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