As you all should be aware of, I am a Pokémon fan. I also draw. More often than not, my drawings are Pokémon related – generally not related to the actual pocket monster creatures or usually even the trainers that appear, but fan characters. I have a number of friends who do the same.
Some of my friends and I strive to either mimic or have highly-influenced backgrounds based off what actually appears in the anime series. I feel like a lot of us get close (or at least, close enough) to the backgrounds. The ground, the mountains, the skies all look pretty good. One of the hardest parts are the trees, or more precisely, the tree trunks. They make me want to pull my hair out.
Alright, let’s use this picture from episode 2 of Pocket Monsters Best Wishes. We’re going to be specifically focusing on the tree trunks.
I’m assuming that the background is done digitally. I’m not sure what program, but I’m still going to tell myself it’s Photoshop. The trees generally look like they’re coloured/drawn with a hard brush, which lacks a fuzzy edge. This is more apparent the farther away the trees are, since they start to look more like blotches of colour put together.
On the other hand, closer trees appear to be airbrushed, at least a tiny bit, in addition to using a hard brush.
Now, I keep on saying that they use a hard brush for the trees and while I’m sticking to it…I’m wonder how the colours just work so well together, especially so close up. It keeps driving me nuts, trying to recreate the look of the trees. The strokes do not look blended or crisp, but a bit sharp, but not sharp enough to look like an unblended mess. The trees don’t look blurry either. HOW DO THEY GET THIS LOOK?!
It might be easy to try and dismiss this as it being of low quality, so everything looks more together. However, the original episode aired in HD and when I look at HD screenshots from other episodes, it’s pretty apparent they’re using some other kind of technique.
Are they subtly blurring the tree trunks to soften the lines? Are the brushes adjusted to have a softer edge, so they don’t come out sharp? Are the backgrounds drawn really big, then shrunk down to the proper size, giving it a more together look? Is it something else? I can’t tell!
Another thing I noticed is that the colours change depending on lighting and distance. Obviously where the light is hitting, the trees are lighter and get gradually darker, as it can be seen in the previous images. The placement of the trees also change their colours – some are more brownish-grayish-yellow, others might be more blue-green-yellowish. I’m guessing it’s also to reflect lighting and distance.
…so, anybody want to try and figure out how they do the trees?