My Comics Process: Pencils, Inks, Colors.

I just finished up a 14-page Untold Tales of Bigfoot short (you can read the whole thing from the start right here) and this last page (spoilers?) was a lot of fun for me, so I thought I’d break down my process here.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

I’ll be taking you from the initial pencils all the way through the final colors, and noting my tools/apps as I go along. So if process is your kind of thing, read on, friend.

Pencils

This looks like an unholy mess because it’s my scanned pencil roughs covered in digital scribbles (done in Clip Studio with the Blue Layout Pencil).

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

The pencils were my rough, stream-of-consciousness plans for the page. The blue pencil is my attempt to clean those ideas up and define what I really want.

Inks

Inks are done in Clip Studio. For stuff like this, I use the G-Pen (comes standard) or any one of a handful of custom brushes you can find online (Ray Frenden has a few nice collections for sale).

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

Since this was the final page of the short, I wanted to end it with a big, splashy image. So the dominant illustration of the forest stretches out over all the edges of the page, full-bleed.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

Here’s the entire page, inked (the top two frame borders were made using the Rectangle Frame/Divide Frame tools in Clip Studio).

Flat Color

Next step is flat color. Until Clip Studio has a proper CMYK space, I’m coloring stuff in Photoshop. I’ve also been experimenting with Affinity Photo (one of the few digital art platforms that boasts a CMYK workspace), but I’m not adept enough at Affinity Photo for a job like this, so off to Photoshop I go.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

There’s a few different ways to flat, but for my purposes, since I’m the one doing the finished colors, I just go in with a hard, round brush, opacity at 100%, pressure sensitivity turned off, and I lay in the base color of the objects.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

If you’re flatting for someone else, you may want to explore the lasso tool/fill method (select your shape with the lasso tool, fill with flat color, repeat), since that’s a pretty reliable workflow. But my approach works fine with this project for my workflow.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

With some techniques, you can drop in any random color during the flatting process, and then change it with a simple fill later. But since I have a color palette set up for my Bigfoot comic, I start with the actual, proper color, saving me a step.

Don’t Get Sloppy

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

Whichever method you end up using, just try to make sure there isn’t any gapping between the colors of your flats. If the ink plates shift even a little during printing, you could end up with some sloppy looking white space peeking out from beneath your linework. So check your flats and clean up any gapping before moving on to the detailing.

Lighting , Shadow, and Texture

This part’s more fun than flatting, but it’s also all over the place with technique and tools. So I’ll just highlight some of the stuff I do to model the forms.  Still in Photoshop, I bounce around between tools to help me achieve the lighting and texture I’m looking for.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

Sometimes I’ll use a hard-edged brush at 40-50% opacity to build up things like tree bark or model the foliage, other times I’ll use the hard-edged pencil tool to carve some shadow into rocks. I think I used a custom texture brush on the ground to give it an irregular, dappled look. And in the water, I experimented this time with a combination of hard-edged and soft-edged brushes. I like the way it came out, so I’ll probably mess around with that technique again in the future.

Pencils to Final Color

So here are all the steps, animated in this gif. I approach most of my comic art in a very similar way, sometimes simpler, rarely more elaborate. But I’m always scouring the internet to find new ways to experiment. Anything that’ll help me make my comics better…or faster — optimally, both — I’m willing to try it.

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Hope you got something out of that. Again, if you’re intrigued enough to read through the whole 14-page “Heading For Fall” short (inspired by the nice fall weather we were having at the time), here’s the link to the first page. Have a great holiday! -v

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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

I’m drawing Haunted Mansion Ghosts for Inktober 2016

Every October people all over the world people celebrate “Inktober” by getting out their ink pens, brushes, and markers and attempting to do a new, ink drawing every day of the month.

Sometimes it’s random subject matter, sometimes people try to follow a theme. This year, I picked “The Haunted Mansion” as my theme and I’m trying to draw a different Disney ghost every day. Not sure if I’ll get one done every single day, but if you want to follow along (and see other Inktober drawings that other illustrators and cartoonists are doing) check out the #Inktober2016 hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.

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As I make my way through Inktober, I’ll try to keep updating this post. Each happy haunt is done the same way: pencil sketch light-boxed onto Bristol board, then inked with Sakura brush pens and Pitt artist pens. Oh! And I’m trying to draw the ghosts in the order you encounter them in the Haunted Mansion. I’ll also try to caption them with the names they’ve been given, if any (though, there seem to be conflicting views on what certain ghosts are named, depending on what source you go to). Click to embiggen. Happy Halloween! -v

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Alexander Nitrokoff

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Daisy De La Cruz / Sally Slater

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Quicksand Trio / The Hobbs’

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Abigale Pateclever / Constance Hatchaway

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The Sea Captain / Capt. Culpepper Clyne

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Medusa

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The Hanging Man

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Vampire

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Jack the Ripper

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Madame Leota

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Birthday Ghost

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Birthday Guest

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Ballroom Dancers

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Passenger in Hearse

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The Organist

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The Duelists

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The Bride

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The Caretaker

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Pop-Up Ghosts

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Skeleton Hound

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Mummy

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Hard-of=Hearing Ghost

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Lady Opera Singer

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Opera Singer Guy

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The Executioner

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The Headless Knight

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Gus (Hitchhiking Ghohst)

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Ezra (Hitchhiking Ghost)

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Phineas (Hitchhiking Ghost)

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The Hatbox Ghost

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Little Leota

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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Coming Soon: Giant Sea Monster!

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This is a quick sneak-peek of a project I’m working on with some comic-creator friends. Just an informal art-jam kind of thing. We’re supposed to wrap up by the end of the month, maybe a little while after that. But when we do, I’ll be sure to post my process on this monstrous page. I just wanted to give you a little preview because I’ve been having a lot of fun working on it and I wanted to share. -v

RunRedRun’s Hatbox Ghost Process

Hey! Since this blog is all about process – and since I just got back from Disneyworld and I still have “Small World” running through my brain – I thought I’d share this fun process post my needle-felting friend RunRedRun put up. It’s a step-by-step process on how she put together her Haunted Mansion/Hatbox Ghost felted sculpture and diorama. If you like Disney, ghosts, or needle-felting, you’ll enjoy looking at her process.

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Sleestak Vs. Gorn! Winner Eats Chaka!

So, if you’re into retro, ’60s/’70s sci-fi television at all, you might recognize these goons. The Sleestak terrorized the Marshall family in The Land of the Lost, and the Gorn famously kicked Captain Kirk’s butt around the desert in the Star Trek episode, Arena. I’ve watched rerun after rerun of these shows and these creeps still give me the heebie-jeebies. So I thought it’d be fun to do a mash-up where they battle each other.

SleestakVsGorn_VinceDorseI ran a poll on Twitter to see which monster people thought would win this scrap. 21% sided with the Sleestak, 79% went with the Gorn. I’ll embed a poll down at the bottom of this post. Maybe you guys have a different opinion on who’d beat who, but if you want to see how I put this mash-up together, you can scroll through my process below.

PencilsPencil sketch. I sketched these guys and scanned them in, put ‘em on different layers in Photoshop to arrange them, then roughed out a general idea of the background and masthead. This is the point in the illustration where I ask myself, do I really wanna blow off my current illustration job to goof around on this junk? As usual, my answer is yes.

Layer Color button in MangaStudioI pull the piece into MangaStudio to begin inking. MangaStudio has this great little button in the Layer Property palette called Layer Color that gives everything on the selected layer a specific color cast. You can choose any color, but the default is this light blue, which is perfect for what I need.

Inking in MangaStudioInks: I use the Layer Color effect on my pencil layer to give them the look of traditional comic pencils done in non-photo blue pencil. Then, on a layer above that, I start my inking. It’s a lot easier to see the inks against the light blue pencils then the regular black/dark grey pencils. If you’ve never used that Layer Color button, give it a try.

Background inksBackground Inks: Here’s a detail of the cover where you can see some of the background inks. I just scratched in some tree bark and long grass with a standard brush. To draw the fern-like leaves in the background, I first filled the space with black, then switched my “ink” color to white and painted in the leaves.

Imaginary comic pitting the Sleestak against the GornFinished Inks: So here’s the finished inks for the illustration. Those hissing sound effects were done in Photoshop. I’ll keep saying it until it changes, but the text tool in MangaStudio is subpar and most of the time I pull things into Photoshop or Illustrator to layout/modify text. I guess I could’ve hand-lettered those hisses, but I really like the look of that typeface. For those of you who’ve never heard it, here’s the sound of Sleestak hissing.

Flat colorsFlats: If you enjoy coloring books, then laying down flats is your dream job. Otherwise, it’s a spirit-draining exercise in painstaking rigidity. It’s all about filling in the shapes and staying in the lines and it has to be done so there, I did it. Ladies and gentlemen…the flats.

Modeling the backgroundModeling the background: Here’s where I get to add some texture to the environment. You can see I sprayed the ground with some speckles of black during the inking stage to give the idea of a granular, sandy surface. Now I can use a rough-edged brush to splotch in some lights and shadows on the ground, varying the opacity, layering the color, keeping it nice and random.

Modeling the figuresModeling the figures: For the figures I used a harder-edged brush to add highlights and shadows to the rubber costu— er, slick, leathery, reptile skin. I dotted in the idea of scales with some lighter and darker greens, supplementing the scales I brushed in during the inking stage. Look at that toothless, old-man mouth on that Sleestak. I can only assume, in hand-to-hand combat, they must be deadly with those horns.

More modelingMore modeling: I used the same technique on the Gorn’s skin. In this progression of images you can also see the flat-color tunic, followed by the highlight/shadow version, followed by the finished tunic with that trippy ’60s design. The Gorn were such space-hippies. I had a Great Aunt in Philly and that mini-dress thing looks like it was cut from her plastic-covered couch.

Masthead letteringFinally, the masthead for my fake comic book cover. I hand-scrawled “Sleestak” to emulate the hand-scrawled “Beware Of Sleestak” warning from the walls of the caves in the show. The Gorn text I typed after routing through some monster-type fonts on my system and finding one that fit the bill. So, now that you know how I did it, who do you think would win this fight? -v