Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Art of the Tutorial

If there's one thing I've done a lot of, it's painting tutorials. I've been creating them in some form or another ever since I launched this website properly back in 2014. Lately I've seen a lot more people creating painting tutorials of their own to share with the community, so I figured I could put together a few tips and tricks I've learned over the years.

At it's simplest form a tutorial could just be a description of how you painted a model. I basecoated it with this color, the shaded it with this shade, and then highlighted it with this layer paint, etc. This is how I first started doing tutorials myself. I would just share some finished pictures of the model and talk over how I did each part. This isn't too dissimilar to the old 'Eavy Metal painting guides from White Dwarf which rarely had pictures of the models in progress. I loved those guides too, they're honestly how I taught myself a lot of the techniques I use.

Now I do one of two different tutorial methods, either a step by step tutorial, or what I refer to as an infographic tutorial, which is basically just a more compact form. So what are some things I've learned over the years on how to best approach a tutorial?

1. Paint a Test Model First

I very rarely create a tutorial blind, as in without having tried out the techniques or colors already. Sometimes this means I will paint up a duplicate of the exact model I plan on making the tutorial for, other times it just means using color combos and techniques I've already used on other models. This is especially important for anyone on the newer side of tutorials. If you already know exactly how a model is painted before you start on it then you'll know which order to do the steps in and at what points to take the pictures. As you get more experience with it you can start being a bit more adventurous. There are definitely a few models I've done for tutorials where I basically just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best going into it, but more often than not I have some knowledge of it beforehand.

2. Remember to Take Photos

I know this may seem obvious, but when you get into the swing of painting a model it's very easy to get caught up in the fun of painting and forget about the photos. There have definitely been a few of my step by step tutorials where I have to combine a few steps because I forgot to take photos of each step. Just try and remember to stop between each step and snap a photo. if you're at the end of a painting session it may be easier to say "Oh, I'll take the picture when I start painting it again," but it's super easy to forget when you come back a day later, so it's best to just do it right then.

3. Have a Photo Station Set Up

Taking pictures of each step definitely breaks the flow of painting a bit, there's no way around this. One way you can help though is to have your photo station set up off to the side the whole time you're painting. If you already have your backdrop and light set up, then all you need to do is plop your model in and snap a picture and then you can get right back to painting. It's always a pain when you need to set up and take down your photo area for each shot while painting.

4. Keep Your Photos Clean and Simple

When you're doing a step by step tutorial it really helps to have a nice clean backdrop. I used to just take pictures of my models either on my painting desk or just holding them in my hand for the different steps. This is a fast way of doing it, but any clutter in the background can be confusing. Now I just use a piece of blank white paper and a daylight lamp set in front of the model. This way I always have a plain white background, and when I'm adjusting brightness or color balance afterwards I know what color the background is supposed to be in each shot. I also just use my phone for the step by step photos. I have an iPhone X, so the camera is pretty good, but most phones have a really good camera now that are more than up for the task.

5. Remember Your Steps

As you'll most likely be writing the guide after you're done painting, it's important to remember what paints and techniques you used for each step. Luckily I haven't had any problems with just remembering what I did (usually looking at the step by step photos will help you remember), but if you're unsure just jot them down really quick while you paint.

6. Edit Your Photos

It's definitely worth the effort to do a little photo editing afterwards. I crop, adjust the brightness, and sometimes the saturation/vibrance in almost all of my photos. Unless you're an expert photographer it's pretty much inevitable that something will be off in the picture. It'll be too dark, or in too much shadow, or desaturated a bit. You don't want to lie with your photos, so just have the model on hand and adjust the picture until the colors and such look as true to life as possible. I use Photoshop for this, but there are plenty of free to download programs that will do this job admirably.

7. Be Concise

You want to boil your different steps down to as simple of terms as possible. This is especially important in the infographic guides where you'll be confined in terms of available space to write as well. You don't want to oversimplify anything, but you don't want to ramble on. Say what needs to be said to convey what you did and move onto the next step.

That's about it! If you follow these steps you'll be able to knock out a tutorial pretty easily. The best thing about them is that you can go back and reference your own tutorials yourself! I can't tell you how many times I go back to some of my old tutorials to remind myself how I painted something. If you have any questions on creating tutorials that I didn't cover, let me know in the comments below.

If you want to see any of the tutorials that I had pictures of above please check out my articles on the Warhammer Community Site here!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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