Hey all, sorry I missed the update last week (and I’m late this week). I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on my comic, which is apparently titled “Weird Kids.” It’s off to the printer now, so hopefully I’ll be able to stay a little more regular… No guarantees though.
So, I realized that I didn’t exactly do a great job of explaining this whole digital pencils process a few posts ago, so, considering I have a little bit more time now, I wanted to go a little more in depth about the process for how I execute and illustration — or, at least how I have been recently. I preface this by saying that my goal in drawing any illustration is to do it as efficiently as humanly possible. What I mean by “efficient” is, “as fast as I can without losing anything in terms of quality.” I’m willing to spend extra time on doing something if it will improve the overall outcome of the illustration, but I don’t want to waste too much time in areas that won’t be seen by the general public (Y’know, unless I decide to post them up on my blog…). Images of each process step is posted below.
1. Thumbnails: As I was finishing up my comic, I realized I had no idea what I wanted to do for a cover, which is kind of a crummy place to find yourself 3 days to deadline. Still, I’m a firm believer in inspiration coming from “work” rather than some magical muse that strikes you out of thin air. To that end I started doing thumbnails… A LOT of thumbnails — I had a feeling that I wanted Curtis in there, although the “superhero” kid would’ve been nice too. I still do my thumbnails with pencil and paper (rather than digitally) because I find that I’m a little looser with the ol’ “analogue” tools. The wacom is a little too “stiff” for me to produce really energetic compositions. I settled on an image featuring all three of my main characters (which I’ve highlighted).
2. Blue Lines: I then blew the thumbnail I liked up to full page size, convert it to blue, and reframed it a little bit so that it was well composed within the set canvas size. The blue is just so I can differentiate it from my pencils in the next stage.
3. Digital Pencils: I create a new layer in Photoshop, then I draw directly on top of my initial blue line thumbnails. This is where that “efficiency” thing comes in — I’m staying loose and avoiding too many small details. The idea is that I’ll flesh it out in the inks, so I don’t have to be too precious about my pencil lines — I really just need them for positioning, proportion, and composition. A good example of this is that tree in the background (Holy monkeys am I lazy…). Also! A great thing about digital pencils is how quickly and easily editable they are — for example, I moved Curtis’ foot down a little bit. Normally even such a small change would require a lot of redrawing, but digitally, I just selected the leg, rotated it, and BOOM! DONE! Once the pencils are at a point where I feel comfortable inking, I’ll convert the image to blue and print them on a full sized piece of illustration board.
4. Inks: The inking stage is where the final illustration starts to take place, so I have to be a little more careful in my marks. I prefer hand-inking over digital because, while some people are able to digitally ink beautifully, I just can’t. For me, hand-inking produces cleaner, more professional results. Plus, I have an “original” I may be able to sell later (anyone interested?). Again, this is where I’m fleshing out the final image and adding in small details (take a look at that tree now, foo!). Full disclosure, I will sometimes go over certain parts of the blue lines with pencil before laying down inks either ‘cuz 1) I can’t see the blue lines clearly enough to ink or 2) I was too sloppy in the digital pencils to confidently ink it (such as the chains in the swings). Sometimes too, I’m not able to get the line I want with the Wacom, but have no problem doing it with a real pencil. I will also say that Pro-White is a life-saver. Anyways…
5. Colors: Once inks are done, I re-scan them into the computer (yes, I know how tedious this all sounds) and color. Notice that I added in some lettering (which was done on a different piece of paper then added in Photoshop). I don’t really have much to say about coloring except that by this point, I’m so freaking sick of looking at an illustration that I just want it to be DONE. But colors are one of those areas where you can fall into the little details and spend forever on futzing every little piece. At some point you just have to remind yourself that it’s five in the morning, it doesn’t look that bad, and you should get some sleep.
…and that’s the process, well, the physical aspect of the process. There are points of self-doubt and anxiety… A lot of sending the initial drawings to friends. Asking, “This doesn’t suck, right? Right?!” But then you get to the end and you like the work you’ve done, and you post it up, and other people like the work you’ve done, and you get that little buzz that makes all the effort worthwhile, and you smile and go back to do another. Best damn job in the world.