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.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Fall Special / Printer Review

The Untold Tales of Bigfoot Fall Special books are in — and they look great! I’ll have them with me at New York Comic Con this October when I sit in with the National Cartoonists Society. I also have some copies in my online shop (just $6 plus s/h/tx)!

Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Fall Special

What’s Inside

  • 35 pages of fall-inspired art and story from the Untold Tales of Bigfoot webcomic,  including Devil In The Details and the Reuben-Nominated Heading For A Fall!
  • Two pages of story not published online (I added a couple pages to give Scout a little more room to babble and complain.)
  • Devil In The Details (published online in black and white) is now printed in full color!

Review: Comix Well Spring/Greko Printing

You may or may not recall, I had a negative experience with Ka-Blam Digital Printing that sent me looking for a different printer for this project. A friend recommended Comix Well Spring, so I thought I’d give ’em a try. How’d they do? Let’s see…

Colors Look Good

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Comix Well Spring did a great job of matching my CMYK colors. The brights are bright, the darks are dark, and the subtle gradients all came out the way I wanted them to.

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Mind you, I opted for the hard copy proof to be mailed to me (a nominal fee of $10) so I could adjust my files before going to final print. And I’m glad I did. There’s always a possibility that what you see on your screen won’t match what the printer puts out. So using a hard copy proof to help make your adjustments is a good idea.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Fall Special

I opted for the heavier paper (80# gloss text) and the pages feel substantial, with no bleed-through (unless you hold the pages up to a light). The cover was standard (80# gloss cover) and it feels durable and looks great.

Quality Packing and Shipping

With Ka-Blam, it was damaged books and poor customer service response that led me to look for a new printer. How did Comix Well Spring stack up?

Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Fall Special

Comix Well Spring packed my order in a sturdy box, lined with a thick layer of packing paper. The comic books were then shrink-wrapped and packed (in bundles of 25) into padded, sealed UPS envelopes. Did that protect the corners? Darn tootin’!

Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Fall Special

I unpacked every shrink-wrapped bundle of my comics and every one of them looks like this. Pristine corners, no dings, no folds, no spine damage. I couldn’t be happier with the packaging.

Customer Service Is Excellent

Ka-Blam Digital Printing dropped the ball with their customer service. In contrast, Comix Well Spring was more than happy to answer a ton of questions for me before I even ordered. I wanted to make sure my colors and templates were set up properly, double check their shipping methods and return policy — they answered all my questions before/during/and after our transaction promptly and politely.

Final Review

I give Comix Well Spring a solid A and happily recommend them to anybody who wants to get their comics printed. Their prices are competitive (especially in larger quantities) and their product is impressive. They also have a handy price quote calculator on their site so you can see how much your project might cost before you order. -v

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Up And Away! A Collaborative Art Project

It’s the 1930s. Big City has become a place where greed trumps goodness, a city in desperate need of a hero. A hero like no other. The very first superhero.

Planning The Caper

This year, The Pittsburgh CLO invited members of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators to attend rehearsals of the CLO musical Up And Away, as a collaborative effort to produce artwork inspired by the show.

In this post, I’m going to break down my basic illustration process and ramble on a little about the show (because it’s really fun and you should go see it if you can).

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Assembling The Team

I think there were six of us invited to attend early rehearsals for the show. We were there to get a feel for the show, and then create anything we wanted. Some of us illustrated scenes, some of us did renderings of the rehearsals, some did portraits of the cast. But from the very start, I knew I wanted to create a fictional comic book cover that featured the characters from the superhero-themed musical. Here’s the thumbnail I sketched out during that first rehearsal:

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Clip Studio Paint To The Rescue

I used Clip Studio Paint to set up my image. As usual, the perspective rulers were invaluable in helping me redraw the background architecture over my sketch (the show is set in “Big City”). I used the blue drafting pencil to sketch in characters based on reference sketches I did at rehearsal, and a G-Pen to ink them in. These aren’t caricatures of the cast as much as representations of the archetypes the actors portray in the show.

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About The Show

Up And Away is jam-packed with references to comic book culture. The two brothers (who leave their farm to find adventure in Big City) are Jerry and Joe Jessup (a nod to Superman creators, Siegel and Shuster). There’s a fast-talking lady-reporter, a mysterious billionaire, a tough but doting mother, and a host of costumed kooks running rampant in the city.

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One of the most interesting things about this project was seeing director Marlo Hunter, creators Kevin Hammonds and Kristin Bair, and the cast members hammer the show into shape during rehearsals; changing blocking and choreography, editing scenes, working out the props and stagecraft. Process. It’s fun to watch things unfold, piece by piece, whether it’s an illustration or a comedy-musical.

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Kevin Hammonds (Book and Lyrics) and Kristin Bair (Music) put together a catchy bunch of tunes. I must have heard “New Kind Of Hero” two dozen times that first day. Anyone who’s ever rehearsed a live musical performance knows you’re going to go over and over and over the songs. But that was fine, because when I saw the show opening week, I could practically sing along.

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The performers are fantastic too.  It’s one of those shows that employs a small cast (just five) who have to race through backstage quick-changes to play a series of alternate roles (with those roles sometimes possessing alter-egos themselves).

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And, in keeping with the stripped-down feel of a small cast, Up And Away employs classic, lo-fi stagecraft to achieve its own brand of special effects. Think “standing on one leg and bending at the waist with your arms forward to simulate flying over a collapsible MDF cityscape.” I don’t know how you’re picturing that, but trust me, it works.

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As the little corner box intimates, Up And Away made it’s premiere here in Pittsburgh in January. But it’ll be running at the CLO Cabaret at Theater Square through Sunday, April 22nd. If you’re in Pittsburgh during that time, and you want to spend a fun couple of hours at a musical comedy made for comic fans, try to get tickets.

Art Show And Sale

And, as of this Wednesday, March 14, the Cabaret Gallery will have the Pittsburgh Illustrators’ Up And Away art on display and for sale, with 20% going to the Pittsburgh CLO. I’ll have two pieces there — the comic book cover (signed & numbered prints) and an ink and marker rendering of the villains in the show (based on brief descriptions in an early draft of the script). This was a fun project, a nice way to spend a few weeks with some talented creators and performers, and I got to see a superhero musical for free! Whooooosh! (that was me, flying away, in case you didn’t catch it) -v

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And here, just for fun, the fictional comic book cover:

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Pittsburgh Indie Comics Expo

It’s been a while since I posted, so let’s catch up. Last weekend I brought some books and prints to PIX, Pittsburgh’s Indie Comics Expo, held at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh. A nice venue and a great collection of small press/indie comics.

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I sat in with the guys in the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society and had a blast. As you can see, one of us didn’t get the memo about wearing black. : )

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I was there to promote the NCS (a great organization that does charity work, hands out an annual scholarship to a budding cartoonist, and supports the art of cartooning ) and to premiere my newest project, Wish On A Halloween Moon, a spooky, all-ages storybook/artbook/coloring book. I hope to put up a process post on that book soon.

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It was a nice afternoon, talking cartooning, meeting people from all over who came to exhibit and attend PIX and, of course, signing books. I managed to take a few photos of some of the doodles I’ve done in the books. I know I drew a happy jack-o’-lantern for a younger fan, but I guess I didn’t snap that pic.

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It’s always fun to visit the August Wilson Center, not only for the fantastic exhibits celebrating African-American culture, but also because their restroom doors are inordinately tall and make you feel like you’ve been hit with a shrink ray.

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I’ll be using this news/process blog to post about any upcoming con/expo visits. So stop back to see if I’ll end up in your neck of the woods this year. -v

Shameless Plug: My Kickstarter is Live!

If you’ve been coming to this blog to see my process work (thank you) you may know I also work on an award-winning webcomic called Untold Tales of Bigfoot. Well, I just launched a Kickstarter Campaign to get that comic into print, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t post that info here.

If you have the time, go check out the Kickstarter. Untold tales of Bigfoot is an all-ages adventure about a lost dog and a lonesome bigfoot, and the theme revolves around the importance of friendship and family (but Bigfoot also wrestles with a mountain lion and stuff like that). Thanks for listening to my pitch. : )

Untold Tales of Bigfoot Kickstarter Page

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Untold Tales of Bigfoot 3D Figure by Blokko: How It’s Made!

I’m happy to present the very first, official Untold Tales of Bigfoot 3D Figure by Blokko! Months in the making, custom designed by me and the folks at Blokko, and beautifully sculpted by Blokko co-founder Prad Lal, Bigfoot’s one of the first figures ever released by Blokko. And since this is my process blog, I thought it’d be fun to show (and tell) you how this figure was made.

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HOW DID THEY DO THAT?

Way back in January, I got a call from Blokko co-founder Rahul Thayyalamkandy. He wanted to tell me about Blokko, an innovative new company that designs 3D printed figures based on engaging stories and comics. At Blokko, you can read stories, learn about the creators, and buy toys based on those stories. Rahul wanted to create a 3D figure of my Bigfoot character. It seemed like a fun idea, so we started the ball rolling.

The first step was providing a turnaround view of Bigfoot so Prad would have a basic design to work with.

Bigfoot model sheet for Untold Tales of BigfootPrad then blocked in this first, red sculpt (below) before pulling in the turnaround drawing. This base sculpt gets the ball rolling and gets some rudimentary features into the figure.

Early mesh for Untold Tales of Bigfoot figureAfter that, Prad used the turnaround drawing to get the proportions closer, evolving the early mesh, each step looking a little more like our furry friend. Prad sent me some screen shots of the process.

3D modeling process for Untold Tales of Bigfoot figureBut Prad’s a meticulous artist. He didn’t just rely on my model sheet. Both he and Rahul are fans of Untold Tales of Bigfoot and, as such, Prad pored through pages and pages of my comic, working with me via emails, tweaking the design, fine-tuning it, and making sure it reflected not just one static image of Bigfoot, but his attitude and personality as well. You can see the progression of the sculpt below, including changes to color, the design of the base, and the evolution of the shoulder area and body mass.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot 3D figure by Blokko process

ONCE IT’S SCULPTED, THEN WHAT?

The next step was the test prints. It’s not just about aesthetics at this point in the process. Stress-testing and breakage are important things to consider. Since we weren’t sure how the sculpture would stand up to everyday wear, Blokko tested two different versions of Bigfoot: one with the waving arm attached at the hip and one free floating.Untold Tales of Bigfoot Blokko Test PrintsThe test prints withstood the drop tests and looked good — but not quite perfect. And these Blokko guys are perfectionists. Prad thought the fur texture could be more obvious, and the color still wasn’t right. We had to wait a few more weeks while the testing and tweaking were repeated and perfected. You can see the alternate colors and alternate arm position below (along with Jason Brubaker’s Victuals figure from his graphic novel reMIND).

Untold Tales of Bigfoot 3D figure test prints by BlokkoWith figures like these, there is no after-sculpt painting or assembly. The figure is created through a process called polyjet printing (a lot like regular inkjet printing). The object is built layer by layer, using a composite of gypsum and, I assume, magic, depositing colors and a binding agent from multiple tiny nozzles at the same time. Once this part is done, the object is cleaned with air jets and dipped in a solution to give it strength and bring out the colors. One more coat of cyanoacrylate to resist against weathering and it’s ready to be shipped!

UTOB 3D FIGURE TURNAROUNDAnd here he is! Some friends lent me their figures so I could shoot a single-shot turnaround pic. Now there’s a whole herd of Bigfoot in my studio. Bigfoot’s personality leaps right off the page and into this figure. All those months of working and waiting and painstaking tweaking have paid off.

How Do I Get One?

Anyone who’d like to have this friendly Bigfoot for their desk, bookshelf or workstation, just head on over to the Blokko Bigfoot Page and pick him up for $48 + shipping (which, in my case, was only 5 bucks). The figure stands 12.5 cm (about 4.9 inches) and is the very first collectible toy based on Untold Tales of Bigfoot. For size comparison, here he is making friends with the Dark Knight.

Bigfoot and Batman

Discount Code?!

Yup, there’s a discount code for loyal fans. Right now, for a limited time, you can get 10% off with the code FORSCOUT. Plus, if you help spread the word via social media, you can get an additional 5% off when you share on Twitter and another 5% off when you share on Facebook. And that’s all taken right off the top, so you have the potential to get 20% off of your total! Just stop by the Untold Tales of Bigfoot page at Blokko and give Bigfoot a home.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Blokko 3D Figure

Edit: I just uploaded a short (2-minute) unboxing video of me opening this toy up. It’s not gonna win any Oscars, but if you wanna see it, it’s here.