Website changes, and designing my header image

After 2 or so years of development on my website, on the old site address, I have finally made the big changes to my set-up that I needed. We are now live on, and I have transferred all files and my database to the new host. All seems to be going well so far, but please comment if there any problems on any of the pages.

You may also notice that my comments systems are now run using Disqus, and I’m trialling this to see whether it is easier for me to handle any comments. Plus, this is the same system Faeit uses, so enables a little compaability with the community.

Now, onto some more fun elements!

Part of the problem I had with my old site was a lack of header, and I had a fairly clear idea what I eventually wanted to go with, to fit the name and content of my site. You can see an initial sketch to the right with a tentacle-mawed Genestealer leeching from the brain within a human’s head, something that has been rattling around in my head since I saw my first ‘stealer. They are such specialised infiltration troops, so it stands to reason, to me, that some could be modified by the Hive Mind or Patriarch to suck information directly out of a target’s mind.

Thus far, I have not had a great amount of success doing any form of colouration on my hand-drawn sketches, and I’m usually reluctant to apply colour to my drawings. Instead, I’ve tried my hand at something completely new, attempting to draw using a computer program called GIMP. You can download it yourself here, it is a free program similar to Photoshop. I’ve only ever used Fireworks before, so I’ve been learning on the fly.

Instead of drawing from scratch, I recalled a fantastic sketch from the Tyranid codices of various editions, which I thought I could alter to suit my usage. In the 5th edition codex, this image was used for the Ymgarl Genestealers, the first ever brood found on the Ymgarl moon, who had a genetic defect leading to rapid variations in their bodies.

It is a tremendously creepy image, and I initially played around with only removing the tentacles and blending new elements into the picture, but I’m rather too inexperienced to accomplish this right now. I ended up tracing most of the distinct details into a new layer for the header, and drew out some new tentacles engulfing my own head. A bit of simple colour, and I was fairly pleased with my first attempt, to the right.

The problem with this image is that it seems rather flat, and I struggled to get across the idea that the ‘stealer was really “accessing” my brain, thus missing the point and  just looking like it was giving me a head massage. This needed to change!

Shading the image proved quite challenging for a while, as I was trying to find suitable tones to match the original colours, but it turns out GIMP has a very handy tool! The Dodge/Burn tool applies a filter to the area you specify, making it lighter/darker respectively, and using it several times allows a variety of shading that served me well. You can really see the difference between the flat and shaded pictures, which I’m really pleased with.

The other major change to the image was a complete change to my head, where I added in a fancy green-coloured brain. The green fits my website’s theme, and I’m pleased with the contrast it creates. The only bit I’m not completely happy with is the hair, as I’m not sure how to go about adding some definition to it all. Still, I might be able to change up the hair at a later date, but it works for now.

I finished off with 6 different layers for this image, about the only aspect I recalled from using Fireworks, and they are incredibly useful for adding some depth to the image, and handling parts without worrying about changing others. The final picture works really well for me, and I’m pleased to add it to the header of my website!

Website changes, and designing my header image