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  • Writer's picturedrathdir

The Making of "Dee Dee Miller"

This blog is less a "how to" instructional article, and more of a high level overview of the process of making this image.

I am by no means a professional artist. Pro artists would likely be horrified by the steps I'm outlining below, but it's important to remember that I've only been working on art for the past 4 years in my spare time, and I consider myself a novice.


Start with an Idea

As with all of my illustrations, Dee Dee started as an idea. I've played three games as Dee Dee Miller, and I imagined her with a little heart-shaped face, a red cap, goggles, and a pair of red overalls. The inspiration for her character comes from a combination of "Speed Racer" characters: Trixie for her appearance, Spritle for her personality.


References

First I collected references. Her "face double" was generated from MidJourney. I searched on Amazon to find aviator helmets with goggles, and then I asked my daughter to model my winter hat.

Line Drawing

Once I had my references, my next step was lines. It is not uncommon for me to use the grid method to get my lines in place. (One strike from pro artists for using the grid

method.) I did not spend much time cleaning up the lines as they would not be in the final product.

Block in Values

After her lines were in place, I blocked-in my values (dark/light). To do this, I first paint in a medium grey everywhere within the lines. Then, keeping my eyes on my reference, I guessed where I needed different values of black and white, and applied them loosely. I spent more time blocking in values on the face than on the clothing because incorrect values on the face are more obvious, while other parts of an image are much more forgiving. (Second strike from pro artists for not managing my values and hues at the same time. But, I am, unfortunately, not confident enough with color to handle them both at the same time.)


Blend the Values

From this point forward, I focused first on the face. Once values were blocked in, I removed the lines, and I began to blend my values. This is a long process, and likely the most satisfying for me.

Colorize

The process of coloring Dee Dee (and most of my illustrations) is very similar to colorizing black and white photographs. It involves using color in a separate layer from the black/white values, then using a Photoshop blend mode to indicate to Photoshop that it should blend the hues in the color layer with the values in the black/white layer. This process is more complex than you might think. Dee Dee's skin, for instance, includes three shades of peach, a shade of red, an off-white (for highlight areas), and (on top of all that) a shade of blue for the shadows.


Repeat

After that, I repeated the process for her clothing and then applied final effects on top of the image to ensure that the image had consistency in the lighting environment.


Assessment

And that was that. I was satisfied with the outcome in terms of the overall quality. I do have some concerns about my use of references in this image. I've only recently begun to introduce MidJourney as a source for my references. Previously, my primary references were always my own photos and Adobe Stock (with some use of minor references like the goggles.) It always makes me nervous when my results look similar to a reference that is not from one of those two sources. MidJourney does its own synthesis, so I'm hopeful that between MJ remixing the art, and my own changes, the end result is sufficiently different to call it a unique creative work.


The next logical question is why I remain so loyal to my references. The answer is that I simply don't have pictures in my mind's eye to follow, and I don't always have sufficient mastery of my fundamentals to be able to diverge from the references. I hope that ability evolves more as I practice. Already, with four years of practice, I find that I am better at altering the lighting and perspective of references. Faces, however, remain too complex to change significantly before they begin to look unnatural.

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