View Full Version : 'Colour Advice for Sci-fi Portrait'

09-26-2012, 10:31 AM
Hello friends,

I would dearly love to hear your advice on the acrylic painting I am working on at present. I have been going round in circles for months now and am close to gesso-ing the entire canvas and starting again (or worse, grrr!).

The canvas is 120 x 76 cm (4 ft x 2.5 ft).
Composition is not great, but I can live with that.
My main issue is COLOUR!

(I'll call the characters from left to right 'A', 'T' and 'P'.)
Most of my time has been spent on 'T' (centre), simply because his detail makes him the most time-consuming to paint. When I get him right, I can paint the others to suit.

Overall, I'm trying to create a warm, orange/red glow coming from the left and a blue/turquoise glow from the right. You can see I have tried, and it looks good on some bits, but not on the robot - which leads to the next issue..

How to give 'T' a metallic/chrome/shiny effect?

Colour is always a problem for me so I'd be extremely grateful (and relieved) if you could just point me in the right direction - before I explode!!:eek:
Thank you for reading.

Sorry, but I can't attach my photos!! 'Upload failed'.

09-26-2012, 11:35 AM
Long Time No see Carol! Great to see you posting again, hope you can upload the photo soon, I am very keen to see it! Hope all is well with the family and new granddaughter!!! Cheers and welcome back =)) Debs.

09-26-2012, 06:07 PM

YAY! My photo uploaded! This pic shows the present stage of the painting.

It's on-hold at this point coz I'm confused about colour & colour schemes: to me, it's cold and bland and I've gone in enough circles trying to rectify it.

You can also see my attempt at a 'metallic' look - it's just not working, is it? :(

On a more positive note. Dunno if this will help or not but I do keep a step-by-step photo diary and log of each painting I do, inc this one. The number 64 (just above centre of canvas) represents the stage of the painting!! (64 and still not finished - no wonder I'm going nuts!) I just end up re-painting it each time and getting nowhere! I will post a selection of previous steps to show this, and how I got to the present stage. But be warned, the art is well over-worked! :o
I will also post samples of the colour scheme I'd like to achieve.

Feel free to criticise, photoshop, re-colour, etc - whatever it takes to move forward! Thanks.

09-26-2012, 06:13 PM
Hiya Debzy :wave:
So kind of you to remember me - and our new arrival, Leah. Jeez, that means its been 7 months since my last thread - which was also about colour!! Obviously not as quick at learning as I thought I was! :o

09-26-2012, 08:25 PM
Sorry for the long post here: I should have broken it up a bit, but it's done now!

Below is a selection of WIP steps which show obvious changes (and how much I have over-worked the painting :o .
The text descriptions are actual notes from my WIP log.

Step 14) 'Lemon Yellow + touch Alizarin Crimson quickly brushed over red background'

Step 17) 'Deep Turquoise on bg (background). Mix of Pthalo Blue + Naphtol Red = deep blue violet. Used this to darken areas. Tryin hard not to go nuts on detail. Will be ok whatever I do coz it can always be painted over - darks first, lights last.'

Step 26) 'Gave all 3 a glaze of (blue + yellow + touch red) = olive green-yellow. Am trying for warm hilites on left, cool on right ie yellow-orange-red and turquoise-blue-purple'

Step 28) 'Darkened areas on T. Glazed red-yellow on left of all 3.'

Step 33) Spent most of the night reading then mixing various greys/neutrals. Think I found one for T in particular coz he's just not right & I dont have a great ref pic to work from. He needs warm greys on left 'angles' and cool greys on right I think. If I made him chrome, I'll need reflections. Brushed or dull steel would prob be easier without a decent ref pic, maybe? Raw Umber on bg (background).'

Step 41) Kinda lost now! Workin mainly on P: dulled down his chest plate, flattened his 'nose', hilited mask & hair. Dulled down yellow on A. There's sumthin not quite right colour-wise - with all. No shadows or sumthin? It's all a bit too 'bland', not enough contrast, on T esp. Idea: mixed Winsor Blue, Cad Yell. n White (not Pthalo Blue coz I have the red shade). Hi-lited areas on right. Looks ok. Will work on this. The first turquoise mix with Cad.Yell.Med was greener and deeper. Mixed another with Lemon Yell. instead - painted on top of the Cad.Yell turquoise - it def glows!'

Step 50) Tit.White & bath sponge! Picked out lighter areas to make the subjects stand out from bg (background). Will glaze colour over when dry and repeat if needed. Sponging is fun and satisfying - once I got the hang of it. Next layer will tell..
(Switched the daylight strip light off. Under normal 60watt bulb Pred looks really 3D! Alien needs 'whiter' hilites to be the same. Sponging has accidentally helped create a metal effect.'

Step 56) For T - mixed touch of T.White with matt medium to make a transparent white. Coated lighter areas with it. Works a treat! Can build up layers if needed. Now I know the hilites work I can apply pure T.White to tiny areas. (Note difference btween T's face = pure T.White and his body = my tp white mix. Yell.Ochre + touch Burnt Sienna + UM Blue - glazed T's face and head.'

Step 58b) Winsor Blue (plus touch of Lemon Yell.) on right of each. Started yellow 'lights' on A's shoulder. Main hilites on T = Naples Yellow (to define them from the other more subtle hilites). They will be painted over (used Tit.Buff on the ones harder to see eg left arm. Think T needs more blue-purple. The others are about a third orange-red, 2 thirds blues. T seems the other way around with very little blue. Bg def needs changed ie. cooler.'

Step 62) White on T, then various blues eg. touch of my pre-mixed cool blue-mauve (Cerulean Blue based), Winsor Violet + Burnt Umber mix (a lovely dark!) Touch of this on A and P. Wee touch of Yell.Ochre + White on T's face. Gotta get this finished - it's doin me head in.'

Step 64) 'Cerulean Blue + T.White +touch of Cad.Orange mix on bg. Touch of yell-red + white mix on lights. Stippled white on left of all 3 faces. A needs more on left, P needs more on right. The white helps me 'see' better! It will be glazed with colour as req'd. To do: Fix T's squint mouth/chin, complete eyes. Ribs on A not quite right.'

I hope this offers a wee insight into how I think and do, and believe me, I am not a 'good artist' as such. I start off organised with a limited palette, but end up all over the place, struggling and fighting with my work, as you can see! But I do try.

09-26-2012, 09:28 PM
Hi MA,
To start making the figures pop out I think you should be working up the background, darkening it. That alone will make the gleam on the metal Terminator stand out more.
I often wondered why Terminator kept his teeth when the rest of the human bits dropped off - a mystery.
Ok one critique - the Predator look a bit effeminate - thin upper arm and the fishnet body stocking add to that over all feel for me - yes I know he had some fish net over him in the movie :)
The viewing stances with the T looking at us the Alien looking at T, and P looking at the guy with the doughnuts - could have been better.
Over all it is very interesting and I can see there are many technical problems you have had to resolve

09-26-2012, 10:44 PM
The viewing stances with the T looking at us the Alien looking at T, and P looking at the guy with the doughnuts - could have been better.

Andrew: :lol: Hehe - had a good chuckle at "the doughnuts" bit! You are sooo right, and if I was to do it all again - which I may - I would change all of their poses completely, but thankfully the person who wants it likes it just the way it is (phew!). AND I agree with the teeth thing, but I'm sure some movie buff will have an answer to that mystery. So the poses stay - but Pred won't look quite so effeminate when I'm finished with him!

I take your point about the background - even tho I just lightened it! Will leave it for now til I get some more feedback.

As for the technical problems, some I have NOT resolved like Terminator's shoulder 'doughnuts' :lol:. Just can't get the hang of painting elipses/ovals to look right - and make them look metallic!

Thanks so much for your response - and for cheering me up!

09-27-2012, 01:51 AM
all in all i think it's pretty spectacular!
feminine p could be easily fixed with meatier shoulders, yes?


09-27-2012, 12:33 PM
Hi Penny, I agree with all of the above, and it is looking pretty awesomely spectacular! You have certainly done a lot of work on this and if I were ordering this as a commission, I would be quite chuffed and very happy with it. I am impressed majorly, I would not attempt such a complicated scene! I think you are doing a great job on this it is quite in the unusual realm of subjects and of course very popular at the same time! I just think "wow" when I go through your stages and changes, no wonder it's doing your head in, I would have been done-for long before now! DO keep going, it is well worth it Penny. Sorry I have no critique or help to add, I think I am lost on this one. You seem to have it under control more than I can imagine having it. Cheers =)) Debs

TX Rose
10-04-2012, 02:39 PM
My but you are meticulous. I'm impressed and feel the need to straighten up my studio. :lol: I don't usually find SciFi art a compelling subject but yours is fabulous. So much detail and attitude. You say that you have a history of overworking your pieces. From your comments and posting diary, it appears to me that either my screen isn't reading accurately on all or that you digressed from crisp and clear to less and then back again and now feel stuck. Maybe you should try your colors out on another surface before going directly to your canvas. Also, take breaks but keep your piece out where you can pass by and see it from all angles. I'm always surprised at the little problems I see by doing that. - As I look at your "A, B and C" characters, I see from Mr. B and C that the light source is upper left; however, it needs to be better defined with Mr. A. Wouldn't he have more highlights to his top left, especially to his "head, helmet or whatever that is"? Just suggestions. Really great piece and almost there. :thumbsup:

10-14-2012, 11:54 PM
Hello good people,

Back again - and thank you for your replies, which I have taken into account.
Sadly I'm still workin on what has now become a pain in the a** of a painting.

Yet again, I managed to get it looking reasonable, only to lose it again - a perpetual 'cycle' from which I cannot seem to escape!! sob

The attached photo shows latest stage 70 - which is well beyond a joke.
I am sooo frustrated - so much so that I cried tonight and gave up (again) and came here!

What am I doing wrong and why cant I get it right? Grrr, sob
Please please please CAN SOMEONE HELP ME?!!
note: The 2nd attached image (from 'Halo' game) is an example of the colour scheme I like and want to achieve with my painting.

(hopefully the images have uploaded successfully..)

10-15-2012, 12:05 AM
...sorry, forgot to attach this.
It's the same 'Halo' image with adjusted colour temperature and saturation.
Either of these Halo colours, or somewhere in between, would be good. If only...

Can you see I have tried (with minimal success)? For a start, my art is too yellow.

10-15-2012, 05:34 AM
:) I think this depends on what you or the person having the painting want from it.
If it is sheer evil and frightening then a darker less colourful version for me [ the very first picture you posted] ,the last version makes them look too bright.
I know it is no use to you but they are all good but obviously not what you are happy with.

10-15-2012, 08:38 AM
Hi Carol! Looking good! In my opinion, I think if you want to get that same halo type look that you may need to add more darks and less light areas but more vivid ones (brighter highlights I mean) to your figures. Also brighter colours in the background halo. It is looking really good though Carol. I am inspired by your persistence and well recorded progress! Go Girl!!!! Cheers =)) Debs.

10-15-2012, 11:50 AM
Hmmm.. I see what you mean Trumper. You may be onto something there.
Debzy: you too have a good point about hi-lites. (And thank you sooo much for your continued support - you are a gem!)
At least I have something to go on..
Oh well - here I go again!

10-15-2012, 09:14 PM
Bravo, you have captured the Alien, Terminator and Predator well.
Only one crit with the background the Aliens avoid sunlight like the plague.

10-16-2012, 08:40 AM
Well.. am glad you mentioned that Andrew...

(Ahem)It may look like erm.. sunlight, however, it is not actually.
It is actually like, erm.. a sort of, erm.. 'Marsian-like' atmospheric luminance - actually! :smug: :D

10-23-2012, 10:22 PM

Well folks, I've been plodding on and am now dizzy doin circles but here's where I am at so far. I feel I have progressed slightly, but I am still struggling with this painting! (Now at stage 73.. :eek: eek!)

My patience is running out, my hair is greying and me nerves are shattered - I am really at the end of my tether with it! It's had many many layers of different colours but I just cannot figure out what is wrong with it! (Strange thing is, looking back, it actually looked pretty good around stage 28 :o !!)

Not sure how to go about this but...
Everyone has been very helpful to me so far but would it be possible to move this thread to the 'Structured Critique' section? Please, please, PLEASE - I am begging you!!! :crying:

Note: The photo is not great: it's slightly more saturated than the actual artwork (which is def not 'as green' as the above), but the colours are as near as poss.