I really want to work on these today, but I’m just so freaking frustrated with my coloring that I simply can’t. I’m starting to realize that I overshade and overhighlight EVERYTHING. EVERY. THING. The more I try to get away from it and add midtones, the worse it gets (see: dumb dragon portrait). Ugh. Does anyone have any tips on shading with actual midtones? This just… isn’t going away for some reason.
Also, I kiiiiind of hate shading dragon faces because I don’t know what to do with them. >.> I just…. don’t understand the planes of a dragon’s face… at all. I mean, I try to look at dinosaur skulls and junk but I have a really hard time translating that over to a muscled face. At least with humans there are resources like Loomis’ books which I can look at. When it comes to dragons, I’m on my own. It kind of sucks because I DO like dragons - I’m just no good with them. (mostly it’s that indented part on the muzzle that drives me batty)
This is more of a vent than anything else, but I am cool with critique. Now I’m gonna leave before I break my tablet in half. XD
I can give you absolutely zero tips on shading, sorry. : / However, dragon and dinosaur anatomy I can help with!
First of all, that depression is called the anteorbital fenestra (=window in front of the eyesocket) It’s a sign of archosaurs like dinosaurs, pterosaurs, birds and crocodilians, but most ornithiscian dinosaurs and some crocodiles have it closed up.
Other animals have fenestrae too! Mammals have orbital and nasal fenestrae, and a temporal one on top of the head that’s full of jaw muscles. Lizards have these, plus a postorbital fenestra (mammals have a pf too, but they’ve stuck their jaws through it, meaning that its lower edge of the hole forms the cheekbone (this image shows the evolution). Compare an anole skull, and its living counterpart. Note the faint depression behind the eyes.
Second, most people who draw dinosaurs (and dinosaur-inspired dragons) probably overemphasize the anteorbital fenestra. It’s kind of a bad habit in paleoart, and is referred to as “shrink wrapping”. It’s kinda difficult to tell what they looked like, because nothing today has quite a comparable skull to say Tyrannosaurus rex, and the other fenestrae have nasal tissue, eyes or muscles in them. However, there are some naked-faced birds that demonstrate an appropriate depth for that fenestra.
Here is a Lappet-faced vulture skull. Note the triangular anteorbital fenestra between the beak and the lacrima (the funny-shaped bone in front of the eye)
Here is the living vulture, with the flesh on. If you look between the eye and the beak, you’ll see the fenestra, though not strikingly (it’s covered with little bristles). You can also see the hollow over the eye formed by the discontinuity of the brow bone and the upper parts of the skull, but not the fenestrae on the back, which are covered by folds of skin.
Which leads very neatly to the next point:
Living animals vary quite widely in what features they display, and very frequently you won’t be able to see anything at all. It looks like the bottom dragon may have some fur? You can cover a fenestra in fur pretty easily. Or just smooth it down with scales and hide for streamlining purposes. (for comparison’s sake, you know what a bear looks like—right?)
Finally, keep in mind that birds, lizards and crocodiles (and therefore dinosaurs) don’t have much in the way of facial muscles. If the dragon has an archosaur-inspired face, it may not make sense to have facial muscles, at least not ones that extend from lips to the top of their head, nose to eyes. Birds and reptiles have a lot of different ways of making expressions—utilizing colorful crests, bobbing motions, head-tilts, etc. Conversely, a mammalian dragon (it has mammlian ears, at least? and the nose looks mammal-inspired) would not have an anteorbital fenestra.
I’m sorry if I’m recommending changes you can’t make again. XD
On a more general note, to get an idea of planes, look for skulls you can see from multiple angles. Best ones would be dinosaurs, lizards, ancient crocodiles and birds with naked faces, so you can compare the still-living ones to their living counterparts. (don’t necessarily trust paleoart for life reconstructions!)
I can try to draw you up a planes reference for some of the nicer dinosaur skulls I’ve got in my reference folders, but be aware that I am the worst at shading.
Hope this helps! :D
Wow, thanks for all of the information! I’ve always had trouble with dragon faces for just that reason, so all of this information is incredibly helpful! Thanks again! :D
A planes reference sounds pretty awesome! I built a crappy dragon/dinosaur skull in Sketchup, and it could use some refinement.