How I Illustrated My Holiday Card This Year

And we’re back from break! I sent out New Year’s cards this year. Not many. Just enough to make sure all the people who sent me Christmas cards didn’t think I was a complete jerk.

But while I was making the card, I also took the opportunity to record my process and talk about it with my friend, RunRedRun. I might not be a complete jerk, but I’m also not gonna pass up the opportunity to generate some fresh content for my YouTube channel.

So we uploaded a video where I discussed not only my illustration process for this cute little hamster, but also name-dropped the many various tools and materials I used to create the card — from the sketch stage right on up to me dropping it in the mailbox.

Enjoy the video. And Happy New Year!

Mickey Mouse Birthday Card

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been prepping and shipping my book out to my Kickstarter backers, so I haven’t had time for much else. But I just inked up a quick Mickey Mouse Birthday Card for a friend and thought I’d snap some photos during the process just to have something to post.


This was the initial rough sketch. I tweaked it a little in Photoshop and printed it to size so I could trace it on the lightbox.


The pencils, up close. I darkened them a little for the blog so they’d be easier to see, but I generally try to work pretty light (4H pencils) so the rough lines aren’t so visible in the finished piece.


I’m inking with the Sakura Pigma Brush Pens again. Working on larger areas (like Mickey’s ear) I get to use that massive Bold Brush.


Most of the figure outline is done with the Fine Brush. It really does have a pretty dynamic range of widths. In some cases I might use the Medium Brush too, but mine’s getting a little chewed up so I didn’t want to risk using it until I picked up a new one.


This is the finished piece. 8×10 on Bristol. Just a fun birthday illustration. I scan this in and resize it to fit the card template I created in Photoshop. And then…


Here’s the finished product! All ready to stamp and send. Hope everybody has a Happy New Year! -v

Happy Holidays 2015

Happy Holidays, everybody! I made a one-page comic for my holiday card for this year — using MangaStudio and Photoshop — and I’m gonna break down my process below.Holiday Card 2015 Vince DorseYeah, I’m defending Scrooge. Somebody has to. The man changed! He embraced Christmas, raised Bob Cratchit’s salary and saved Tiny Tim’s life! But his name gets dragged through the mud. Hopefully, this comic will change all that. : )

Okay now,  I wanted to do all of the inking and lettering in MangaStudio. So I scanned in my pencils, typed in some text (to make sure it’d fit), then dropped in temporary panel placeholders (the yellow boxes) so I’d know where to drag MS’s Frame Cutting tool. It’s the first time I’ve really used that tool, and I used the placeholders as a guide.Happy Holidays 2015 Vince Dorse processIt took some fiddling around with the settings before I was happy with the width of the vertical/horizontal panel breaks and the black line around them, but eventually I got it the way I wanted it. After that, I inked in the characters and background (mostly with the standard G-Pen).Happy Holiday 2015 Vince Dorse processI also forced myself to use the word balloon tool to hold the text. Meh…it seems a lot easier in Adobe Illustrator, but I gotta learn this so that’s what I did. I tried all three tools to see which worked best for me:MS Balloon PenThe Balloon Pen was too freeform for my shaky hand and I couldn’t draw a smooth enough ellipse.

MS Ellipse Balloon ToolThe Ellipse Balloon tool draws a nice, smooth shape, but tweaking all the vertices to get the shape you want gets a little hairy.

MS Curve Balloon ToolIn the end, I went with the Curve Balloon tool. Fewer points to tweak and it got me closer than the other two tools to the shape I wanted. I don’t think I’m even close to getting the hang of the balloon tail tool, but I got lucky and what I ended up with looks okay. Maybe I’ll improve with time.

The coloring stage is where MangaStudio and I parted company. Photoshop just feels so much better than MS for color. So I exported the inks, opened them in Photoshop and started laying in the flats.

Happy Holidays 2015 Vince Dorse processI wanted a natural media look to the colors, so after the flats were done, I grabbed a custom watercolor brush and layered in some highlights, shadows and texture. Hard-edged lines on the modeling would’ve worked fine, I just wanted something softer.

Happy Holidays 2015 Vince Dorse processI did use a hard-edged brush to paint in the holiday graphics on the shopping bag and wrapping paper.

Happy Holidays 2015 Vince Dorse processI dropped in a grungy texture overlay to give the page an organic feel, then, finally, dotted in the snowflakes. I used an irregular brush to give the flakes a sense of randomness. I didn’t want them to look like perfect little polka-dots.Happy Holidays 2015 Vince Dorse processAnd that’s it. Thanks to everyone who follows the blog or stops by when I post something. I hope you all have a great holiday. See you in the new year! -v

That’s How Houdini Died!!

This may be a 2% joke, but it gives me a laugh.

It’s just no fun without you.

“It’s just no fun without you.”  A melancholy take on the ol’ barrel of monkeys.

You’re The Cat’s Pajamas!

“You’re The Cat’s Pajamas!”  This cat has a nicer bed than I do.

Life’s short. Slow down and enjoy it.

“Life’s short.  Slow down and enjoy it.”  And watch where you’re going.


I am sooo sorry.  (Luckily he’s cute, so  you’ll forgive him.)

Birds Of A Feather

Mother’s Day gag.

Mother’s Day Island

My passive-aggressive Mother’s Day card for this year.