In the continued creation of a hyper-realistic monster, I reached the stage where one overlays textures onto the body. For my fellow Photoshop nerds, you take a picture of a texture, put it on its own layer, lower the opacity to around 30%, and tweak out the exposure so the texture looks like it’s on the underlying surface. It’s a standard technique illustrators have been using for over a decade. But I couldn’t find the right texture to use with my monster, so created my own using 3D software.

My skin texture, and then it applied to the monster.

I liked making the texture myself, because if feels less like cheating (especially when I came up with the way to make the texture on my own). But, it’s no different than when a traditional painter presses a sponge into paint, then on the canvas, to create a rough texture. Sometimes people send me well-intended, helpful criticism that my digital art sucks and the machine does all the work. To do something like this, though — like it or not — you need both traditional skills and digital art skills.

Moving on… one has to do each section independently, and in this case it’s one bubble at a time. You use the Warp tool to approximately form the texture to the underlying surface. Once all that’s done, you can erase or use a mask to make adjustments.

Here’s a detail:

I came up with my own method for doing the irises and veins in the eyes, incidentally.

It looks passably convincing in most areas, and ads a new level of detail. But next I’m going to have to paint over it in a few stages to add rim lighting, highlights, and tweak out the shadows. This is still pretty rough.

Before and after the first stage of adding texture:

I like the newer, smallpox version better, but the overlaying layer has greyed out color, contrastm, and lighting. It’ll look better after I touch it up.

Also, since last time I shared the Bubble Head, I pulled his lips back more to show more gums, in which case her’s looking more aggressive. With those mandibles, he’s at least as much an ant-man as he is a bubble head, and his growing intensity is appropriate for ants as well.

I’m putting a lot of extra time into this because I rather like it. It’s gone from an exercise in photorealistic techniques into a more serious digital painting. There will be a background and maybe a surprise or two.

~ Ends


15 replies on “Bubbly Monster Skin

    1. I think you’re on to something. It’s rare, I find, for someone who has mastered anatomy, perspective, lighting and so on to do anything other than that. It’s kinda of like someone who can play a Beethoven piano sonata. Can they then play some other kind of music, or make their own (with the exception of Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, and several other notable rock keyboard Gods)?

      I think the issue is that none of us can be a master of everything, so we conquer certain territory and work within it. I haven’t done one landscape in my life that I can recall, nor a flower, though I love the Impressionists. It’s just not really my temperament, though I’d absolutely love to take a plein air oil painting class some day.

      My general trajectory has been away from conceptual art, away from abstraction and non-representational art, and towards imagery and more naturalistic rendering. If I’m doing that, I’m not doing de Kooning, who’s work I quite admire.

      So, just choices of what tools we want to use, and to what ends.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is awesome. Thank you for sharing the PS Nerd tips. I love PS, and I wish I had a decent draw-on-the-screen device, it would be a lot of fun. Scanning drawn art works too but sometimes I’d like to be able to play directly on the screen from start to finish.

    And I don’t understand the sentiment that digital art is cheating or takes no skill – if so, I would be happy to see the critics do this themselves. It’s like saying oil painting takes no skill because the canvas and brush and paint do all the work, or that playing electric guitar takes no skill because of amplifiers and pickups.

    Digital art is its own medium – you get to paint with light and layers and algorithms instead of pigments and friction and fibre.

    Yes, things can be undone and duplicated and layered. So what. This is what tools do – they give the user options they didn’t have before. More options means a different kind of art. It’s the emotional effect, and the stories then told using this effect that matters – the visuals either do something for the viewer or they don’t. Only art snobs will care if the “how” broke some “rules”… Onward! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, uh, wimselloop.

      I don’t have a graphics tablet, either. I have a cheap-ass Wacom. I think it’s the “bamboo”. I got it at a local mall in Thailand. I WISH I could draw on the screen as well. I head the stolen-technology Chinese knock-offs are getting pretty good, and so, when there’s a sale, one can pick up a decent graphics tablet for around $3-400. I need a new laptop first, though. Mine’s at least 6 years old, the battery doesn’t work, and the monitor is dead — I connect to an external monitor.

      The people who reject digital art tend to be, well, my age and older. They can be quite insulting about it, too. Here’s a post where I quote direct attacks made towards me:

      You’re right, of course. Nobody who can really do digital art claims that the machine does it, it’s soulless, or any of the crap. But it also has to do with markets and paradigms. I know of no digital painting who is recognized by the contemporary art world. If they are, it will because of their race, gender, and politics rather than skill and imagination, I’m guessing.

      That’s why I gave up on the contemporary fine art world. I’m more of a populous artist now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had a Bamboo drawing tablet for a while. I like them, even a small one gives you a good amount of control, once you get (sort-of) used to the disconnect between stylus and eyes. I misplaced the pen somewhere and then the tablet got put away somewhere else. $150 or so lost in a couch cushion. I hope to try a tablet again sometime.

        Posts like yours inspire me to want to take these tools more seriously. I very much like the digital community’s tendency toward sharing information. I just wrote a blog post about this topic, pointing back to here. Thank you for making me consider this!

        -Mike (username wimselloop; bad @ branding/marketing)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You can buy a replacement pen by itself from Wacom, I think. I also lost a pen in a move, but my tablet was so old I opted for a new set.

        The digital community does share information, but I keep some secrets to myself, because if just about anyone else runs with them they’ll get more mileage out of it than I do. I like to have a few flourishes that are all my own.

        I’ve more or less given up on the contemporary art world to acknowledge by existence, despite having an MFA in the discipline. It seems impossible to break into for me. However, I get a hopeful sense that in the digital painting community, if you show enough skill, people will pay attention. So far that has not been the case, but many of the skills I’ve shared tend to be of the more idiosyncratic variety, and in the context of fine art (ex., Expressionistic, digital impasto paintings). I believe I MAY reach a wider audience if I work more realistically, clearly from the imagination, and conspicuously by hand. That seems like an appropriate strategy for me, and which I also quite enjoy. It’s a very different paradigm than making art for the contemporary art world.

        I’ll go check out your new post.

        Thanks again for reading, taking an interest, and commenting.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Curious if you’ve done any 2D/3D animation? I see from one of your posts that you have worked in Blender. Your skills seems particularly suited to animation, because of the techniques and background you bring, and then your comfort and knowledge with digital tools.

        Your stuff is incredibly imaginative and detailed, I imagine you could create any sort of imagery for a variety of genres and audiences.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. No animation. Well, only the slightest in Blender, but just to create an explosion, and then choose among frames to work with or a still image. I’m already covering a lot of territory. Animation may be too much for me to take on at this point.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m impressed when other people are able to do certain effects, and render things I can’t, and so I’m trying to learn those techniques myself, and ad them to my skill-set.


  2. Eric, I love this so much! It… pops out! I mean, who doesn’t love bubbles? I want to feed it, sing lullabies to it, ask it existential questions. I’m very curious where you’ll take this next.

    Liked by 1 person

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