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The Headless Horseman : My MangaStudio Process

There he sits in an old Dutch churchyard, the Headless Hessian atop his horse. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of my favorite stories of all time. This isn’t my first run at the horseman and it won’t be my last, but this is the first one I created almost entirely in MangaStudio, so I’m posting the process steps below.

Headless Horseman by Vince Dorse

Pencils: I sketched this in MangaStudio with a blue pencil tool. It started out much rougher, but I just kept adding layers, drawing over my sketches and refining the forms until I got to a stage I thought was good enough to ink. I should mention I use a Wacom stylus/tablet, but you could also use a Cintiq or Yiynova tablet monitor. And if you’re some kind of superhuman ninja, I suppose you could use a mouse, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Headless Horseman pencils by Vince Dorse

Inks: With the blueline sketch on one layer, I opened another layer on top and used some inking tools to lay down the blacks. The G-Pen is a good, dynamic tool that puts down a nice, variable width line. But if you want to experiment beyond the standard tools, there are MS users who create/sell their own brushes online. I’m always experimenting and trying new brushes.

Headless Horseman inks by Vince Dorse

Toning: I used a handful of brush tools to give the drawing some grey tones. Rough-edged brushes for the grass and headstones to give the texture some bite, and softer tools like airbrush and blenders for the gentle variegation in the trees and sky. For the figures I used a smooth, hard-edged brush to get bold, solid forms.

Headless Horseman grey tones by Vince Dorse

Colors: Once the grey tones were finished, I opened another layer or two on top for the color. I experimented with Overlay and Multiply layer modes so the colors interacted with the grey tones underneath without obscuring them. The finished version’s at the top of this post. But you can see in this two-shot that I did one version of the Horseman in blue tones with a fiery orange jack-o-lantern in his hand, and another version in sepia tones that references a passage in the story where the Horseman carries a severed head on the pommel of his saddle. I haven’t decided which version I like better, but they’re both fun. Grisly, but fun. -v

Headless Horseman, two versions by Vince Dorse


7 Responses

  1. Thanks, Michael. The best part about doing this piece was hanging out at a stable all afternoon, watching the way the horses move and interact with people. Sometimes studying references is fun. -v

  2. Brilliant. Just out of interest do you mind if I ask how long a terrific picture like this took you?

    • Gosh, I’m not really sure. I didn’t time myself on this and I recall doing it piecemeal between other jobs. Definitely a few hours. The inks were the most intricate part and probably took the longest. The grey tones were very simple for much of it and went by pretty fast, as I recall. It helps that much of the grey tones were in areas where random brushwork was called for (tree leaves, the trampled earth, etc.) Inks were definitely the lion’s share of the work on this piece.

      • Well, it’s brilliant! The more I look at it the more I like it. BTW I think I like the pumpkin head version best! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Very cool! Very talented!

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