Backgrounds and Finishing Touches

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Once you have your character all colored in, you may wish to add a background. Even a sloppy background can really bring your picture to life. I sketched up a quick background, which consisted of a city and some mountains, and put the sketch in a layer beneath the main picture. I then made the sketch transparent using the same method described in part 1. However, it's probably smarter to include the background in your first sketch; I just didn't think about
it until after scanning in the inked version of this picture. Anyway, make sure the outline for the background layer is transparent.

Next, fill in the base colors of the background using the polygonal lasso tool. Okay, I know the background I drew isn't the most exciting in the world, but it's my first try at adding a hand drawn background, so bear with me.

Once the main colors are set down, add shading to the background so it doesn't look so flat. This part takes a little while... It is usually a big help to have some reference pictures, because I don't know about you, but I personally find coloring landscapes challenging. Of course, that's probably because I don't practice nearly enough...

Once I colored in the background, I added a few lighting effects to make it look a little nicer. I added a lens flare right above the mountains (this is one time when a lens flare would be appropriate; they are generally only seen when a light is shining directly into the camera), and added some streaks of light. To get the light streaks, I created another layer between the background and the character, used the polygonal lasso tool to make large, flat triangle shapes, filled them in with pure white, blurred them out with a Gaussian blur, set the layer to "Soft Light" instead of normal, and adjusted the opacity of the layer to about 70%.

You're almost done now. If you like, create a layer on top of all the others. On this layer, you will put extra highlights and touch ups. Take a light airbrush set to a low pressure (20-40%), and carefully add light to areas with highlights, such as the lighter areas of the metallic areas on the headdress in the picture to the right. This gives them an added shininess.

Whew, almost done! Now, all you have to do is compress your file. If you have the memory to spare, you may wish to keep an uncompressed version of your picture for future use (you may want to make prints or wallpapers out of it). Still, if you plan on posting your picture on the internet, you need to compress it and save it in either JPEG or GIF format. There is nothing more annoying than having to wait half an hour waiting to receive a 2 meg file that someone sent, because he or she didn't know how to properly compress the file. To shrink the file size down, go to the Layers Menu at the top menu bar, then go to "Flatten Image". This will flatten all the layers together.

You cannot save in JPEG format unless you flatten the image. At this point, you may need to adjust the size of the image, too. Try not to make the picture any more than 800 pixels in either direction; it's best to have the picture fit on one screen. Next, just go to "save as", and select JPEG format from the pull down menu. When prompted, pick a compression rate to save it as. I recommend a compression rate of either 6 or 7, because it trims the file size down nicely without sacrificing too much quality. Trust me, it's pretty hard to tell the difference between a level
10 compressed file and a level 6 compressed file. By the way, click on the picture to the left to see the finished, full size version!



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