View Full Version : Speedpainting 101 (part 1) - Value & Atmospheric Perspective

02-10-2012, 01:05 PM
Alright, so, a long time ago I made a pretty crappy tutorial about value sketching characters and environments that, looking back on, I'm not too proud of. It was confusing, didn't really explore a lot of important concepts and was far too rushed. So I'm revisiting that tutorial, except I'm taking it slow and breaking it down much further. So for those of you who read my Concept Art 101 tutorials, consider this an upgrade.



Uhm, alright, so, to get started: value. Plenty of us on MT have experience with shading and coloring our pictures, beit purely values or under some lineart. Now, we usually use the term "value sketch" to refer to a lineless drawing shaded completely in black and white. This is actually a very deceptive term because value is present in everything we do, even lineart. It just doesn't matter so much in lineart. So what does "value" really mean, then?

Value is the perceived lightness or darkness of a color or tone. For example, black is the absolute lowest value you can have. You can't get darker than black. Oppositely, white is the lightest value you can have. You can't get lighter than white. The value of every other tone and color fits on a gradient between black and white.

Now why are values important? Value is what gives depth and form to a picture. Having a good range of values in a colored or shaded piece will make it look fuller and more three dimensional. It's all about contrast. Now, that's not to say you can't get away with coloring with the same value. Colors are diverse enough that you can probably make out shapes based on the differences in color. For example:


Here is a picture of a circle and a random polygon (a cube, but we'll save that distinction for later). Believe it or not, these two colors share the same value. As proof, I've also included a desaturated version. Now, you might look at this and say: "well, I can tell them apart quite easily, so why does value matter?"

I'll show you why:


Here, I've "shaded" the shapes with the opposite color. I've tried my best to turn the circle into a sphere and the polygon into a cube...

You're probably looking at it like, "wow, that doesn't look shaded at all. It just looks like you colored two flat shapes two different colors." And why is that? Because the values for the "light" areas versus the "shadow" areas are the same. The lack of difference in value causes our eyes not to perceive one color as shadow and one color as light. Instead, they just look like two flat colors.

This is why value is important because, when you're actually trying to create depth and form with your shading or coloring, you don't want your final product to look "flat". You want a large range of values that will make your final product "pop". Sometimes when people are coloring, they're like, "hey, why are my colors getting muddy? Why doesn't my shading look 3D?" This is your answer. Your value range is either too narrow or nonexistent (ie. the colors share the same values). Even if colors may appear different, if they share the same value, all you end up doing is mixing flat colors.

Now, I'm not going to teach you how to translate color to value. That just comes with experience and training your eyes. But one rule of thumb worth remembering is that darker colors = darker values. Programs like Photoshop and GIMP make this easier by including a separate value slider or indicator. It's also a good habit to, every once in a while, desaturate your drawing and see it in black & white. This will help you make sure the values are well separated.


02-10-2012, 01:06 PM

02-10-2012, 01:09 PM

Okay now, this is where value really matters. When you're speedpainting, the intention is not to focus on small details. You won't be able to go in and render every single thing, otherwise it's no longer a //speed//painting. That's why, in speed painting, regardless of whether it's painting characters, vehicles or environments, you have to have a wide value range. Things have to be easily readable and visually communicate form and depth at a glance.

This is especially important when speedpainting environments because you want to create depth of field. But, since you're working in a 2-dimensional format, you can't create actual depth, merely the illusion of depth. The best way to do this? Using value to your advantage. That is what we call atmospheric perspective: the use of value to create depth of field.

Atmospheric perspective was actually a technique used by master painters during the Renaissance to do just that. What they would do is heavily desaturate things in the background and create more contrast in the foreground. This not only separated the two planes, but caused the foreground objects to seem closer and more readable and the background objects to seem further and less readable. Example:


This is a 30 minute speedpaint I did earlier. Though there are no actual indicators of distance, the shrine in the background definitely reads as being far away, whereas the ground in the foreground seems close. Let's dissect the value scale of this piece:


Here, I picked 6 separate values from the piece, ordered from darkest to lightest. Notice how the value scale gets lighter as the eye travels into the distance. The values are easily distinguished, as can be seen when they are overlapped into a spectrum. This is the main concept behind atmospheric perspective. In short, darker (value -> black) = closer, lighter (value -> white) = further.

Even then, this is a relatively simple piece. More complex pieces will have an even broader range of values--maybe 8 or 10 distinguishable--to accommodate for the greater detail density and depth. But that's not to say all speedpaintings or paintings in general need very many distinct values. They just need enough to suit the scope of the painting. Sometimes 3 or 4 will suffice. Here are two preset value ranges that I always consider:


1.) the full spectrum. This is something you'd used if you were painting an interior or confined area. Also, if you're doing a painting with a lot of stuff crowding the foreground. This is also applicable to dark atmospheres or paintings that move between shadowed and well-lit areas. This range would also suit paintings with very high detail density. Example:


2.) 80% black -> 10% white. Something you'd use if you're doing simple paintings to establish mood, or just sketching. This is best suited for large, exterior environments with a lot of depth or murk and not much happening in the immediate foreground. This range can include 100% white if there is an intense light source. Example:



Well, that's it for now. Next time I'll cover actually painting this crap.

02-10-2012, 02:01 PM
*kicks the directive in the balls* Process, God damn you! >:C

This first half was pretty informative though. Going to have to play around with the concepts when I get home. Thanks, Cype :)

02-10-2012, 02:44 PM
Apparently the forum has an issue with the word s.e.l.e.c.t.e.d. since removing that ONE word from the entire post fixed it. Yes, I even have to space it out like that, otherwise I can't post this either...

02-18-2012, 11:30 PM
Selected. It's just you. Did you do something to the forum? =_=

Also, good stuff!