Zevran’s Tribal Tattoos

(Warning: contains nude figure. nothing is showing, but don’t get fired from work over it.)

It’s been a few years… and this is not Poser art. But what the hell, it turned out well, and I’m happy. And I started out today depressed. I will now proceed to explain how I did the image, like I used to do on my web pages. I have a reason this time, though! It’s… because I don’t want to forget how I did everything. :X

It began when I was scouring the web for a falcon/hawk tattoo for Zevran. Google Images kicked back this tribal tattoo. I found it on a tattoo artist’s blog, and various tattoo sites, but I could never find the actual origin of the design — until now!

Original Design by Jilusema on deviantArt.
Used with permission. Oddly enough, the original design was facing the other way to start.


Although party banter suggests Zevran has a lot of tattoos, I never really pictured him with tattoos all over. And it doesn’t look anything like a falcon. :X (okay, maybe in the abstract…) But as soon as I saw it, I knew that tattoo had Zevran’s name written all over it. It just looks so… him.


This image is created and owned by me.
You may save it and add it to your personal collection.
You may NOT post it anywhere else.


I put the tattoo on Zevran’s right side, because in the Bannon-verse, he already has two tattoos and a piercing on his left side. I also didn’t do the forearm, because he has a military tattoo there on the inside, that would have clashed with the design.

The first thing I did (okay, after flipping the tattoo image left to right), was to start tracing the shapes with the Photoshop Pen Tool. Important Note: Make sure the pen tool is in the “New Shape Layer” mode, on the far left of the control bar. NOT making work paths.

I was able to save the first few work paths as custom shapes, but when I figured out how to do cut-outs on the path (the shape cut icon on the right side of the control bar), it made the work path completely un-custom-shape-able. And that sucker was the middle shape, the one above the spiky spiral, just below the pecs! Nooooo, no way I was starting that all over again!!

Now, eventually, I figured out some workaround to get it to turn into a shape. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it was. I know it wasn’t the one I found on the web that said to make a new something-or-other layer, because that was for CS4 and I have CS3 or somesuch. But it was something similar in the Layers menu. I think.

When making New Shape Layers with the pen, remember Photoshop will unhelpfully create a filled shape, obscuring whatever it is you’re trying to trace. :X Turn the opacity down on the layer palette. You can do that, and zoom in and out, without dropping your bezier work.


Then I had to get an image of Zevran to tattoo. I should’ve made Tryynity’s pin-up tutorial video, because this went fairly quickly. :X I opened the B&Z illos cutscene in the toolset, and fiddled around on the end with Zevran’s posing and placement. And lighting. And camera stuff. All day.

And then, when I was done… I exported the cutscene. Then, just to mess around… I turned off the camera safe frame and zoomed in to do a screencap of the image from the toolset, instead of one from the cutscene. The cutscene one should be larger.

Well….. it didn’t turn out that way! The toolset screen cap was slightly larger, and had much better lighting, than the FRAPS screen cap. So don’t worry about cheating with toolset screencaps instead of full motion pictures. Because bigger is not always better.


I threw on the custom shapes I had created. Edit-scaled and Edit-free transformed them to fit right and to look as if they were laying right. Point edited a few points. Note: you can select a bunch of points and then do an Edit-transform on them. Might work better for changing line curves than trying to lift the endpoints. I used that on the right side of the middle shape, where it wasn’t facing downward enough.

I was using a dark grey colour, it didn’t look so hot. So I tried a purplish colour (ugh), and a dark brown more like the original. That’s the one I ended up using. The shape colour is in the layer palette, not in the tool bar. Changing the colour swatch in the toolbar doesn’t do doodle. :X

I grouped all the shapes together, then monkeyed with the group blend and opacity in the layer palette. Thankfully, it applied that to all the shape layers overall. Then I used the magnetic lasso on the background image to trace clipping masks for places where the tattoo was hidden by the arm, or went over the shoulder, etc. That was probably entirely unneccesary, but I did like being able to go back and forth erasing and adding to the mask to fix awkward places where the tattoo overlapped the arm, or shied away from the edge too far.

Eventually, I merged all the shape layers into one raster layer. That’s when I applied the eraser to them. This is important! I’ve been driving myself nuts trying to figure out how to get tattoos to look as if they are UNDER the skin, or inking the skin, and not floating over it. Using multiply by itself doesn’t cut it. Nor overlay or any of the lighting modes. This is the trick! I go in with the eraser and fade out the tattoo where the underlying body has highlights. This makes it look as if the tattoo is lit with the same lighting as the skin. If you look carefully at Zevran’s shoulder, you’ll see the tattoo is very light. Also the spots where the highlights are on the pec, and where the abs highlights are. Places where the tattoo is in shadow, they are not erased back. Then the entire layer is set to multiply at less than 100%. 76% or so, I think. Whatever looks good.

The ring was built by me as a new cutout shape, since I was over-confident in my new shape-making abilities. I’m going to have to quit trying to make the boys’ rings, because they’re so small, it’s impossible to make them look like anything. Not working at this size. Maybe if I ever get them into Poser.

The design on the necklace was also made with a custom shape. Also too small to tell what it is, which actually works for me. Bevel and drop shadow on the sucker make it look like it’s in the scene.


There are other image fiddles. The bottom was too bright, so I airbrushed in some shading. Yes, I used Daio’s Mr Contrast technique on it. (I put it on top of the tattoo layer, which added to their highlights.) I punched up the catchlights in Zevran’s eyes. No, I didn’t put a huge lens flare on them. Oh, and of course I smeared over those funky ‘skin glove’ seams the DA characters have.

Yes, I’m happy with it. Next week, I will hate it. :/

(and i dont know why the caption things aren’t centering right. i broke out of the flipping div for them..! grr!)


4 Responses to “Zevran’s Tribal Tattoos”

  1. bloodsong Says:

    This is a note to myself on ANNOYING SHAPE DRAWING!

    — To add pieces to a shape on a shape layer, and NOT create a new smeggin’ layer every flippin’ time…

    You want the pen tool.
    Draw New Layer (leftmost icon on the left side of the bar)
    Add to Shape (second icon: merged squares, on the right side of the bar)
    — AND —
    I think you need to have part of the existing path selected/highlighted, or else it will just go and start a new layer.

  2. whuffie Says:

    I’m not even a huge Zev fan and I have to say… he came out NIIIICE! The tattoos are perfect for him. Yes, Zev, you’re hot. Don’t let it go to your head too much.

  3. bloodsong Says:

    Zevran: YES! SCORE!!

    oh shut up. she only likes the tattoos, not you :P

    More smegginirritatingannoyingfrustrating notes on the complex shapes…

    Now for some blasted reason selecting one or more nodes, selecting the pen tool, and doing the add shape thing is just ignoring my wishes to add to the current shape. WORSE than that, I can now not draw a cutout to a shape I’ve just drawn, even when I DO manage to draw it in the same shape-layer. It keeps automatically changing to the intersection mode. Why did ‘Shop have to make this so flippin DIFFICULT!?!?!?

  4. bloodsong Says:

    I FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT! Okay, future self, you do this…

    1: Grab the Path Select Tool
    2: Click on the background layer
    3: Click on the shape in the shape layer (so the outlines appear, but no nodes)
    4: Grab the Pen Tool
    5: Click the First Icon, First Icon, Second Icon (the last one is the only one that shouldn’t already be selected.)
    6: Draw!

    (Haven’t tried this with any cutouts yet, though.)

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