Friday, January 29, 2016

Behind the Curtain Part 2

Today's topic comes to you via a Twitter poll I recently ran asking this same question; What would you the reader like to see here?
Here are the results.

Looks like you want to take another peek behind the curtain, so let’s dive right in.

Working Backwards

Yesterday I posted this render to Twitter.  I've included some of the replies as I was quite stunned at the positive response it generated.





Seeing this as an opportunity to peel back the skin a bit, I'm going to reconstruct this render to show you the process in taking what at its surface is a vanilla render and making it much more dynamic.I discussed recently some of the sites I use to source art, and as I've been in a funk of late I've been browsing ArtStation just looking for inspiration.

Though I wasn't planning on rendering anything in particular, this art jumped out and I immediately thought "Karrthus".

From: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/AoYvV
Now, what to do to make an oft-rendered card stand out from the crowd? It’s a very vertical piece, so maybe Super Art? Nah, let’s go full textless to really let the art tell the story. A few edits of the template later gives us this initial look.



First thought? Boring. I don’t like it at all. Too much gold, and nothing stands out.  Maybe tweaking the frame color to a 3-color gradient and adding some texture and effects to the frame elements and text will help.



Much better.  I now see this as standing out from the usual WOTC framing conventions. What use is having a template if all I use it for has already been done? Dropping in the art gives us this:



This works, kind of. The art appears flat and listless for the content, and I’d like to brighten some of the dragon’s facial elements to add some needed contrast. While I’m at it, I’ll add a radial gradient layer above the art and set it to “Vivid Light” to see if that helps the art to really stand out.

Using the Dodge tool brightens the ares you paint over in varying degrees.



Here we have what could easily be considered a “final render”. We’ve sufficiently deviated from the norm enough to have folks take notice of this particular piece. To me, that’s simply not enough. At this stage, this is what I would still call a vanilla render. I’ve done very little additional work to get to
this stage, and it therefor is a lazy render. I could easily post this and be done.

But I wan’t more.

I need to stretch my legs and see what else is possible. What else can I do to take this from a render to what some have called “art”?

Looking at the art again, I see the dynamic destruction of the castle and it folds under the weight of the dragon. Maybe the force of the castle finally giving way has sent out a shockwave. How can I change the card to signify its presence? Now that I have the idea of what I want to do, it’s time to bring it out and make it happen.

Warning, there’s some technical Photoshop jargon coming up, so bear with me. First, the template is far too complex to edit that many layers cohesively. Fortunately, Photoshop has made this a very easy task to accomplish. To begin, I turned off the art layer because I just want to edit the frame. By selecting the entire canvas (Ctrl+A on PC) and then copying the contents of every visible layer (Ctrl+Shift+C), I can paste in a new layer (Ctrl+V) just the elements I needed.  Once done, I hid the template layers and groups so I would only see this layer.



Now I can turn the art layer back on, and get to work. What I need to do is 3-fold;  Warp the frame somehow to show the effect of the wave, add a texture over the frame to show it’s impending destruction, and add a motion element to tie it all together. The warp is actually the easiest because I don’t need to source any other art for it. With the pasted layer selected, use Filter->Distort->Pinch. I went with around 50% to achieve this result.



Nice bulge to the edges of the frame, and more importantly, the text is all still readable. Now for the texture.  Searching for “shock wave” yielded this:



The color was not what I wanted, so there was a bit of fiddling to get to the orange/red I was hoping for. What I want to do here is have it just affect the frame, so I paste it into a layer above the frame layer and make it a Clipping Mask. The alternate method involves creating a Layer Mask, but I’m lazy. Playing with the size and position and then the Blending Mode and Transparency I find that this combination gives me what I’m looking for.




Now that I’m almost done, it’s time to add that motion element. This was the most interesting addition for me as it’s appears so simple, yet took the most work to achieve the final result.
I’m going to add motion lines that blur away from the dragon, and are the colors of the destruction. Another jaunt over to GIS and I find this waiting for me;



This will work, with some modification. I could invert it and set the layer to screen to have just white lines, but I want color. And if I overlay a color, the whole layer changes, not just the lines. In the end it was easy enough to fix by using the Magic Wand too. Just click in the white and Cut. Done. Going into the Layer Style from there I added a radial gradient to give it the color I wanted.



A quick Filters->Blur->Gaussian Blur and a transparency tweak from there and voila! A piece now ready for the world.


Social Media  and Closing

As always, I can be found on Twitter via @The ProxyGuy.  I hope you liked this peek into what I do to challenge myself and try to create something that I hope you all will enjoy.



Friday, January 15, 2016

The Oath of The Gatewatch Beta Seven


Theory

For those seeing one of these for the first time, the thought is to take 7 cards from the most recent set and reimagine them as if they had existed in Beta. There will be much discussion of rules text that doesn't work, is broken, or is flat out wrong.

With this particular set of cards, this project has reached its end. It's been quite a run, 18 sets, and it's past time to let it rest.

Will it return? Probably. When? No time soon.

Archives

Some point to Day 1 posts as these were once spread out over a week.

The Cards

Whenever possible, I'll tag the cards whose text I consulted or flat out stole as reference.

Casting cost from the Arabian Nights Aladdin's Lamp
Draw text from Verduran Enchantress
Draw text gleaned from Ancestral Recall. Force!
Made most of this up. Italicized or from Library of Alexandria.
Abilities becomes fast effects and damage taken from Earthbind.
Any mana color text from North Star.
Mono means tap! Only the mana ability would be an interrupt, so it's templated that way. :)


Social Media

Like what you see? Have a request for a render? Feel free to hit me up on Twitter @TheProxyGuy

Art Links

Stone Haven Outfitter:http://uploads5.wikiart.org/images/vasily-polenov/the-arrest-of-a-huguenot-1875.jpg

Comparative Analysis:http://uploads2.wikiart.org/images/nicholas-roerich/iskander-and-hermit-1938.jpg

Remorseless Punishment:http://uploads5.wikiart.org/images/hieronymus-bosch/hell-1504.jpg

Oath of Nissa:http://uploads6.wikiart.org/images/john-william-waterhouse/the-magic-circle-1886.jpg

Tears of Valakut:http://uploads1.wikiart.org/images/andy-warhol/vesuvius-1.jpg

Seer's Lantern:http://uploads4.wikiart.org/images/ilya-repin/walk-with-lanterns-1879.jpg

Kozilek, the Great Distortion:http://uploads0.wikiart.org/images/george-stefanescu-ramnic/the-dream-1969.jpg


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Behind The Curtain Part 1

Well Hello There!

It has been a while has it not? I would like to say that I have been busy elsewhere, or my personal life has intruded and displaced the time I would have to post every now and again, but they'd be lies. 

Truth is, I hit a plateau. There came a point where I could no longer push my boundaries. No further knowledge of the tools of the trade yielded more efficient results. No tweaking of a template changed the compositions in interesting ways. As a result, it turned out that it was really a bad situation to find myself in. 

The end result is boring, even mundane. The journey is what I enjoyed. And when I ran out of the new, I stopped. That has been less visible on platforms such as Twitter, but this blog as well as the G+ Community have suffered. Will that change? Short answer, I do not know.

I could "retire" to filling requests as they come in, but it ends up being like delivering newspapers. Folks are grateful, but there is little fulfilment in the task. I do not want to get to a point when I hate the work, and despise those that ask for a particular render.

Insights

As it has now been just over 5 years that I have been doing proxy work, it is high time that I share with you some of the boring behind the scenes work. Do not get me wrong, it is necessary to your skill set to better know how to set up a template, or where to look for either original or alternate art for your renders. But make no mistake, it is tedious and boring work and offers no reward save for your personal satisfaction.

What I will not be talking about is printing. Maybe in the future, maybe not. Printing is like playing an instrument. A orchestra member cannot tell you the best way to play their instrument save for this advise, which I agree with, practice. Practicing anything makes you better, and printing is no different. Your instrument is your computer, your software, your printer, and your paper. I can not tell you how to best utilize your unique setup.

Art

Art is why we do what we do. To create something different, or even better, than the original. To accomplish that, we need art. Loads and loads of it. So where are some of the sites I use to find it?

Google Image Search SAMPLE SEARCH
This is the easiest, though frustrating as searching untagged images is something computers are terrible at accomplishing. However, nothing will give you faster, or more, results. This is the de facto standard when searching for original MTG art. 

Fairly synonymous as far as repositories go for some original art. What you will really be searching for are alternate art pieces. Decent searches, but as Noah Bradley mentioned even this week, expect a lot of similar looking art styles.

Sometimes even Facebook or a text Google search turn up what you might be looking for. As mentioned before, the art you find is a direct result of how much work you put into the search,

Deviantart is OK at best. There is a magnitude of art for sure, but finding that perfect piece takes much, much longer that the other sites offer. This is the only site where I would say the previous paragraph does not apply.


Art is step one in creasing your skill set. As an exercise, go find the art first, then decide which card/style it would best fit. Sometimes working backwards can be very rewarding.

Fin.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Battle for Zendikar Beta Seven



Theory

For those seeing one of these for the first time, the thought is to take 7 cards from the most recent set and reimagine them as if they had existed in Beta. There will be much discussion of rules text that doesn't work, is broken, or is flat out wrong.

This was a tough decision to decide whether or not to continue the series. This is the 16th installment, and I wasn't sure if there was anything left to do to keep it relevant. As such, the current block will mark the end of the Beta Seven for a while. I'm sure I'll come back to it eventually, but it needs to be shelved. It's time.

Archives

Some point to Day 1 posts as these were once spread out over a week.

The Cards

No lands this time out as I wanted to try an Eldrazi in Beta. The frame is based on the classic token frame, and I think it works OK for what it represents.

Whenever possible, I'll tag the cards whose text I consulted or flat out stole as reference.

The mana cost was stolen directly from the Arabian Nights version of Aladdin's Lamp. Early mana symbols
didn't exist for 2 digit mana colorless mana costs. Text from Millstone, Clone, and Swords to Plowshares.
Indestructible text by me, hope it's close enough!
Why not "defending player"? Beta didn;t really care about multiplayer.
More bad Indestructible text! ETB->Comes into play via Animate Dead.
Return of the Interrupt. Text from Power Sink and Swords to Plowshares.
Nosferatu!!
Damage text from Hypnotic Specter.
  
It's always nice to try and add a "big text" card or two. "Does" lifted from Lightning Bolt.
 
Italicized "or" from Library of Alexandria. I added the flavor text as
the textbox was a bit too barren without it.
Mono meas Tap, so you gotta do it. "Sacrifice" becomes "discard" courtesy Black Lotus.
Also used text from Jayemdae Tome for "extra cards".

Social Media

Like what you see? Have a request for a render? Feel free to hit me up on Twitter @TheProxyGuy

Art Links

Drana : http://uploads3.wikiart.org/images/odilon-redon/the-monster.jpg

Ulamog: http://uploads8.wikiart.org/images/max-ernst/the-angel-of-the-home-or-the-triumph-of-surrealism-1937.jpg

Hero: http://uploads1.wikiart.org/images/viktor-vasnetsov/knightly-galloping-1914.jpg

Spell Shrivel: http://uploads8.wikiart.org/images/william-blake/the-ancient-of-days-1794.jpg

Outnumber: http://uploads2.wikiart.org/images/ivan-bilibin/kulikov-battle-1935.jpg

Retreat: http://uploads3.wikiart.org/images/wassily-kandinsky/blue-rider-1903.jpg

Archive: http://uploads7.wikiart.org/images/ilka-gedo/the-march-of-triangles-1981.jpg