View Full Version : Illustrations for Way of the Samurai (PFRPG)

03-28-2012, 05:01 PM
So once again, I find myself lacking in paid-for commission artwork to fill my publication needs, so that means I have to do it myself.

While I am a better cartographer than an illustrator, sometimes I can do a decent job with an illustration. This illustration was created in the same application I use to make my maps, a vector app called Xara Xtreme Pro 4. These are shapes given color, transparency, edge feathering, and stacked with other objects to get the image to look right. I used a movie poster for reference.

As I create more illustrations for this product, I will post them to this thread.

This is my first illustration for Way of the Samurai, for Nitojutsu Sensei (two swords master) samurai archetype for Kaidan.


03-28-2012, 05:49 PM
Did you use a reference picture? The shading on the face is quite darn good if you did not(ie, you have the skill to do this yourself if you can get that decent a looking face!) I would say that as dark as the front of the shirt is, I would advise either lightening it up or darkening the face quite a bit more on one side to get it more consistent.

Front sleeve needs more work though unless my eye is seeing things wrong....Hard line blacks and partially transparent "inside" of the sleeve just looks rather odd. On second though... perhaps what I saw originally as a sleeve is something else... not quite sure what though.. For that matter, I would suggest making sure there are no hard lines in the shadows of the clothing to make it mesh better with the illustration as a whole...

03-28-2012, 06:04 PM
I used a photo from a movie scene for reference. I need to soften up the edges of some of the shadowing (I forgot to do it, while doing it elsewhere). The illustration is just needing tweeked, I wanted to post what I had so far. I did place a hard line on the swords, because they disappear into the background without them, which is something else I need to work on. I didn't need a background, as this is supposed to be an illustration of pathfinder class archetype for the product. I will look at the details you mentioned and see what I can do.

This illustration, like my Kawashi town map in the Finished Maps Forum, are for my upcoming Way of the Samurai supplement for Kaidan. It's still in editing, so I'm just creating some extra samurai pieces for the project. I need to create several more, at least two, if not four.

I'll lighten up that shadow on his torso. But the face is mostly facing forward, while the torso is turned slightly - that's why its more shadowy (too much however.)

Thanks for the critique, JFj!

03-28-2012, 06:58 PM
Is this better?


03-28-2012, 09:03 PM
Next illustration, the Onmyoji (origami wizard archetype), a samurai caste spellcaster for Kaidan.


03-29-2012, 03:01 PM
Not as exciting as the illustrations and map, but I intend to feature 36 Samurai House Crests (kammon), as part of the supplement. These are the first 12, based on actual house crests.

I also think these would make nice center pieces for compass roses for Japanese styled maps.


03-29-2012, 03:15 PM
origami wizard? that is quite possibly the coolest idea i've ever heard of!

03-29-2012, 03:25 PM
I agree.
Very good artwork and a very original idea.

03-29-2012, 05:51 PM
"Behold this paper bird, for it will soon be where the sun does not shine."

Hehe, just my first ridiculous thought. I'm full of those though.

I think those crests are cool.

03-30-2012, 12:11 PM
Here's my complete set of House crests (kammon) for the supplement. These are real house crests, but I did not assign family names to each, rather making them available for choice as one's own house crest. While many of these crests belong to families that aren't known by the general public, the last kammon design in the second to the bottom row is Honda (for example).

Interestingly, Japanese house crests are generally based on plants and flowers (as well as most Samurai clan names are also plants, flowers, rivers, mountains.) Unlike the European use of lions, dragons and bears (oh my). The flowers and plants most prevalent within the regions of each family usually becomes their symbol and even clan name.


04-02-2012, 06:11 PM
Next illustration ... the Teppou Bushi (for those wanting to play a gunslinger in Kaidan)



04-03-2012, 04:54 AM
This one is the Kuge Samurai archetype. The Kuge is a noble born samurai of high station given more diplomacy and courtly skills than the standard samurai and destined for a senior bureaucratic position in Kaidan society. (He starts his samurai class levels two levels later than his base skills.) Although less martially trained than the standard samurai, since Kaidan society leans towards who you are and not what skills you have, the kuge is given higher standing above his peers.


04-03-2012, 05:40 AM
May I just ask what program you're using for making the vector illustrations?

04-03-2012, 10:21 AM
The same program I use to create my maps, Xara Xtreme Pro 4. Current version is Xara Photo Designer 7, but 4 works fine for me.


04-03-2012, 01:27 PM
Xara is a pretty nifty program, but I've never quite gotten around to working with it. Started out in Adobe back at the office and then somehow found it hard to retrain myself to other programs :S

04-03-2012, 01:51 PM
My first real graphics program was Micrografx Designer which I used from 1.0 to 7.0, however that program is long gone. Corel considered it competition, bought out the Micrografx then folded the software away. I've used plenty of image editing apps from GIMP, Photoshop to Painter, am always used whichever was best for the final purpose. Xara Xtreme is my go to program.

I know that those trained using image editors seem to prefer them, but my opinion is that those people just haven't given the vector app a chance. In reality, what I can create in Xara in 10 minutes would take me an hour or more in Photoshop, and I am quite skilled in Photoshop. Vector is much faster, much easier, much less a memory hog, and everything is 1000 times faster than any image editor. You need to give it a chance, or you'll be stuck in image editing slowness forever...

04-03-2012, 06:46 PM
As rare as it might seem (and it is) there are few examples of women samurai warriors in Japan. Tomoe Gozan is probably the only known female samurai in Japanese history of any fame. This is an illustration of her, and justification for women gamers wanting to play an authentic samurai in Kaidan.


04-03-2012, 09:15 PM
Hey, learn something new every day, I didn't know there were female samurai! That's awesome :) (And a great illustration)

04-04-2012, 12:50 AM
I didn't know that either. I'll have to look her up just because it's outside the norm and that makes it more interesting to me.

I'll bet if you were an ordinary guy and saw a Samurai woman walking down the street you wouldn't dare talk smack to her :)

04-05-2012, 11:07 AM
Next illustration (I've got 2 more left, after this one) - Ranger (yojimbo archetype).


04-06-2012, 03:05 AM
This illustration is a Work-in-Progress, but I had to show you my progress. I am using photos scrounged from search online as my resource material. Most of the time the resolutions are pretty low - like 96 ppi at 400 x 360 or worse. This means less detail and my end result can only be so good. However, I did a search for Yabusame, an archer samurai specialist, one I'm doing a Samurai archetype for. I found this awesome photo which was an amazing 6000 ppi wide, so excellent detail to work from. The problem is it's so detailed, it's putting me through extra steps to depict this well. This has taken me twice as long as I have on the other illustrations and I'm only close to half-way. Anyway, the photo also featured a yabusame on an Asian horse - which you usually don't find.

Something I've learned about myself, when I tackle a map or illustration project. I identify what the hardest part of a given job is and I start there first. The mane on this horse was the first of a number of hairy issues all over (I was intimidated by the mane), so I started with the mane.

I'll post the final of this one when I'm done. I just wanted to show you the detail I've gotten so far (too far), and to show you a work-in-progress with vector illustration. I'm likin' it so far, just got to finish this before I go mad!



04-06-2012, 07:07 PM
Finished the Yabusame illustration - this is the archer samurai specialist. While all samurai are trained in use of mounted archery, the yabusame is a master.


04-09-2012, 12:50 PM
This illustration is the only one with a background, but that's because the resource photo featured him sitting on a mountain peak, which fits the concept so well, I had to include it. This is our alternate paladin class for Kaidan, the Yamabushi.


04-10-2012, 08:52 PM
I like the one with the background actually. Some of the ones that are just white background remind me of something from a felt board story, like the ones I always loved as a kid. Of course, yours are way more detailed than what we got back then.