Monday, July 2, 2012

American Muscle 4 cover and process

Done completely in Photoshop CS5 on a 21" Cintiq and a Mac Mini. Clouds from my camera phone. Textures from

A little commentary after the jump:

When doing this cover came about, Steve and I had chatted about what it should be and we decided that just going with the menacing Sheriff character would be a good route to go, since there had been some minor hiccoughs with the covers for issues 2 and 3. 

I did the original sketch (hyper-color, top left) digitally and sent it off, fully expecting to print it out and ink it by hand and then color it digitally. I hastily added in some google clouds and random Lost and Taken made textures and forgot about it. 

My move to Atlanta and the time my new job is taking up (gratefully so, it's an awesome job and I'm having a lot of fun) means that I (still) haven't set up my full workstation, meaning no printers/scanner. So I opted to just ink it digitally for quickness and getting it the fuck done. 

For various reasons, I wasn't able to use Manga Studio (which is my go-to for digital inking) to ink this with, I had to use Photoshop, so some finagling was in order. The last time I inked in PS was for the ZOMBIE game art that I did for The Devil Wears Prada, and my digital inking sensibilities are a little more on point with what I want now and I understand how to manipulate brushes in PS better.

I took a brush I got from a set made by John Rauch (colorist extraordinaire) and modified it quite a bit and played with some style settings and layer adjustments and ended up getting a look that isn't too far off what my brush strokes look like after being scanned in. Some things are still too "perfect" looking, and I'll need to make some brushes of my ink splatter and my fingerprints to more accurately replicate what I do organically, but overall it's not too far off.  (Just occurred to me that I need to make a brush that replicates my X-Acto blade technique, as well). 

The textures are from Lost and Taken (link above) and while you can't really see them, there's some manipulated clouds from my camera phone in the final image. Google-found clouds are fine for a layout sketch, but if somethings going to print, I want it to be as much "me" as possible. Snapping a pic of some clouds that I know I'll manipulate later isn't a big deal, and I generally take quite a few cloud shots just for shit like this anyway. The 5mp resolution of my camera phone is plenty, considering the filters and adjustments I run on them, aside from the eventual painting over and covering up by textures that usually happens. That said, I try to use my 12mp camera if I know in advance I'm going to want to drop something into a file for print.

Flats done quick and dirty with the pencil tool. For interiors, I'll usually pay a flatter (in American Muscle's case, Juan Castro) to lay in the flat color selections, but for covers I tend to do them myself if they're simple enough. Colors with a modified PS Chalk brush that I use for pretty much everything, color-wise. Also, lots and lots of layers of fill colors / gradients set at varying opacities and styles. I normally don't do too many of those, except when the look in my head is so specific that I add and add and add until I get it. This being one of those cases. My Hack/Slash: Trailers 2 four-page story "Blood on the Dance Floor" being another.

Life note: working on Archer Season 4 right now. I'm blessed, at only a few months in, to be working with such great people on such a great show. Also? Atlanta is a pretty nice town. I miss my KC family, though.