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Help with animation backgrounds

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Help with animation backgrounds

Hey you guys!
I've been trying to do some backgrounds for animation projects, but I can't seem to get it.:(
How do background artists make backgrounds look so realistic? I've tried so many times to make my backgrounds look reasonably good but I've failed all my attempts. Background artists who use watercolor paints, do they use the tube paints or those watercolor pencils? Do they pencil in the lines before attempting to paint? I've already tried that approach but the pencil lines kept showing through the paint. Also what kind of paper do they use? Brushes? How do they manage to stretch the paper so that it stays flat? I've tapped down all the sides of my watercolor papers and I still get wrinkles... Background artists probably use several different mediums for different effects but still, how do they manage to make those fine details? I know it's probably a matter of preference and that most of you will probably say it takes practice but if any of you guys have info on this, it would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance.

Photoshop has a filter called Gaussian Blur that softens images very nicely. My BGs always get that. Otherwise, I do backgrounds much like figures, just with fewer details. It's just a sketchier version of my regular style.

Yeah, the old school guys would use oils, water color, guache, etc. I love the artwork, and could hang a lot of Tex Avery or Loony Tunes backgrounds on my wall. But personally, I'm very careful not to let my BGs overwhelm my subject, so I keep it simple.

Call me silly, but why not use the watercolor pencils instead of a regular pencil to draw in the details? I have a cheap set that sharpens pretty finely....and that way if it shows through it matches instead of being a grey sketchy line through the whole thing, and might even be able to be watered right into the existing paint.

why dont you take your backgrounds into a editing program and edit out the offending aspects?

Because the marks will dissolve and run when you get them wet, which makes it impossible, or at least difficult, to use them as guidelines or outlines.

It's not like it'd be sweeping or anything. Fill the space, and as a last order of business, go along the inner edges and blend it to fill. Little sections at a time. They're guidelines until you don't need 'em to be guidelines anymore.

Whom are you asking? If you're asking me, I'm not offended by pencil marks, if present. They're like the strings on marionettes; they're supposed to be there. For me, the watercolor is the main thing, the scanned-in image, if any, is secondary. If I was working as a background painter for an animation studio, I'd have to defer to the opinion of my employer, of course. However, at present, that seems about as likely as me flying to the moon. It seems especially unlikely, since no one seems to care about watercolor and other traditional media anymore. It's all Photoshop and CGI and Maya and Fx and ...

(Well, maybe not no one).


i was talking to Heathen and Laurence i did those two shorts, all water colour and oil paints.

Thanks you guys for all the info!

Originally Posted by L_Finston
[I]It seems especially unlikely, since no one seems to care about watercolor and other traditional media anymore. It's all Photoshop and CGI and Maya and Fx and ...

(Well, maybe not no one).[/I]

Yes, I wouldn't be asking how to make good watercolor backgrounds if I didn't care about them.:D

Originally Posted by skinnylizard
why dont you take your backgrounds into a editing program and edit out the offending aspects?

Is photoshop an editing program? And also I hate using my computer because it's old and all the good art programs go so slowly or crash...I guess it depends on its mood. Yeah I know, I better get a newer computer if I want to do animation and all.....once I get the money that's one thing I'm getting.

Oh yes...and I was wondering if any of you guys knew exactly what kinds of mediums they use for some of Miyazaki's movies' backgrounds? Like Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away? I always assumed they were all watercolor, but maybe I'm wrong in assuming this?

Thanks again.

in some cases in Miyazaki they used 3d

I am not part of the animation industry, but I am part of the viewership. I don't care what medium you do it in, just make it fit within the scope of the project. I don't care how beautiful it is if it doesn't fit.

I love the UPA backgrounds because they fit with the animation.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

I am just a fan of modern fifties type stuff. My home is decorated in it. With me it's just a matter of taste. Got to love those boomerang shapes and offbeat colors.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

Hey you guys!
I have another question....
When one is working on it easier to start with the foregrounds or the backgrounds first? Or is that also just a matter of preference...
I find myself doing the foregrounds first but when it comes to adding the backgrounds, the paints go on top of the foregrounds and all that...
So should the backgrounds be done first?

I know the backgrounds are done first for acrylic painting but watercolor?

Originally Posted by L_Finston
And maybe pigs will fly.

Wouldn't it be awesome if pigs could fly though? I'd love to see that seriously!!:D

Originally Posted by L_Finston
For cartoon animation, a pegbar, a paper punch, and a light table are the most important things you need.

Yes but you do need a computer to put all of the drawings together...

Originally Posted by L_Finston
If you go to art school, they should have computers there you can use.

Soon...very very soon....

Originally Posted by L_Finston
Even your high school probably has adequate equipment. You might have to set things up the way you want them.

Yes...only problem is that the "good" computer room will be locked over the summer....the other computer rooms will probably be locked too but those computers go so so slowly.....not to mention they keep getting viruses and crash and all that other fun stuff...oh yes and they don't have scanners....yes that would be a problem...

Originally Posted by L_Finston
They used computer graphics for the tentacles on the demon and Ashitaka's arm.

Yeah I know! And it looks so cool!!!!!
But San is so much cooler because she's so agile and fast and kicks butt!!
And I like her mask...:D

Originally Posted by L_Finston
It isn't very open to outsiders, so if the thought of working there has crossed your mind, you really shouldn't get your hopes up.

Thought of it, but discarded it as soon as I thought of it.
First of all, I can't speak japanese..... (well I can count to ten in japanese but that won't help me...oh yes and some odd words)
Second of all, I love anime and Miyazaki's style but no. I'd rather pursue my own style.
Third of all, anime's been done too many times before!

Originally Posted by L_Finston
darn crystal ball is still on the blink

Hit it a few times. That always works on my crystal ball. Or better yet, threaten it with a broomstick or something.

Originally Posted by L_Finston
Sorry for the large doses of harsh reality. I just call 'em as I see 'em.

No worries! I have to know what I'm getting into before I'm already in it.:D
By the way thanks a lot Laurence for the tips!

they used watercolors for the backgrounds on Lilo and Stitch, they wanted to go for that old disney style... like on Pinocchio.

Don't do nothing because you can't do everything.