Sunday, February 12, 2012


In the past couple of weeks, I've been asked a couple of times about my process of making a finished piece. I made the above image of my son Logan that I'm going to use for his Valentine's Day Cards for his class party this week, so I thought it'd be a good, simple drawing to show process on.
I start with a pencil drawing... In this case, I should say "pencil" drawing, with the quotes, as I used digital pencils. I made this in a program called Sketchbook Pro. It's not quite the same as doing pencils with actual pencil and paper, but there are other advantages to it as well. I like that there are layers to the program, so I can rough out the "stick and bubble" drawing, then do the final pencils on another layer on top of that and erase the rough layer, leaving me with a lot cleaner pencil drawing to work with.

Next, I print out the pencil drawing, and tape it to my bristol. I did this on 9 x 12 Strathmore bristol, and put it on my light table. I inked with a variety of brush pens and tech pens for a variety of line weights. For those of you who only know about inking from Kevin Smith movies, it's much more than simply tracing pencils. It's where the line weight is added and the drawing is enhanced. I'm not really an inker by trade and am still working on that as part of my skill set, but I can definitely see a big difference between the pencil and ink stage... so can my son Logan, and in this case, that's important. Seen above is the finished inks as they were scanned into my computer.

And this is the finished inks after they have been cleaned up. I take the scan into PhotoShop where I adjust the levels and sharpness, then I set to cleaning up the drawing. I use the paintbrush tool to clean up any stray marks made by the scanner or my wandering pen. I also fill in any spots that are supposed to be black that may have been missed or showing as white. This stage is where I make it a true black and white drawing.

When the inks are ready to go, I start coloring. Many artists color in PhotoShop, as do I from time to time. Mostly though, I use vector based software to color my work. I know that many cartoonists dislike vector work, as it's not as intuitive as they find photoshop and it's generally tougher to use gradients, color variations, etc. I find that it not only suits my style of largely flat colors and shading, but it was a program that, for whatever reason, I took to very naturally. Programs like Adobe Illustrator just click and make sense to me, much more than coloring in Photoshop... but that's just me.

I have lately been coloring in another vector based program called Inkscape, that is open-source vector software. I tend to do colors in 2 stages. First up, I do that flat colors, seen above.

And next, I add shading. I put the shadows on their own layer, so I can edit it easier. I tend to use a gray-blue tone set on "Multiply" so it becomes a natural shade to whatever color is underneath it, and so the shadows are consistent throughout.

I hope this was interesting and useful to those of you who are interested... please feel free to ask questions and always keep in mind that this is not a definitive method. There's no one way to do anything and what works for me may not be good for you, but still I think there's a value in seeing how different artists and illustrators do things, so I like sharing my process from time to time.

Thanks for checking in and I hope you enjoyed seeing how I work

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