bark textures to finish the piece:

forest-colourOverall, I am actually pretty happy with this. I have never used this technique before and will definitely be using it again for concept work.

Valkyrie: Style Board

As I didn’t have an idea of the style that I wanted, I have created a style board. Images towards the top are more about the style of the characters (exaggerated proportions and geometry, slightly cartoonish) while images towards the bottom are more the style of the painting (painterly, colorful, Fauvism-like).


Valkyrie: More silhouettes

At Katie’s suggestion, I have done some more silhouettes to help define the character. I tried to express the brutal, scavenger nature of the Valkyrie through sharp edges and harsh lines while I showed the association with magic and destiny through through sweeping curves. I think the contrast with be nice. In addition to this I have tried to make her head the focal point.


Experimenting with different styles.

New canvas

Costume draws eyes to focal point


Contrast of curves and lines

Valkyrie: Refining Character Design

Going from the rough concepts in my last post, I wanted to refine the Valkyrie design. In the first iteration I draped her in the organs of her victims and she had the distaff almost like a weapon.

valkyrie2I wasn’t exactly sure how a distaff was meant to be used. So I did some research, realised that I was completely wrong and tried to fix this in the second iteration. Here she holds the distaff as it should be held. The black cord, that would hold the raw cotton in place, wraps around the distaff and her right arm. The spun thread that she pulls from the distaff is red representing the blood and life-stream of the warriors and is more symbolic of their fate.

I am much happier with the second iteration of the design. It is still lacking (I would like to incorporate Norse patterns and some runes) but at this point I will start concepts for the creature and environment.


Swales, L. (2014). Dressing a Naked Distaff [Video]. Retrieved from

Valkyrie: Initial Character Concepts

I have been reading through some ImagineFX character concept tutorials and have tried to implement this process in my own character design. To begin with I started by trying to create interesting silhouettes.


First I created a base silhouette and then sketched come concepts over the top

I tried to vary the silhouettes a lot. At this point, I really like the second concept as, I feel, it is an interesting interpretation of the Norse concept of destiny and the Valkyries.

From these silhouettes I began to sketch out some designs:

concept1At this point in time, I am still really liking the second silhouette (and not keen on the winged designs). I like the idea of the Valkyrie draped in strips of worn cloth, rotten flesh and human organs. Although it is morbid it relates strongly to Darraðarljóð, an old Norse poem describing how the Valkyries reweave the human destinies.

I also still like the viking warrior style characters. Over the course of this week I will do more concepts for each and see what style I prefer.


Mythical Realm (MR). (2012). The Valkyries. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from

Digital Painting Practice

As I am new to digital painting, I wanted to practice basics of shading and lighting. I repeated the class activity with four different shapes.

practiceAdditionally, to make the process of designing a character quicker, I wanted to create a base template. I plan to use this template to help me quickly concept my Valkyrie character.

head base

Process of ‘painting’ the base template

Images used as references:

Observing Light and Shadows [Image]. (2007). Retrieved from

Portrait [Image]. (2013). Retrieved from

Digital Painting Project: Moodboard

Over this week I plan to concept out some designs for the digital painting project. To help get me started, I have created a basic mood board.


Initial moodboard

This mood board includes symbols, colours, characters, clothing and environments that I thought would work with with the Valkyrie myth. As mentioned in my last post, I would really like to work Norse symbolism of runes and ravens into the character and creature design.

Redesign a Myth Project

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I am exploring the Valkyrie myth for the digital painting project. This afternoon I have been researching Norse mythology and the Valkyrie. I am pleasantly surprised to find that the legend was different to what I originally thought; I believe that I will have a lot to work with.

The Valkyrie Legend

The term Valkyrie means “chooser of the fallen”, which is explored in several ways within the legend (EB, 2015).

According to Norse mythology, the Valkyrie are warlike female spirits of the god Odin (Højbjerg, 2011). They circled over battlefields, flying with swan wings and riding on horses (EB, 2015). After the battle, they chose the slain warriors that would be taken to Valhalla (Odin’s adobe) while they waited for Ragnarok (the end of world) when they would fight as Odin’s ghostly army (Joe, 2010).


Romanticised depiction of Valkyries

Romanticised tales of the Valkyrie depict them as noble, heavenly beings helping the dead to their final resting place (McCoy, 2012). These legends describe tales of golden-haired virgins who protected, and often fell in love with, mortal heroes (MR, 2012). In these tales, the Valkyrie could transform into swans but would be trapped on earth if caught without their swan plumage (similar to the swan-maiden myth).

This censored version of the Valkyrie is a distinct departure from the sinister nature of the original legend (MR, 2012). Old Norse mythology depicts the Valkyrie as spirits of carnage and slaughter (McCoy, 2012). Considered fierce and bloodthirsty, these maidens not only chose who went to Valhalla but also dictated the fate of those in battle (Højbjerg, 2011). As the battle raged, the Valkyrie circled above like birds of prey (Joe, 2010). Using malicious runic magic, they altered the destiny of the fighting warriors, leading many to their deaths (McCoy, 2012). In this way, the Valkyrie lived up to their title as “chooser of the dead”.

A new design

For the project, I plan on redesigning a Valkyrie (character), her horse (creature) and a battlefield (environment). I really want to draw from the old heathen version of the legend as it is much darker and more interesting.

When researching, I found constant references to the Valkyrie being like birds of prey: circling the dead and scavenging their bodies once the battle was over. I would like to, in some way, incorporate this into my design. I feel that this will be appropriate as ravens were considered a symbol of Odin and the Valkyrie were his helpers (McCoy, 2012).


Woodward captures the original myth in his piece “Valkyrie”

In addition to this, I think I would like to rework the traditional dress in some way. In most resources I found (and, most artworks too) the Valkyrie wear helmets and shields (EB, 2015). A lot of artworks depict them with swords but this is inaccurate (but I guess up for artist interpretation) as they did not engage in battle themselves and spears were more common at the time (MR, 2012).

Personally, I would like to incorporate a runic staff/wand. This would relate to Seidr, the magic system used to alter the fate and lives of the warriors, and would also work with the Norse beliefs of destiny (McCoy, 2012). In addition to this the tradition golden/heavenly colour palettes could be changed to match the legend’s emphasise of blood and death (EB, 2015).

At this stage I will need to do a lot of concept work but I am quite excited to work on designs with such a cool, badass origin.


Encyclopedia Britannica (EB). (2015). Valkyrie. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from

Højbjerg, M. (2011). Valkyries in Norse Mythology. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from

Joe, J. (2010). Valkyries. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from

McCoy, D. (2011). Destiny. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from

McCoy, D. (2011). Magic. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from

McCoy, D. (2010). Runes. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from

McCoy, D. (2012). Valkyries. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from

Mythical Realm (MR). (2012). The Valkyries. Retrieved 29th Sept, 2015 from

Valkyrie [Image]. (2014). Retrieved from×14-arches-hot-press-140lb-daniel

Valkyries [Image]. (2011). Retrieved from

Digital Painting (Wk 1)

Today we began the digital painting specialization. In class we covered the basics of brushes in Photoshop (which was good because I had forgotten most of the details).


Class work from today

Personally I really like using the hard brushes and the ‘paintly’ feel that it brings. Some of my favorite game art uses these techniques I will definitely be trying to imitate them.


Game art from Bastion

The project sounds awesome and I am really looking forward to it. I am still deciding on the myth / legend I would like to base my designs on but at the moment I am leaning towards the Norse legend of the Valkyries. Using this legend I would concept a Valkyrie, the horse and a battlefield.


Valkyrie on horse


Bastion: The Kid [Image]. (2012). Retrieved from

Valkyrie in Norse Mythology [Image]. (2015). Retrieved from