New Style Portraits: Step by Step

As you can see from the above picture, GearHead Caramel uses much bigger portraits than previous GearHead games, and the color switcher can handle subtler shading. Plus, there are now five recoloring channels to work with instead of just three. Here’s a quick tutorial on how I’ve been making portraits for the new system.

I start by doing a number of rough sketches for the character, before settling on the one I like the best. GearHead Caramel portraits should show the character from head to mid-thigh. They should be looking to the right, since that’s where the dialogue box is. I use a blue color for my pencils so it’ll be easier to draw black over them.

The second stage is what we cartoonists would call “inks”, though since I’m working digitally no actual ink was involved.

Next, I do the flat colors. For this method I complete the drawing in black and white, then add colors as the final step. You want to get a pretty wide value range- the shades should go from dark grey #404040 to pure white #ffffff. My professor Allen Passalaqua suggested using the darkest color of each area as the flat color, so that’s what I did here.

Shading is added using the lasso-and-gradient method. Using the lasso and other selection tools, I apply white-to-transparent gradients to a layer above the flats. You can find lots of tutorials on this method if you search. I probably should have pushed the darks a bit darker on this portrait, but it’s all a learning experience.

Finally, it’s time to color the portrait. I add another layer on top of the picture and set its mode to Multiply.¬† Red areas get colored with pure red (#ff0000), yellow areas with pure yellow (#ffff00), green with green (#00ff00), magenta with magenta (#ff00ff), and cyan with cyan (#00ffff). Because the layer mode is set to Multiply, the shading from the lower layers will show. Any areas left grey will be grey in the final portrait.

For characters: red = clothing 1, yellow = skin color, green = hair color, cyan = detail color, magenta = clothing 2

For mecha: red = main color, yellow = secondary color, green = sensor/detail color, cyan = metal color, magenta = tertiary color

The final portrait size is 400×600. Most characters should be around 500px tall; that way, there’s room to go bigger or smaller to show that a character is particularly large or tiny.

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