Ever seen an artist post a bunch of screen shots showing their progress as they create and finish their artwork? Ever wondered what happened between one screen shot to the next? Well, this is the tutorial for you! As the title suggests, I am going to give you some insight on how to “read” process shots as in how to determine what happened from one screen shot to the next.
I’ll be using CypressDahlia’s process shots but you should be able to take the advice I’ve given here and apply to other process shots. Now let’s move on and start with the basics!
What Are Process Shots?
Process shots or progress shots as some call it, are a series of images showing the changes of an image as it is being created from start to finish. They include no text, instructions, or details as to what the artist did from one image to the next. Progress shots are generally done by artists who would like to share how they build up and make their art but do not have the time to type out a full step-by-step tutorial.
Why Should I Learn This Skill?
By being able to read other artists’ progress shots, you’ll be able to
a) learn an artist’s process
b) improve your observation skills
c) learn new techniques, and
d) give better critiques
Not only that but once you know how to read progress shots, you’ll basically be able to look at a finished work and guess what tools and techniques someone used to create their work and then use that on your own work. You may also infer the steps they went through to reach the finished art.
For some of you out there, this may come very easily to you because you’re naturally observant but for others, read through this article and take the rules I mention to you at heart and learn this skill. It’s very invaluable for you as an artist and it’s another a great way to grow aside from always drawing or CGing on your own.
How to “Read” Process Shots
As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to be using CyrpressDahlia’s process shots to explain how to read these babies. Take a look at his work first and try to see if you can tell what happened from one screen shot to the next. Did that? Good! Let’s see if what you thought happened is correct.
The first several images are laying down the outline and base of the drawing. From each successive image, you’ll see the lines being tightened and the shading being smoothed out. By the third image, you’ll notice that it’s half way cleaned up and by the fourth image, he’s got it all smoothed and it even has highlights! The fifth image has the final smoothed out shading and it’s ready to be colored.
Those are the obvious observations that anyone should be able to figure out regardless of whether you have an art background or not but to truly read a process shot, you’ll have to be somewhat familiar with graphic software’s and the tools that you may find in them. For example, based on the first image, what can you tell about the brush that he used?
If you don’t know, it’s that the brush is set at an opacity less than 100%. Those who’ve used a graphic software before will know that when a drawing tool is set less than 100%, it’ll have an effect much like someone using markers and having the markers overlap. Part of the marker will stay a lighter color but for those parts that overlapped, they become darker than the original color.
Look again at the image above and try to see where there are instances of colors “turning” darker adjacent to them. This brings me to the very first and important Rule #1: Use and get to know a graphic software.
Without some semblance of knowledge or experience, you probably wouldn’t have been able to figure that out. But, there may be one way you could have known and that would be because you did the next two rules on your own:
Rule #2: Take the time to look through each image thoroughly.
Rule #3: Ask yourself questions!
If you don’t take the time to look through an image, you miss details. When you miss details, you miss the how’s, where’s, and why’s. When you miss those, you’ll miss out on possibly learning something new. Observation is key! It’s a very useful skill to have when you’re drawing from real life. It’s also great to have when you’re critiquing your own work or others. It may even push you to tighten up your lines, add more details to your characters, color better, and a whole host of other points you may not have “seen” before.
Similarly, asking questions is the key to disassembling progress shots, final works, and even before you put pencil to paper! Always ask yourself the why’s, how’s, where’s and what’s. Why is this and that there? How did they get that effect? Where does that lead to? What if they used this color palette instead? By asking questions, you can arrive at your answers and figure out how something was created.
When no answer is forthcoming, follow Rule #4: Get answers from the original artist or from other artists.
In this case, turn to the experts and ask how they did something. It would be best to ask directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, but if that’s not possible, ask other artists for their opinions. Worse comes to worse, no one will answer but from my experience, if you don’t find out right away, you’ll eventually come across someone or something (i.e. a tutorial, book, or other) that will explain it.
Learn these four rules by heart and I challenge you to take a look through CypressDahlia’s progress shot again. See if you can figure out what tools he used and techniques he employed. For what it’s worth, I’ll let you know that he drew this in the Groupboard and he used GIMP for the coloring and effects.
How to Make Your Own Process Shots
To make your own process shots, you’ll need a computer and a graphic software. Your computer should have a button on it called Print Scrn which is short for Print Screen. When pressed, a screen capture will be made of your desktop. For PC users, you’ll have to paste this screen capture onto a graphic software like GIMP. Note: Make sure the new image you create is a large enough pixel size for you to paste your screen shot on. If the canvas size is too small, your image will get cut off! If you have a Mac, your screen shot should automatically save onto your desktop.
Keep taking screen shots of your work as you progress and keep saving them. Once you’ve completed your work and made the final screen shot, we’re now going to edit the screen shots so it won’t show anything but the image you were working on.
First, open up your graphic software and open all your screen shots. Select the crop tool on your tool box and drag and drop around your artwork. Adjust the edges if need be and then hit Enter. This should crop your image to just the area where your art is located. Repeat this process until you are done. Make sure you save all your individual screen shots if you haven’t been doing so.
From here, you can go two ways. You may either a) post your process shots up individually as is, one after the other or b) put them together into one image file so they’ll always be together. I would suggest doing option A if you’re posting in a forum and option B if you’re posting at a site like DeviantArt. For option B, you’re going to basically create one long canvas and you’re going to drag and drop or copy and paste each screen shot onto the long canvas. Move your layers where you want them, cut the canvas down or enlarge it if you need to, and when done, save your new file. Your final image should look like this:
Prac Castle progress by Mayshing.
Instead of tiling your screen shots from top to bottom, you may also opt to go from left to right and then go to the next line and repeat from left to right. It’s up to you which way to want to go but if you’re going to doing something different, make sure it’s clear to viewers how to follow the progress.
I should also mention that some artists include the final image in the progress image while others do not and make separate files. Again, it’s your choice what to do but keep it in mind if you’re ever making one.
If you’re interested in checking out more progress shots and testing your reading capabilities, check out more of CypressDahlia’s works or visit art communities like DeviantArt and do a search. Even doing image searches in sites like Google will turn up some interesting images.
Lastly, feel free to share your own progress shots with us if you make your own!