Making a Maze in Clip Studio Paint (for the National Cartoonists Society Activity Book))

I’m no mazologist (is that a word?), but I was asked to create a puzzle page for the National Cartoonists Society Activity Book. If I had to do it on paper, I might still be working on it. But Clip Studio Paint made it easy and quick. Oh, and I’ve added a link at the bottom letting you know where to download your own copy of the activity book!

Inking

This maze is packed with illustrations of my Untold Tales of Bigfoot characters. And since I know how to draw those guys, that’s where I started. I sketched in their shapes roughly in digital pencil, then used the Layer Color function to turn that sketch a light blue.

Then, on another layer, I inked with a brush tool. Doing it this way is low pressure since I can fix errors on the fly and get the work done much faster than I’d be able to with ink on paper.

Halftone Greys

Since this activity book will be a black-and-white publication and not color, I use Clip Studio Paint’s halftone dot patterns to add screen tones. The first step is to create a selection of where you want your dot pattern.

Then, from the pop-up menu, select the second-to-last option, New Tone. This brings up another pop-up that gives you options on the density and type of dot pattern you’d like to drop into the selection.

Once you pick one, click OK and the pattern appears on another layer, in a MASK that you can add to or subtract from— giving you the option to paint in (or remove) the dot pattern with ease.

Curve Rulers

Again, I’m not a maze-maker. So it took me a few (dozen) tries to digitally pencil out a path for Scout to take through the woods in his quest for Bigfoot. Doing it digitally made it easier to start over when I screwed up. But once the paths of the maze were set, I clicked the Layer Color option so I could turn the pencils blue and ink over them on another layer.

The lines of the maze aren’t ramrod straight or particularly smooth curves, but I used the Curve Rulers anyway because, besides helping you follow a designated path, they also help you keep a consistent line weight.

Drawing these lines freehand would’ve resulted — for me, at least — in inconsistent, bumpy lines that wouldn’t look very good. The Curve Ruler helped make the lines smooth and evenly weighted, but with a natural, hand-done feel.

Text Tool

For very simple typesetting like adding a title to this page, the Text Tool in Clip Studio Paint is a breeze. Just grab the text tool, plant the cursor where you want your text, and type it out. You can resize with the point size dropdown, or just grab a corner of the bounding box and stretch it to fit.

Eventually I used the font dropdown to change the font into something I thought fit better.

Finally, I used the Rounded Balloon tool in conjunction with the Text Tool to give Bigfoot and Scout something to say.

So that’s about it. Nothing too difficult. Just some very simple tools in Clip Studio Paint that make a relatively basic job a little easier and a bit quicker.

Now, the NCS Activity Book is packed with all kinds of puzzle pages from some of the most well-known cartoonists in the world: Sergio Aragones (MAD Magazine), Mo Willems (Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus), Jeff Keane (Family Circus), Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman (Zits), and many more. The pdf download is a pay-what-you-can deal of a lifetime and the proceeds go toward the NCS Foundation. You can find out more about that in this video as well as watch me put this Untold Tales of Bigfoot Maze together in Clip Studio Paint.

Illustrating a Coloring Book Page for Pittsburgh City Paper

Look at this mess right here.

This is a coloring page I illustrated for the Pittsburgh City Paper Coloring Book. It’s a fund-raising effort to keep the lights on at one of our local alt-weekly newspapers after the financial havoc the pandemic has wrought. I did the whole piece digitally, in Clip Studio Paint, from blue pencil to final inks.

In the video below, you can watch me put the page together, and learn a little bit about some Pittsburgh traditions (like Picklesburgh) as I discuss it all with Run Red Run. You can also learn where to pick up one of these coloring books if you’re so inclined.

It’s loaded with art from 34 Pittsburgh illustrators and cartoonists, and each page is dedicated to some Pittsburgh-related lore or tradition. And even if you’re not in the market for a coloring book, you can still take 7 minutes out of your busy day to goof off and watch a doodle video. Have fun, stay safe.

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