I admit to sitting here for several minutes trying to decide on a good title for this. Behind the Scenes? Special Edition? Sketches? Doodles? Work in Progress? I-Don’t-Even-Know? This-Is-Too-Long-For-The-Title-Window-So-Someone-Help-Me-Please…?
Though the last one was tempting, I decided on Special Edition as this is a nice, general term that I could possibly use for other art or fiction posts that I want to focus on more for…er….nice, general reasons. …whatever those may be. In this case, I was going through some of my more recent work to get my new web comic set up here on the site (more on that later), and I found I had saved a few work-in-progress sketches for Evelos the Ren’Dorei. I decided to also post these, for those folks who are interested in my process for character sketches. (Web comics are a little different, as these often don’t involve shading.)
So, first, I started with a basic sketch (and for many of these, the images are saved in transparent mode, so if you are trying to view this on a dark screen, I apologize) :
Something about this sketch screamed Elder Scrolls elf to me. Imagine the hair scribbles to be fire scribbles and it’s practically Vivec! It’s probably the cheekbones: Evelos is a ren’dorei, or void elf, so some degree of emaciation makes sense. However, Elder Scrolls elves are also notably angular (unless they live in Cyrodiil huehue) compared to the elves of other universes. So, note to self. Hollow cheeks = Elder Scrolls elf.
But Evelos doesn’t come from Elder Scrolls. He comes from Warcraft. I had to find some way to distinguish him from Elder Scrolls elves. And beyond fussing with the length of his forehead or nose or the angle of his ears, it became obvious what he was missing. Those long ridiculous eyebrows!
(Also the goatee. Because that’s a Warcraft elf thing too.)
From there I began sketching in his hair. Here Evelos would be if he were still a high elf. Doesn’t he look so happy to be normal? (Hate to break it to you, pal, but those eyebrows still aren’t normal.)
Alas, Evelos is not a high elf, but a void elf, so I had to chop off those gorgeous locks and add tentacles. And wipe off that self-satisfied smirk from his face. And add spikes–just for good measure.
This next picture jumped ahead a few steps in the process, and there are multiple things going on here. First, you can see the last step of my sketching process with the altered hair style. I also penciled in some background tentacles, because who doesn’t want more tentacles?
Next I added a basic skin shade on the bottom layer for Evelos’ pale skin. I picked purple for shading (though I’m now thinking I should have done blue, so he doesn’t go looking like a gothic kal’dorei) and began fleshing him out (shameless pun intended). There are four shades in use here, not counting the base shade, each put on a different layer to make it easier to edit each shade separately.
As for picking shades? I just go with it. When the right side of his face wasn’t dark enough, I touched it up with an almost-black purple. I try to only use a few shades, though, because I like the faintly cartoon-y look it gives my drawings: more colors mean more realistic means my drawing skill has to be that much better to make it not fall into uncanny valley. I prefer cartoon-y because mistakes or stylistic choices are easier for your brain to accept or ignore, without getting too technical about it.
After the skin, the hair and the tentacles were the next step. These were done separately, but using much of the same technique as different skin shades on different layers. Next came the spikes and the skin discolorations, to make it look like his physical form is just barely holding itself together–creepy.
The background was done second to last. It’s on its own layer as well, on the very bottom, so I could smear all around with the Watercolor tool and not worry about smudging Evelos’ good looks. I erased the sketch lines in the background, but later added in some darker-colored hints to make the tentacles pop out more of the Shadow miasma they’re in. The tentacle-y shadow-stuff on top of his chest was also on its own layer, on the very top. (If you’re keeping track, that’s about 10 layers all told. Wowza.)
The tentacles attached to Evelos also got this Watercolor treatment, but quite by accident. Though at first his neck-tentacles had the same shading as his skin, I decided this didn’t look quite right, and went over them with a darker, blue-er color. And…oops…I had forgotten to turn off the Watercolor tool, left over from doing the background, and so his tentacles obtained the slightly oily look you see in the final picture here. All in all, a happy accident: the Watercolor tentacles tie into the background and make the appendages look more otherworldly. (I must say, I never thought I’d be using the phrase “Watercolor tentacles”.)
If I were a little more professional, my final step would be cleaning up the sketch lines or perhaps removing them entirely, as well as smoothing over the shading, but I’m afraid my laziness has become part of my style, and slightly sketchy this Evelos will remain.
And that’s how Evelos was made! Well, one version of him.