At the very top of the world lies a small village. Strange people inhabit this tiny village. They've been living in their little village for centuries, and not much has changed since they first built their miniature log cabins. As an isolated society will do, they've come up with a strange set of rules and customs, becoming a myth among the elite circle of experienced mountaineers who've had the strange experience of meeting with them.

Mountaineer extraordinaire Sir Rourn (knighted by King Hagan) wrote in his biography of these natives as "a backwards, peculiar kind of people; generous, although their etiquette is indeed lacking", speaking of the way the villagers had driven him out of the village with dung shovels after seeing him draw water from the village well at midday, a particular misdemeanor of their culture.

Despite the less than warm welcome many outsiders are received with, the quaint village is a popular destination for those seeking to travel to beautiful places. Aside from the humble village, the scenery is glorious. Majestic, snow-capped mountains rest along the horizon, while respectable deep green pines flank below, starting in thin bristles, then filling out into a comely forest into the lower altitudes. Between the forest and the village lies a stretch of tundra which in summertime blooms with color.



Statistics


Name: Embarrass
Nickname: Emb
Age: Unknown
Gender: Male
Fur: Light gray-blue
Undercoat: White
Eyes: Dark red
Height: 3 feet to the shoulder
Length: 7 feet
Weight: 189 pounds
Markings: Dark blue ear tips, "eyebrows", and shadows around eyes. Raccoon-like stripes on tail, along with fifteen dark blue spots along the top part of Emb's tail. Circles all along his back for camouflage. Dark blue right above his toes.
Best Friend: Iago the Gabar
Origin: Remote mountain range beyond Terror Mountain

Personality

Embarrass is at heart a very gentle soul; he would never voluntarily harm another living creature. He instinctively craves company and love, and hates to be alone. Unfortunately, he does end up being alone most of the time, and so is often unhappy and ill at ease. He's happiest when he's with other creatures, no matter who it be; he loves all the shapes and sizes that life comes in.

Emb is naive and tends to assume that all creatures are as benevolent and selfless as he, and as a result often does silly things. In a way, however, this makes Emb even more lovable; his unconditional, natural trust of people makes people respond to him in the same way and want to live up to his high regard of others.


Getting wet
Isolation from others
The sight of blood
Hot weather

Sliding around on ice
Sleeping in the snow
Exploring the valley
Finding new things

Emb was born in the valley surrounded by high, snowy mountains and a dense conifer forest. He has never left, nor felt the desire to explore past the boundaries of the valley. While he enjoys discovering new places within his territory, Embarrass ultimately feels most secure in his home.

Emb is fascinated by the nearby village and its people, and spends a lot of time observing them. The village is surrounded by a low stone wall to guard against wild beasts. Since the arrival of Emb, however, large predators have largely left the area and the structure has fallen into disrepair.



Iago is a devilish little Gabar that constantly accompanies Emb everywhere. Iago is, in essence, the exact opposite of Emb, not only physically in relation to their sizes but also in terms of personality.

Iago is very thrifty and practical, and does not take into account 'feelings' or 'compassion' when he goes about his business. Everything is weighed with reason and logic. Iago truly understands how the world works, while Emb lives more in idealized version of the universe, rejecting ideas of cruelty and misery. The snow white, red faced Gabar, not even as big as Emb's head, acts as Emb's common sense, since Emb often acts on impulse. Iago also teases Emb quite a bit, but because Emb is so unselfish, the big Lupe has no idea and believes Iago is a pure, gentle and kind creature.

When Iago first met Emb, he first only associated with Emb for the power over the villagers, and then because Emb was easy to fool and manipulate, but now Iago has come to have a protective "Only I can bully him" mindset, and keeps others from taking advantage of Emb.

Iago also leads a little tribe of Gabars that are a constant pain to the neighboring village. The Gabars do everything from stealing food to sneaking into houses to throwing snowballs at small children. However, the villagers consider the Gabars an essential nuisance, a part of everyday life, and the truth is that they would probably be very lonely without the mischievous presence of the little snow monkeys.

Aside from harassing the villagers, the Gabars are constantly on the move in their natural snowy habitat, picking off tender new shoots and living on the sparse bounty of the land. Their favorite pastime, other than aggravating the villagers, is to soak in the natural hot springs. They do it when the weather is especially cold, and often clean each other while relaxing with each other. The young Gabars have a grand time as well, splashing each other and swimming all about their elders.



I've written Emb's story in a more unorthodox way than one would expect. Rather than a straight out narrative, his story is told out in a series of vignettes.

A vignette is the equivalent of a memory—like a memory, it may be random or incomplete, but it often holds a lot of significance to the character involved. For my purposes, each vignette is like a chapter, and it's best to read them in the listed order—though you could read them in any order, it would probably not make as much sense. The vignettes are written completely in Emb's eyes, including all his thoughts and feelings from a first-person viewpoint.

The Village of Happiness

There was a sky. A gray, cloudy sky. And from that sad sky fell like angels soft snowflakes, spiraling slowly into slumbering mountains. Mountains that never woke. Mountains that stayed. They stayed and stayed and stayed and never changed. But that was a lie, right? Because before the mountains there were volcanoes and storms and fire. But that's another story. Because now, here, there are only sleeping, cold mountains that never change and never wake up.

Nestled within those cold mountains, like a child in the arms of its mother, was a village. Only one. A precious, precious child. A child with many children, with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all sleeping and eating and living in miniature log cabins, living under quaint, strange customs that had been defined long ago. Not as long as the mountains, perhaps, but a long time nevertheless.

The children of that village were very happy with their quaint life. It was small, and close; everyone was warm and close and loved each other very much. Everyone was happy.

Mountains

The mountains gave birth to all life. It may seem ridiculous to outsiders, but when you see the miracle of life that springs forth every year from those silent, cold rocks, it does seem as though life itself started here.

The landscape is barren, but it's also full. Full of snow, full of air, full of life, full of everything and the open sky. There is nothing you cannot do here. There are no limits. It is free, free as you could ever be. People bloom. Everything blooms; people, animals, trees, grass, flowers, the sky, and most of all the mountains. Their peaks reach up and brush the sky, but they keep stretching. Reaching up and up and up, and never stop. This is why life came from these mountains. They are life. There is so much of them that they couldn't possibly not be alive.

These mountains are not really the original life-givers. They are the children of true mountains. The first mountains were black and craggy, with steep, violent points that stabbed into sultry, heavy swirling clouds in a crimson sky. These hostile mountains eventually gave birth to our gentle mountains, who are steady and slow, resting under a carefree blue sky. Our mountains are what gave life.

Oxen

Within the village, the people have many duties and pastimes. They primarily raise a variety of highland oxen, which have thick warm coats to protect the huge beasts from the cold. The oxen are peaceful creatures, but their enormous sets of horns are daunting nevertheless. The oxen are the center of the villagers' life. They provide wool, for the people to weave into warm clothes; meat, for the people to eat in the long winter months when there is nothing else; bones, to make instruments and weapons and tools; milk, for babies without mothers to drink; and most of all, companionship, because even with an entire village, it can sometimes get lonely in the quiet mountains. The oxen are the villagers' closest friends and partners, and so they are also mine. The oxen themselves are slow, but they are gentle and patient, and the villagers can always trust them to watch over the young children as they would their calves.

I also have always loved the oxen, for their unconditional acceptance of me. Despite my size, and my fearsome appearance, which all instincts rebel against, they will placidly graze alongside me, as though I were only another ox, albeit a strange-looking one.

The oxen mostly roam outside the walls of the village, grazing on the sparse grass under the muffling snow. During the frequent snowstorms, they huddle together, relying on their collective warmth to keep the deadly cold at bay. Otherwise, however, they mostly roam independently unless with their calves. They don't seem to mind me tagging alongside them while they graze, and I like to keep company with them, and hear their muffled munching, steamy breath, and crunch of the snow as they use their long horns to sweep ice away from the vegetation. Their presence is soothing, and whenever I'm upset, I find myself coming to them, because in many ways they act as my guardians and mentors.

The Wall

The villagers are afraid of the outside coming in. They are afraid of strangers, and bad luck, and dangerous animals. That is the part I dislike most about this village. They want to protect themselves and their families. I understand that. But how could you not want to welcome in every new thing into your life? Even if it's only something insignificant, like seeing a kind of bird you've never seen before or finding a pebble that looks exactly like the shade of your brother's eye.

Because the villagers are so afraid of new things coming in, they have built a wall around their village. It's low, but sturdy; it's primarily built of rocks and mortar. During the winter, the wall is nearly invisible because it's so covered in snow.

Of course, the wall doesn't surround all of the village. The oxen do need to get out to graze, and the stream that the villagers use for water is also on the outside. So along that endless wall is a break. A small opening, no larger than four feet, leaves the village vulnerable to the entire vicious world. But the villagers are still safe, because they have a string of prayer-flags above the opening, to keep away evil spirits. The flags are bright and colorful. They're one of my favorite things to look at in the winter. When everything is so white and smooth and cold, I can see those silly little flags flapping about in the bitter wind, and it makes me smile.

The Forest

The forest is deep and dark and scary, they say.

But I like the forest. It's quiet, true, but not necessarily threatening. It's truly peaceful, in a more ancient and natural way than the village's peace. The village is warm and full of smells and the noise of people, and it's peaceful in the sound of contentment. The forest, on the other hand, is solemn, and peaceful in that nothing really changes, like the mountains. The seasons change, but they do so every year in the same way, so it's not really like they're changing.

Sometimes it feels as though the forest is empty, though, in comparison to the bustling village. The forest has very little underbrush, just tall, lean, spread out pines among piles of snow. The lower branches have been clipped off by passing oxen, so there are no branches for the first ten feet of the tree trunks, making the forest setting feel a bit lonely.

But when you do find life! What wonderment and excitement is yours, to find a spark in the cold, still snow. It often feels like I live for that spark, to find something new, to make another friend, and to wake up to another cold clear blue morning.

The Shrine

I am not a good hunter. I am not a good fisher. I am not a good gatherer of food in any regard. It is quite a surprise that I have survived this long in my harsh environment.

However, my thriving here really has nothing to do with my own ability and more with the culture and kindness of the village. The villagers believe I am an evil spirit, and thus, must be both kept at bay and appeased. The wall surrounding the village does the job of the former, while a small shrine dedicated to me (yes, to me and only me!) takes care of the latter. The wooden shrine is regularly stocked with offerings of food, mostly meat stew and pine nuts, which I like very much.

The shrine is very tiny, only big enough for a toddler to comfortably fit in. But every day it is stocked with a warm meal, with several dishes. A little girl comes by the snowy path to deliver the offerings to the shrine. She wears a thick, rainbow-colored muffler and a white woolen cloth over her head to keep the snow and the cold away. She always carries a bulky basket that holds the hot food. The basket is tightly woven, keeping all the warmth and flavor of the food inside.

When the little girl was first assigned to bring food to me, she was very nervous and terrified. She trembled and looked every which way as she walked the snowy path, anxious of the dark pines lining the pathway, as though a great beast might leap out any moment. Now, however, she walks the path as happily and safely as if she were walking in her own village.

Despite this, I do not have enough bravery to greet her or even show myself. I'm afraid that she will run away if I do—I know the villagers fear me, and it saddens me.

Ice Rink

In the center of the village lies a small lake. More of a large pond, really; the water doesn't get any deeper than five feet. Most of the time, though, the water is frozen solid—an ideal skating rink.

The villagers love to play on their ice rink. I can hear their laughter even from the silent forest, where I lie alone. It's inside the boundaries of the wall, though, so it's a place I can't reach. Despite this, sometimes at late night, when the moon is shining brightly, I sneak into the village. The thick ice can support even my weight, and I slide clumsily over the smooth surface. Getting braver, I push off the snow rims of the pond and spin, slowly at first, then faster as my momentum catches up, and faster and faster until the stars in the sky are flying around so quickly that it doesn't feel like I'm alone any more.

Festival

The villagers have quite a few festivals. There's one for each change of season, one for each full moon, one for the first snowfall of winter, one for when the villagers' favorite flower begins to bloom, one for the Gabars, and so on and so forth. In total, there are usually about sixteen festivals a year, sometimes more if a significant event, like an eclipse, falls in a year.

The festivals are my favorite part of village life, because they celebrate life and nature, and never let you forget the wonder of life in these mountains.

During the festivals, there's always lots of music and food and dancing and singing and bright colors, and everyone dresses in their finest clothes. At these occasions, even the mischievous Gabars and I are welcome. Of course, the snow monkeys are all over the place at the festivals, but I prefer to sit near the bonfire, out of the way of the festivities. I know the villagers are still wary of me, and I'm happy enough to be included.

Sometimes, though, a young child yet untold of the dangers of associating with an evil spirit will come up to me and pet me gently. Or yank my fur and ears. Both make me happy, because I'd rather be touched than be alone.

Hot Springs

I admire the Gabars very much. Their playfulness, ability to accept strange beings, and their live-for-the-moment view on life.

The Gabars spend a lot of their time relaxing in hot springs, which may explain some of their carefree attitude. The mineral water of the hot springs is said to release tension in people, and make them happier, which both the villagers and I could use, but I can't swim. More than that, though, I dislike getting wet. Water soaks my thick fur like a sponge, and weighs me down.

Nevertheless, I enjoy watching the young ones play and tease their elders, and it keeps me from being on my own too much.

Possessions

What's a big blue wolf to do in the snowy mountains in the dead of winter? I like to collect rocks. And feathers. And dried leaves. And pine cones. And—well, you get the idea. I collect just about anything that catches my eye—I love seeing new things, and all these little things are very special to me.

It was a little tough to find a hiding place for all my precious cargo. The snow melts away in the summer to flow into the river as melt water, so burying them in the snow was a no go. I can't climb trees because of my big size, and I'm not exactly graceful either. And even though I love and trust Iago, I know the temptation for him to throw my cherished rocks and pine cones at the villagers would be just too great to give my treasures to him to hide.

But I finally found it, the perfect place. Inside the shrine, naturally. Other than the little girl, who only drops off food for me, no one comes near it, and it of course stays nice and dry throughout the seasons, rain or shine.

They say that once you live in the cold mountains, you'll start to understand what true happiness is and stop being weighed down by material possessions. I'm afraid I'm not quite there yet—I'm very happy, but I'm still weighed down by pebbles and feathers and leaves and pine cones.



Solo's Art

Below are the fully colored pictures I've done of Emb. Drag each image to the address bar for full view.

Fanart



Poetry

Acrostic

Evil spirit of the mountain, and yet
Mountains never harbored such longing for company, nor
Bared teeth in fright at the sight of blood, nor held close
A flesh heart, subject to foolish whims.
Round and round he spun in silly delight,
Reminding the world that there are no heavenly sprites as merry as he.
Although he may hope for flowers to spring from his wake,
Softly wish for the snow to save him in its embrace,
Sunrise, and he is only a mere mortal once again, and yet mortals never harbored such peace.

Haiku

Among clouds and mist
Slumbers of snowdrops and sky
A blue beast quiet

Snow Bird

A resounding crash echoed throughout the silent pine forest, and a flock of startled birds took flight at the disturbance. Emb looked up, also surprised from his sleep, but not afraid. His size alone kept him safe from all other predators, and he had never truly known fear since he was a small blind pup. Emb stood up, stretched his forelegs luxuriously, and trotted off to see what the big fuss was about.

When he arrived at the base of a stocky evergreen, it initially seemed that the only thing that had occurred there was the tree's unloading of the snow that weighted its branches. Emb dropped onto the fresh pile of snow with a sigh, closing his eyes already in preparation for a nice long nap. Immediately, however, a shrill peep of protest sent Emb rocketing backwards in shock. On top of the snow pile, lightly dusted with snowflakes but otherwise unharmed, was a little snow bird chick. Its coal chip eyes stared into Emb's crimson own with the intensity of a fierce hawk, rather than a little white puffball.

Gentle Emb, of course, was immediately cowed into averting his eyes as though he were a meek rabbit before a vicious wolf. The chick continued to stare imperiously at the massive beast, and cheeped once, expectantly. Then again. And again. Embarrass looked at the little thing in nervous surprise, as though he had expected a snarl rather than a cheep.

The little bird was hungry, naturally. Such small babies had to fed every hour, and it had fallen from its nest and thus out of the protection of its mother. But Emb did not know this. He attempted to appease the ever-more noisy chick by squirming up to the foot of the snow pile. He crawled closer, as one would to a queen, and the chick cheeped again, in a very queen-like manner. Emb crawled even closer, nose grinding into the snow.

It was almost comedic, the way the huge beast anxiously sought to pacify the little white puffball, wiggling his way ever closer to the baby bird, not understanding the little one's needs, and the baby bird in turn cheeping louder and more demandingly. It continued on like this for a while, until Iago, passing by with his troop of Gabars and growing tired of the relentless noise, popped the chick in his mouth and silenced it.

Adoptables

Customs Do not take if the custom is not for you.



Collected

Notable Neopet

On 10/20/12, Emb was featured as Notable Neopet, and I was lucky enough to catch the moment myself!



Emb has been kind enough to lend a bit of his petpage for a GIMP tutorial. The three styles I showcase here are easily possible for both mouse and tablet users; I've used the mouse quite a bit in my coloring and find it to be just as good as using a tablet. A tablet will make digital art faster and more convenient, but it will not make you a better artist. With that being said, let's go over the basics.

The Basics

Before beginning this section, please note that these are the basics, i.e. the barest essentials. There are so many useful tools and features of GIMP that can make your life easier that I encourage you to simply play around with it before you begin. I cannot begin to cover all the options, many of which I myself am not familiar with. Nevertheless, I will share my own experience and techniques as best I can.

Above is the standard GIMP layout. This is how I leave mine arranged for convenience, but you can move them about as you like. The window at right is your Layers window; should you accidentally close it, just click Windows → Layers, Channels, Paths, Undo.... The window at left is your Toolbox; should you accidentally close it, just click Windows → Toolbox. We will go over the Toolbox first.

Toolbox

Going over the most essential tools from left to right. (hover over the icon in the toolbox to see the name)

Rectangular Select (dashed box): This tool is great for selecting a certain area to perform an action on, rather than the entire picture. Actions can include cut/copy/paste, as well as color/saturation/contrast adjustment.
Fuzzy Select (magic wand): This has the same purpose as the latter tool, but it is more intuitive and selects patches of similar colors/saturation. You can adjust how much it selects by increasing or decreasing Threshold.
Paths (pen nib): This tool is for creating smooth lines with your mouse; but as I don't use it personally I won't discuss it here.
Color Picker (dropper): Selects a color from your picture.
Move (all direction arrows): Moves your image/layer around. Make sure to select "Move the active layer" before you use it, otherwise it just moves a random layer.
Crop (razor): Crops your image to a size of your specification.
Rotate (rotated box): Rotates an image/layer. I use it for sketches that I unconsciously drew at a strange angle.
Text (big A): Text tool. There are some gorgeous fonts you can download that can make a petpage look ten times more spiffy.
Bucket Fill (bucket): Fills in closed areas with the foreground color.
Blend (gradient box): This fills the layer with a gradient. This can be used for some really neat effects.
Pencil: This is the very same pixel pencil that all y'all MS Paint users are very painfully familiar with. =)
Paintbrush: The heart of the coloring experience! I only use this if I'm using a tablet or doing Digital Style painting with my mouse. If you're using a tablet, you can adjust the pressure under "Brush Dynamics".
Eraser: We all know what this does. If you're using a tablet, you can adjust the pressure and such under "Brush Dynamics".
Airbrush: This is what I typically use if I'm coloring with a mouse, as it emulates the pressure dynamic of a tablet fairly well. Adjusting Rate and Pressure will help you achieve softer or harder "strokes".
Clone (stamp): Press ctrl and click on a place to set your anchor for cloning.

Other features you should know about:

Undo! Ctrl + z
The greatest blessing of digital art programs. Need I say more?
Adjust Canvas Size Image → Canvas Size
This adjusts the image size without compressing/stretching the image. Basically like Crop, but you can use it to make the image larger.
Flipping the Image Image → Transform → (choose)
Adjusting Image Size Proportionally Image → Scale Image
Just change one aspect of the image (height or width) and the other will change correspondingly.
Adjusting Colors Color → Hue-Saturation
Zoom
I typically use the little box at the bottom left. 100% is the image's true size, and you can make it more or less zoomed in by changing the percentage.

Layers

Layers, like Undo, are one of the greatest advantages of digital art. Layers essentially allow you to have several different paintings on top of another, separate of each other. The best way to use this feature is to have the layers highly organized with each layer containing a different part of the picture. For example, if I had a picture of a man in shirt and jeans, I would have one layer for skin, one for his shirt, one for his jeans, one for his hair, and so on and so forth. The more layers the better, as long as you label your layers and keep them organized. No one wants to sift through forty plus unnamed layers to find that one stray brushmark.

The window on the right is your Layers. It does a lot of other things as well, but for now we'll only talk about layers.



Layer Modes (the essentials):

Normal: Standard, default layer.
Multiply: Causes the layer to become semi-transparent and so colors from other layers can become more intense against that layer.
Overlay: Mostly used for adding textures; set a texture on Overlay for the best effect.

These modes can help you for certain effects and looks; to really understand how they work, you should play with them yourself. You can also reduce the opacity of the layer underneath the Mode option. Clicking "Lock alpha channel" below the Opacity option allows you to only paint where there is color already.

The large center box is where all your layers are. You can drag them around to arrange them, which can alter the appearance of the picture. You can also make a layer "invisible" by clicking the eye icon to the layer's left. Below, there are several icons that allow you to respectively: create a new layer, raise the layer one level, lower the layer one level, duplicate the selected layer, anchor a selection to a layer, and delete the layer.

And that's pretty much all you need to know about layers.

Comparison of Image File Types

What file type you use to save your image as can dramatically impact its quality and compatibility across various art programs, so it's good to understand the differences between them.

.XCF This is GIMP's default file type. It retains layers, transparency, image quality and only works on GIMP.
.PSD This is Photoshop's default file type. It also retains layers, transparency, and image quality but is useable among most if not all art programs. It is recommended to use this if you know you're going to be using different art programs to work on a picture.
.PNG My personal favorite, PNG retains 100% image quality and transparency. It also merges all the layers into one layer, so it can be uploaded to photo-sharing sites. The downside to this file type is that it tends to have a large file size, so you typically can't enter it into the Beauty Contest or any other server that has a small file limit.
.JPEG/.JPG This type is good for large images with a lot of colors, because it has a relatively small file size. It has one layer, so it can be uploaded to photo-sharing sites. The downside to this file type is that it compromises the image quality, causing some colors to not look as sharp, and does not preserve transparency. However, this is the best file type for the Beauty Contest and Art Gallery, since both these competitions have file size limits.
.GIF This is the file type most commonly used for pixel art, where the image is small and there are only a few colors. It preserves image quality and transparency, and has one layer so it can be uploaded to photo-sharing sites.

It's good to keep two copies of each picture; one with all the layers intact, for example .XCF or .PSD, and one "flat" image for uploading to sites, such as .PNG or .JPEG. This way you can always go back to your .XCF or .PSD file if you want to fix something on a particular layer.

Making an Image Transparent

Making an image transparent generally means to make the white background transparent. It gives your image a more clean, sharp look and is absolutely essential for making site layouts.

To make an image transparent, first open up your image by clicking File → Open. Then, click Layer → Transparency → Add Alpha Channel. If Add Alpha Channel is grayed out, click Alpha to Selection instead. This adds the transparency aspect to the image, although you won't notice any immediate difference in the image. The only difference you might note is that now the Eraser erases in transparency, rather than white. For the next steps, I'll use this sample image:

We want to get rid of that white background. So click the Fuzzy Select Tool (magic wand). The default Threshold is 15.0, which we will be adjusting later. The Fuzzy Select Tool selects similar colors, which means that if your picture is very light and a similar shade to the background, this tool won't be the best one to use. Click on the white background with this tool.

See how it selected not only the background, but part of the ears? That's because near the top, the brown is very light, so the tool interpreted it as part of the background. But we only want the background, not the ears. We reduce the Threshold, in the lower left, so the Fuzzy Select tool will be more selective. I reduced it to 5.0. You can see the results below:

Looks like we got most of the background! Note the little speck in the top left corner the Fuzzy Select didn't get for whatever reason, but don't worry too much about that, we can get it in a sec. So next, simply click Edit → Clear or Delete on your keyboard, and poof! It looks like this:

That gray tiled background indicates transparency. So yay, you did it! However, if we go one step further, we can clean up the edges and make it sharper. First click Select → None so you can freely work on the entire image. Now you can see better where there are bits of white floating about. Just grab your eraser and erase the white bits. And here is the final product:

Reducing File Size

With certain servers, such as the Beauty Contest and the Art Gallery, there is a file size limit, so it's helpful to know how to adjust the file size. Let's pretend we're entering the Beauty Contest. This means that the file size must be under 75.0 kb. So first, let's look at what file size we're working with to start with. Click on Image → Image Properties. A window should come up, looking like this:

Yikes! 679.8 kb, that's way over the limit. Also pay attention to the Pixel Dimensions. For this image, the dimensions are 800 x 708 pixels. For the Beauty Contest, I personally find a width of 500 px or less to be ideal. So let's scale the image by clicking Image → Scale Image. Where it says Width, I changed it to 500 rather than 800. A much more respectable size! But when I checked the file size, it was still 680.8kb—even more than what we started with! For actually reducing the file size, we have to save the image as JPEG/JPG. So click File → Save As... and change the .PNG to .JPG. Alternatively, you can also just click on Select File Type (By Extension) near the bottom on the window and find .JPG. After you click Save, it will ask you if you want to export transparency. Click Export. Then a Save as JPEG window will pop up, as shown below:

First click on Show preview in image window. The preview image won't matter, but seeing the file size will. Just drag the bar down until it's just under 75.0 kb, click Save, and you're done! Now you can enter your lovely picture into the Beauty Contest/Art Gallery with minimal resizing. (:



How to Clean Up Traditional Sketches

Cleaning up your sketch is rather essential before you begin coloring, especially if you have a rebellious scanner. I first started with this image:

This image is fairly clean, other than a few errant scribbles and my handwritten notes to myself, and a strange gray pall over the whole thing. First let's get rid of that gray. Click on Colors → Brightness/Contrast and increase the Contrast until the background looks fairly white. At this point you should also save your image in .XCF or .PSD, so your lovely sketch's image quality won't be compromised and you can save your layers. After that, just erase all the stray scribbles and writing. Then, right-click on the white background and select Colors → Color to Alpha. This will make your white background transparent. Rename this layer "lineart" by right-clicking on the layer and clicking Edit Layer Attributes. Then, create another layer with a white background, name it "background", and place it under your lineart layer. Now we're ready to begin coloring.



This is what I call the "digital" style, basically flat coloring and shading. This is the easiest and most basic coloring style, and is a good way to become familiar with the program or do a quick coloring job.

Pros/Cons

- Tablet and mouse friendly
- Fast & simple
- Relies on lineart to define the picture
- Typically uses many layers

Steps

Open up your lineart, which is hopefully already on a transparent layer—if not, please refer to the section above. The lineart layer should always be on the very top with this coloring style—all the color layers are underneath it. First, open up another transparent layer. I usually color by sections, and will start with the skin layer, so I name my layer "skin". If you're using a tablet, set your Brush Dynamics so that Pressure only has Hardness checked. If you're using mouse, it will have that as default.

Click on the foreground color on the left, and adjust the various bars until you get your ideal color—it will take practice to get the color you want quickly, but once you're used to it, it's very easy and fast. After you have your color, just set down the base color. Only worry about staying in the lines that come into contact with the background. This is what my skin layer looks like:

You can see I didn't bother keeping in the lines for the hair; that's because the hair will be on an upper layer and will cover it anyways. Open up your next layer, label it "hair", and put down that base as well. I'm also continuing to clean the lineart as I notice small mistakes and stray lines.

After looking at the whole picture, I decided her skin color was too dark compared to the hair, so I clicked on the skin layer, then Colors → Hue-Saturation and increased the Saturation and Lightness until I got what I wanted:

I then opened another layer above my hair layer, labeled it "hat", and proceeded to add my base color.

Now we'll go in for shading, starting from the skin. I used the Color Picker (dropper) to select my skin color again, then changed the color so it was slightly darker and more red. Note: Never use black/gray for shading. It's super boring. Before you begin shading, click the Lock Alpha Channel on the Layers window, right underneath Opacity. This will make it so your brushstrokes will only go over what you have already colored on that layer, which is nice since you don't have to worry about going outside the lines.

If you're using a tablet, just use the Paintbrush tool and click Opacity + Hardness for Pressure under Brush Dynamics. If you're using a mouse, use the Airbrush, because it emulates the feel of a tablet pen the best. Play around with Rate and Pressure to get the feel you want for your brushstroke.

Since I'm working on the face anyways, I opened up another layer just for the eye, and worked on that.

Next I started shading the hair, using a soft brown color and again clicking the Lock Alpha Channel box.

After I did the light shading on the hair, I added darker shadows using a darker, richer brown.

I then switched to the the hat layer and shaded that. I also added a layer, named it "glasses", and colored her glasses and goggles. Lastly, I opened up a layer to color her collar.

All done coloring! The last step is to delete the white background, crop it a bit, and you have a lovely colored transparent image.



This is the second style. This style is slightly harder than digital style. This style is most ideal with pictures that have light colors. As with the digital style, the lineart layer always stays at the top of the pile.

Pros/Cons

- Tablet and mouse friendly
- Fast & simple
- Relies on lineart to define the picture
- Soft, surreal look to the picture
- Can be difficult with pictures that have dark colors

Steps

Let's start with our sketch again:

First, open a layer underneath the lineart and name it "underlayer". Get a bunch of bright, eye-piercing colors, and lightly color the entire picture with them. Try not to leave any white space, and don't worry too much about staying within the lines.

If you're using a tablet, just color lightly. If you're using a mouse, set the opacity to about 13.0, depending on what color you're using. If you know the colors you're going to add later will be darker, you can make these bright colors a higher opacity so they'll show through those darker colors. It should look something like this:

Next, use the Smudge tool to indiscriminately smudge everything together until it's only a faintly rainbowy color.

After that, add the rainbow colors again, but this time only add them where there will be shadow. Then, smudge them again.

From here on out, the style is similar to digital style. I opened up another layer, named it "skin", and began putting down my base color. The difference is that for tablets, you check both Opacity and Hardness under Pressure under Brush Dynamics, so the rainbow is still slightly visible underneath. Mouse users will use the Airbrush at a low Pressure.

As you can see, this is a much softer method than digital. For a neat glowing effect, click on the lineart layer and then click on the Duplicate Layer button (picture of two blue layers), right below the layers box. Now you should have two lineart layers. Click on the top lineart layer, then click Filters → Blur → Gaussian Blur. Set both horizontal and vertical to 5.0px, and you'll see that the picture has a neat glowing effect. Now just delete the white background, and you have this:



Painting style is the most advanced, because it's basically traditional painting in a digital medium.

Pros/Cons

- Tablet friendly; can be difficult with a mouse
- Takes a long time
- Lineart is a guideline, rather than a defining feature; unlike with the other two styles, the lineart layer is always below the colors
- Typically uses few layers
- Looks more impressive and solid
- Easier to fix mistakes in the lineart

Steps

So let's start with our sketch:

Open a new layer above your lineart, naming it "color". If using a tablet, check the Opacity and Hardness. Start by lightly coloring the skin:

With this style, I like to color and shade piece by piece, so I'm going to go ahead and shade this, being very conscious of the lines:

Learning how to paint in GIMP takes a lot practice and experimentation, and is by no means anything I simply learned like a-ha! So honestly, I'd mostly recommend playing around with your tools and trying new things all the time; that's how I learned most of my techniques. Next I'm going to do the hair. It's important to have wide contrast for the hair, to emphasize the flowing strands and such.

Other than that, I usually layer from light to dark, slowly adding darker and darker shadows until it looks right to me. It's good to paint with the flow of the lines, as though you were painting each individual strand.

If you're not lazy like me, you can go further and actually paint the individual strands. Next I did the hat and collar, fairly straightforward. If I had wanted to, I could have cheated and used another layer—you can if you want to, especially if you're not confident.

All the painting is done! Just delete the white background and there it is.



Are you going to see me again soon?







Another GIMP guide, with more detail on mechanics:





 Coding, art and writing by Solo; please do not use without permission.
 Animated icon by Starm!
 "ITC Viner Hand" font by John Viner




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