December 26, 2011

The Book of Vile Darkness

Here are a few images I did for The Book of Vile Darkness for D&D (I worked with Mari Kolkowsky as AD. As a side note, I have to say, I feel that all the work in there is absolutely fantastic.  I keep picking up my copy and looking at all the great art inside!). I had loads of fun with this set, and I think these are still some of my favorite illustration pieces to date.  I struggled most with the Cultist (the last image).  I find that if I don't nail the colors to start, I usually wrestle with the piece until the end.  If the colors are working, it makes all the other problems with the piece much easier for me to handle.  Color is one of the things I enjoy the most out of making art, so usually a piece does not click for me until they do.


  1. Awesome work!!!
    Can't wait to see how they revamped the rules, too. =D

  2. Damn, Anna! I'm loving these, especially that last one. Just love the whole piece. Your struggle with it paid off in the end! :)

  3. Excellent work on all three Anna! I particularly like the soft blue-green glow behind the elf on the second one.

  4. Nice work! (I totally hear and second you on the palette governing how much trouble I have until things "sit" right.)

  5. Very nice. I think the one you struggled with is actually the most successful. I'm curious, though - if you don't mind my asking, what exactly was it about the colours that you found most challenging, and at what stage did the problem become apparent (sketch, partway through rendering, etc)? How did you overcome it?

  6. Thanks everyone!

    Sam, to answer your question:

    The major problem with the color palette had to do with the fact that there was a lot of purple, and I usually seem to hate that color even though I'm always trying to use it.

    Aside from that, I think the problem was most apparent when adding in the rough colors after the b/w sketch phase. It's been a while so I can't remember exactly how it was with this piece in particular, but it usually involves me second guessing my color choice because I feel like I've been using the original color scheme too much in other pieces and I want to try something new. So I am waffling between an easier, more comfortable choice, and something more challenging.

    The only real way to overcome it is to just keep working through it, and just being conscious of your color relationships throughout the piece. I also had to focus a lot on the lighting as well, and I think that was something that I used a lot as a way to pull the piece back into line so to speak.

    I'm not sure if that's really clear or's usually a process of being really persistent and repainting, and making an overabundant use of color layers and the color balance (basically playing with sliders to see if anything improves...which generally it doesn't. There's no easy solution, and it takes a lot of tweaks).

  7. The problem with using the color balance sliders is they alter the overall value of the image, particularly on the brightest and darkest ends of the spectrum. Sliding towards yellow lightens the values, and sliding to blue darkens it, which is why I avoid color balance.

    An interesting work around is to use photo filters instead, as they don't alter the value (image→adjustments→photo filter). Duplicate the color layer, apply a warm or cool photo filter to the bottom layer, then erase portions of the the top layer. it's kinda like applying oil glazes but in reverse.

  8. Craig, I'll have to try that.

    One trick I do is make a few layers, and then alter each layer individual, either via Variations or with color balance. Then I mask the layers and erase out the areas that I don't want to see.

  9. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question so thoroughly, Anna.

    I don't think I've ever even tried using Colour Balance, or Photo Filter (just colour layers and colour brush for me).

  10. They are all great, but I LOVE the last two! Really top notch work! :D

  11. Thanks Tyler and Chris!

    Sam- no problem!

    Craig, I tried out the photo filters on a piece last night. Awesome tip, thanks for sharing!