PART TWO: Advancing Your Skills [qqqqh]
Now that you know a basic way to make renders, lets explore a few more options. I will still try to walk you through step by step for the most part, but I will assume you know and understand the ideas and processes covered in Part One. Because of this, I may not explain EVERY single step, but if you went through Part One, then you should have no real trouble with most of Part Two. The multiple and intersecting paths section is a little confusing, but I think you'll manage just fine! This section will cover ideas about ~
- Using path curves and why they are great
- Feathering your render
- Removing backgrounds instead of copying and moving your render
- Making multiple and/or intersecting paths and why you may need them
- Fixing problem areas ON your render
LOOK BACK TO PART ONE IF YOU NEED TO REFRESH YOUR MEMORY ON ANYTHING!!!
Path Curves: [qqqqi]
Curving paths can be your BEST friend at times - they're great because they are easy to use, are infinitely adjustable, and can save you a TON of time. Just be careful, and you will find path curves indispensable as your rendering skills progress.
As an example, lets render something a little different for this - KIRBY!!!!
Ok... consider how many clicks it would take to render Kirby using the method described in Part 1... and how long it would take you to do it....
Now, lets see the magic of path curves.
- We're still using GIMP, so open the Kirby pic there and select the path tool.
- MAKE SURE the 'Polygonal' box in the path tool dialog is UNCHECKED.
- Go around the edge of Kirby and make a few anchor points. We will be connecting these points with CURVES, so keep that in mind and place anchors in appropriate places - in corners, spaced out around a big curve, you get the idea. You'll learn how to do this easy with a little practice.
- DON'T WORRY about what your path LINE looks like at this point. The line may go way outside or inside of what you are rendering, and that is FINE. We just want some anchors.
Here is my Kirby pic after placing some anchor points ~
- Now zoom in on a segment of your path line.
- Left click *ON* your path line
- HOLD left click and now drag the mouse around - CURVES!!!
Experiment with this a little, and you'll notice that each anchor point will have two adjustment boxes (technically called 'handles' but I call them adjustment boxes =P), one for each connected path line segment - they are the little blanked out squares connected to the anchor with a dotted line, like this ~
To make the curves do what you want them to, you will need to drag the adjustment boxes around. Each path line segement is controlled by ONE adjustment box from EACH adjacent anchor point, meaning a curve is shaped by only TWO adjustment boxes. You CAN just drag the actual path line around and GIMP will move each adjustment box along with your cursor movements depending on which part of the path line you drag... but I recommend dragging the actual BOXES to get a more precise curve since moving one box will not move the other box in the way that dragging the line unintentionally can.
If you don't understand, this pic shows you the adjustment boxes for a particular path line segment ~
You can use the boxes to make almost any sort of curve, even 'S' curves if you want. There are some limits, but let's try it out and see what happens.
- Choose a path line segment you want to curve.
- Left click and drag the path line to get the adjustment boxes into a place you can reach them (they are directly on top of an anchor point until you drag the line). You may have to left-click-drag near EACH end of your line segment to make BOTH adjustment boxes available.
- Drag each box until you get the path line to curve around and match up with the edge of your render.
- Repeat with the next line segment, and the next, and the next until you're done!!! You can edit your path to include as few or as many anchor points as you need - just do whatever works best for you.
- Just because you can make curves doesn't mean you should. Sometimes a straight line is still best - just follow the edge of your render and use what works. Straight lines will work especially well on certain 'hard' or 'man-made' items like parts of a combat trooper's gun, a fantasy warrior's spear shaft, building structures, and the like. Doing an entire render with straight lines can be very effective on 'pixellated' pictures such as my Desert Eagle example in Part One - it can be hard to keep curves from including parts of the background in especially pixellated pictures. I find that most renders will contain a combination of both straight and curved path lines, so again, just do what is necessary to follow the edge of your render.
- It's perfectly fine to make curves *while you are in the process* of placing your anchor points. In my Kirby example, I waited to make my curves until I had finished my path line, but do whatever works best for you. In order to keep confusion to a minimum in larger or more complex render jobs, I recommend you just make the curves as you go along instead of waiting until the end.
- If two adjacent anchor points are SELECTED (they will be blanked out instead of solid color) and you try to drag the path line that connects them, you will MOVE the whole line segment instead of CURVING it. This can occasionally be useful, but it's annoying when you do it on accident. To fix this hold SHIFT and left click one of the anchors to unselect it. Now you can drag the line around all you want. ...Or you could just USE THE ADJUSTMENT BOXES instead. =P
- Moving an anchor point will distort the curves adjacent to that anchor point! The farther you move an anchor, the more noticable this will be. So, if you move an anchor point connected to a curving path segment, you'll probably need to adjust your curves again to get them juuuust right.
- Keep in mind we still want to do our best to avoid including background areas inside our path line, and we want to avoid getting parts of our render outside the path line.
- The adjustment boxes can be a little tricky in some situations - however, PRACTICE! Trial and error, making mistakes, and gaining experience is all part of the process - keep it up and you will figure out how to make the curve you want every time!
- Don't get over excited!!! Sure, that edge looks... almost like a curve... but don't force a single curve onto an edge that has random variations! Baggy clothes are usually one example of this, as they tend to billow out at one area and sink in at another. Follow the EXACT edges if at all possible! Make separate curves for each significant bump, bend, dip, or whatever to get the best and most accurate results.
- Sometimes you may need extra anchor points ON a curve to make it work. To keep a SMOOTH curve when this is necessary, avoid having 'dips' or 'spikes' at your anchor points. If you cannot make this work, try moving the offending anchor point(s) a little, or even move nearby anchor points a little to fix it. If all else fails, try adding or deleting an anchor point nearby and try once more to make a proper curve. In a smooth curve, the adjustment boxes for one anchor point will be nearly (or perfectly) opposite of each other. Again, practice makes perfect! These pics help to explain what I mean ~
- Re-read the tips from Part One if you have any troubles! ^^
Now your render is ready to be cut! That was easy!
Follow the steps we did in part one to cut out your render (selection from path, copy, paste as new image) and go through the 'Fixing Mistakes, Finalizing, and Saving Your Render'
section in Part One to finish up! Remember, go back and adjust anchor points to get an optimal result if needed, and don't forget that you can use the eraser tool if you like (preferably with a 'fuzzy' brush) to clean up stray edges of your render once you paste it as a new image.
Feathering Your Render: Two Methods [qqqqj]
First, you should know that this step is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL.
All that feathering your render does is add a *slight* transparency effect to the edges. This *can* degrade the quality of certain portions of your picture by blurring out small areas at the edges, so be careful!!!
The reason you may want to feather is that it can help your render 'blend' into any type of background that you decide to place it against. So, lets continue with our Kirby picture to see how this works.
Method One: [qqqqk]
Method One involves working with a render you have already completed and saved as a .PNG file.
- Open your finished render in GIMP - again, this should be a .PNG file if you paid attention in Part One!!!
Now we want to select just our render graphic. 'Select All' won't work for this, so... what to do, what to do...? Ah, here we go!
- At the top, choose 'Layer > Transparency > Alpha To Selection.'
This will select only your render - exactly what we want! You should now have the 'marching ants' selection line around your render. Now for the feathering!
- Go up and click 'Select > Feather' at the top. (sorry for using the wrong screenshot - this SS is from the original Kirby pic instead of the render - but it still shows what you need
- Left click 'Feather' and see the dialog that appears next.
- For our purposes, we only want a *slight* feathering effect, so lower this number to 1 or 2 pixels instead of the default 5 pixels and click OK.
- Now 'Edit > Copy' then 'Paste as New Image' just like you do when you've finished a path and are cutting out a normal render job.
- That's it! Now you can save your feathered render as a separate .PNG file if you like. You won't really be able to tell much difference in your image at this point. Here's some examples ~
No Feathering ~
One Pixel Feathering Method One ~
Two Pixel Feathering Method One ~
Twenty Pixel Feathering (!) Method One ~
You probably cannot *see* any difference in the first couple pictures, but if you try saving the examples and pasting them into a real background instead of a white web page, it really can help make your render blend in better. It's a small effect, but helpful at times - I usually go for a one-pixel feather on my own projects. The 20 pixel version is just an extreme example so you can really SEE the white web page blending through the render. ...yeah, I should've put my examples against a real background blah blah blah... >_<
Method Two: [qqqql]
Method Two involves doing the feathering BEFORE you cut your render from the background image. Just add in the steps to do the feather effect described in Method One AFTER making the 'Selection from Path' in a normal rendering job and BEFORE you copypaste your render as a new image.
- Finish your path as normal and check for mistakes
- Now go back to your picture that has your path line work completed
- Go ahead and click 'Selection from Path' in the Path Tool dialog
- Instead of copypasting your image, add in the feather effect as described in Method One.
- NOW copypaste your image like you normally would.
Feathering at this stage can produce odd results, sometimes even better ones! Why? Well, feathering creates a 'fade' transparency effect on BOTH sides of your marching ants selection line. By using feathering in Method One, you can only see the effect ON your render since there is nothing on the other side of your selection line. Feathering at Method Two's earlier point will actually include a *small* part of the background with your render (depending on how much feather you use), and can help hide tiny mistakes you may create with an inaccurate path line for your rendering work. I actually find myself using this method more often than I should, even if it does make an imperfect render. ^_^;
You'd think this method would be something to avoid at all times, but small amounts of Method Two type feathering (usually one pixel or two at most) won't hurt much - in fact, it'll turn out just fine much of the time. It can sometimes even give you a better blending effect than Method One - you'll just have to try it and use your own judgement. If you want to try something random, extreme feathering before you actually cut your render can give you some surprises and interesting 'fade' effects as you'll notice in the example below. This is another reason why you should hang onto .xcf files of the original picture with your path line already in it - this way you can experiment with Method Two on renders you have already completed.
Here are some examples using the same Kirby render from above ~
No Feathering ~
One Pixel Feathering Method Two ~
Two Pixel Feathering Method Two ~
Twenty Pixel Feathering (!) Method Two ~
Again, the 20 pixel version is just an example so you can see what's happening when you feather. In this example of Method Two, I would again probably use just the one pixel feather as a final render - I can see a little too much of the background showing with the two pixel feather. Look VERY closely and you will too.
I think that's about all you should need to know when it comes to feathering! Let's move on to the next section.
- You can use either method of feathering you like, a combination of both methods, or no feathering at all. If you follow my (unprofessional xD) methods, feathering is just an OPTIONAL step.
Removing Backgrounds Instead of Renders [qqqqm]
What we have covered so far has involved cutting
a render out
of a picture and placing it into a new
image. There is another option that many render artists use, partially for the sake of staying true to the original image, and partially for other reasons. This other option will also make your rendered image the same dimensional size as the original image while retaining proper placement of single objects OR multiple objects that you may be rendering out of the same image (we'll cover multiple renders from the same image in the next section). All that this option involves is DELETING the background instead of COPYPASTING your render as a new image. In this section, I will explain to you how to do this in case you prefer your final render results in this manner.
- First, go ahead and complete all your path line work so that you are ready to cut your render. If you want to remove the background on a render you have already completed, open the .xcf file that has your finished path work and proceed.
- Next, to make this process work, we need to know if your image has what is called an 'alpha channel,' because without one, deleting any part of your image will NOT result in transparency but rather a solid-color background.
Don't worry if you don't know what an alpha channel is, all that matters is that we need one. To see if we have one already, open the 'Layers' dialog by pressing CTRL+L or choosing 'Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Layers' at the top of the screen.
After that, you should see something like this (taken from my Kirby example above) ~
Now, you will note the name that is BESIDE the small thumbnail of Kirby in the picture above - where it says 'Background' (your picture might have a different name). This name tells us all we need to know - if the name (in my case, 'Background') is in normal type, then it already has an alpha channel. If the name is in bold
type, then it does not have an alpha channel. Following this, it's easy to tell that my Kirby does NOT have an alpha channel since 'Background' is written in bold. So, let's add one!
- Go to 'Layer > Transparency > Add Alpha Channel'
That's all - your layer name as mentioned above should now be in normal type instead of bold, meaning you now have an alpha channel. Pic below shows that my bold type is gone! ~
Now go ahead and make your path and anchor points visible if needed, then click the 'Selection from Path' button in the path tool dialog as usual. If you plan to add Method 2 feathering as covered above, go ahead and do it now.
- Next, go to 'Select > Invert' or hit CTRL+I (that's an i not an L). This will select your background area instead of your render - just what we want!
- Hit the Delete key or choose 'Edit > Clear'
Done! Now we have a render that is exactly the same size as the original picture. If you have multiple renders (see next section), they will all retain their original position. Nice. ^^ Results below ~
Multiple and Intersecting Paths [qqqqn]
The tools we will be learning about in this section are EXTREMELY helpful. I find that the main purposes for using the techniques we will go through below are ~
- Making more than one render from a single image
- Editing renders using added and subtracted paths - you won't have to change your original path work!
- Preserving edges on overlapping or intersecting items that you are rendering - especially useful for items that cross over one another and for rendering the dreaded HAIR!
This section can be a little confusing, but I have tried to explain it as best I can. You will understand the concepts below a lot easier once you actually try them yourself. As usual, just go step by step and you should be ok.
Learning About the Path Window [qqqqo]
Before we go any further, let's look again at the Path Window (not the path tool dialog) because you will probably be using this a lot. So far, we have only seen this window when 'Bringing Invisible Paths to Life.' If you don't remember how to get to this window, simply select 'Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Paths' at the top. This pic shows the Path Window - look below the pic to see what the numbers mean that I have written in ~
1. This shows the paths on your current image. I don't know the official term for these, but to avoid confusion, I will call them 'Path Layers' - in this example, there are three path layers. The selected path layer will be surrounded in blue and there will be a tiny picture of any path work that exists on each layer. If a path layer contains no paths, this picture will just look white. You can right click this area and get a number of options - choose 'Path Tool' at the top of the list to make your anchor points appear for the Path Layer you clicked.
2. This area is used to 'lock' Path Layers together. If the lock is off, this area will be white, and if the lock is on, this area will contain a picture of a linked chain beside each locked Path Layer. Left click the area to turn the lock on or off. This is used to perform certain operations on more than one Path Layer at the same time, such as locking two path layers then moving or turning them simutaneously. We won't really be using this, but experiment if you like.
3. This area toggles visibility for each Path Layer. If the Path Layer is visible there will be an eyeball here, if the Path Layer is not visible, the space will be white. Left click this area to turn visibility on or off for each Path Layer.
4. Click this to create a new, blank Path Layer.
5. Select a Path Layer, then use these arrows to move the Path Layer up or down in the list. Not that useful for most projects - I only use this to organize Path Layers if there a quite a number of them.
6. Click this to Duplicate the currently selected Path Layer. The main reason I ever use this in rendering is to edit a path yet keep the original as well. My original path work will be on one Path Layer and then I'll use the duplicate layer to edit the path into something else.
7. This button is called 'Path to Selection' - it's pretty much the exact same thing as the 'Selection from Path' button in the Path Tool dialog that we normally use. We will use a few more features of this button as we learn about multiple paths - hold your mouse cursor over this button to see some additional options -
----- Hold SHIFT and Left Click
to ADD the area defined by the currently selected Path Layer into the 'marching ants' selection. This will be *amazingly* useful.
----- Hold CTRL and Left Click
to SUBTRACT the area defined by the currently selected Path Layer away from any current 'marching ants' selection. This is also quite useful.
----- Hold CTRL+SHIFT and Left Click
to make the intersecting areas from more than one Path Layer into a 'marching ants' selection. This... well, we won't really be using this for what we're doing.
8. Selection to Path. This will take any 'marching ants' selection, convert it into a path, and add it as a new Path Layer. Can be useful for some things, but I have not found many uses for this that will help us in rendering.
9. Paint Along The Path. This is the same as the 'Stroke Path' button in the Path Tool dialog. Useful if you want to outline a path, and can be handy when working with tools in the 'Fixing Problem Areas On Your Render' section later in the guide. Not much use in actually cutting out renders.
10. Pressing this will delete the currently selected Path Layer.
- You can 'dock' this window into your toolbox for convenient access! Simply press the arrow in your toolbox that I have circled here ~
~ then choose 'Add Tab > Paths' to make this window an easily accessible tab in the lower part of your toolbox! You can add other tabs for other things if you like. Handy!
Multiple Renders From The Same Image [qqqqp]
This is actually very easy! Let's use this image for a quick example ~
Now I would like to cut each picture of the girl (Marien from WolfTeam) out as a separate render.
- Start with the first render as normal (I cut the girl on the left), and do all of your path work and fix any mistakes. Go ahead and save your .xcf file and cut this one as a final render if you like, adding in feathering if desired.
- Now go back into your saved .xcf file, open the Path Window, ADD a new Path Layer and select it as the active layer - review the Path Window section above if you need to refresh your memory (adding a path layer is marked as number 4 in the Path Window section).
- Use this new Path Layer and do all your path work and mistake fixing on the second render (the girl on the right in my example). You can toggle the visibility on your FIRST path layer to 'off' if you find it distracting.
- Cut this second render by clicking 'Path to Selection' while your new Path Layer is selected and active, followed by the normal copypasting into a new image. Again, save your work and add feathering if desired.
That's about all there is to it! This keeps all your path information stored in one convenient .xcf file. If you have more objects to render separately out of an image, just make a new Path Layer for each separate object and render all the separate objects or characters that you want to! My results ~
-You can also select all your renders at once, then delete the background as described earlier so that all your renders stay in their proper place on the image! Skip down to the section about using 'Add' and I think you can figure it out from there. :3
Using 'Subtract' to Edit and Create New Renders [qqqqr]
In this section, we will look at using the 'Subtract' function with multiple Path Layers. This involves holding CTRL while clicking either the 'Path to Selection' or 'Selection from Path' buttons. The basic idea is to use a new
path on a new
Path Layer to remove part of a render that is already defined by a Path Layer you have previously completed. Confused yet? xD I'll try to show you what I mean.
For this example, I will use a render that I cut from the image below ~
To start with, I rendered the girl on the far right in this picture (Angela from Wolfteam) using all the normal processes we have already covered. Here is the resulting render ~
Now... I really don't like her backpack. It's too big and bulky, and I think she'd look a lot better without it. Instead of re-rendering the entire image, lets use the Subtract feature to fix her up.
- First open the .xcf file of your finished path work on the original image.
- Now open the Path Window, add a new Path Layer, and select the new layer so you can work on it.
- On this new Path Layer, make a new path around the part of the picture you want to remove - in this case, Angela'a backpack. If you can do this all on one Path Layer, great! If for some reason you cannot, then create and use as many Path Layers as you need to get the job done.
- Since we are removing the backpack completely, the only edges that will matter are the ones that CONTACT the original render. In other words, make a proper render path along the edges of the pack that border our original render - the 'outside' edges of the pack won't matter at all. Do normal rendering pathwork where the pack contacts the girl, but feel free to make the path line however you like around the outside edge. Just MAKE SURE your path line contains ALL of the portion you'd like to remove. I know it sounds confusing, but it'll make more sense once you try it out for yourself.
Now you should have the path work for your original render on one Path Layer, and the backpack (or whatever portion you want to remove) on a separate Path Layer. Here's what to do next.
- Select your ORIGINAL Path Layer
- Click the 'Path to Selection' button at the bottom of the Path Window *OR* the 'Selection from Path' button in the Path Tool dialog. You should now have 'marching ants' around your original render.
- Now Select your NEW Path Layer - in our case, the one where you made a path around the backpack.
- Next, HOLD CTRL and left-click the 'Path to Selection' button at the bottom of the Path Window *OR* the 'Selection from Path' button in the Path Tool dialog. This should SUBTRACT the area defined by your NEW Path Layer away from the selection you made from your ORIGINAL Path Layer. In other words, now the girl should have 'marching ants' but the backpack will NOT.
- For any additional Path Layers you made around objects you want to remove, select that Path Layer, then hold CTRL and left click either the 'Path to Selection' or 'Selection from Path' button to subtract the area defined by these additional Path Layers from the marching ants selection.
- At this point, add Method 2 feathering if desired, then copypaste your render into a new image as normal.
That's it! You've just made a smexy new render out of an old one without re-rendering the whole image, and without having to change your original work!
I actually used the above render in the title picture for this guide! Remember, if you spot anything else you want to remove later on, just repeat the procedure! This technique can be quite the useful time saver!
Using 'Add' to Edit and Create New Renders and Preserve Edges [qqqqs]
In this section, we will look at using the 'Add' function with multiple Path Layers. This involves holding SHIFT while clicking either the 'Path to Selection' or 'Selection from Path' button. The idea here is to use a NEW Path Layer to ADD onto the selection defined by an existing Path Layer. I cannot overstate how useful this can be,
especially in more complex rendering projects. The 'Add' function will help you preserve smooth and continuous edges on intersecting objects, and also give you the option of editing old renders into something else (similar to what we did with the 'Subtract' function). I also find the 'Add' feature absolutely indispensable when rendering intersecting strands or locks of hair.
Let's start with a basic example - a katana lying at an angle over it's sheath. Here is the original pic ~
I would like to render the katana *and* the sheath lying underneath. I can already see a problem with this though.... If you try to make a single path around both the blade AND the sheath, it could be very difficult to get a smooth and continuous edge across the intersecting objects. To help you visualize the potential problem, I'm including a picture below showing what I mean. I have outlined the paths for the blade in blue and the paths for the sheath in green - the potential problem is that the ends of the path shown by green lines on the same edge need to be in PERFECT alignment with each other to give us a smooth, continuous edge on the sheath. It follows that the ends of the path shown by the blue lines on the same edge also need to be in PERFECT alignment to give us a smooth and continuous edge on the blade ~
If they are not in alignment or your curves do not match up almost perfectly on each side, you may be able to tell quite easily when the render is complete. The intersection of the two objects will look.... a little off - one side of the object may look a bit wider or narrower than the other side, and it'll be far from smooth unless you have a really good eye for aligning things. While you may not care that much, you can easily make a render with better results by using the 'Add' function to preserve these intersecting edges.
To begin, let's render the katana blade *without* the sheath. So, go in and do all the path work required to make a render of just the blade. Since the blade is pretty much one long curve, you can use a minimal amount of anchor points, and carefully create a curve that will smoothly follow the blade egde. LEARN TO DO THIS, as it will greatly help you in rendering more complex things such as hair locks or strands - a single lock of hair curving in one direction (no matter how large it is) can often be rendered with only one path line curve on each edge of the lock. I rendered the actual BLADE (not the hilt) in our example with only four anchor points - two on either side of the hilt, one at the very tip of the blade, and one to help me make the small curve at the tip of the blade's sharp side. Once you have went around the first object (the blade in our case), feel free to cut and save it as a separate render if you like. Here is my result ~
Now to complete our render of both the katana AND it's sheath, go back to your .xcf file with your finished path work on the blade.
- Open the Path Window
- Add a New Path Layer and select it so we can work on it.
On this new Path Layer, render the sheath. Simply ignore the katana blade! Make your curves like you were going around the part of the sheath that you cannot see since it is below the blade. Again, the long, smooth edges can be done with a minimal amount of anchor points if you are careful. Once complete, you should have one Path Layer with path work around the blade and hilt, and another Path Layer with your path work around the sheath. Here is my work so far - I outlined my first Path Layer (the blade) in blue, and the second Path Layer (the sheath) in green to make it easy for you to see ~
- Next, select one Path Layer and left-click either the 'Path to Selection' *OR* 'Selection from Path' button. This will give you marching ants around the Path Layer that you chose.
- Now select the other Path Layer, hold SHIFT, and left click either the 'Path to Selection' *OR* 'Selection from Path' button. Holding SHIFT will tell GIMP to use the 'Add' function to add the contents of BOTH Path Layers together, meaning you will now have marching ants around BOTH the blade AND the sheath. At this point, add feathering if you like and copypaste your render and you're done! This preserves all the intersecting edges, edits your first render of just the blade into a brand new render, and looks super smooth.
Use this technique ANYTIME you wish to preserve smooth, flowing edges on intersecting parts of a render. Crossed blades, any intersecting smooth-edged objects, hair intersecting with a character's body, ANYWHERE that it might help to preserve a continuous edge. Use as many Path Layers as necessary. When rendering something as delicate and complex as flowing, wind-blown hair, render the hair curving in one direction on one Path Layer, then make a new Path Layer and render the intersecting hair that might be curving in another direction. Make as many Path Layers as you need to accomplish this, then just hold SHIFT and add them all together at the end. This keeps each strand of hair flowing smoothly and gives you a fabulous end result!
- If you explore the menus, you may notice that there is an option to 'merge' the Path Layers together - DO NOT DO THIS!!! Look at the 'Intersecting Paths' section below to see why.
- When you remove the background instead of the render (see the earlier section) in an image that has multiple renders, use 'Add' to select all your renders at once. Then you can invert the selection and delete the background away from ALL of them at the same time and the renders will stay in their proper place!
So... why do we HAVE to use the 'Add' function? Why can't I just do all my paths on ONE Path Layer? Let's move on to the next section to see why that approach won't work.
Intersecting Paths [qqqqt]
You may not see the purpose of the 'Add' function above, and you may wonder why that you even need additional Path Layers to work with intersecting Path Lines. You will learn the problems with this here.
Let's go back to our katana example from the last section.
Suppose I rendered the blade from the katana picture with one path, then just made another path on the same Path Layer to go around the sheath. If you did this, you would not be able to 'Add' the paths together since they are already on the same Path Layer. Is this a problem? YES.
I have done this for you so you can see the ugly results. From my finished work in the previous example, I opened my .xcf file and did exactly what I told you NOT to do at the end of the last section - merged the paths from both Path Layers into ONE Path Layer. This gives me the same result as if I had just did all my path work on one Path Layer to start with. I then click the 'Path to Selection' button as normal.... but something looks a little different. I go ahead and copypaste my render anyway. Here is the result ~
You will notice that the intersecting area in the middle is GONE.
GIMP automatically unselects the area where the paths intersect! For our purposes here, this is NOT what you want at all.
The point is, if you need to intersect paths like this for the sake of preserving edges or editing renders, BE SURE to make a new Path Layer for each portion of path that will intersect! DO NOT make path lines that intersect on the SAME Path Layer! Instead, make use of additional Path Layers and use the 'Add' or 'Subtract' functions to make your Path Layers work together - preserving edges and/or editing renders while keeping your original work intact!
*IMPORTANT PROTIP - YOU SHOULD UNDERSTAND THIS*
- You may think you hate GIMP for treating intersecting paths this way... but you don't. It is this exact feature of de-selecting intersecting areas that allowed us to easily cut away the excess background from my Desert Eagle trigger guard waaaay back in Part One! ...and was also an unspoken part of some of my other render examples in this guide... =P If you will recall, all path work for the Desert Eagle was done on one Path Layer. We didn't even know about Path Layers then. The path around the gun was our initial path, and the path around the trigger guard area was treated as an intersecting path on the same Path Layer - the area inside the trigger guard path intesected with the area defined by the outer path, even though the path lines never touched. Thus the trigger guard path area was de-selected and removed from our final render. Think about it for a moment and it'll all make sense! When cutting away background 'holes' in your render (like my Desert Eagle trigger guard), you are really just utilizing de-selection of the intersecting path areas that lie on the same Path Layer. All those big words are confusing, but go back and re-read this paragraph slowly... it's kinda one of those 'eureka' moments when you finally 'get' this....
Fixing Problem Areas On Your Render [qqqqu]
This section will give you some tools to fix troublesome spots on your render. Sometimes a picture will have features that obscure a portion of the area you want to render, and you will probably want to fix them. These features can include any number of different things! One of the issues most often encountered is text in the original picture that lies at least partially over the area you want to render. Another frequently encountered problem are various 'floating' effects or objects from the original background, such as stray particles or windblown objects like leaves or flower petals, and can even include such things as clouds, fog, shadows, or other similar effects.
The tools I use most often to fix such problem areas are all found in GIMP's toolbox - the picture below shows you what they look like, and the associated descriptions below the picture help you understand what these tools can do ~
1. Clone Tool -
This tool basically allows you to copy small areas using a brush and paste them somewhere else. This lets you copy a 'matching' area and paste it OVER a problem area to cover it up. To fix problem areas with this tool, select a brush of appropriate type and size, move your cursor to a 'matching' area nearby your problem spot, then hold CTRL and left click. This gives you a source area to copy from. Now, move directly over your problem spot and left click. Doing this will copy and paste the source area onto the spot you just clicked. If you left click and drag the mouse, your source area will also move along with your 'pasting' mouse movements! If you wish to keep the exact same source area, use repeated single left clicks instead of dragging.
I find the Clone Tool to be most effective when dealing with areas that have a texture or pattern, such as a woven cloth sweater, tree bark or the 'grain' of bare wood, or delicately patterned paint on any object. The clone tool will not 'blur out' such patterns like the other tools shown in this section can do.
The Clone Tool *does* take a lot of practice to use effectively - don't say I didn't warn you! The most relevant tool options (found in the bottom portion of the Toolbox when you have this tool selected) you will want to play around with are the opacity slider
(a low number gives you a more transparent effect, a high number makes the effect more 'solid'), brush type
(click the box beside the word 'Brush' to find fuzzy or hard edge brushes among other options), and brush size
(you can choose certain brush sizes by default and use the 'scale' slider bar to adjust them further). You can experiment with the other options, but I usually do fine using only what I have mentioned here.
NOTE ~ the 'Healing Tool' in GIMP's Toolbox (it looks like a band-aid) functions in a.... 'similar' sort of way as the clone tool. Try it if you like, but I always end up just using the Clone Tool.
2. Blur/Sharpen Tool -
This tool lets you use a brush to blur or sharpen an area. Pretty simple, but extremely useful. You can use single left clicks or left-click dragging with this tool.
This blur function is normally used AFTER using the other tools covered in this section. The purpose is usually to blend areas that look a little rough after being smudged, cloned, lightened, darkened, or otherwise 'worked on.' It can also be used to smooth pixelated areas if you like, and it can take care of certain small stray particles by blending them into the surrounding area. Be careful not to blur out any lines that SHOULD stay in your render! You can try using the sharpen function of this tool where areas you've worked on end up looking *too* smooth to match the surrounding area... though I find the best tactic is just to be careful with all of these tools and use them appropriately in the first place so that you don't end up with a mis-matching area that might need sharpening.
This is an easy tool to use, just don't get carried away! The most relevant tool options are opacity, brush type and size/scale,
circles (mark whichever function you'd like to use), and the rate
slider (a higher number will give you more of a blur/sharpen effect with each click or brush stroke, a lower number will give a lesser effect with each click or stroke). Again, experiment with the other options if desired.
3. Smudge Tool -
Another self-explanatory tool, this lets you use a brush to smudge one area into another. Single left clicks won't do much here - you'll need to left click and drag. The effect is similar to what you get when rubbing your finger over wet ink in real life.
This is an *extremely* useful tool, and can be used to smudge surrounding 'good' areas over problem areas. You can use this repeatedly to completely cover up entire problem areas. You won't have any problems using this tool on 'smooth' areas, but it can destroy textures and patterns by smudging them out if you're not careful! Avoid this by using a very small brush, or just try to use the Clone Tool on textured or patterned areas if you cannot get Smudge to give you a satisfactory result. It usually helps to follow up any smudging by using the Blur tool to smooth out the areas you smudged!
This tool is not that hard for anyone to use, however it can really shine in the hands of a pro. Practice it and you can get some amazing results! The most relevant tool options are opacity, brush type and size/scale,
(again, higher number for stronger smudge, low number for lesser smudge). You will also find that the Fade Out
and Hard Edge
checkbox options for this tool can also be quite handy depending on the result you want to achieve. Experiment!
4. Dodge/Burn Tool -
Lets you use a brush to lighten (Dodge) or darken (Burn) an area. Single left clicks or left click dragging will both be effective.
I don't use this tool as often in problem fixing, but it is quite handy in certain situations. Use it with an appropriate brush to recreate shading effects, lines, or even certain color gradients that you might've messed up with the Smudge Tool. If you learn to use the Smudge Tool properly, you probably won't even need the Dodge/Burn Tool for most things - I included it here so that you know it exists as a possible repair option. Mark the circles in the tool options according to what you want to do - mark 'Dodge' to lighten areas with each brush stroke, and mark 'Burn' to darken areas with each brush stroke. You can also generally define the types of areas affected with this tool by checking the 'Shadows,' 'Midtones,' or 'Highlights' circles - only one can be chosen at a time, and these should be pretty self-explanatory - for example, 'Shadows' should cause brush strokes to mostly effect only the darkest-toned pixels.
This tool can also be followed by the Blur Tool, and has an enormous number of applications - many people use this tool to help them color entire images with awesome shading and highlight effects! Still, it will likely not be one of your most-used tools for fixing render problems. The most relevant tool options are opacity, brush type and size/scale,
the Dodge, Burn, Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights
options, and the Exposure slider
(higher number gives a stronger effect, lower number for weaker effect).
- If you'd like to use any of these tools in a straight-line brush stroke, left click once where you want the line to begin, then hold SHIFT and left click where you want the line to end. This is very useful when you want to preserve straight lines through your repair area, smudge along a straight area that should contain a color gradient, or any number of other situations where a perfectly straight brush stroke would be most effective.
- You can do repair work at any stage of the rendering process. Fix an image before you make your first anchor point, or wait and repair a totally finished render. It's completely up to you!
For a basic example, I will go back one final time to my katana render from the previous sections. The highly-polished sheath for the katana has a shadowy-looking reflection on it from the plant decorations in the upper right of the picture - scroll back up and look at it to see what I mean, or scroll down as I have included the original picture beside my finished example below for you to compare. Now, let's get rid of that bothersome reflection.
- First, I opened the image in GIMP, selected the Smudge Tool with a small, fuzzy brush, and zoomed in on the trouble area. I used 100 as an opacity setting, and I think about 70 for the rate setting.
- I carefully smudged the surrounding areas over onto the plant reflection, keeping in mind the shading and lighting already present on the sheath. This meant trying to smudge the lighter grayish-white looking areas where the light was shining in a way that was consistent with the surrounding area and followed the curve of the sheath. I then moved down a little and smudged along the darker part of the sheath at the bottom part of the problem reflection. Keep in mind that you want to do your best to create a result that is consistent with the surrounding areas! Don't smudge the lighter areas into the darker areas, or the darker areas into the lighter areas! Stay consistent with the lighting or other effects present on the original picture, and follow curves and lighting patterns with your brush strokes to achieve a natural-looking result.
- I wasn't able to get a perfect result using only the Smudge Tool, so I then switched to the Blur Tool with similar settings, only I used a smaller-size fuzzy brush. I then carfully blurred over the areas that I smudged to smooth them out. If you find yourself close to an outside edge, be careful not to blur the edge of your render! If the Blur Tool blurs out certain areas TOO much, try decreasing the blur rate or brush size, simply undoing your last few brush strokes and trying again, or switch back to the smudge tool and try some more careful smudging.
That's all there was to it, and now our problem reflection is gone! I didn't need the Clone Tool or Dodge/Burn at all. The result is still not quite perfect, but I was satisfied with it. Here's the original and the finished product for you to compare ~
- You can use any of these tools in harmony with Paths! Make a new Path Layer, then create a segment of path along the area you want to repair. Note that this has NOTHING to do with our rendering path lines and will not affect them at all. In our katana example, one short curving path line between two anchor points would probably be enough - curve the line right along the problem area, matching the slight curve of the katana sheath. Then select the path you just made and choose to 'Stroke Path' (or click the 'Paint along the Path' button in the Path Window). In the following dialog, choose the 'Stroke with a paint tool' option near the bottom. Now choose one of the above tools from the drop-down box you should see - a smudge is often a good start. Check the 'Emulate brush dynamics' box to make any options you have changed for this tool (such at brush type, brush size, rate, etc.) apply to the stroke you are about to put on your path. Now hit ok. This allows you to 'paint' along the small path you just made WITH any of the tools above! You can use this to, say, apply a stroke of smudging along a smooth path curve instead of trying to curve a brush stroke with hand/mouse movement alone. You can even move this path segment and stroke it again with another smudge, blur, or whatever you like if needed. You can then delete this Path Layer when you're done to prevent confusing it with your other Path Layers that contain your rendering paths. This offers you a very precise way to do repairs!
- You can also use a combination of these tools to do FAR more complex repairs. Is the top of your rendered character's head cut off by the image border? Maybe the tip of a boot runs off the bottom edge of the image and out of view? Increase the canvas size (at the top, click 'Image > Canvas Size') of the image if needed and use your artistic skills to clone or smudge the existing hair, boot tip, or whatever out and complete the cut-off object! Apply any tool you can and create a truly complete character! If you are artistic enough, you can even recreate entire limbs or other large objects using only these tools. Really. ...sadly, I'm not PRO enough to do this very well myself... =P This is NOT by any means staying true to the original image, but you can use these techniques to create opportunities for pushing your skills to the limit, finishing with a render that can be usable in many more situations and has that sweet 'complete' look! ...Minor repairs of this nature are not so bad, but extensive repairs are not a project for the faint of heart... xD
Here is basic example where I used ALL of the tools and techniques above to turn the image on the left (with parts of a leg and foot missing) into the complete render on the right. The original render was cut from the same screenshot I used for Angela back in the section on using 'Subtract' - look back and you will see that these missing parts were just areas covered up by another character in the picture ~
Pretty neat, eh?
Summary Example [qqqqv]
Instead of just 'basic' examples, this section is just going to show you a slightly more 'real-world' example that uses *most* of the techniques covered so far. I'll quickly walk you through this render project and we'll be done with Part Two of the guide!
Here is my original picture (well, almost... this one is resized slightly smaller than the original) - for this project, I will render the anime swordswoman on the left ~
First off, I notice that this image will have a bit of flowing hair, and a blade overlaying the girl's leg. I decide before I even start that I will try to use multiple Path Layers and the 'Add' function to keep the intersecting hair lock and sword blade edges as smooth as I can.
So, I zoom in and start making path lines, curving them as I go. When I get to a part that I feel belongs on another Path Layer (usually an intersecting part where I would like to preserve smooth edges and size on both sides of the intersection - such as one hair lock flowing into another, or the hair going behind the girl's hand), I just skip on by and go ahead with completing the Path Layer I'm working on first. It works just like we did in our katana example, I'm rendering most of the forefront objects on this Path Layer, then I'll go back for the rest. I end up with all of the girl and most of her hair on the first Path Layer. Then I made a second Path Layer and made path lines around most of the hair locks I missed the first time. One of those locks crossed behind the sword, so I just made a third Path Layer that included the sword blade and a couple random strands of hair that were blowing off separate from the main hair locks. Here are pictures of my completed Path Layers - outlines in green show exactly where my path is for each Path Layer.
Path Layer One:
Path Layer Two:
Path Layer Three:
- The parts that look like single lines are really two path lines covering both sides of tiny hair strands.
I tried to check my work for mistakes by cutting all this out and checking it against backgrounds of various colors. I then tried to correct my paths as needed to fix any problems.
I decided at that point that the girl needed some repair work. There were a couple of background particles floating in front of her in a couple small areas - the clone tool took care of that pretty easily. Her legs, and especially one foot, also had smoky, foggy-looking clouds on them. I fixed these by smudging the more natural looking areas around VERY carefully with various tool settings, so as to get rid of the clouds. I followed that up by going over these same areas with the Blur Tool to smooth things out. I got a little over-zealous on her shoe and nearly destroyed some of the darker lines that were on it.... >_< I tried to fix them back up, but I didn't do such a great job. Still, I managed to get to a point where I was mostly satisfied with my work. =) Below is a picture showing some before and after shots of my repairs ~
After that, I added my three Path Layers together with the 'Add' function and finished up. I made one version that included Method One feathering and one using Method Two. Here they are! ~
One Pixel Method One Feather:
One Pixel Method Two Feather:
And that's it! The above render is not perfect - some areas could be done a little better... but I like it... and this is just an example, so I'll save it in my stash and call it a day.