January 28, 2012

Paizo Characters

A while back I was contacted by Paizo to do a series of characters for Pathfinder.

I had a load of fun with these characters.  I love getting into their detail, their armor, and their weapons.  For me characters are also a good way to try out new techniques and skills without getting bogged down with the complexities of a full illustration (although even in illustrations I am constantly trying to learn something new).

In this case, I wanted to try out using more opaque brushes in my work as well as really focus on a unifying color scheme.  In fact, I think you can even see that transition in brush use from the green samurai to the other characters.  The green samurai was done completely with a round brush with the opacity and flow set to pressure.  In the other characters, I started using a harder edged opaque brush in areas as well (these are not the only brushes I ever use however, there are others). This not only drops in some really vibrant color that gets lost when using lower opacity, but hardens up some edges, and in general makes you think more about how you are painting.  Actually, I should say that thinking about painting is not so much a consequence of brush choice, but rather trying new things helps you think about what you are painting in a more conscious manner.  

Here are the characters that I did. The character from the full illustration and the geisha in orange were not my own designs but based on those of an image provided to me by Paizo, but the other characters' costumes were developed by me.

progress and detail:

I usually start with line art and then paint an opaque layer under (or over it on a multiply layer) to rough in colors.  This speeds up the process quite a bit, as it gets the major color decisions out of the way.


  1. Great stuff, the woman in the kimono with the...I'm gonna say guitar, is really killer.

  2. hahaha - I wasn't sure what to call that instrument either and then I saw your piece and thought "A *f* it, I'm just going to say 'I liked the one Chris liked'." It's my favorite as well. Great work, Anna!

  3. A very interesting, and wonderfully detailed, set of characters. The process shot particularly catches my eye, though - since your preference is for linework initially, I'd be curious to know what the sketches you submit look like. Do you find line, tone or colour (or a particular combination) makes the most effective sketch?

  4. Thanks guys! (I think the guitar thingy is called a Shamisen). That was definitely my most inventful one in terms of pose, and having a prop for the character to interact with helped a lot (rather than the common sword/staff deal). Plus it went through a few iterations, since at first I sketched it out not having the character's reference and had to go back in and tweak her costume to make it match.

    Sam- The sketches I submit to the AD for character work pretty much looks like that. When it comes to illustrations with a background, I usually add a multiply layer to get the value working- and that is what I send to the AD. With full illustrations though, I will sometimes sketch in value instead (more and more this is the case), and neaten up the areas that need to be with line, sort of going back and forth between the two- I don't always stick to the same process because I get bored doing the same thing all the time.

    Personally, I think that anything that gets across your idea in a way that is readable is effective. The other thing that is important to me is that from that sketch it is easy to continue working. Also, the sketch for me usually leads through into the final- after the b/w version I will work up in a multiply layer or a variety of layers what I want my color to be for the piece. Sometimes I will show this color stage to the client if I think it is necessary, but I don't always as I think my initial colors usually look darn ugly.

    In the end, it is sort of about what works for you and if it solves the images problems effectively enough to bring it to final.

  5. They're all really well done, but the woman with the guitar is also my favorite. The kimono and the flowing silhouette capture the Asian aesthetic perfectly. Amazing level of detail on the process shots, a tiny Wayne Reynolds must have been sitting on your shoulder, whispering into your ear :).

  6. Holy crap, Anna :) These look so boss. Such strong compositions and costume design, you really knocked these out of the park. Everyone is going for the 3rd one, but I've got to say, I reeeally am liking the 1st and 2nd ones, some really solid strength about them both that I'm really finding appealing. Overall though, they're all consistently fantastic, great post :)

  7. Awe-inspiring! Beautiful work, Anna! Being a fan of detail... I am shocked at how much you have going on int there! Just great great work! :D

  8. Sold forms and great poses, details Anna!

  9. Thank you everyone!
    Yea, I love doing detail. It's easy to get carried away. Also, what initially sold Sarah on my work was the detail-heavy characters I did for Warhammer 40k, so I wanted to keep up that level of detail.

    Eric, yea, I really am happy with the pose/feel of the third, but my personal favorite is the second one.

  10. Wow, those are just packed with traditional Japanese costuming goodness, Anna !! Damn..

  11. these are just superb! (heh, i actually had my Caps Lock on when i started to write, for some reason. it was pretty appropriate, though!) i don't have a ton to say beyond what's been said already, but wow, these really are superlative. such sumptuous detail. they are just so solid, so attractively posed and rendered.

    may i never, ever have to paint any of these characters. :)