Painting Scars

I don’t like gore, but when it comes to painting RPG (role playing game) characters, sometimes the character may have a few battle scars. All of us have scars – some from childhood, some from being an idiot, sometimes from being tired, sometimes from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Regardless, scars tell a story about the person or character, particularly warriors and fantasy based characters.

This is a real quick demo of how I paint scars (for example of a finished painting see Elthas, a mercenary warrior). It’s not about painting gore or horror or savage wounds, these are small scars which are about the character, not about grossing out the audience :)

 Base image

This is the base image. I spent about an hour or so working up a quick, small greyscale painting in photoshop – it’s not particularly refined, but it’s adequate for demonstration purposes. I’ll mainly be working in greyscale so that you can understand the basic principles. I tend to paint scars and details on a separate layer (mainly because if I screw it up, it’s easy to fix :) )

Base Greyscale For Scars

Base Greyscale image (Click on image to see larger view)

Light scarring

Light scarring is quite often barely noticeable. It might be from like a shallow knife cut or chickenpox. The skin is lighter than the surrounding tissue, and is more prominent when the skin tans, but it’s not deep so there’s not a lot of shadowing or puckering. I like to use the eye dropper tool to choose a tone one or two shades lighter than the area where the scar occurs. I use a brush which is normally not 100% opaque.

This is the brush I tend to use. It is 100% opaque, but has a 75% flow. Alternatively you could use a hard round at about 50%, anything which is not going to leave a really hard edge unless it’s really fine.

Scars---brush-settings for light scars

Scars—brush-settings for light scars

Scars - Light

Scars – Light (on her cheek and on her lip, click for larger image)

Deeper Scars

Deeper scars have shadows and highlights. They’re a lot more noticeable than light scarring. You have to think of them as in 3 dimensions like below.

Scar - side and top view

Scar – side and top view

Painting a deeper scar through the eyebrow (I’ve linked to the individual frames of the animated gif):

  1. Using the same brush as for light scarring, I paint the area that the scar is going to cover. I try to blend it at the edges. This represents the scar tissue, the slightly raised area around the edges of the scar which breaks the surface of the skin. See here
  2. In the centre, I add a darker tone, normally trying to match it with the deepest shadows on the face. I’m still using a soft brush as I’m defining the edges of the valley, this is often below the surface of the normal skin, so is in shadow. See here
  3. Using a hard round brush at 100% flow, I deepen the shadows. This is normally a really dark colour and in the colour version would be a deep red tone. See here
  4. I detail the lighter edges of the scar. Like step 3, this is often done with a more opaque brush. It should be lighter than the colour used in step 1 as it will be the closest part of the scar’s surface to the viewer, so is highlighted the most. It also makes the deeper area of the scar stand out. See here
  5. This is actually pretty hard to see as I haven’t done the details fully, but scars that go through areas where hair grows often damages the location of the hair follicles so that there are gaps in the hair. This is pretty much step 1, but going through the eyebrow, and I’d draw the hairs much thinner over this area. See here. It’s easier to see in Elthas
Scar Over Eye Animated gif

Scar Over Eye Animated gif

Deeper Scarring - final

Deeper Scarring – final

Adding colour

You can paint in colour up front, or use layers to adjust the colours. I’ve used both techniques, but below for this demo I did a layer in overlay using mid skin colour (#d1987c), then a second layer set to normal, where I deepened the shadows with a 100% opaque hard round brush. In proper skin, the edges tend to be slightly pinker than the surrounding skin. This tends to be true regardless of the base skin colour.

scar multiple views colour

scar multiple views colour

I hope this is helpful.

And a PDF version, the online version is better, but some people like pdfs :)