I’m an illustration major at MICA (please check out my bloghere as a way to support me for making this post!), so this is catered towards what I learned in my illustration critiques and from professional illustrators. I think these tips can go for other artists too, though!
None of these are things that work all the time, but they’re general “rules” I’ve been taught. You can break them, just know why you’re doing so! These are just things I copied from my critique notes, so most are general tips I’ve heard and copied down.
Enjoy what you’re working on, but be okay with changing it.
Anatomy, and accurately trying to portray it, is really important.
Time and space can be portrayed through focus and distance.
When working digitally, make some of your own textures (traditionally) and scan them in. Adding them into a picture adds an element of your own hand and makes your work stand apart from other digital work.
Contrast is a great thing.
Saturation is a great thing, especially in watercolor (soak that brush with pigment!).
Your style should never draw an obscene amount of attention to itself; it should just work fluidly.
Consider what medium(s) work best for your idea.
Cover your paint palettes (particularly reusable ones) to make sure dust doesn’t get in the paints.
Spin the page when you’re working. The time is takes to do that will show some major improvement in your art!
Use dark watercolor and then a light colored pencil on top, never the other way around (it will look muddy and ruin clarity).
Make sure to sometime pin or place you piece far away and step away so you can see the whole composition (or zoom out a lot digitally).
Consider the genre and audience of what you’re working for (and if it’s yourself, then you’re your own audience!).
Illustration is a branch of fine art, don’t forget that.
Fantasy art usually needs a lot of high detail.
Pick an overall color palette to work in, then add in other colors as needed.
Complementary colors (ones opposite on the color wheel), when placed next to each other, can pop an object forward or draw attention to it. (Think of a red ornament on a green Christmas tree).
Designate the shadows to be either warm or cool, and the highlights to be the opposite. Stay with this throughout the entire picture.
All colors have a warm and a cool hue (cool and warm blues, cool and warm oranges).
The more saturated a color is, the more it will pop forward in the picture plane.
Don’t use colors right out of the paint tube.
When making a shadow, tint the color with the complementary tone (it makes it a little more grey).
Colorizing backgrounds lines makes them recede in a colored image with line art.
Blue and pink tones are great for use in skin tones.
Flats need to be fairly differentiated colors.
The reference should never be an excuse for a misleading or awkward pose. You have the artistic license to alter an awkward pose and not just draw from a photo.
With scratchy or textured line art, find some places of solid black too, to allow the eye to rest (or where you want something to pop out).
How you render all the elements of the picture is what makes your own individual style.
When something is illuminated, it should be the brightest part of the composition.
Anything with a straight angle (like the corner of a room) has one wall/side being lighter in value than the other. There is a crisp distinction.
Sometimes adding more lessens the strength of the image.
Fabric folds are crisp, if they’re too soft they’ll look like clay.
Line heaviness and weight can determine depth.
Anatomical consistency is very important.
Inside of the mouth is usually dark.
Show character motivations with actions and poses.
You can crop a face or figure to set a mood.
In any and every picture, pay special and close attention to the hands, feet, and face.
Learning musculature, even if you use reference, will help you create the body you want for your character. Understand the human form…it’s easier to alter if you understand it in the first place.
To pop a figure forward, add a little bit of rim lighting (great with backlighting).
Avoid spots where a line or shape comes really close, but doesn’t cross, the edge of the paper. This is called a tangent and tangents are bad (they suck the eye into just that one spot and stop the composition).
Nothing in the picture is accidentally there, it is all drawn by you, so make sure everything has a conscious placement.
Don’t crop anything that shows essential character expression (including essential parts of the pose).
Never crop a figure at a joint (it makes the limb look amputated unintentionally).
Consider how you show detail with smaller characters…what are the essential characteristics?
Shapes of color or tone can make great framing devices.
For the most part, render the foreground with more clarity than the background…you want atmospheric perspective to be used to make it look like it’s receding.
Line heaviness/weight can combat (in a good way) any very dark areas.
When the character breaks a border (shape, line, panel etc), it shows dominance.
Make the shape of your negative space visually interesting.
“Cornerstops” are great. They are a compositional element that visually blocks your eye from running off the corner of a page.
Shadows can be a great compositional element.
Narrative Illustration (Portraying the narrative)
It is a successful illustration if the story is told.
Use every element of the image to tell the story.
Sometimes you have to take out elements you love for the sake of storytelling.
Think of images as being fast/slow, quiet/loud. What techniques portray these senses for you, and why are you using such techniques? What areas of the picture are slower and faster, why those areas?
Indicate how lavish or simple a place is by the details you choose to include in the background.
Don’t make it obvious that you “curated” the picture; it should look natural.
Cover illustrations don’t always need big and bold text, as long as there’s a strong narrative being portrayed.
Something mid action carries the narrative better than pre or post action.
You should be able to tell a story without relying on text.
Sequential Art (Comics, etc)
Color between panels can draw the eye around the page.
Big jumps in narrative can add humor and excitement, just make sure to think of why you are having the jump there.
When starting a sequence, make it obvious where you start (establishing shot; biggest to smallest, etc).
Make sure panels can read as separate images even if you took the gutter away.
Smaller panels are frequently used for faster/quicker actions.
Removing the background in certain panels allows the scene to be read faster; you only need one background per page (unless the scene in the background is changing).
Style, readability, and timing are key things to keep in mind.
Does the punch line/climax happen at the right time on the page?
Before planning a page, ask yourself: “How much time is elapsing between the first and last panel?”
Consider panel shape and size.
The composition, and where the eye flows inside every panel, informs where the eye travels to next…compositionally lead the eye from panel to panel.
The more panels you have, generally the more time goes on.
Don’t rely on speed/action lines to make things dramatic.
Give word bubbles a little breathing room.
When doing a graphic novel, you’ll usually have to redraw the first few pages since the characters will come more naturally to you by the end pages.
There is a design element to sound effects.
Digital Art (Mostly Photoshop based, but some are general tips)
Before printing, you usually want to switch your file to CMYK (though save a file in RGB too). Print at 300 dpi.
Before printing, you can up the brightness, saturation and contrast until it just starts to look awkward. You’ll learn the best settings for the printer you print at.
Don’t place digital textures anywhere. Consciously arrange them.
Don’t overrender. Digital art tends to be the most successful when it feels less digital than someone would expect.
If your color scheme doesn’t look cohesive, you can use a fill layer of one specific color to unify everything (Layer->fill layer). Lower the opacity to around 15-30%.
There are definitely many things worth criticizing in Steven Universe, but it’s weird because one of the biggest criticisms I see is something I personally love about the show?
It’s a lot of criticisms that basically boil down to “pacing”.
Like “They keep setting up this big mysteries and then not paying off on them!” or “A big thing happens and then we get right back into filler episodes!” and like
Yeah? Exactly. IDK what to tell you.
Rebecca Sugar is like reverse Steven Moffat, I almost feel like. She sets things up without you even knowing anything is being set up, so it doesn’t build tension, but then when you get the payoff it’s satisfying and obvious. Or, alternatively, she introduces a big plot element, and it’s like “Are we ever going to address this?” and then, eventually, when it naturally comes up, we finally do.
We saw Connie’s glow bracelet in episode 1, and didn’t even know it was foreshadowing until we me Connie 8 episodes later. We didn’t learn Garnet was a fusion until 50 episodes in.
We met Lion in episode 10, and there were SO MANY QUESTIONS. What is he? Where do his powers come from? What is his connection to Rose? And we never directly got answers to those questions - instead they were indirectly answered in a “filler” episode about a historical Beach City in episode 106 that really only raised more questions than it answered, followed by the most recent episode, 132, which was about Lars and Homeworld and also, you know, incidentally answered the entire Lion mystery.
Over three years after it was introduced we finally learned what Lion’s deal is, and it wasn’t even in a Lion-centric story. But you know what? It was still satisfying. At least, I thought so.
I don’t get the feeling that that explanation was made up. Watching it, I get the feeling Rebecca Sugar knew three years ago what was up with Lion. She just wasn’t going to incorporate it until it became immediately relevant.
It’s slow, honest, sprawling worldbuilding that I can really fucking get behind. The writers know what this world is and who these characters are, they just aren’t going to force exposition or explanations where they wouldn’t naturally occur if they can avoid it.
IDK, the whole “we just introduced this big new thing, but now the characters are just dinking around? Living their lives? Why???” thing is, to me, at least a solid half of the draw. I like the show is approachable, that the tension is present but not overbearing.
It feels like life. Big, life-changing, worldview shifting things happen. And at the same time that it changes everything, it doesn’t actually change very much at all.
A good friend dies suddenly, you still have to make yourself lunch. Your parents are getting a divorce, you still hang out with your friends and maybe even act like everything is normal. And maybe even forget while you’re hanging out with your friends what is going on at home. You get arrested, get out on bail, know you have a huge case coming up that could determine your whole future, you still play video games for a couple hours the next night, you still go to work the next day. You’re working with your lawyers and everyone to put together your case, of course, but normal life doesn’t stop. It rarely ever does.
IDK, I see these criticisms like “They introduces Bismuth and then just benched her!” or “They introduced the cluster and then it didn’t actually do anything” and it’s like, yet. I have no reason not to trust that those things won’t be coming back around. Everything else in this show has, in time, come back around so far. From seemingly insignificant side characters, to weird locations, to random trivia.
There’s an old saying, “things change slowly, until they change all at once”, and it has, in my life, generally proven to be true. And it seems to be the Steven Universe approach to story pacing. And I, personally, really really like it. And it’s cool if you don’t. But I don’t think I’d like the show as much if it weren’t so chill. It’s a show that drips along in tiny, soothing, sentimental increments.
It’s fine if that’s an aspect of the show you don’t like. I have preferences and there are things I don’t like even though they’re arguably good. But I keep seeing people propose it as an aspect of the show that is bad writing. And, I just can’t wrap my head around that? It’s perfectly fine writing. It’s even, often, great writing. I prefer a slow and quiet accruement to a plot-heavy infodump any fucking day. Not that there isn’t often call for the latter, depending on the story you want to tell and how you want to tell it. But I prefer the former.
So far I haven’t been given any indication there isn’t a planned followthrough for all the many, many threads Steven Universe has laid. They’ve successfully followed through enough times before, often on things we weren’t even aware we should be looking out for, that I imagine they’ll keep doing so. The only reason I ever see the show failing to do so, and having a rushed and unsatisfying end, is time. If they get prematurely cancelled, or prematurely decide to end things out of personal desire to work other projects, then yeah, SU could end badly. Lots of stuff could end up unexplained or given a quick unsatisfying end. But there’s no evidence of that yet, so right now I’m going to take the pacing choices as just that. Choices. Good ones, that I like. Even if they aren’t to everyone’s taste.
The purpose of life is to watch and experience living. To enjoy living every moment of it. And to live in environments, which are calm, quiet, slow, sophisticated, elegant. Just to be. Whether you are naked or you have a golden robe on you, that doesn’t make any difference. The ideal purpose of your life is that you are grateful - great and full - that you are alive, and you enjoy it.
I imagine that Harry and Draco’s first time together would be intense. It would be rough and needy and desperate, developing out of sexual tension built up over seven years of anger and frustration. It would peak and then slow to a quiet calm in just under ten minutes of absolute insanity.
And then, complete awkwardness. Like what the hell did we just do???? awkwardness.
They could both admit they enjoyed it. That was a bit obvious given the sounds they both had made. But wow this is super weird.
They try going back to normal–ignoring each other apart from polite nods from across the great hall. But when Harry catches Draco staring at him during class or in the eighth year common room he sees something he’s never seen before in those cool, grey eyes. Want.
Not just an “I want you right here and right now on this desk in this classroom” kind of way. It’s hesitant and curious. A clear desire to understand his own feelings towards his supposed rival. And every day Harry sees the want in those eyes become more determined. More fixed. More focused. Until finally, it seems he’s decided. And Harry has too.
I imagine their second time is more uncertain. They’re shy and uncomfortable and saying are we really doing this?? yeah I guess we’re doing this. There’s shaky laughs and blushing and nose bumping and Harry’s glasses dig into Draco’s cheek until one of them comes to their senses and is like yeah.. right.. I should probably take these off. And you should take those off too.. and yeah alright I guess everything’s coming off. And Draco kisses Harry and says “Potter, if you don’t stop narrating this I swear I’ll walk out that door.”
It’s messy and soft. And somehow even more exciting than the first time because they’ve had time to think about it. A lot of time. And amazingly, despite everything, both have come to the conclusion that this is worth it. This is right. And it was right all along.
I’ve got loyalty, got royalty rating: a very light mature pairing: Jon x Daenerys summary: After Jon learns that he has a birthright to the Iron Throne, he notices Daenerys pulling away from him. note: love to @jonathansnowflakes for letting me babble to her near incessantly.
“You’re avoiding me.”
She doesn’t look surprised to find him lingering in the hall outside her quarters. Exhausted, really, more than anything else. She brushes past him without slowing her graceful, quiet steps, the smell of honey and ash following after her as it always seems to.
(He tries not to remember how he could smell it on his skin for days, after. How in the space just between her shoulder and neck, below her ear, it smells the strongest. How she gasps out his name when he drags his teeth against the same spot, her nails pressing into his shoulders and her ankle hooking behind his knee.)
“I’ve been busy,” she responds, voice clipped. He knows very well how busy she has been. Bewitching his banner men as well as his wolf, Ghost trailing after her wherever she goes. Even now, he can hear the soft pad of paws just behind them both, a silent patrol in the darkness of the hall.
People who write post-apocalypse or collapse or Civil War 2 fics are so uncreative or removed from the reality of America.
Like if shit pops off real bad and America collapses it won’t be some slow burn or quiet slide we are not, overall, a subtle or well restrained people. Within like five minutes of the local post office declaring martial law some dude is gonna fire a fucking Carl Gustav into a gas station from the bed of an F150 going 70mph through an intersection.
If you think shit went off the rails in Syria you haven’t seen the kinds of things that Americans cook up for fun, let alone for mass political violence.