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

Chef: Card Game Art Process in Clip Studio Paint

I recently finished illustrating a series of cards for the game Foray, an expansion set to the successful 2-player game, Morels from Two Lanterns Games. The games are mushroom-themed, and so most of the drawings revolve around foraging for, cooking, or eating mushrooms.

Chef_process_VinceDorseMost of the cards have an interesting twist to them, and it was a lot of fun working on cards like that panther or dragon (above). But honestly, they were relatively simple compared to the Chef card with all of its perspective, varying surface textures, and staging. Luckily, using Clip Studio Paint made the job a little easier.

Perspective Rulers

Chef_process_VinceDorseI scribbled out my initial sketch in Clip Studio. I roughed it in loosely, just trying to get an idea of where the drawing was headed. Then I set up my perspective rulers. As you can see, I was in the ballpark, but not quite close enough. So using the rulers and a pencil tool, I redrew the kitchen in proper perspective (below).

Chef_process_VinceDorseThat’s better. I also used the perspective ruler to set up some guidelines for the brickwork and even the metal grates on the stove top.

Figure Rulers, Curve Rulers

Chef_process_VinceDorseToggling off the perspective rulers, I used the Clip Studio’s figure rulers to help me draw all those circles of the pots, pans, and jars. The curve rulers were used to make the smooth, curved outlines of the pot handles, bowls, jars, and other various objects. Then, since the client requested something more akin to realism than cartooning, I used a reference model to help me sketch out a more realistic figure. There is no ‘chef ruler’ so I had to do that freehand.

Colors

Chef_process_VinceDorseStill in Clip Studio, I painted in the flats with a smooth, round brush. The client had very specific references for this kitchen, so all of those details (the fittings, tiles, bricks — even what the chef is wearing and the color of her hair) were specifically called for. Now you see what I mean? Compared to this kitchen, drawing that panther on a rock was a piece of cake!

Chef_process_VinceDorse06Now it’s time to turn up the heat and add the highlights, shadows, and surface texture of all the various objects around the room.

Highlights, Shadows, and Texture

Chef_process_VinceDorseI started detailing with the chef. I used some textured brushes to indicate folds in her clothing, and smoothed things out with a blender brush. There was some soft airbrushing in there too. Next, the brickwork.

Chef_process_VinceDorseFor the brickwork, I first ramped up the darks and lights to help with the illusion of depth. On top of all that, I used a chalk brush to paint in rough brick texture, changing up the colors every so often for variety.

Chef_process_VinceDorseThere were all kinds of surfaces in the drawing. Brass, copper, stainless steel, tile, brick, wood, etc. Clip Studio Paint has a nice selection of standard brushes that are great for rendering surface texture, but I’ve also collected and created a bunch of custom brushes over the years that helped me finish up this detailing. If you’re looking to expand your tool set, you can find custom brushes created by Clip Studio artists all over the internet, and they’re easy to install. So give it a try.

Chef_process_VinceDorseSome of the finishing touches I put in with the airbrush tool: steam rising from the hot pots and pans, glints of light reflecting off metal surfaces, cast shadow under the table falling on the tile floor. Then it was just a matter of making some tonal adjustments and the illustration was done.

Sketch to Final

Chef_process_VinceDorse11This gif takes you through my entire process. All of it was done in Clip Studio Paint (with a brief stop in Photoshop afterward to convert to CMYK for the printer). With a selection of tools and rulers so robust, you rarely need to leave Clip Studio to bring an illustration from sketch to finish. -v