Some More Also-Rans & How’d-He Do Thats

Hey, Everybody! Since we’re kind of in between stories right now (yes, I’m stalling), I thought I’d share a few more examples of pictures that didn’t quite make it into the tales I’ve published on this site. In addition, I thought I’d talk a little about how different illustrations were put together. This time, we’re going to be looking at “A Hand to Hold,” which was that long, long story about the orphan Jot and the In-Between-Elf Miki.

As in previous stories, I based the illustrations on screenshots. This time, I went with Skyrim, Special Edition (SSE),  and added an ENB preset called PRT – PhotoRealistic Tamriel by L00 to add a little mood to the pictures . The photo editor I used was Paint.net, which I’ve found fairly easy to work with.

Building Miki and Jot

When I started the story, I already had a pretty good idea what kind of people Jot and Miki were going to be. I knew they were going to be poor, and maybe a bit ragged-looking. So I started playing around a little bit. Here’s an early attempt at our main characters:

I think I managed poor and ragged-looking, but I wanted Miki to look a little younger, and Jot a little less like a mountain trapper. After a little more work, I came up with the versions of Miki and Jot I used in the story:

The Firefly Motif

People who read the story (you know who you are!) will remember fireflies figuring into two or three scenes. Getting the fireflies to look right proved to be a lot harder than it needed to be. At first, I thought I’d try to use a Skyrim creature called a torchbug to play the fireflies’ part. Using console commands, I tried to insert a number of torchbugs around Miki. The results, at left, were rather unsatisfactory.

I spend a lot of time on this, looking up how to place torchbugs at specific places, wondering if there was a script I could write to make a bunch of torchbugs appear in a particular pattern, and so on. Then, suddenly, it hit me: Why don’t I just draw the fireflies directly into the picture? That, finally, was what I did. Using Paint.net, I opened up a screenshot of Miki casting a spell (which also provided a kind of spotlight on Miki’s face), added a layer, and drew in some fireflies. The result was something like the picture below:

I didn’t use this particular picture in the story, but I did make it the wallpaper on my phone!

Little Things

Finally, I thought I’d talk about a few subtle things that I thought helped make a couple illustrations a little more effective:

  • Below left is a picture of Miki toward the end of the story attacking the frostbite spider. Not much is changed from the original screenshot, but I made two minor edits. First, I touched up the dagger’s blade to make it a little brighter and more prominent. Second, I added some sparks falling from Miki’s left fist, as if she’s going to burn something up (spoiler: she does). I thought those edits made the shot a little more powerful.
  • The picture on the right is from the final part of the story, as an older Jot finds himself surrounded once again by Miki’s fireflies. As before, I wound up drawing the fireflies in by hand, but I needed to show them illuminating Jot’s face. My solution was to drop a torch on the ground just to Jot’s right. The illumination from the torch created enough of a glow to make it look like the fireflies were really there.

I hope you enjoyed this brief foray into how I created the illustrations for “A Hand to Hold.” I can’t really call myself an expert, but I’ve learned quite a bit about image manipulation of the past year or two. If you have anything to add, or have some shots of your own to link to, please feel free — I’d enjoy hearing from you!

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