Inking (and coloring) Sesame Street Monsters

Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? Great. Now tell me how to get away from these creepy alien muppets.

I kid. I love these guys. But they did give me the creeps when I was five.

In this video, I ink these monsters (and maybe a surprise monster, too) and Run Red Run and I talk about Muppets and Frank Oz.

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!


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.

After-School Project: Making a Werewolf Paper Doll with Clip Studio Paint

I have a friend who is a grade school teacher and is always looking for creative activities for the kids in her after-school program. So every once in a while I make her a paper doll the kids can color, cut-out, and assemble. Since I did this near Halloween, I decided on a kid-friendly werewolf. And to make it, I used Clip Studio Paint.

Since this craft was intended for kids that could range from Kindergarten through Eighth Grade, I didn’t want to make the monster too scary for the little ones. I started the project by sketching out my friendly werewolf in Clip Studio Paint using a Layout Blue Pencil.


Yes, I could freehand this sketch, but I used some of Clip Studio’s ruler tools to help me work more efficiently. I placed a Symmetry Ruler down the center of the page to quickly outline the monster using the standard G-Pen. Inking the left side automatically inks the right side. So you can draw things twice as fast.

In addition to the Symmetry Ruler, I used the Curve Ruler to trace the outline of the individual body parts. I use the Curve Ruler as a guide so my ink line is smooth and uniform, and doesn’t take long to draw. You just zip around that ruler like a car around a race track, and the brush settings takes care of the line weight.

The bonus benefit of using the Symmetry Ruler along with the Curve Ruler is that I only have to draw one of everything, and it’s duplicated (in reverse) on the opposite side of the page. Again, I’m getting a lot of this job done in half the time.

For the detail work, I turn off the rulers and just ink freehand. I prefer asymmetry for the details because it helps the illustration look more natural and hand-done.

Once all the details (and joint markings) are drawn in, the only thing left to do is print the illustration out and deliver it to my teacher friend for her to distribute to the kids.

And here are some of the paper dolls in progress during the after-school program.

I’ve been posting some process videos on YouTube, so if you’d like to see me work on this project at super-fast speed, here’s the video:

Big Bird’s Pal, Caroll Spinney.

I recently watched the Caroll Spinney documentary, I Am Big Bird. It’s so fantastic, I was inspired to doodle this illustration in Clip Studio Paint (colored in Affinity Photo).


Rough Sketch


I started out sketching in Clip Studio with a pencil tool. It’s a really rough sketch, but I like to start out loose and tighten it up in the penciling stage.



I create a new layer, lower the opacity of that rough sketch, and draw a more polished version using the rough as a guide.

Speaking of sketching and drawing, did you know Caroll Spinney began his artistic journey as a cartoonist and animator? One of the best things about that documentary is listening to Spinney recount the early days of his career.



Digital inks in Clip Studio. I used a brush that I picked up online from a third party vendor, but Clip Studio comes loaded with a nice selection of brushes. The G-Pen, for instance, is a reliable inking tool.

About the early days of Spinney’s career — did you know it was at a puppetry festival in Utah in 1969 that Jim Henson offered Spinney a chance to work with him and the Muppets? Spinney said yes, of course, and performed the character of Big Bird (among other characters) for roughly fifty years.

Affinity Photo


Looking for alternatives to Photoshop, I discovered Affinity Photo not too long ago. I’m stiill a novice with Affinity Photo, so I forced myself to color this illustration in Affinity just to get the practice. Practice might not make perfect, but it’ll sure help if I ever decide to ditch Photoshop.


Affinity Photo has very similar tools to Photoshop (the shadows on Big Bird were done with one of the bristle brushes that comes standard with AP) and a similar interface. It’s also one of the few digital art apps that offers a true CMYK workspace like Photoshop.



This is the finished piece. It was a fun diversion, and I got some much-needed practice in both Clip Studio Paint and Affinity Photo. If you haven’t seen it already, I hope you check out that Caroll Spinney documentary. It’s a must for any fans of Sesame Street and the Muppets. Even if you just like watching creative people talk about their craft, do yourself a favor and watch I Am Big Bird. It may inspire you too. -v

Tiger’s Tale: Process steps for an editorial illustration with a storybook feel.

I got an editorial assignment this week, and the subject of the piece lent itself to a storybook approach. So, instead of my editorial style, I decided to use my softer, “kid lit” style. Here’s a quick step-by-step showing how I put it together.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseLong story short, they’re closing down Wilkinsburg High (mascot:tiger) and now those kids’ll be taking classes at Westinghouse High (mascot:bulldog). The art direction was to draw a bunch of super-cute baby tigers attending school at a bulldog’s doghouse. A perfect opportunity to use a kids’ art style, right? So, first things first, the pencils…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseThis is the pencil sketch, roughed out on printer paper. I didn’t take the time to work out all the details of the building, figuring that’d take long enough in the computer and why do it twice? I worked the tigers a little more, though, because I needed to know if Lisa (the art director) thought they were cute enough to fit the brief. They were. : ) I got approval, so I moved forward.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseI did these in MangaStudio with a pencil tool, tracing over the scanned sketch. Since Westinghouse High is the home of the bulldogs, the school was supposed to look like a doghouse. I decided to combine the classic, backyard doghouse with an old-fashioned, one-room schoolhouse complete with belfry. MangaStudio‘s rulers are so versatile and easy to use that I’ve actually learned to enjoy drawing houses and other structures.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseNext step was coloring the schoolhouse. Sticking to that storybook aesthetic, I chose a watercolor brush, fiddled with the opacity, and just started brushing color and grain into the boards. I masked out the overlap, adjusted the levels, and after the house was done, I started in on the characters…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseI picked a few warm colors for the tigers (oranges, reds, yellows) and painted in some base flats. I didn’t have to worry about being too neat, since I planned to blend the colors in the very next step…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseThe colors of the clothing and accessories were determined by the school colors. Wilkinsburg, red and blue. Westinghouse, blue and white. Once I had all the colors of the tigers roughed in, I blended them, stroking the colors to look like fur. Time consuming, but I like the way it turned out. I normally block in the backgrounds first, but I saved the minimal environment until the end.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseHere’s a quick progression of the foreground/environment. I started with some earthy colors, scribbling in some texture with a watercolor brush, adding more texture with an overlay, and deepening the shadows. Then, a rough-edged brush to map out patches of grass, followed by scattering blades of grass over the whole thing.

After that it’s just a matter of color adjustments, playing with the levels and it’s done. This was a great chance to add to my children’s illustration portfolio and still turn in an editorial assignment. The finished piece is down below, and, to see it in context, check out this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper. That link to the online edition also gives you a look at how Lisa scattered my tiger students throughout the issue and article (pp. 5,6,8&9).


Hide And Squeak: Puzzle And Process

I’ll take you through my very simple process on this illustration — which I did just for fun — but here’s the puzzle and key all in one image in case you wanna try to solve it. (I threw a couple tough ones in there for the real pros!)

Hide and Squeak illustration, puzzle

Like I said, I did it just for fun (and practice) but I went the whole nine yards and scratched out a quick poem and 2-page spread layout. Yeah, that’s what I do for fun. Page layouts. Anyway, here’s the spread (and after that, I promise I’ll finally show you a couple process steps).

Hide and Squeak illustration, puzzle and poem

Okay, so here we go. A very simple process. All of the linework was done in MangaStudio because I really love their pencil tools. They feel natural, they look natural. Some of these lines started out a different color, by the way, and changed as I decided which colors would go in the piece, but you get the general idea.

Hide and Squeak illustration, puzzle, pencils

The colors were done in Photoshop (because I still don’t dig the meager CMYK functions in MangaStudio). I used mostly standard brushes that come with the program, at varying levels of opacity, and just painted in the lines. As I said, very simple.

Hide and Squeak illustration, puzzle, coloring process

Last thing I did was to use a pencil tool to draw in some creepy spiderwebs, shivery lines and droplets of fear sweat.

Hide and Squeak illustration, puzzle, details

Remember, always add those little touches of personality or it’s just another run-of-the-mill drawing of your standard elephant tiptoeing through your basic haunted house. -v

Peter Pan (Hidden Objects) MangaStudio Process

Here you go. 15 hidden objects in this Peter Pan illustration that shouldn’t take you too long to find. Click the image to embiggen. And after you kill that minute, if you want to stick around, I posted some process steps below.

Hidden Objects Puzzle with Peter PanSee? Told you it wasn’t that difficult to solve. Neither was putting the whole thing together. Here’s a quick walk-through…

Peter Pan rough sketchFirst thing’s first. A pencil sketch to get the general idea down on paper. I could’ve done this in MangaStudio with sketch tools but I was on the couch and didn’t feel like getting up.

Peter Pan digital pencilEventually, I got off the couch and scanned in the drawing. Then I used a pencil tool to refine the shapes. The linework’s a little heavier than I normally prefer, but I wanted to make sure the hidden shapes had easily identifiable outlines.

Peter Pan foreground colorKnowing the background would be dark blue/green, I started painting the warm foreground colors with chalk and pastel brushes. I used a blending tool sparingly because I wanted to get as much texture out of the brushes as I could.

Peter Pan background colorOnce the colors for the background were blocked in, I trashed the outlines of those back trees (they were only placeholders), then added some texture with watercolor wash brushes and bristle brushes.

Peter Pan detailIn this detail of the finished illustration, you can see I used an effects brush to paint in some pixie dust, then ran some levels/colors adjustments over the whole thing. And that’s it. Just having a little fun in MangaStudio.-v

Fishin’ Buddies : MangaStudio Process

Fishin' Buddies by Vince DorseFishin’ Buddies is my latest experiment in MangaStudio 5. Much of this piece was done using custom brushes designed by Ray Frenden. Let’s take a look…


Fishin' Buddies rough sketch by Vince DorseThis is the rough scribble I sketched on printer paper. I scanned it in and used the Layer Color option in MS to turn the image into a blue tracing layer.


Fishin' Buddies pencils by Vince DorseI used a couple different tools to draw this tight sketch — the Rough Pencil tool that comes standard with MS, and the 2B Real Pencil from Frenden.  Both great tools with a nice, natural feel. TIP: The fishing rod and some of the boat planks were drawn with the help of MS’s Curve Ruler tool.


Fishin' Buddies process by Vince DorseHere’s a quick rundown of the Frenden brushes I used for the background elements: The clouds were done (mostly) with Frenden’s Concept 5 brush, the trees were done with a High Res Splatter Wash brush, the hills were layered with various Watercolor and other textured brushes, and the sand on the beach was a very gritty Grease Pencil over a Watercolor base. I was just digging through the toolbox, trying out brushes, layering textures and mixing different digital media to get the look I wanted. All told, I must’ve used ten or fifteen brushes, just throwing color on the canvas to see how it turned out.


Fishin' Buddies process by Vince DorseThe water started as a blue/green gradient, topped with some rough-edged wash brushes to hide the mechanical look of the gradient. For the highlights I used a very light touch with a pencil tool, alternating with a stock airbrush tool for softer highlights.


Fishin' Buddies process by Vince DorseMost of the other objects in the piece were done with textured brushes of one type or another. Frenden has a lot of nice bristle brushes that can emulate the surface of wood or the texture of fur really well.


Fishin' Buddies detail by Vnce DorseHere’s a detail of the piece (color adjusted in Photoshop). You get a better look at some of the texture you can achieve with MangaStudio. I should mention how useful MS’s blending tools are. Those stripes on the cat were just soft pencil strokes blended and blurred with standard tools. Again, I bumped up the levels and adjusted the colors in Photoshop (The finished piece is up at the top of the post) but 95% of the work was done in MangaStudio.

The Mad Maze of Doctor Frankenbrain : My MangaStudio Process

I’ve wanted to do a “brain maze” kids’ activity page for a while now, and I figured since I was teaching myself all the different tools in MangaStudio 5, what better time (and on what better piece) to run an experiment? So let’s go down into the laboratory and see how I put this illustration together.

Doctor Frankenbrain by Vince Dorse

Rough Sketch: Did this in my sketchbook, pencil on paper. Though the flat-topped monster is pretty iconic and recognizable, I could’ve gone a few different directions with the mad doctor. I chose to model him loosely on Gene Wilder’s character in Young Frankenstein.

Dr. Frankenbrain rough sketch

Line Work: Once my sketch was scanned in, I used it as a guide to lay down some lines with the colored pencils in MangaStudio. Even at this early stage I was playing around with the figure rulers (circle for the goggles) and symmetry ruler (the glass jar with the brain in it). In this image, I’ve also painted in some castle-wall stonework with pastel brushes.

Dr. Frankenbrain color line work

Coloring The Figures: I stuck (mostly) with pastels and colored pencil tools in MangaStudio to bring the figures to life. I used the blending tools for some of the transitions and, with some parts and pieces, the airbrush tool to smooth things out. Basically, I just dug through the toolbox and tried just about anything that I thought might work. I even grabbed an inking pen for some fine line details.

Dr. Frankenbrain coloring the figures

These laboratory test tubes and vials were a last minute addition. At first, I free-handed them, but they looked a little sloppy. So I decided to use the figure rulers, curve rulers and symmetry rules in conjunction with one another to shape the objects.

Dr. Frankenbrain detail: test tubes

Overall, a successful experiment. I’m looking forward to going back to the lab and tinkering a little more with MangaStudio 5. -v

Catbird : A painting experiment with MangaStudio 5

I’ve been forcing myself to learn to paint in MangaStudio after years of relying on Photoshop. I knew MangaStudio was great for making comics, but I wanted to see if it could supplement/replace Photoshop in the digital painting department. I’ll start here with the finished piece, then a few process steps posted down below.

Catbird by Vince Dorse

The pencil tools are great in MangaStudio 5. I quickly roughed out a simple idea for this image and polished it up with the colored pencil tools in MS to use as my guide. Next step, painting.

Catbird pencils in MS5
Some areas I flatted (the tufts of leaves) and went back in with different brushes for the details. I wasn’t sure which would work best — acrylic, pencil, pastel — I decided the pastel was best for the leaves in this image. Other areas like the sidewalk and tree trunk I went right in with textured brushes and started layering in colors.

Catbird WIP Dorse
The figures were painted with colored pencil and watercolor — wasn’t sure which I’d like better — but they ended up working well together. I also used a blender brush to smooth some of the transitions.

Catbird WIP DorseLater,  I used the same methods to paint in some very simple bushes and trees in the background (see image up top) and did a quick levels adjustment to improve the contrast. Overall, a successful experiment since I learned a little more about the painting brushes in MS5 and it made me want to experiment more. I still prefer to work in CMYK, and MS5 doesn’t have that capability yet. So I had to convert and adjust in Photoshop when I was finished. Not my favorite workflow. Maybe I’ll find a workaround the more I experiment.-v