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 Wins Medal

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Just a quick note to let you know that Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Crossing Paths has been honored with another award! This time we earned a Bronze Medal in the category of Graphic Novel, Humor in the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

There’s a ceremony in New York that I may be too swamped with work to attend, but I hear they’re going to send me my medal. An actual medal. That oughta be fun. Congratulations to all the other medalists.

In other news, I’m working on a few projects right now so I hope to have some “process” to post on this news & process blog soon. -v

Kickstarter Commissions Rolling Right Along

Hey everybody. Just a quick one this time. Along with everything else that’s going on, I’m diligently working on the commissions that certain backers of my Kickstarter get. I want to get them finished in time to ship them with the books (which should arrive in the next couple months). So, While I don’t have a lot of time to make process posts, here’s a quick rundown of the latest one I did.

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It’s Scout. One of the stars of my book. And, as usual, he’s nervous about something. The fact that he’s quick-to-panic is a big part of his personality and character. And that’s exactly what this particular backer wanted. A good, old-fashioned, scared Scout.

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So here we go. Pencils on Bristol Board.

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I’m using those Sakura Pigma brush pens I’ve been fiddling around with lately. Really like the control and variable-width line I get with those.

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All done inking. Time for color.

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He may seem white, surrounded by all that color in the comic, but Scout’s not white. He’s kind of a very light cream color with warm brown markings. I’m using a Utrecht marker I like for the base color, but most of this will be finished with Copic Markers.

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So there’s Scout’s markings and shadows, done with Copic Sketch Markers. I like those brush tips. Not much left to do here….color in the mouth area, text, and grass.

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Not sure my phone camera captures color very accurately, but here’s Scout — all finished and ready to run from trouble. When I start sending out Untold Tales of Bigfoot: Crossing Paths to backers in a couple months, he’ll be packed into the envelope with the book. So. Another one down. But I have more to go. Better get to work. -v

Untold Tales of Bigfoot/Star Wars Mash-Up Commision

Just finished up a commission for a client who wanted me to mix Star Wars with some characters from my Untold Tales of Bigfoot comic – and I had a blast! Here’s the basic brief: B/W illustration, Princess Leia’s escaping from Jabba’s palace with Chewbacca and Han Solo. But in this case, Chewbacca’s being played by my Bigfoot character, and Han is Scout… and he’s frozen in carbonite. A brilliant idea and I was happy to work on it.

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Aside from the idea being crazy fun, another reason I was excited to work on this was because I wanted to try out some new brushes I recently picked up. Of course I used my Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens. They’re an old stand-by that are part of my regular workflow. But I also tried these Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens. I saw them in an art store recently and thought I’d give ’em a try.

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But before we get to the inking, I had to come up with a composition. I sketched this pretty quickly (the scene kind of writes itself) and got approval.

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Luckily, the client trusted me even though all I’d sent him was this chicken scratch. And when I had a chance to take a second look at it, I thought it might be a stronger piece if I centered the whole composition. So I lightboxed the doodle and penciled something a little more polished.

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The sketch line’s a little light right now and hard to see, but it’ll all be much clearer when I slap some ink down on it. Time to get out those new pens!

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You can see these Pigma’s come in 3 sizes, Fine, Medium, and Bold. The tips are flexible and have a great feel to them. The ink is supposed to be archival and waterproof. And – as you’ll see later in the post – they held up very well to toning with Copic Markers and I didn’t even have to wait overnight to make sure the ink was dry.

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In this image where I’m inking Leia’s leg, I’m using the Fine tip Pigma. I wasn’t sure what kind of line it would lay down (this being my first time using the brushes), and I was nervous about making it too thick. As it turns out, I went back over the fine line with the Medium Pigma and got a good weight with a nice variation.

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One of the things you can tell up close is that I never learned to hold a pencil correctly. Busted. But you can also see that I’m using the Medium Pigma for some medium detail work. I think I switched to the Bold Pigma soon after this when I felt more confident with the way the ink was laying down. All three brush tips have great control and a nice, bouncy feel.

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The inks aren’t finished yet in this image above (still have to add Bigfoot’s hatching) but you get a pretty good idea of the line weights achievable with these three Pigma brushes. Because Leia’s face was pretty tiny (about the size of a nickel on the paper) I wasn’t sure I could ink her features with the fine brush without screwing it up, so I opted for one of the Pitt tech pens. It gives you a slightly less organic line, but it’s better than a giant black smudge where her nose should be.

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The original commission was for linework only. Just black inks. But as I was working on it, I saw some opportunity to drop in some accents with grey Copic Markers. Nothing crazy, just a little toning here and there. I checked with the client and got the okay. Scans really show the difference between the cool greys of the stone wall and the warm greys in the skin.

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And like I said, I went in with the Copics no more than an hour after I’d finished the last ink line and I didn’t get a single smudge or smear. So Sakura Pigma, as far as I can tell, delivers on their promise to be waterproof. Are they archival? Only time will tell. But if you’re looking to experiment with a new brush pen, I’d definitely give the Pigmas a try. -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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My Watson Guest Strip

Looks like my Bigfoot & Scout characters had some new visitors to their neck of the woods! That’s Fudgey and his dog Watson, the main characters in the online comic Watson, created by cartoonist, family man and notorious nutball, Jim Horwitz.Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorseJim came to me a while ago and asked if I’d be interested in collaborating on a Watson guest strip. Look at that winning smile. How could I say no?  Watson_JimBioNot only is Jim a funny, talented cartoonist, he’s also a nice guy with a high-energy personality and some impressive writing chops. In fact, he wrote that last sentence. Here’s a recent Watson strip that’s a good example of Jim’s style.Watson_SimonSays

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So, Jim had an idea for a gag where Watson and Fudgey meet Bigfoot and Scout, who are turning a decent buck selling Bigfoot merchandise. Jim had a script all written out, so I roughed out a first draft.Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorse

I sketched directly in MangaStudio (ClipStudio Paint) this time. No pencil or paper, just digital. Jim hated it. Well, maybe hate is a strong word.  But he did want some changes. He suggested I open up the space a little more, create some breathing room between the characters. Turned out to be a good note because, even though I was shooting for BIG and BOLD, the text Jim wrote wouldn’t have fit in my original composition. So I took another pass at the composition.Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorseI’ll admit…I didn’t run this second draft by Jim because I was afraid he’d have more changes and, frankly, I did not have time for those kind of shenanigans. But I was pretty confident I nailed the aesthetic he was looking for (hope so, anyway). I jumped into to the inking phase.

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Inks were done in MS with a standard brush. I didn’t try to match Jim’s style — a dynamic mix of stylized blocks of borderless color and lines so thick and heavy you could use them to beat someone unconscious. I just went with my standard style, hoping it would do Jim’s idea justice.

Jim and I bounced around a few different ideas for the color. But here’s the thing: Jim and I make different kinds of comics. His strip is punchy and gag-based and often leans toward bright, bold RGB colors while my long-form comic benefits from the laid-back, subtler CMYK mixes. So we compromised…Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorse

I laid down my flat colors in MS, but went a little lighter and brighter than I normally would. Afterward, I exported the file, converted to RGB and used Photoshop adjustment layers to brighten and saturate the colors even further. In the end, what I sent to Jim wasn’t quite as bubbly as his usual strips, nor was it as mellow as my usual color palette. A decent, middle-ground.

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Here’s a close-up of some of the modeling I did on the trees and figures. All done in MangaStudio. Jim’s strip is very sharp and crisp, but since this was my guest strip I decided to throw all that out the window and try something different. I used soft, textured brushes to model the trees, and built up the highlights on Bigfoot’s fur with some rough-edged, low-opacity brushes to give him a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling. Did Jim like it? I don’t know. But what’s he gonna do? Recolor it? With his deadlines? I’d like to see him try.Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorseIn case it’s of any interest, here’s what my colors look like without the ink lines.

And, finally, here’s a mock-up of what the strip looks like with all the text, full color and with the official Watson border around it. Not too bad.  Watson_UntoldTalesofBigfoot_GuestStrip_VinceDorseI had a great time working on this guest strip with Jim, so big thanks to him for giving me the opportunity! Why not visit the Watson site , support Watson on Facebook, and browse through the archives where Jim celebrates the subtle moments in life and pokes some lighthearted fun at politics, Hollywood, technology, pop-culture, and other cartoonists. -v

Untold Tales of Bigfoot, Page 62 process

page 62 from Untold Tales of Bigfoot, process stepsHappy New Year! There’s a few more of you following the blog this week, so I thought I’d dig around and see if I had anything to post. I found these images from a comic page I did a couple years ago, and I thought I’d break them down in a little more detail.page 62 from Untold Tales of Bigfoot, process stepsRoughs: These are the roughs. The very rough roughs. This stuff was scribbled on napkins, in sketchbooks, and on printer paper when I was trying to figure out what the page was going to be about. I was still hammering out the story here, so a lot of these panels are just free-floating thoughts that I scanned and rearranged in Photoshop.page 62 from Untold Tales of Bigfoot, process stepsPencils: After I got the images in the order I wanted, I printed it out and put it on a lightbox to trace a more polished version. Why bother? Because I really like working with pencil on paper. I know I could’ve imported it into MangaStudio (and these days, I might…depending on time), but I like the control and tactile feel of pencil on paper. Once the roughs were tightened up, I scanned them in.page 62 from Untold Tales of Bigfoot, process stepsInks: Okay, here’s a minor shocker. These inks weren’t done in MangaStudio or even Photoshop. In fact, most of the inks from Untold Tales of Bigfoot were done with a custom brush I made in Corel Painter. Yeah. It’s rare that I find anyone who inks in Painter (and you should see the way people screw up their faces into a grimace when I admit UTOB was inked in Painter) but the truth is, with a little tweaking and time, you can build the brush you want with almost any decent software program. I still prefer the look of the line in Painter to what I’ve turned out in MangaStudio, but I’m always working toward making my lines better. So maybe MangaStudio will be my preferred inking program eventually. And nobody said I couldn’t have two favorites.
page 62 from Untold Tales of Bigfoot, process stepsScript change: You can see the difference in the staging and dialogue between my roughs and the finished inks. That’s because I wrote all these pages as I was drawing them, and the story stayed pretty fluid up until the last minute. In this case, originally, I was going to lead into a page about Bigfoot’s ever-growing vocabulary. Interesting plot stuff, sure, but I felt like the story needed a little jump. So, instead of the language thing, I came up with a deadly peril for the guys to face on the very next page, and ended up changing the pencils to set that up. (If you want to see why Bigfoot was being so cautious, here’s the next page)page 62 from Untold Tales of Bigfoot, process stepsFinished colors: As usual, I colored the page in Photoshop. With this comic, I just used flat, hard-edged brushes. No blends or gradients. It’s the look I wanted. Simple and retro. As for how I laid down that color — everybody does this differently, so you can find a way that suits you best, but I usually set it up with the character flats/highlights on two layers above the background flats/highlights. It just gives me more wiggle room to make changes. And I’m always making changes straight up until upload day.page 62 from Untold Tales of Bigfoot, process stepsOkay, that’s it!  Hope 2016 is a good one for you! -v

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.

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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.

Writing Process: How A One-Page Throwaway Gag Became A 12-Page Supporting Character.

Hey, weird for me to do a process post on writing, but this is a case where reader feedback helped me see some opportunities for my characters, so I thought it’d be fun to share. First of all, here’s some panels from page 30 of Untold Tales of Bigfoot.
UTOB page 30When this posted, I introduced this nameless, one-off squirrel character who startles Scout. His appearance lasted only four panels. A quick gag and he’s out. That’s all I needed him for.
UTOB page 30But I got a flood of comments and emails from readers telling me how much they enjoyed the squirrel and they wanted him back. Well, you’re outta’ luck, I thought, because he ain’t comin’ back! I had the whole story outlined in my head and, frankly, the squirrel was done.

UTOB SquirrelBut it stuck in the back of my brain for months. And every once in a while someone would ask “is the squirrel coming back soon?” It got me thinking. Maybe I should take another look at the story and see if there were any spots that might benefit from bringing the squirrel back. I found one.
UTOB page 60Now I had a running gag. Scout flips out every time the squirrel sneaks up on him. But now that the squirrel’s back, what do I do with him? Turns out, at this point in the story, Scout needs a sounding board for some of his character development. He’s growing as a character and his interactions with the squirrel are a great way to show that.UTOB page 62Bringing the squirrel back also provides some opportunities for comedic and dramatic moments that I hadn’t considered previously.
UTOB page 65The whole experience reminded me that, no matter how set you are on your story, there’s nothing wrong with taking another look at it with fresh eyes every now and then. And sometimes other people can see things that you’re too wrapped up to notice. Now that I’m readying the comic for print, I’ve been adding a page or two, here and there, to help flesh out the story. I’d be remiss if I didn’t toss in a few more panels of a certain, very popular rodent.

UTOB Scout and SquirrelThat’s it. Next time I’ll be back to breaking down some art process. -v

Untold Tales of Bigfoot Nominated for Second Reuben Award!

Bigfoot and Scout piggyback(Finally posting this blurb so the news links on my sites have something to connect to). Amazingly, Untold Tales of Bigfoot was just nominated a second time for the National Cartoonists Society 2014 Silver Reuben Award for Best Online Comic (Long-Form). As you may recall, Bigfoot, Scout, and I won this award back in 2012, so this second nomination just a couple years later comes as a very welcome, if mindblowing, surprise.

Once again, I’m nominated alongside some very talented people in the category: Mike Norton’s Battlepug, and Minna Sundberg ’s Stand Still, Stay Silent. Will I win this year? Doesn’t matter. It’s a huge honor for me to be nominated and I’m genuinely thrilled to be considered.

For all the other nominees in all the other categories, check this link. The Reuben Awards Banquet takes place this May in Washington, D.C. The Reuben Awards — often described as “the Oscars of Cartooning”  — have been held annually for the past 69 years with awards going to creators in all branches of the cartooning industry from newspaper strips, to comic books to animation, and webcomics. -v