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.

Illustrating a Twilight Zone Gag (for Jim Horwitz’s WATSON)

My friend, cartoonist Jim Horwitz, had a Twilight Zone gag in mind for his 3-times-weekly strip, Watson, and he wanted me to illustrate it. I accomplished this entire project in Clip Studio Paint. From roughs, to inks, to toning. Below I’ve posted some of the process steps. I also recorded the whole thing on video.

Watson_Process01Based on Jim’s initial rough, I sent him my own rough. He approved this, so I moved on to the tight pencils stage.

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At this point, even with tight pencils done and approved, Jim was still working out which direction he wanted to go with the gag. He had a few ideas and wasn’t sure which way to go. But that was his job. Mine was drawing. So I moved on to inks.

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Now the inks are done and I’m about to move to the greyscale tones. The goal was to make it feel/look like an original Twilight Zone. The props and items you see scattered about the room are all from key episodes of the Twilight Zone.

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This is what the final piece looks like, right before Jim sent me the final version of his gag. The entire thing, start to finish, completed in Clip Studio Paint. This was a fun project and I got to re-watch some of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes for reference. If you wanna hear Michelle (Run Red Run) and I discuss the Twilight Zone, Jim Horwitz, and the collaboration process, you can watch the video below. -v

Inking Sonic the Hedgehog (on paper) and Coloring it in Clip Studio Paint

Another lighthearted art demo. The Sonic movie comes out tomorrow, so I inked Sonic the Hedgehog traditionally, with brush pens, then pulled it into Clip Studio Paint to color. I talk a little bit about my technique and tools with Run Red Run while I work, but we also discuss video games, hedgehogs, and mustachioed plumbers.

I don’t post ALL of these art demos here on my process blog. So if you like this sort of thing, subscribe to our YouTube channel to make sure you don’t miss a post. -v

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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.

RULERS

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).

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Rough Sketch

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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.

Pencils

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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.

Inks

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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

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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.

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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.

Final

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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

RideScare Service: Coloring an Illustration in Clip Studio Paint

This is really Part Two of my process (I inked this image in Part One). This time, I’ll go through my coloring process. Nothing tricky. Just flats, highlights, shadows, and texture.

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As always, this is just one of dozens of ways to color art in Clip Studio. I encourage you to find the methods that work best for you and go to town.

Flats

With the inks on their own layer, I create a layer beneath that for the flat colors. With Clip Studio, you can use the Fill Tool (Paint Bucket) to drop color simply and quickly.

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If you set the Fill tool to “Follow Adjacent Pixel”  with the “All Layers” icon clicked (see above image), the tool manages to confine the fill within the lines of the ink outline, even when it’s on a separate layer. A great time-saver!

But if you have a lot of little lines (like I do in this drawing) that can sometimes slow you down. So I’ll take a brush (in this case, the Mapping Pen), turn off the Anti-Aliasing (so I get a crisp, bitmapped edge) and I’ll trace the contours of the shape I want to fill.

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Then, with the inks layer turned off, I’ll drop color with the Fill tool and fill that large area all at once. Alternately, this same job could also be accomplished with a Lasso Tool (or a Curve Ruler converted to a selection) and Fill tool.

When that step is completed for all the objects in the piece, the layer under the inks might look something like this. I like to have all the flat colors touching or overlapping under the line work, no gaps or white space.

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Note: I say “layer” but, in fact, I used multiple layers for the flat colors to keep things organized. The crypts, car, road, and sky are all on separate layers.

Highlights, Shadows, and Texture

The coloring in this piece isn’t complex at all. The flats, basically, are the midtones. So I’ll use my imaginary light source (the moon?) to help me lay down the highlights and shadows. I use the Auto Select (Magic Wand) tool to select each of the flat color shapes, then brush in the lights and darks.

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You can see in the composite image (above) that I used a handful of different tools to simulate the various textures in the illustration. Again, you could color this a few dozen different ways and it’d look just fine, but this is what I went with this time.

People

I used the same process for the figures as I did for the background shapes: Midtone Flats, shadows and highlights on a separate layer.

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Note: I know the hapless couple would technically look a bit more blue in the moonlight, but I thought making them the one source of warm color in the piece would draw the viewer’s eye.

Finishing Touches

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Before this ghoul drives off into the moonlight with this poor couple, I wanted to add a few finishing touches to complete the image:
1. I brushed in headlight beams and reflections on the windscreen, then lowered the opacity of that layer.
2. I recolored some of the line work to make it more dynamic.
3. When a friend said this image would make a fun animated short, I pasted in some text to give the illustration the feel of an old cartoon title card.

And that’s all there is to it.

Nightmare Ride: Inking an Illustration in Clip Studio Paint

This young couple’s plans for a pleasant evening have been ruined because they’ve clearly called the wrong rideshare service. So it’s a trip through the boneyard for them.

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I plan on coloring this piece, but first I have to ink it in Clip Studio Paint. My process is fairly simple, nothing tricky or difficult. But I do use some pretty handy ruler tools included with the app, so I thought I’d point those out.

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First, I do a quick, blue-line sketch of the idea (above). It’s drawn with a Pencil Tool, then color-shifted to blue with the Layer Color button, then lowered in opacity so I could ink over it on another layer.

Building The Tires: A Three-Ruler Job

You can see in my freehand drawing of this creep’s jalopy that I cannot draw a perfect ellipse. That’s why I use the Figure Ruler (which has a few options, one of them an ellipse you can shape to your needs).

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Using the Object subtool of the Operations Tool allows me to select, resize and move the ellipse ruler in order to draw all the different parts of the wheel.

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For the spokes on the wheel, I use a subtool of the Special Rulers called Radial Line. It sets a center point from which the lines you draw emanate.

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The third and final ruler I use for the tires is also a Special Ruler called Concentric Circle. I set it in the center of the tire so I could quickly ink the motion lines revolving along the circumference of the tire.

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Enough With The Tires! Let’s Ink The Car!

I’d like this image to have a hand-drawn feel; organic, imperfect. But I want the long, smooth curves of this cartoony Model-T to look machined. So I use the Curve Ruler (the pink lines in the image below) to describe the shapes before inking with a Brush Tool.

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When I start blocking in the blacks, I freehand the parallel curves on that running board and fenders. The ruled edges help me keep my hatching under control, and the freehand brush strokes help to ‘humanize’ the overall feel of the inks.

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Tightening Up The Spooky Background

In the initial blue-line rough (near the top of this post), I sketched in a creepy cemetery for a background. But it was quick and sloppy. So I use a Pencil Tool to polish up the rough sketch on another layer, click Layer Color to make it a blue-line sketch, then ink in the crypts with a Brush Tool.DateWithDeath_inkprocess_VinceDorse

I needed to add rising clouds of mist and road dust. But after all the work I did on those tires, I felt a little weird about erasing them just to hide them behind the dust clouds. To give myself the latitude to change my mind about things later, I use the Lasso Marquee to select the parts of the tire I want to obscure, then click on Layer Menu > Layer Mask > Mask Selection to achieve some non-destructive ‘erasing.’ If I ever get rid of the dust, that tire can be brought back without having to re-draw it.

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People, People, People, People

The inks for the human (and non-human) figures in the illustration are done the same way as everything else: rough sketch, followed by polished blue line, followed by inks (with changes made along the way to suit my whims).

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Inking Finished

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Here are the finished inks. Like I said, fairly simple process involving rulers and a brush tool (as well as a Tech Pen tool I like for less-expressive lines). I’m going to color this in Clip Studio Paint as well, but I’ll save that for a future process post.

Busway. A Pittsburgh City Paper Cover.

I had a lot of fun with this one. The City Paper’s editor, Lisa, wanted an illustration for a cover story on Pittsburgh’s Busways. And she wanted it to evoke that kidlit feel of something like a Richard Scarry book (with anthropomorphized animals going about their daily business).

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I also thought about those hidden picture puzzles in Highlights while I was setting up the composition. Just a lot of little things, all going on at once. I used Clip Studio Paint for this illustration. Here’s my process.

Pencils

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This was all sketched loosely in Clip Studio using the Blue Real Pencil. I just wanted to get something down quick to get approval from Lisa. Once she and the writer hammered out a few details, I was given the go-ahead.

Inks

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Inked in Clip Studio, with various inking tools. The most important tool at this stage were the Curve Rulers. I used those to ink all of those long, sweeping, curved lines (on the guardrail, sidewalks, roads, etc) and to help keep the lines of the buses and windows smooth.

Colors

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I used a couple layers in Clip Studio to keep the flat colors and the highlights/shadows separate. I do this mostly so if I change my mind about one or the other, I can make tiny changes without having to redo the whole thing.

Details

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The tortoise here is being trailed by a hare (running up the stairs) that just can’t catch him. As usual, the tortoise wins this race.

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March just wrapped up, so I had lions and lambs on my mind. I also threw in a bear with a Steelers jersey. Gotta rep the local sports teams.

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In this section, the Pirates and Penguins get a nod. So does Pittsburgh legend Mister Rogers. His X The Owl character is going about his day wearing a classic Mister Rogers sweater.

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The City Paper was kind enough to throw me this gig, so I made sure to put a CP Newspaper box in the picture. It was also a convenient place to put that banana the monkey’s so interested in. Oh, and that chicken? Originally, he was ‘crossing the road’ but that’s one of those edits they made at the paper. No crosswalks on busways. So now chicken’s riding the bus. I guess there’s more than one way to cross a road.

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Ducks feeding ducks, a teddy bear at a picnic, just another pleasant day in the park. And is that a familiar friend in the bottom right?

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Yup. I snuck in alternate universe versions of my Bigfoot and Scout characters (and even their squirrel pal, Squeaky). It’s a friendly city. I’m sure Bigfoot would feel right at home here.

And if you’d like to read the City Paper piece about Pittsburgh Busways (by Ryan Deto), here’s a handy link to the online article. -v

Hyperloop! Drawing Faster with Clip Studio Rulers.

Here’s the latest Pittsburgh City Paper cover I was assigned. This used to be the kind of assignment I’d worry over — quick turnaround and lots and lots of lines.

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But since I started penciling and inking in Clip Studio Paint, jobs like this go by lightning-fast thanks to the ruler tools. Lemme show you. Here’s the rough I handed in to Art Director Lisa for approval (drawn onto the template supplied by City Paper):

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I had just a few days to finish it (along with other projects on my board) so I thought I’d start inking over the rough sketch (rather than take the time to do finished pencils).

Inking in all those long, smooth lines used to feel like a lead weight on my shoulders. But the Clip Studio Paint Rulers are just like using a regular ruler on paper — only easier.

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Those magenta lines are the rulers I’ve set up to help me draw the lines of the train and track. Specifically, it’s the Curve Ruler tool, which can be a straight line if you wanted (like a straight-edge ruler) or curved (like a flexible curve or french curve).

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The pen tool will “ride” along the track of the ruler, allowing you to use as much or little pressure as you prefer when you lay down your lines. In that way, the ruler tools allow you to draw expressive, hand-rendered line work while maintaining a precision that’s hard to achieve drawing freehand.

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Buildings no longer give me the cold sweats. I just place and adjust my rulers (those magenta lines) then use them to guide my inking.

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Clip Studio Paint Rulers speed up my process, and that’s key with tight deadlines. Below are the finished inks. You can see I drew beyond the CP template to allow myself (and art director, Lisa) some wiggle room.

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And, finally, here’s a gif that flips between the inks and the final color version. Yeah, there are plenty of things in the illustration that I DIDN’T draw with the ruler tools, but the rulers were invaluable in helping me get it handed in under the deadline without banging my head on the desk over and over. -v

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And, as usual, if you’d like to dive even deeper into this illustration, read the City Paper article about the hyperloop kerfuffle right here, Thanks for stopping by! -v

Covering A Health Issue (Ha! Pun!)

HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_01Here’s my latest cover for the Pittsburgh City Paper. They’re publishing their 2017 Health Issue this week, so Lisa the Art Director had me draw a kindly old doctor for the cover.

The Brief

Lisa gave me a few options to play with for the cover assignment, but they all centered around a doctor making a house call, so I tossed out a couple quick sketches. I toyed with the idea of having a young woman doctor with a modern feel, but the concept of making house calls is so quaint and outdated, I decided an old-timey doctor would fit better. The illustration was done in Clip Studio Paint, including these sketches.

HealthIssue2017Lisa liked the one on the doorstep, so we went with it. I only had a couple days, so the quicker we nail down an idea the better.

Side Note: One of the reasons it’s so fun to work with Lisa is that she has fun doing her job. She told me she kept flipping back and forth between my two sketches to make him dance. So I made a gif for her to enjoy. In fact, she just reminded me that I didn’t include it in this post, so I’m adding it just for her. : )

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Line

HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_03When I do work for the City Paper, I often use a style that tries to evoke retro comic book inks and colors. But, for this doctor piece, I wanted something a little softer, a little more storybook. So I decided I’d use one of the Clip Studio pencil tools for the linework.

Flats

HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_02aEven though I’m trying to avoid a comic book look, I did begin the coloring process with the standard comic book practice of laying down the flat colors. I used a standard, smooth, round brush for this.

Background

I started with the background first knowing it’d be relatively simple. The clouds in the sky were done with a low-opacity watercolor brush. The houses and trees in the distance were just blocked in with a chalk brush (you can see the rough edges), then blended into a soft blue.

HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_04I used that same chalk brush for most of the rest of the illustration, including the work on this picket fence and grass. The sweeping crossbeam on that fence was drawn with the assistance of Clip Studio’s curve ruler. It’s an indispensable tool I use with almost any image that has long, smooth curves.

Sunbeams

I had this idea about kitschy lighting in the background: sunbeams radiating out and upward like vintage product packaging for butter or oranges or some other wholesome food.HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_05I flipped the sunbeam layer on and off a few dozen times before finally deciding to keep it. I think it helps give the illustration more of an old-fashioned feel.

Modeling The Figure

The really fun part was adding all the highlights and shadows with the chalk brush. I made this animated gif to show the progression from flat color to fully-rendered.HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_06Here’s another reason doing the background first is helpful. The color of the highlights were pulled directly from the sunlight behind him. Same thing with the shadows. This way the figure looks like he belongs in the scene. The rosy reds on his cheeks and nose don’t really exist in the background, but they’re there to give him that friendly, cherubic glow.

Text

HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_07I hand-lettered the words on this cover (based on existing typefaces) because I didn’t want them to look too perfect, but I needed them to be clean and readable at a distance. For “Health Issue” I added a slightly offset drop-shadow to really give it some oomph.

Grass and Shrubs

I ran a really rough chalk brush over the lawn a few dozen times to give it a little more texture. The bushes were done with a watercolor bristle brush because I wanted the slightly ovoid stroke of a brush for the leaves, rather than the blunt mark of a chalk tool.HealthIssueProcess_VinceDorse_08I handed the piece in and then realized I’d forgotten to draw the bottom beam on the picket fence. So I fixed it and re-sent the final-final illustration to Lisa. This is why I usually sit with an illustration for a full day before handing it in — so I can catch some of my mistakes before the client does.

Finished Cover

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And here’s the finished cover with the masthead added by the City Paper. If you’re interested in the state of health care and how it effects Pittsburghers, feel free to zip over and read the digital version online. -v