For the last few weeks, I’ve been doling out tips from the dino art workshop in the current issue of ImagineFX Magazine. Here are the final two that I'll share on the blog. If you want the whole workshop, you’ll have to grab the magazine.
Five foot eye level
In scientific paintings of dinosaurs, you obviously can’t show humans for comparative size, but you can imply a human scale of reference. We’re accustomed to seeing photos taken from about a five foot standing height. If you set the viewpoint at five feet above the ground, you’ll give an implicit sense of how big the dinosaur really are.
When I painted this diagram for a National Geographic story on Argentinian dinosaurs, I used two ghosted figures and a grid of meter squares to show relative scale.
Separate the light and shadow
If you’re painting a dinosaur on a sunny day, don’t underestimate the separation in tone between the light side and the shadow side. It's almost always greater than you think. Understating the separation between light and shadow is one of the most common mistakes of paleoart. It happens when we’re not totally sure of the form, so we’re hesitant to commit to what’s in light and what’s in shadow. Maquettes are a big help to solve this problem.
Photographers often measure the difference between light and shadow as at least two F-stops, depending on how much fill light is available. If you're counting steps on a value scale from one to ten, you might typically see five steps of tone from light to shadow. The separation between light and shadow would be less if you have high clouds, hazy atmosphere, or a lot of light bouncing up from a light-colored ground surface.
More GJ posts on dinosaur maquettes, link; and fill light, link.