Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Comics Alliance - Haunted Tanksgiving process

Go to COMICS ALLIANCE to see the final piece.

Comics Alliance runs a fun regular feature called "Great Comics That Never Happened". This week I was asked to contribute a holiday-themed illo. They sent me a description of what they wanted and the accompanying text and I went to town.

Editor Caleb Goellner's hilarious mockup:

awful haunted tank mockup

I was so tempted to use it, but I'd already mentally formed a notion of what I wanted to do before he sent it. I figured it was a shame for such a work of google images and photoshop to go un-seen, though.

My rough thumbnail:

haunted tank klarion layout

This was done just for me. I really don't show this stage of un-drawing to anyone unless I know them really well and know they understand how I'll translate this to the finished product. It's too easy for editors of any stripe to freak out seeing something like this. I don't blame them, it's raw idea-clay. I know what it's going to be, but that doesn't always come across to those seeing a layout like this. This was my 4th thumbnail in trying to nail down what I saw in my head.



This is my final layout/pencils. it functions as both, for me. It's loose enough that I can change anything editorial asks for (which they didn't) but clear enough to be readable to anyone looking at it. I've gotten things down to somewhat of a process these days that when I get the okay, I just go straight to inks. All of the information is in this drawing, there's no need for me to waste a lot of time doing something in pencil that I can do quicker and better in ink. The whole process from initial badly drawn thumb to these pencils/layout can be anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. I think this one took about 60 minutes or so to nail down my thumbnail idea then flesh it out as you see here. I took a couple of reference photos of myself doing Klarion's hand positioning to make sure I drew convincing digits rather than completely free-balling it. I'd post it, but nah. None of you need to see anything that ridiculous.

Final inks:


I adjusted the layout a bit before printing out the pencils. This is a huge part of why I pencil digitally. I'm loathe to adjust or change things if I use physical pencil, but digitally it's a few minutes of work to change something and so much easier. Once I have a finished layout/pencils in sketchbook pro, I print it out on 11x17 300 series vellum surface bristol. I use about a 20-25% grey that resembles pencil when printed out. It's light enough to drop out when I adjust the levels after scanning in Photoshop, but dark enough to see everything clearly when i'm inking. I'm using brush for everything right now, so this was done with a Raphael 8404 #1 and Sumi ink. I think I spent about 3 hours or so on the inks. If I've done my job right in the layout/pencil stage, all the guidelines are there but inker-me does all the real heavy lifting as far as line-weight, depth of field, clarity and tying together the composition. Inker-me has the most fun but has the hardest and longest job. Since I used sketchup for the tank, that was my "pencils" for it. I just had to re-interpret the tank appropriately in ink. Sometimes I use sketchup objects as merely placeholders and I pencil over/in-spite of them, other times, like here, I use it as the structure for my inks. It saves a shit-ton of time and since I'm inking over it, I can infuse it with a life that otherwise wouldn't be there if I just dropped in the "as-is" tank from sketchup.

HauntedTank-Klarion_color copy

The final colors were done in a very fussy Photoshop CS2. Ever since migrating to my new iMac, Pshop has been crashing like crazy when I use it. It crashed well over 15 times while working on this piece, so the final colors were influenced somewhat by that bit of fun going on. I initially was going with a much brighter palette, but in a bit of happy accident with one of the textures I was applying as an overlay, ended up with the low saturation look you see here. I used 1 texture 3 different times in different capacities and opacities. I'm still figuring out how I color and textures have become an integral part of the finished piece for me. Aside from adding a "paper" like quality, I often end up with random effects that I could not have thought of or counted on that influence the direction of the final piece.

Listening of choice while working was Kanye's new album and a few of the 4 months worth of Opie & Anthony episodes I'm seriously behind on.

Thanks for reading. Hope you all enjoyed the process.