Posts Tagged ‘Art Process’

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process “Snow Job” #1 cover, Pt 1

March 18, 2010

For the next batch of Bonus Content, I thought it would be fun to show my art process. I’ll probably do this every now and then and have each installment run over several posts, with each post showing one step of the process. I figured the cover to “The Big Snow Job” #1 would make a good page for the inaugural Process content…

Here we have the thumbnails that I did for the cover. As far as thumbnails go, these are MUCH more polished than what I usually do. My typical thumbnails are really loose scribbles that only I can decipher. And I kinda have to get them into pencils within a few days or so. Anything longer than that and even I have a hard time remembering what was what. Anyway, these thumbnails are a bit more legible.

The main thing I wanted to do was showcase the cast in their snow outfits. I wanted the characters to be a bit static and very prominent since I knew I’d be using the image as a costume reference guide for myself in drawing the story arc. Plus, I figured the other covers could deal with the action. I thought a solid group shot would be a nice way to showcase the characters again after a bit of a long hiatus.

The bulk of the concepts just revolve around different angles and standing order. I briefly toyed with the idea of working in the frozen goat alien to add a little drama to the scene, but ultimately, I decided that since that was going to be the opening image of the issue itself, I didn’t want to duplicate it right on the cover.

I ended up going with a mix of #3 (upper right) and #5 (lower middle), with the characters standing by a rock wall, but without Sky standing apart from the others. I kinda felt like Roka should be the clear focus of the cover since he’s the leader. The prominence of Sky in #3 felt like it was splitting the focus a bit, so I worked her in with the rest of the crew.

Next up, the inking stage…

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process “Snow Job” #1 cover, Pt 2

March 25, 2010

Sadly, I don’t have the page in its pencil stage. At the time, I had no idea I’d be doing a Process feature, so I had no reason to scan my pencils. The same goes for all the pages I did for “Snow Job” issues #1-3. By the time I started working on issue #4 though, I knew I’d be doing this, so with those pages, I started scanning in the penciled pages. So for a future Process feature, I’ll do a page that I can show the pencil stage as well.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I wanted the characters to be a bit static so I could use the image for reference myself in drawing the various snow outfits. Mission accomplished! I’m pretty happy with how it turned out since it clearly shows all the characters and their outfits, but the composition and arrangement of characters is still interesting enough that it’s not a totally boring cover.

You can probably tell from this page that I don’t really throw down a lot of black areas in my pages. It’s something I struggle with and feel like I should be doing more. At times, I think it makes my inked pages look a bit unfinished or at least unfocused. But I always know that everything will come together in the coloring stage. I guess in that way, I expect the coloring to do a lot of the heavy lifting as far as finished artwork goes.

Next up, the colors…

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process “Snow Job” #1 cover, Pt 3

April 1, 2010

Here we have the color flat stage. At this point, I’m just dropping in all the base colors and defining those areas. Just so I don’t kill myself with a ton of different colors on each character, I try to stick to something like 3 main colors per character. For instance, with Roka, I could have made his gloves a different color from his boots and his hat a different color from his jacket, but that would get to be a real pain over time to keep doing on every panel and every page. So for simplicity’s sake, I just use a few main colors on each character and just move them around on that character’s various elements. As another example, with Cember, he has light blue, light purple, and dark purple (with the same dark purple distributed around his body on the neck, gloves, and lower skirt panel). Characters then have some additional embellishing colors as well, but at least the main colors are simplified that way.

A little coloring tip: there are a lot of areas that look white on this page, but when I drop them in at this stage, I drop in a very slightly different white for grouped features. For instance, the sky is one white, the snow on the rocks is another white, the ground snow is another, the white on Sky’s outfit is another, and all the other white bits on the various characters is another. The differences can be as little as 1 value difference in any of the C, M, Y, or K values. The importance is just that it’s different enough that a Magic Wand tool in Photoshop (set to a Tolerance of 1) will pick up one but not the other. That way, if I want to select all the ground snow, I just use the Magic Wand on it, and it will only select that particular white (the ground snow) and not any of the others.

Sometimes I’ll do something similar with other features, like the rock wall. In the Color Flats stage, I might make all the lower rock one shade of brown and the upper rock just a very slightly different shade. The eye may not pick it up, but the Wand will, which makes selection much easier for the next stage.

Next up, color shading…

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process “Snow Job” #1 cover, Pt 4

April 8, 2010

The shading is where the image really starts to take shape. For each flat base color, I add darker areas where things would be in shade, so every color ends up having two tones. I know some artists do a third tone on everything for a highlight color. Personally, for reasons of time management, I just stick with the shadow areas and forego the highlights. I usually only do highlights for certain effects, like shiny materials, reflective surfaces, or rim lighting.

This is also the stage where I’ll use a few gradients here and there to add a little variety to the shaded look. I try not to go overboard with the gradients and blending, since I really do like that clean and cartoony, cel-shaded look. But for something like sky, a gradient works really well in conveying that transition to haze at the horizon.

Next up, mist effects…

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process “Snow Job” #1 cover, Pt 5

April 15, 2010

In the previous step, the grunt work of the coloring was finished. Everything had been colored and shaded to a point that I was happy with.Usually at this point in the coloring process, it gets a bit more fun and experimental as I play with effects and tints (if the page calls for them).

In this case, I always intended for this image to be very atmospheric, with the characters gradually disappearing into the haze of the snow planet as they receded into the distance. I accomplished this by creating several “mist” Layers in Photoshop. Each layer was pure white and had certain elements cut out of it, and I then played with the opacities of the different layers to get the effect I wanted.

In total, I had 3 mist layers going here. The first layer was very light in opacity and covered everything except Roka and the immediate foreground snow that he’s standing on. That way, he’d stand out the most and everything else would get pushed back, visually, to varying degrees. The second layer of mist was behind Sky and Cember, pushing everything behind them back a bit further. Finally, the third mist layer was behind Bocce and Ril. This last layer pushes Bennesaud and the rock wall deep into the background.

I have to admit that sometimes it’s weird to do that sort of thing to your artwork. You think, “Aww, I put all that effort into drawing and coloring Bennesaud and the rock wall, and now you can barely even see them.” But the end result is worth it, I think.

Next up, special effects…

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process “Snow Job” #1 cover, Pt 6

April 22, 2010

So this is the last step of this cover’s Process feature. From the previous steps, everything is colored the way I want it and the mist layers now establish a cool sense of atmosphere and space to the image. Here I add a few extra effects and details to really help sell the piece.

The biggest discovery for me was that the characters looked a bit fake and out of place in the previous image because they didn’t seem like they were truly interacting with the environment. They were just a bit too clean. I found that adding a bit of snow dusting on their lower legs and head and shoulders made it really look like they were in the snow.

I also added some visible breath to Roka to give the setting that really cold look. The hot rope on Roka’s belt also gets finished here. As a glowing object, I replaced the black outline with an orange color hold to make it look less “solid.” I then just added a slight orange glow to it, as well as a white highlight glow running along the center of the rope. Along those lines, I also replaced Bocce’s arm with his glowing blue energy arm. For his arm, I use the Airbrush tool in Photoshop set to Dissolve. I find that gives it a nice spatter look that makes it read more like crackling energy.

Lastly, I add a layer of falling snow over the entire image. As I mentioned in the previous post, sometimes it’s hard to cover up all that finished art you’ve worked so hard on, but in the end, the final image is worth it since sometimes the obscuring bits are what really sells the piece.

So that’s it! I hope you enjoyed the multi-step process of this cover image. The next time I do one of these, it will be for a full page of paneled artwork, possibly with some color tints, so that should be really interesting…

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process Display Banner, Pt 1 (Thumbnails)

September 16, 2010

For this year’s Baltimore Comic-Con, I finally decided it was time to ditch my old-school PVC-pipe booth display monstrosity and go for one of them new-fangled retractable banners that everyone seems to have nowadays. I figured it would be a good time to whip up a completely new banner image as well, and the next few Bonus Material posts will show the various stages of the art process for that image.

I did a bit of research before starting the thumbnails and I found that the most striking banners I saw were the simplest. Generally, a single figure pops much more than a group of characters. But with RUNNERS, I didn’t really think that approach would work, given the heavy emphasis of my series on the motley crew of different aliens. Just showing one or two of them wouldn’t really get that across. I also felt I needed the ship in there to make sure it came across as a sci-fi series, so I basically went into the thumbnails knowing it would be a pretty busy piece of art.

For the most part, I stuck with variations of one full-body character (Roka), surrounded by all the other characters. I did toy around with a couple Drew Stuzan-y compositions (#3 & 4), but they just ended up compounding the already busy look. Ultimately, I decided to settle on one of the full-body compositions since I figured that full body would at least give the banner a strong focal point.

I really like the three horizontal bands in the background and especially liked the idea of certain characters breaking the borders of their own bands and spilling over on top of others, just to add a bit of visual flair. I also knew I wanted a good chunk of the bottom to be relatively empty of important art since that area would tend to fall below the eye line of a con attendee once the banner was set up behind my table at a show.

In the end, I settled on thumbnail #2, but with one major change, as you’ll see in the next post…

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process Display Banner, Pt 2 (Pencils) & 3 (Inks)

September 23, 2010

FYI, the final banner image has a very long vertical dimension, so rather than post obnoxiously long vertical images, I decided to double them up, to make the overall image more squarish. So lucky you, each week you’ll be getting two for the price of one!

Here we have the pencil and ink stages. As you can see, I went with my favorite layout from the previous Thumbnails post, but I switched Roka out for Sky as the central figure. I did it because (a) she will become increasingly important to the central story of the series as it develops, and (b) it’s always nice to have an eye-catching cute female character front and center. It definitely seems like comic fans (both male and female) love their female characters, almost as much as most artists seem to enjoy drawing them. So I guess everybody’s happy! Well, except Ril, who ended up stuck behind her ankle. Sorry, Ril.

As a compositional consideration, I deliberately wanted the character on the bottom left (which ended up being Roka) to be the largest of the background characters. I knew the bottom would be very close to the eye-line cut-off once the banner was set up behind a convention table, so I wanted to make sure there was something a tad bigger to “mark” that edge of the main image. So all the characters are visually bracketed vertically between Roka and the Khoruysa Brimia. I think if Roka were smaller, it would have felt like the art was just “running out” towards the bottom and not “contained.”

Random note: the image obviously isn’t meant to be scene specific, but eagle-eyed readers may notice that they’re all wearing their outfits from the Arqq-Olem port and the root beetle dinner scene from The Big Snow Job #1. Basically, I was in a major time crunch and didn’t feel like designing all new outfits just for this one image. And I really liked all those Arqq-Olem outfits, so I figured, why not?

Next up, resizing and color flats…

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process Display Banner, Pt 4 (Sized) & 5 (Flats)

September 30, 2010

So here we have the display banner digitally tweaked to its full dimensions of 33.5” x 79.” Like I said in the previous post: very long vertical dimension! At the Resize stage, I added the logo and text to make sure there was room for everything before I started on the coloring. The two gray bars are overlay guides I used to mark non-image areas. The top bar was about 1’ in height and marks the area allotted for the logo and text. Obviously, I wanted the RUNNERS logo at the very top so that’s what you’d be able to see from across the room. The bottom bar is about 2’ and marks the area that I figured would be obscured by a table set up in front of it. So I didn’t want any essential art falling below that line, but at the same time, I still wanted there to be some kind of art there. From the thumbnails, I had decided that the best solution would be a nice space scene: nice to look at, but nothing essential.

With the Color Flats stage, I decided to make each horizontal bar a different color for easy selection purposes. I really had no idea what they’d end up being. I thought I might keep them different colors to call out the different bars of characters, or I might do something else with them. In either case, I’d worry about them after everything else…

Next up, color shading…

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process Display Banner, Pt 6 (Shade) & 7 (Space)

October 7, 2010

Now we’re into the fun part of the Coloring stage: the shading and highlights. In the left image, I added the shading on all of the main art, namely the characters and ships. With that done, in the right image, I started working on the background elements of space and planet. At this point, coloring characters is pretty easy and straightforward, but I knew the space background would be a bit more work and require more layers and experimentation. Having done a few colored space backgrounds before for the series, I knew I’d want to lay in some Cloud effects (a Photoshop filter) as a starting point.

Next up, more Space and Planet layers…

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process Display Banner, Pt 8 (Nebula) & 9 (Stars)

October 14, 2010

Here the banner image is really starting to take shape with the addition of more layers to the Space and Planet background. Not much to say here, but with the image on the left, I added some purple-y nebulae to the Space area and crackle-y details to the Planet. On the right image, I added the starfield, bright stars/suns, and shadow on the planet.

Next up, effects and final image!

BONUS CONTENT: Art Process Display Banner, Pt 10 (FX) & 11 (Final)

October 21, 2010

So here are the last two steps of the art process in creating my new display banner. In the left image, I added all the final touches to the art, which consist of various special effects: haze around the planet, glowing engines and lights on both the Khoruysa Brimia and the Mosquito, and a few metallic gleams on the ships and weapons.

I also made the final decision to nix the different colored horizontal bars, which were looking a bit hokey. Plus, with everything else going on in the image, the last thing I needed was three bars of different colors as any kind of distraction. I replaced them with a single blue background color for all three bars, but that looked too flat and boring, so I added the white vertical gradient down the middle. That ended up working perfectly since it broke up the flatness of the solid color while also drawing your eye towards Sky in the center of the image.

On the right side, you have the final image, with the text laid back on top of all the artwork. Huzzah!!

Overall, I’m really happy with the final piece, and if you come and see me at your next comic convention, maybe you’ll get to see it in person in all its glory. Assuming the airline doesn’t lose it in transit….