WATERCOLOUR CHEATCODES: PAPER
I got a couple asks about watercolour tutorials I made last year, and I said I’d make more in-depth posts about them as I find time. I’m gonna go through the things I think are most important (paper, practise, brushes, layers, economy of brushstroke) starting with the most important of the most important:
Watercolour paper is as important as the paint you use (I’d go so far as to say it’s more important). I’ve got some shitty paints in my palette I’ve had since high-school but it’s impossible to tell which ones those are on decent watercolour paper. If you’ve got to really budget yourself carefully, I’d say pick a few essential paints and mix as much as you can, just try to save as much money as you can for good paper.
It doesn’t matter how amazing the quality of your paints are, how many different colours you have, how great you are at layering etc. all of that is going to look like shit on shitty paper. If you’re starting out learning how to use watercolour, this could seriously confuse you into thinking you’re doing something wrong – but it’s just the paper.
30 Days of Art Improvement Challenge
Are you tired of feeling like your art just isn’t improving? Do you want to do a 30-day challenge that’s actually useful? Welcome to 30 Days of Improvement Hell. >:D
I made this because I’ve been feeling super ‘blah’ about my art these days, and I needed something to kick-start myself. Who wants to do this with me!? Start now or whenever you can (now you procrastinators!). Challenge yourself and have fun at the same time!
Tag your posts with #Improvement Hell so everyone can follow along and see each other’s awesome artwork. I may even create a blog and reblog them! :D
What are you waiting for? START!
- Self-Portrait - Introduce yourself
- Draw a figure using a reference - link to reference
- Draw a figure that’s in action, using a reference - link to reference
- Draw a part of the human anatomy you have trouble with. x20, with atleast 5 being skeletal/musculature studies.
- Draw more figures. Quick gestures and silhouettes. x20, with atleast 10 different body shapes
- Let’s have some fun. Design a character from this character generator. (created by PreservedCucumbers)
- Pick the weirdest object in your house/room. Draw it. Shadows and Highlights.
- Find 2-3 objects, make a scene with them. Draw it. Bonus points for creativity. Double points for dramatic lighting.
- Draw a landscape of a place you’ve never been or drawn.
- Draw a BG with 1pt Perspective. Negative points if it’s a railroad or an empty street.
- Draw a BG with 2pt Perspective.
- Look out a window. Draw what you see. Bonus points for adding something interesting.
- Draw an interior setting with the character you designed on Day #6 in it.
- BG with either bird’s eye or worm’s eye view.
- Halfway there! Draw three ‘action’ scenes with different compositions in each. Quick sketches are fine, just make them interesting and understandable! Bonus points if it’s the same scene, but different composition.
- Draw a single page comic with 5-7 panels (the story begins and ends on one page).
- Draw an animal you’ve never drawn before. x10 Link references.
- Draw a car. Negative points for whining. Hint: Use a perspective grid.
- Think of the thing you hate drawing the most. Guess what? Draw it! Negative points for lying to yourself.
- Pick an object in your house/room. Now design a character from it, using the shapes, forms, textures, purpose and colors as inspiration. Also link/post the object you used. Negative points for using a humanoid action figure.
- Draw a character/object/scene, and shade them using ONLY solid blacks and whites. Bonus points for good use of lights/shadows
- Draw a different object/scene/character. Shade using hatching, crosshatcing, and/or pointillism. Bonus points for lights/shadows and textures.
- Colors! Pick a color palette, and paint a scene/character/object using only those colors (some blending allowed). Bonus points for good use of lights/shadows.
- Draw and color a scene/object/character - no lines allowed! (aka - lineless art). Don’t forget light and shadows!
- Draw a scene/character in a style you’ve never drawn before. If emulating an artist, credit+link. Bonus for color style.
- Draw a character. Draw 10 emotions/expressions. Bonus points for ‘uncommon’ emotions. (i.e. anxiety, guilt, despair, loneliness etc.)
- Draw three random shapes using your opposite hand (or your foot). Now design characters from those shapes.
- Turn on the tv (or load your illegally downloaded movies). Pick an actor and draw them.
- Almost done! Let’s have some fun. Draw some fanart. Bonus points if it’s super obscure and unknown. Make people guess what it’s from.
- Last day! Find a drawing you did within the last year. Now draw it again using what you’ve learned! Link it for comparison!
Look at all that amazing improvement! Congrats!
I just went back through over 900 liked posts and dug out all the art tutorials so i can keep track of them. I guess this might be helpful to some of you guys, so here you go.
Here we go then!
Alchemy - this is a really fun program. You play around making abstract shapes until you start to see something in them, kind of like a Rorschach test. Then you use the shapes as a base to draw it from.
MyPaint - a pretty decent painting program that also has the benefit of working on Unix systems.
openCanvas 1.1 - I haven’t used openCanvas in years but it was a nice program with a pretty unique feel to it.
ArtRage - Only used this a couple of times donkey’s years ago just before I got oC, but I’ve heard good things about it.
The GIMP - In a similar vein to Photoshop, but free. I couldn’t get on with it when I tried it out a few years ago, but it’s pretty popular and is available on Unix systems and Macs.
Sketchbook copic: a bit different program
Photoshop - Standard painting fare. Probably the most flexible program (particularly the latest versions) but not designed to act in a “natural” way. If you’ve used it for painting versus something like Painter you know what I mean. Who the fuck pays for it though? Google “Photoshop tumblr masterpost” and take your pick.
Paint Tool Sai - Far more affordable and definitely worth paying for if you can. The brushes are very decent (especially when they’ve been tweaked a little), the gui is simple and intuitive, and I dare you to find a program with which making smooth lineart is easier.
Corel Painter - My program of choice for most things. More tools than you could ever possibly use and pretty cheap on a student license, providing that you can prove you’re a student! It’s got a few bugs but if you want realism or a more natural feel than PS or SAI this is the program for you.
expressions from different angles (love this site)
gamut mask tool (very nice!)
kuler (more colour schemes)
photoshop fur brushes (and tutorial)
Other peoples masterposts
love your fellow artist (anything from prompt generators to animation background here, very nice)
art e-books (mediafire download)
even more e-books (including human anatomy, animal anatomy, cartoons, animation, composition, design, scenery, perspective…)
criminallyincompetent (check out their #reference and #tutorial tags, they’re gold)
Evolution of Chinese Clothing and Cheongsam
Chinese clothing has approximately 5,000 years of history behind it, but regrettably I am only able to cover 2,500 years in this fashion timeline. I began with the Han dynasty as the term <i>hanfu</i> (Chinese clothing) was coined in that period. Please bear in mind that this is only a generalized timeline of Chinese clothing primarily featuring aristocratic and upper-class ethnic Han Chinese women (the exceptions are Fig. 8 (dancer) and Fig. 11 (maid, due to the fact I couldn’t find many paintings in this period)).
My resources are mainly the books: 5,000 years of Chinese Costume, China Chic: East Meets West, and Changing Clothes in China: Fashion, History, Nation. 5,000 years of Chinese Costume is an invaluable resource (though sadly currently out of print), I would highly recommend this book if you can get your hands on it.
“In the Han Dynasty, as of old, the one-piece garment remained the formal dress for women. However, it was somewhat different from that of the Warring States Period, in that it had an increased number of curves in the front and broadened lower hems. Close-fitting at the waist, it was always tied with a silk girdle.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 32)
Wei and Jin dynasties:
“On the whole, the costumes of the Wei and Jin period still followed the patterns of Qin and Han.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 54)
“From the costumes worn by the benefactors in the Dunhuang murals and the costumes of the pottery figurines unearthed in Louyang, it can be seen that women’s costumes in the period of Wei and Jin were generally large and loose. The upper garment opened at the front and was tied at the waist. The sleeves were broad and fringed at the cuffs with decorative borders of a different colour. The skirt had spaced coloured stripes and was tied with a white silk band at the waist. There was also an apron between the upper garment and skirt for the purpose of fastening the waist. Apart from wearing a multi-coloured skirt, women also wore other kinds such as the crimson gauze-covered skirt, the red-blue striped gauze double skirt, and the barrel-shaped red gauze skirt. Many of these styles are mentioned in historical records.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 65)
Southern and Northern Dynasties:
“During the Wei, Jin and the Southern and Northern Dynasties, though men no longer wore the traditional one-piece garment, some women continued to do so. However, the style was quite different from that seen in the Han Dynasty. Typically the women’s dress was decorated with xian and shao. The latter refers to pieces of silk cloth sewn onto the lower hem of the dress, which were wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, so that triangles were formed overlapping each other. Xian refers to some relatively long ribbons which extended from the short-cut skirt. While the wearer was walking, these lengthy ribbons made the sharp corners n the lower hem wave like a flying swallow, hence the Chinese phrase ‘beautiful ribbons and flying swallowtail’.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 62)
“During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, costumes underwent further changes in style. The long flying ribbons were no longer seen and the swallowtailed corners became enlarged. As a result the flying ribbons and swallowtailed corners were combined into one.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 62)
“During the period of the Sui and early Tang, a short jacket with tight sleeves was worn in conjunction with a tight long skirt whose waist was fastened almost to the armpits with a silk ribbon. In the ensuing century, the style of this costume remained basically the same, except for some minor changes such as letting out the jacket and/or its sleeves.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 88)
“The Tang Dynasty was the most prosperous period in China’s feudal society. Changan (now Xian, Shananxi Province), the capital, was the political, economic and cultural centre of the nation. […] Residents in Changan included people of such nationalities as Huihe (Uygur,) Tubo (Tibetan), and Nanzhao (Yi), and even Japanese, Xinluo (Korean), Persian and Arabian. Meanwhile, people frequently travelled to and fro between countries like Vietnam, India and the East Roman Empire and Changan, thus spreading Chinese culture to other parts of the world.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 76)
“…all the national minorities and foreign envoys who thronged the streets of Changan also contributed something of their own culture to the Tang. Consequently, paintings, carvings, music and dances of the Tang absorbed something of foreign skills and styles. The Tang government adopted the policy of taking in every exotic form whether or hats or clothing, so that Tang costumes became increasingly picturesque and beautiful.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 88)
“Women of the Tang Dynasty paid particular attention to facial appearance, and the application of powder or even rouge was common practice. Some women’s foreheads were painted dark yellow and the dai (a kind of dark blue pigment) was used to paint their eyebrows into different shapes that were called dai mei (painted eyebrows) in general.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 89)
“In the years of Tianbao during Emperor Xuanzong’s reign, women used to wear men’s costumes. This was not only a fashion among commoners, but also for a time it spread to the imperial court and became customary for women of high birth.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 89)
“The hairstyle of the women of the Song Dynasty still followed the fashion of the later period of the Tang Dynasty, the high bun being the favoured style. Women’s buns were often more than a foot in height.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 107)
“Women’s upper garments consisted mainly of coat, blouse, loose-sleeved dress, over-dress, short-sleeved jacket and vest. The lower garment was mostly a skirt.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 107)
“Women in the Song Dynasty seldom wore boots, since binding the feet had become fashionable.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 107)
“Although historians do not know exactly how or why foot binding began, it was apparently initially associated with dancers at the imperial court and professional female entertainers in the capital. During the Song dynasty (960-1279) the practice spread from the palace and entertainment quarters into the homes of the elite. ‘By the thirteenth century, archeological evidence shows clearly that foot-binding was practiced among the daughters and wives of officials,’ reports Patricia Buckley Ebrey […] Over the course of the next few centuries foot binding became increasingly common among gentry families, and the practice eventually penetrated the mass of the Chinese people.” (Chinese Chic: East Meets West, pg. 37-38)
“Han women continued to wear the jacket and skirt. However, the choice of darker shades and buttoning on the left showed Mongolian influence.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 131)
“After the Mongols settled down in the Central Plains, Mongolian customs and costumes also had their influence on those of the Han people. While remaining the main costume for Han women, the jacket and skirt had deviated greatly in style from those of the Tang and Song periods. Tight-fitting garments gave way to big, loose ones; and collar, sleeves and skirt became straight. In addition, lighter more serene colours gained preference.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 142)
“The clothing for women in the Ming Dynasty consisted mainly of gowns, coats, rosy capes, over-dresses with or without sleeves, and skirts. These styles were imitations of ones first seen in the Tang and Song Dynasties. However, the openings were on the right-hand side, according to the Han Dynasty convention.” ((5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 147)
“The formal dress for commoners could only be made of coarse purple cloth, and no gold embroidery was allowed. Gowns could only in such light colours as purple, green and pink; and in no case should crimson, reddish blue or yellow be used. These regulations were observed for over a decade, and it was not until the 14th year of Hong Wu that minor changes were made.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 147)
When China fell under Manchurian rule, Chinese men were forced to adopt Manchurian customs. As a sign of submission, the new government made a decree that men must shave their head and wear the Manchurian queue or lose their heads. Many choose the latter.
On the other hand, Chinese women were not pressured to adopt Manchurian clothing and fashions. “Women, in general, wore skirts as their lower garments, and red skirts were for women of position. At first, there were still the “phoenix-tail” skirt and the “moonlight” skirt and others from the Ming tradition. However the styles evolved with the passage of time: some skirts were adorned with ribbons that floated in the air when one walked; some had little bells fastened under them: others had their lower edge embroidered with wavy designs. As the dynasty drew to an end, the wearing of trousers became the fashion among commoner women. There were trousers with full crotches and over trousers, both made of silk embroidered with patters.” (5,000 years of Chinese Costume, pg. 173)
The Manchurians attempted several times to eradicate the practice of foot-binding, but were largely unsuccessful. Manchurian women admired the gait of bound women but were effectively banned from practicing food-binding. Hence, a “flower pot shoe” later came into creation and it allowed its wearer the same unsteady gait but without any need for foot-binding.
Women traditionally bound their breasts in the Ming and Qing dynasties with tight fitting vests and continued to do so in the early 20th century.
“The vests were called xiaomajia ‘little vest’ or xiaoshan ‘little shirt” “used by Chinese women as underclothing for the upper part of the body.” (Changing Clothes in China: Fashion, History, Nation: Finnane pg 162) “Doudu [is] a sort of apron for the upper body […] in former times the doudu had been worn by everyone, old and young, male and female. The young wore red, the middle-aged wore white or grey-green, the elderly wore black. A little pocket sewn into the top was used by adults to secrete them money and by children their sweets. When a girl got engaged, she would show off her embroidery skills by sending an elaborately worked doudu to her fiancé, decorated with bats for good forturne and pomegranates, symbolizing many sons.” (Changing Clothes in China: Fashion, History, Nation: Finnane pg 162)
A ban on bound breasts began in 1927, in which the government started advocating for the “Natural Breast Movement”. Despite this, bound breasts still widely continued into the 1930s. The government also banned earrings as it fell under the criteria of deforming the natural body. The 1930s also saw the introduction of the western/French bra come to Shanghai.
“The little vest was designed to constrain the breasts and streamline the body. Such a garment was necessary to look comme il faut around 1908, when (as J. Dyer Ball observed): ‘fashion decreed that jackets should fit tight, though not yielding to the contours of the figure, except in the slightest degree, as such an exposure of the body would be considered immodest.’ It became necessary again in the mid-twenties, when the jacket-blouse—a garment cut on rounded lines – began to give way to the qipao. At this stage, darts were not used to tailor the bodice or upper part of the qipao, nor would they be till the mid-fifties. The most that could be done by way of further fitting the qipao to the bosom was to stretch the material at the right places through ironing. Under these circumstances, breast-binding must have made the tailor’s task easier.” (Finnane 163, Changing Clothes in China: Fashion, History, Nation)
Successful eradication of bound feet would not come until the 1949 when the People’s Republic of China came into power.
Under the People’s Republic of China, very few mainland women wore the cheongsam, save for ceremonial attire. Clothing became de-sexualized for mainlanders.
It was the flip side in Hong Kong, as the cheongsam continued its function as everyday wear which lasted until the late 1960s. The cheongsam in the 1950s and 1960s became even tighter fitting to further accentuate feminine curves. Western clothing became the default after the late 1960s, though the cheongsam continued to survive as uniforms for students (who donned a looser and androgynous version), waitresses, brides, and beauty contestants.
Designers today are creating new forms of the qipao/cheongsam. The mermaid tail appears to be a current popular trend.
These sites I find really helpful.
Some reference images like these are useful if you’re unable to find/join a life drawing class. Though I would highly recommend going to one:
Eadweard Muybridge photography is very helpful in understanding the body in movement.
I said that I’d show some tutorials I have saved up to someone, but decided that I’d just go ahead and post most of what I have stored away and create a sort of masterpost out of it. (I figure it’ll help me just as much since, as of now, they’re all pretty scattered between my Tumblr and bookmarks)
A lot of these are hosted on my personal Tumblr, but I don’t change my url so it’s pretty safe to bookmark them there (and not have to worry about the url changing) if you don’t wish to reblog them yourself for whatever reason.
- Basic domesticated cat tutorial
- The domestic cat body
- Improving upon (lion) anatomy
- Realistic lion faces tips
- Big cat paw tips
- Canine vs. feline - paws and legs
- Beginner feline tutorial
- Guide to big cats
- Feline comparison
- Canine vs. feline - facial anatomy
- Canine vs. feline - chest anatomy
- Guide to little cats
- Big cat eyes (could work for other eyes)
- Basic wolf anatomy
- Skeleton notes on wolf legs
- The wolf skeleton as a whole
- The wolf skull and teeth
- Wolf paw tips
- Basic canine poses
- Canine ears and chest
- Drawing realistic wolves
- Basic wolf tutorial
- Wolf paw tutorial
- Paw pad tips
- Wolf skeleton and muscles
- Wolf fur direction
- Canine vs. feline - paws and legs
- Canine vs. feline - facial anatomy
- Canine vs. feline - chest anatomy
- And this is just an excellent DA for wolf reference images
- Bird wing anatomy applied on humanoids
- Bird wing tutorial (lots of underrated tips)
- Varying bird wing structure
- Basic owl anatomy
- Bird wing vs. bat wing vs. pterodactyl wing vs. human arm
- Bird wings and flight
- Various bird wings
- Hand tips and reference
- Simplifying human anatomy
- Feet and shoes tutorial
- Bird wing anatomy applied on humanoids
- A guide to movement: flexibility
- A male shoulder study
- Altalamatox face tutorial
- Male legs reference
- The human hand
- Male vs. female waist
- Excellent expressions tut
- Understanding anatomy part 1 (follow desc. links for more)
- Painting skin
- Simplifying hands
- More simplified hands
- Pose tutorial
- Varying the female figure
- Profile proportions
- Expression tutorial
- Virtual lighting studio
- Breaking up the male torso
- Male torso anatomy in use
- Simplifying the human foot
- Various facial and body shapes reference
- Drawing the nose
- Female anatomy patterns
- Human mouths
- Breaking down the human nose
- How to draw the ear
- More hand(y) tips
- Neck and torso tut
- Jawline and kissing tip
- Yet another hands tutorial
- Male torso in motion
- The human head at various angles
- Variation of colour throughout the skin
- Excellent action and couple references
- Advice on eyes
- Feet reference drawings
- Nose shapes
- The human skull and face
- Facial features
- Portrait lighting cheat sheet
- Animating dialogue (mouth movement)
- A kissing tutorial
- The fist
- Various athletic builds
- Various types of hair
- Proportional height of different positions
- Expressions photo references
- The hand in motion
- Skintone palettes
- Semi-realistic eye tutorial
- Male muscle reference
- The human body in perspective
- The human head at various angles
- Painting a realistic eye
- Arm shape and muscles
- Animal feet on a human figure
- Hand poses
- The face in profile
- Skin tutorial
- Body type diversity
- Drawing hair
- Muscles in the neck and face
- A beginner’s guide to knees
- Another ladies tutorial
Dragon tutorials (and bat wings):
- Basic horse (back) reference
- The equine skeleton
- Horse anatomy and pointers
- A good, large collection of horse stock references
- Skeleton of a horse and its rider
Background and objects tutorials:
- Griffsnuff background tut part 1 (second in desc.)
- Tree tutorial
- Realistic gems tut
- Water tutorial
- General water tutorial
- Drawing crystals
- Drawing bows
- Fabric tutorial
- Clothing folds part 1 (second in desc.)
- Drawing hoods
- Drawing jeans
- Hat on human figure reference
- More hat on figure references
General painting, drawing, and style tips:
- Altalamatox digital painting walkthrough
- Simple fur tutorial
- Realism painting tutorial (human subject)
- Excellent colour tutorial
- Painting a wolf (good fur painting visual)
- Photoshop brushes tut
- Basics of Photoshop tutorial
- Another digital painting tutorial
- Common digital painting mistakes
- Colour and light
- Soft cel-shading tutorial
- Various types of hair
- Colour tips and the mood it expresses
- Composition tips
- Lighting and colour tips
- Another composition tut
Hope these help!
costume design community service: My good buddy Justin wrote this up for the person asking about design...
My good buddy Justin wrote this up for the person asking about design textbooks:
I was going to write some much longer rant about this, but I decided simpler is better. Be forewarned; this is an opinion piece.
There are no books on ‘concept design’. You learn from two fields, “craft”, and “idea”. Craft is what makes a good painting a good painting. Light, form, anatomy, proportion, perspective. Idea is what makes something compelling. Story, juxtaposition, History, Context- “research”.
For Craft, there are books about all those disciplines and more. Read about things like the Golden Ratio, Fractals, Vision and Perception of vision, Light as a form of energy, Anatomy, Perspective, etc.
For Idea, everything- everything is filed under idea. Those same books mentioned above- going to the bar on the weekend. Going hiking. Your paper plane, or knitting, or jogging, or model building hobbies. TRAVELING. Experiencing new things, and tucking them away in your brain for later reference. These are the things that you synthesize into your concepts to give them life and meaning. The best book I can think of for this is National Geographic. If you don’t have a subscription to Nat Geo, get one now. It’s something like $15/year for some of the most amazing shit you will ever see, and no, it isn’t all magically on Google Images.
The internet has a way of divorcing information from imagery. This is why print media is still incredibly important. Your inspiration and reference folder is almost certainly “this looks fucking awesome.” Which means you will almost always lack deeper information behind the subject, instead just favoring it’s visual appeal. You don’t have many diagrams in your ref/inspiration folder do you? Guess what- history, anthropology, paleontology, geology, chemistry, biology- are filled with diagrams to describe processes and relationships and by ignoring all that, you are starving yourself of the actual information which is often times more inspirational than the images themselves. Nat Geo has some amazing writing that will only enhance the ideas behind your work.
Much of good design is context. You may consider context “world building” or “story” or “history/backstory” or “culture”- it’s the same idea. _____ is a good design because the craft was supremely executed; proportions were attractive and reinforced the character of the design, the materials were well rendered and it was well lit and well animated. The way the design also gave subtle nods to the history or context of the story was amazing, the material usage was intelligent and gave life to the design and helped lend believability and reinforce the audience’s investment in the world and it’s machinations.
Sorry, as this was all written up rather willy-nilly; in short- there are no books that can just say “this is better concept design than that. Make lines like this, they are always cool.” A concept artist must have a holistic view of both the craft and idea. The craft and idea both enhance each other, and by only focusing on one aspect you are limiting yourself. The Solution; understand your craft. Draw anything and everything from every angle always, then go have some life experiences and read some books about cool shit. Have a genuine curiosity about the way the world works. That is the only way to avoid a half-assed, shallow design with no emotional weight or context.
Techniques for Decorating Arms and Armour
One important aspect in the study and appreciation of arms and armour is the techniques and methods for their decoration. The wide range of materials used in the creation of these objects is equaled by the varied possibilities for adding to the aesthetic qualities of functional items, either for daily or ceremonial use. The following is a short introduction to some of the more commonly used techniques.
A frequent form of decoration on arms and armor is the coloring of certain areas or the entire surface of an object, by means of paint, lacquer, or covering with textiles secured to the surface by glue, stitching, or rivets. Surfaces and components made from iron or steel could also be patinated, either by heat or chemically, as well as by gilding.
Heating metal produces a coloration of the surface, which changes from yellow to purple to deep blue as the heat increases. When taken out of the fire at a particular temperature, the metal retains this color. Considerable skill is required to achieve a consistent and even heat-patination of large areas or groups of objects. The favored color for armour, edged weapons, and firearm barrels was a deep blue, in a process is referred to as “bluing.” A range of colors could also be produced chemically, using a variety of different recipes, such as a rich brown color that was popular on firearm barrels in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century. Besides being attractive, patination and painting also inhibit rust on metal surfaces.
In Europe, the technique of decorating arms and armour with paint was certainly known in antiquity, although today no surviving objects appear to date from before the thirteenth century. It is more difficult to establish when textile coverings and heat-patination first appeared. Scabbards from swords and daggers are likely to have been covered in fabrics, colored leathers, or fur as early as Egyptian times, if not earlier. The first examples of heat-patination seem to appear during the fifteenth century, but the practice may well be much older.
Gilding and Silvering
The application of gold and silver to an object’s surface, generally known as gilding, is another form of coloring. The process traditionally implies the application of a very thin sheet of gold or silver to a surface with the help of an adhesive, usually known as water or oil gilding, or the application of powdered metal suspended in a medium (gold paint or lacquer). A more durable method known as amalgam or “fire” gilding was commonly used on arms and armour. Powdered gold was combined with mercury and applied to the surface and heated to drive off the mercury, leaving the gold bonded to the armour metal surface.
Gilding has been employed since antiquity to decorate practically all types of European, Islamic, and Asian arms and armour. It was sometimes used as the sole means of decoration, but in Renaissance Europe it is was commonly combined with etching and bluing on all types of armour, and shields, edged weapons, staff weapons, and firearms.
Inlay, Damascening, and Encrusting
A common technique for decoration is inlay, often found on wooden stocks of firearms or the metal surfaces of edged weapons and armour. Channels or recessed areas shaped to the desired design are carved or engraved into the surface, then filled with the inlay material. While metal surfaces are usually inlaid with other metals such as gold, silver, or copper alloys, wooden gun stocks can be inlaid with ivory, bone, horn, mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell, or silver or gold wire.
While organic material can be held in place with glue or nails, the inlay of metal requires a different technique. First, the sides of the cavity are undercut in a so-called dovetail profile. Then, when a softer inlay material like gold or silver is hammered into the cavity, it will flare into the undercut sides securing the inlay. This inlay technique is sometimes referred to as “true damascening,” a term alluding to Damascus in Syria and the apparent eastern Eastern origins of this technique.
An easier and cheaper technique is to cover a roughened or cross-hatched surface with gold and silver foil or wire. This is also called damascening, or sometimes “false damascening.” In both techniques, the inlaied or onlaied metal is generally burnished flush with the surface. When larger quantities of the gold or silver inlay are deliberately left to protrude in relief above the object’s surface, the decoration is called encrusting. All of these techniques can be combined for a spectacular effect.
The technique of decorating arms and armour with inlay reaches back far into antiquity. It was certainly known during the Mycenaean period, when daggers were inlaid with patinated metal, and it remained one of the most common methods of decorating arms and armour until modern times.
Enameling refers to several techniques that use vitreous paste fused to a metallic background. Recesses on a metal object, either cells formed by soldering wire to the base (cloisonné) or simple cuts or grooves (champlevé), are filled with colored glass paste. The object is then fired so that the powdered paste will melt and bond with the metal base. Finally, the surface of the object is polished smooth. Due to the expensive and fragile nature of enamel, it is almost exclusively found on weapons for ceremony and presentation.
Rudimentary methods of enameling seem to have been known as early as the second century B.C., and were used until the early medieval period. One of these methods involved setting cut glass pieces into the metal recesses (garnet cloisonné) and was used to adorn the fittings and buckles of Anglo-Saxon armour and sword belts. Although true enameling was a popular means of decoration during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it is infrequently found on arms and armour and is mostly encountered on the hilts of English Neoclassical presentation swords.
Embossing is the practice of raising a design on a metal plate from the inside so that the design appears in relief on the outside (repoussé). These designs can range from simple ridges, flutes, and geometrical patterns to elaborate figurative designs of sculptural quality. Leather objects such as shields or scabbards could be embossed using the same technique, but the designs could also be stamped or pressed into the surface using dies and molds. The latter technique was also applied to sheets of gold or silver, which would then be applied to the actual object. The raised design was finished by detailing the motif from the outside with a chisel (chasing).
Known in Europe since the Bronze Age, embossing was widely used on armour in the ancient world, especially in Greece, but was comparatively rare during the Middle Ages. It was gradually revived—first in leather—during the fourteenth century, and seems to have made its reappearance on plate armour first with ridges and fluting at the beginning of the fifteenth century, developing into more elaborate forms of figurative embossing during the first half of the sixteenth century.
Engraving and Pointillé Decoration
Engraving is a technique by which decorative patterns or inscriptions are cut into the metal surface with a sharp pointed tool of hardened metal (burin). When the decoration is not cut into the metal but formed by a pattern of dots punched into the surface, the process is known as pointillé.
Engraving, in addition to painting, is probably one of the oldest forms of decoration on arms and armour, and can be found on Stone Age and Bronze Age weapons. Although comparatively rare on armour, it is more often found on the blades and hilts of edged weapons, and from the fifteenth century to the present day, it is frequently encountered as a favored means of decorating firearms.
Similar to engraving, a mechanical process, the chemical process of etching entails the cutting of decorative patterns into metal using a mild acid. The artist would cover the surface with an acid-resistant coating of paint or wax, and then scratch the desired decoration into the coating. A weak acid was applied and the decorative pattern (or its background) was etched into the metal’s surface wherever the coating had been removed. Visual contrast could be enhanced by application of a dark substance, such as lampblack, into the recessed areas, or by gilding the background.
Examples of etched decoration appear on sword blades as early as the late thirteenth-century, although the technique may in fact be much older. Etching as a means of decorating arms and armour appears to have led to the discovery of etching as a printmaking technique. In return, sixteenth-century etched decoration of arms and armour was sometimes copied directly from popular prints. Quite elaborate and complex designs could be produced, including pictorial scenes (33.164) and inscriptions.
Fretting and Openwork
Decorative patterns can be cut into the surface or edges of plate. Fretting refers to cut designs along the edge of metal plates. The technique of cutting out decorative motifs, sometimes employed to reveal an underlying layer of metal or textile, is referred to as openwork.
These methods of decoration are today most commonly associated with late fifteenth-century German and Western European armour, the edges of which were decoratively cut with sometimes elaborate motifs reminiscent of Gothic tracery. The techniques of fretting and openwork are also used for decorating Japanese armour and weapons mounts, as well as Islamic armour.
Carving and Chiseling
The decorative carving of weapons dates back as far as the Stone Age. The wooden or ivory parts of weapons, such as dagger and sword hilts, can be carved in low or high relief, sometimes in the round– like sculpture, as can saddles and the stocks of crossbows and firearms. On armour it is rare and found only in the shape of carved crests, such as on Japanese helmets. When the technique of carving is applied to metal, as on sword hilts or the locks of firearms, the decoration is usually referred to as “cut steel” or “chiseled steel.”
Pattern Welding and “Damascus Steel” or “Watered Steel”
Pattern welding and Damascus steel are commonly confused. Pattern welding is a technique in which bundles of iron and steel bars are arranged alternately, twisted together, and then forge-welded into a single block. This block is then hammered out, resulting in the formation of a distinct and complex contrasting pattern on the object’s surface. Polishing and etching with a mild acid heighten the visual contrast between the metals, creating a wavy pattern.
Damascus steel refers to a process where in which a similar wavy or “watered” pattern is produced in the steel prior to forging using specific smelting and crucible techniques. The process is so named for the erroneous belief that this metal originated in Damascus, Syria, although this technique was practiced in the Islamic Middle East from the Middle Ages. True Damascus steel is the result of variations in crystalline structures within the metal itself. These crystals align to form visible patterns during forging. Although the term “watered steel” is often applied to pattern-welded objects, it might be more accurately used for Damascus steel.
Objects most commonly made of pattern-welded steel or Damascus steel are sword blades, which were held in high esteem throughout the ancient world, early medieval Europe, the Islamic Near East, and Asia. Other common examples of pattern welding include the barrels of firearms and the blades of the typical Malayan and Indonesian dagger (kris).
- Turkish Saber, 19th century
- English Presentation Smallsword, 18th century
- German Hunting Sword, 18th century
Enough of you seemed interested, or at least curious!, about this, so I gave it a shot! It is rather short and condenses lots of information, but I think it manages to get its points across, especially if someone is a beginner and needs to learn the very bare (no pun intended - well, maybe a little) basics.
Like I said, someday maybe I will do a more detailed version with more on clothes and how it can affect shape, but that would also require me to conquer my fear of tutorials for a second time. WE’LL SEE.
ALSO. It wouldn’t be a proper tutorial on anatomical structure, if I didn’t put a disclaimer down here and say that there is never a good substitute for life drawing or real study of the human body if you want to learn the correct way something works. Even the examples shown here are stylized, so ENJOY but bear this warning in mind!
Expression Reference Dump- Part 1
Someone was asking questions on drawing fabric, and I had these few pages I snagged from a blog I have long forgotten where I got it from but I hope these help!
This is a really good article about how quickly people actually die from cuts and punctures inflicted by swords and knives. However, it’s really really long and I figured that since I was summarizing for my own benefit I’d share it for anyone else who is writing fiction…