February 21, 2022

Tibetan Falconer vector painting various stages


In the previous blog entry I explained how I made the preliminary study. You may want to peek at this composition for comparison from time to time. In this blog entry I will place the various stages in which I manually draw the entire image in vectors exclusively. My working method is to initially draw parts with a moderate amount of details and later add detail to create a more realistic scene. I will post each stage with the date included. This vector drawing was created in Affinity Designer, but other vector drawing programs may have similar functions. The first image on this page will always be the most recent stage. Note: If you want to see larger versions of the images below, click on them to see those in Google's Lightbox. Press the Escape button on the keyboard to return to the tutorial.

Most recent stage

Since drawing this vector painting is going to be a rather lengthy and complex process (i.e. containing hundreds of objects, perhaps thousands when finished), I will make separate drawings of the various details and embed them in the main file, as I mentioned in the previous blog entry. This approach also keeps the number of objects per sub-object smaller, which allows the artist to maintain oversight and save time.

Stage 01 - The falconer's head (Feb 21 2022)

Below the rendered view of the falconer's head and the vector outline view at this stage. Note how few strokes and curves are used to achieve a relatively realistic appearance. This type of approach in Affinity Designer allows to edit parts quite easily in a brief period of time. The low number of curves and strokes are easy to find in the layers panel and editing each of them requires far less tinkering than the overrated mesh-fill techniques, in which each node represents a cluster of pixels that each have to be edited separately. This feature is in high demand on the Serif forums, but personally I don't miss it at all, because I can do exactly what is necessary to create a realistic image with less effort in less time.

Stage 01 - Rendered view

Stage 01 - Vector outline view

Stage 01 - Overview - where this head is in the overall composition

This KISS-type method of drawing does not only make images easily editable at a later point in time, but also keeps the file-size small, which allows artists to work faster, especially those with a not so powerful computer. The trick with the strokes is, that I manipulated the stroke width (in the Stroke panel) and gradient colour and transparency, while applying the Gaussian blur function to them most of the time, which results in a limited number of objects that make a realistic image nevertheless. Besides strokes a few curves were drawn in places where strokes won't do the job, using the same effects. Curves make it possible to clip other objects into them, which makes it possible to draw more complex shapes that have complex fills. Compared to the number of nodes that mesh-fill operations require, Affinity Designer offers a much more efficient editing method.

When drawing the stages I often deflect from the reference image to enhance the visual impact of images. In this case I made the falconer look straight at the observer and I changed some of his facial features to further enhance the appearance of the drawing.

Stage 02 - The hat (Feb 21 2022)

In this second stage I added the falconer's hat. Again, this is the base; detailing if necessary will be done in a later stage, which probably will involve using the Huion drawing table for the fur texture in the hat. The time I have available to work on this project varies considerably and is quite unpredictable. So check out this page regularly. Below you see the rendered view and the vector outline view.

Stage 02 - Rendered view

Stage 02 - Vector outline view

Although the textures in this drawing are complex, I try to avoid using vector brushes, because they are not really vectors, but actually strokes based on bitmaps, which will affect the quality of the image when re-scaling it to a size larger than the original drawing. This means a part of the texturing has to be hand drawn, but when objects are clipped and grouped in smartly, their properties can be changed instantly in many different ways.

Stage 03 - Base of the coat (Feb 28 2022)

In this stage I began drawing the basic elements of the coat. These basics are important and must be close to the final rendering or at least require minimal tweaking to achieve it. If they are not many changes are required to be applied at a later point in time. While drawing new elements of a drawing some measure of tweaking to already drawn elements are also done in order to maintain the balance in the overall appearance. Below you see a rendering of stage 03.

Stage 03 - Rendered view

The gold coloured ornaments on the collars were had drawn and reshaped using both the Move Tool (used for re-sizing and skewing) and the Node Tool to move nodes to the proper place and adjust their fluency. It would have been handy if Affinity Designer had a Distort Tool, which is one of the view functions I miss in the program, but manipulating these things manually is not too time consuming. Below you see the Vector outline view of this stage.

Stage 03 - Vector outline view

The repetitive smaller ornaments are a multitude of two slashes and an equal sign placed as text along a stroke, to which I applied Gaussian blur, 3D effect and a gradient transparency. I may edit this text at a later point in time to something that makes it difficult to edit when not in possession of the original vector file. So far I estimate I spent about 4 hours on this drawing.

Stage 04 - The falcon / Hawk

In this stage the various sub stages of the drawing of the falcon / hawk are shown. This required some tweaking since the parts were taken from several different photos and combined into one composition. Below you see the first sub stage, which is the drawing of the contour of the bird. Into this numerous objects will be clipped and edited.

1st level of Stage 04 - drawing of the bird's contour

Clipping hierarchy, used to add detail

The foundation of adding complex detail, always is to first draw the contours of an object, whether it is the complete bird, a shadow area or a single feather. Inside this contour - that can have a Gaussian blur, a fill, a gradient fill or a gradient transparency, other objects are clipped that represent the detail, highlighted or shadowed areas. Clipping can be done on multiple levels, for example: a shadowed area may have dark or light accents inside of it; these are clipped inside the already clipped curve inside the contour. Always bear in mind when clipping objects, that the Gaussian blur level of the curves higher in the hierarchy will automatically be applied to the clipped curves or strokes as well. This means that clipped objects will always have the blur level of the curve it is clipped inside or higher - never a lower blur level. If sharper edges are needed, they have to be placed on top of the clipping curve.

2nd level of Stage 04 - first details of bird

February 13, 2022

Creating a preliminary study for a 100% vector drawing


In this blog entry I offer an oversight of how I prepared a preliminary study, from which I will make a 100% vector drawing in the future, hopefully not too long from now (February 13 2022). I used 3 different photos from which I combined parts, that were clipped in Affinity Designer, that serve to extract the parts of the photo that I need in my composition. In addition I used a horse that I drew in vectors before starting this project. So in the foreground of this study there are 4 components:

  1. The falconer
  2. The falcon
  3. The falconer's right hand
  4. The horse

Of course there is a 5th component - the background - as well, but that may change over time. In this blog entry I will focus on how the first 4 components were made.

1. The falconer

In the image below you see the original photo on the left side and the falconer that I extracted from this image.

Clipping of the falconer in Affinity Designer

I traced the photo with the Pen-tool (the red outline around the falconer) and clipped it inside the traced curve that I drew, which resulted in the part of the image above on the right side.

2. The falcon

In the image below you see the original photo on the left part of the image and the falcon that I extracted from this image on the part to the right.

Clipping, flipping and rotating of the falcon

I traced the falcon with the Pen-tool, drawing the curve that has a red outline and clipped the photo inside of it, leaving just the falcon visible. I flipped the clipped falcon horizontally and slightly rotated it in an anti clockwise manner.

3. The falconer's right hand

Since the composition I had in mind needed the falconer's right hand, that was not available in the photographs shown above, I had to clip the right hand from yet an other photo. Below you see the photo from which the hand was clipped in a way analog to the clippings in the previous paragraphs.

Clipping of the falconer's right hand

Again, I traced the falconer's right hand in the photo above with the Pen-tool, which resulted in the image on the right side of the photo. I shows the talons of the falcon's left foot, which are in the proper position for the composition.

4. The horse

Below you see the images of the vector horse that had already drawn a while ago. In the left half of the image the rendered view is shown, while the outline view is in the right half of the image.

The rendered (on the left) and outline (on the right) views of the vector horse

In the composition of the preliminary study, the horse is slightly tilted clockwise to obtain a balanced composition. In the ultimate vector drawing parts of the image will be embedded, because working in such a way speeds up the drawing proces, especially if one has a crappy graphic card like me.

The preliminary study composition

Below you see the composition of  the study that will be used to create the vector drawing. In the end not a single pixel will be contained within the image; it will be a 100% vector drawing.

The composition of the preliminary study image

Why make the image a vector painting?

In a vector painting objects can be made to stand out relative to each other and to the background in a much easier way than is possible with pixel images. This is done by applying a certain sharpness to the object, by changing its colour, hue, contrast, transparency and lightness, which will only be applied to that particular object. Objects can also easily be resized, flipped and rotated than in pixel art. This also is possible afterwards, when artists want to change the appearance of the image at a later point in time. It means that an image can be manipulated more precisely and more to the artist's liking than is possible with pixel images. Besides that of course a vector image can be re-scaled to any size without losing quality. Working with vector images may in some cases require more time than working with pixel images, but it gives the artist more freedom to make changes.

Vector working methods

Unlike most artists do, this reference image will be placed on top of the Artboard in the Layers panel in which I will draw the parts of the vector painting. This reference image will be made transparent, so that it is just visible and can be turned on and off at any time, its position in the Layers-panel saving me from having to find it each time it needs to turned on or off. Particularly when having loads of curves (I expect to need hundreds to give the vector image a realistic look) in the Layer-panel, this can be a real time saver.

The image parts will be embedded in the main drawing, which is a working method that also saves time, because each of the embedded drawing files are smaller than the main file, which means they will load, render and save / export faster.

This process basically describes my working method when making a study from which the final drawing will be made. I hope to begin drawing not too long after this, so check in regularly if you want to see the progress sequence of the various stages in a future blog entry.

To see the results of realistic vector art that I drew previously, in which I used a similar drawing method, please visit this page of my website. Click on one of the images to scroll through larger versions of all of them in Google's Lightbox. Unfortunately this only works on a PC or Mac; mobile devices cannot show the Lightbox.