Smooth or rough? Glossy or matte? Patterns or flat? These are some of the questions that go through my head when coming up with a design, but really the main question is: How much detail should I add?
I have a tendency to go overboard when it comes to details, every nook and cranny with some form of texture or pattern or highlight, really I don’t need to it but it’s sort of become a habit. So do you need to go to the extent I do? Depends on where you want to take your design, if you’re going for as realistic as possible then it might be worth the extra few hours work. You do need patience, in fact I’d probably suggest it’s best to detail over several sessions and not try and cram everything in a single one. But detailing can also be the fun part, you might stumble across a pattern or design elements that you never thought of before, you really can get on a role when it comes to detailing.
You want to add some interest to your design, then textures are the way to go, collect a library of textures: rocks, metal surfaces, scratches, old paper, what ever, sites like Stock Exchange are littered with thousands of different textures. Textures really do add some life to an otherwise flat area. The Hawkgirl images below show before and after examples of adding texture. The Helm was just too shiny, it needed to look like it had seen battle, so using a variety of rock and scratched metal surface I was able to achieve a more battle hardened look.
2) Cast Shadows
Cast shadows are created when an object blocks the light source, important to remember! If you’ve got objects in your piece take notice of your light source. Cast Shadows help sell the illusion. Below is a before and after of my Huntress design, with and without cast shadowing on the arrows.
Little bits of white paint or a bit of Dodge Tool here and there really can add something, take notice of the light source, if you’ve got metal of reflective materials, consider adding a few subtle highlights to make it stand out a bit more. Below for Superman’s logo I wanted a sort of metallic fabric, it was a case of using a piece of shiny metal image and overlaying it with the rest of the suit until I got the result I was looking for.
Your character looks ok but it still lacking something? Try some patterns to add some depth, Below is my most recent Harley Quinn, originally she’s was looking a little flat, I was happy with the foundations of the costume but was still missing a little something. I had an idea before of the material being almost pyjama like, so I found some pyjamas patterns I liked and overlaid them to the costume. And it doesn’t have to be just random patterns, think about the character and their back story, then try and find patterns that best suit that character.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a Graphics Tablet, painting in details is a must. Using the Paint Brush or the Burn/Dodge tool, I find using Speckled Brushes works the best if you’re going for a realistic approach, Round Brushes tend to look to clean and unnatural for my liking (but are very useful for sharp edges).
Finally does your character have weapons? A utility belt? Does your characters outfit have pockets? A Zipper maybe? A few added details like these can make thing stand out more and give added depth.