A few months ago I did a banner set for the Otome gaming forum “Kokoro Cafe” which has been blowing up. Who knew girly games were so popular??
This is one of the reasons I use layers so so so much. Since just about every element of the original image above is on its own layer, it was easy to go in and make small adjustments to create several Special Occasion versions: a 1000th member kiriban, spring time “Hanami” (turning the green trees into pink sakuras) and a winter “Happy Holidays”.
The winter one was a little more involved and actually required quite a bit of re-drawing/adjustments, but it was fun and turned out pretty nice. It went live on the site just a little while ago! I didn’t have enough time to do one for this past season, but I’m also planning on doing an Autumn/Halloween version for next year. Plus, at the rate the site is growing, I’m sure I’ll have to do another kiriban soon!
If you’d like to see the beginning to end process of how I created the original image, I posted a pretty detailed description of the process a couple of months ago. Thought process, scans, digital images, even a bit about the texturing that I used for the setting! Check it out here.
The next day, our last day in Japan, went a whole lot better. We woke up absolutely determined to finish everything that we had missed our first time in Tokyo because of flight delays. Our first stop was Yokohama, an area not far outside of Tokyo. There we went up the Landmark Tower to the 69th floor, which only took about 15 seconds on the direct elevator, and the view was incredible.
When you go down the Tower you get dropped in the middle of an enormous mall that’s a little maze-like, but while we wandered around trying to find the exit we couldn’t help walking into the Pokemon store that was so loud and full of people you had to yell just to be heard, and the Ghibli store that had just about every Ghibli-themed nicknack you can imagine. We were going to stop by the Ferris Wheel that’s next to the tower as well, but we decided we didn’t really have the time and the Osaka one was much more impressive anyway. We did browse through a little flea market that was set up nearby though. It was mostly young women cleaning out the old cloths/bags/accessories from their closets, and a few people with antiques.
When we made it back to Tokyo, our first stop was Meiji Shrine since we’d missed that on our first day. The shrine is amazing, huge, beautiful and crowded! It’s located in the middle of some of the busiest areas of Tokyo and it’s a major site so there are always people there, but that makes it a great place for people watching. I WISH I’d had more time there. I could have sat and drawn all of the different types of people in that crowd for hours. But we did take lots of photos.
I was taking a photo of the shrine entrance, but when I looked closer I saw that I had caught these two in the side frame and it was so much better then the picture I was trying to take. It’s a little boy and his mom dressed up in traditional dress for a special occasion.
We were also so amazingly lucky; there were two weddings going on at the shrine while we were there. This first photo is of the later wedding, since they were still preparing and taking photos.
Ant then this photo is of the first wedding to take place, as the bride and groom had their wedding photos taken just before the ceremony began. (Is it just me, or is the groom making a really funny face? lol)
While we waited for the wedding procession to begin, we walked into the inner grounds and photographed some of the people walking around. There were kids everywhere, dressed up in their finest.
Then, just as we were about to leave, the wedding processional began. Everyone in the square made a path for them to walk through to the main building.
And the wedding party bringing up the rear (one of the girls got a little distracted by something interesting on the ground…)
And then they were gone! The crowd went right back to being crowded and we headed to the exit to snap one last photo of the all the people in the shrine.
Just a few minute’s walk out to get out of the forests surrounding Meiji Shrine (and a short pit-stop for beef bowls and ice cream), and we popped out into Harajuku. You know that awful Gwen Stephanie song, Harajuku Girls? Yep, that’s the place. Right next to Meiji Shrine, there’s one of the craziest shopping districts you’ll ever see.
We walked around there for a little bit before heading off again, this time for Ikebukuro (another crazy entertainment/shopping district) to try just ONE last time to see the movie we had tried and failed to see three times now. We got to Ikebukuro with no problems, since it’s just a few stops away from Harajuku, but once there we realized just how difficult it was going to be to find the cinema with the incredibly vague directions google had given us. It was like walking into a mini Shibuya… but somehow, I’m still shocked, we actually managed to find our way to the right cinema (there were several). It was tucked away down one of the streets and on the 6th floor of an arcade. Our fourth try finally worked out and we walked into the movie as the previews began, and I have to say, it was SO worth it!! We saw Rurouni Kenshin (るろうに剣心) and I’ve never been a big fan of Japanese cinema before, but this movie completely changed my mind. I would have watched it twice if I could. The funny thing is, everyone was almost completely silent during the whole film, and even stayed (still completely silent!) until after the credits and the light came on. I normally do that because I like to wait for the crowd to move out, and so many movies have extra clips at the end nowadays… but I’ve never been in a theatre where every single person stays. 0_0
By the time we got out of the movie it was getting a little late, so we used the rest of our time to do a little last minute shopping/browsing around Ikebukuro. When the stores closed around 9 we swung by Hamamatsuchou to see Tokyo Tower. We didn’t have time to go up it, but the light show going on around it was worth the trip. I wish I had a photo but my camera just couldn’t handle the night shot. Maybe if I’d had a tripod, but it just turned out an orangey-yellow blob. I did at least manage to get one last photo of the shrine next to the tower. The Shrine is called Zojoji and features rows of small statues called Jizoubosatsu (地蔵菩薩 – じぞうぼさつ). They represent the souls of unborn/still born children and those wishing to pay their respects dress the statues in warm knits and bibs, and place windmills, candy and small toys around the bases.
I’m playing around with new themes today since the one I’m using right now isn’t working out. The lack of customizable options on WordPress.com is a little frustrating… but I’m still trying to figure it all out so I guess we’ll see what I can come up with. What I really need is a different theme like the one I’ve had up for the past few weeks that displays previously posted images in a sidebar, so they don’t get lost as soon as something new is posted!
Okay, enough whining… here’s one of the only woodblocks I ever attempted. The image was based off of a sketch that I did of one of my classmates while he was working on carving out his own woodblock (I have sketchbooks full of nothing but old classmates and professors). Unfortunately I messed up by jumping right into the carving process without really planning ahead. When I finished carving and printed it for the first time I realized not only was the clock backwards, but none of the shadows made any sense! A little adjustment fixed the clock (mostly) but there was no fixing the shadows.
Oh well, I still like the figure at least. He looks like an evil genius coming up with evil plans.
This was a commissioned image especially for Kokoro Cafe, an Otome gaming forum. The owner of the website approached me to do a commission in the same style as my “Scarf” image, and requested that I illustrate two similar characters on a date outside of a cute and romantic european-style cafe with the name “Kokoro Cafe” above them. So I started out with a rough sketch thumbnail…
The important part was to rough out the composition in a space that would fit the dimensions needed for the piece, as well as to get a good idea of what the scene would consist of. When I was happy with it I scanned the thumbnail onto my computer and into Photoshop (I like to do super rough thumbnail work in my sketchbook… it’s just easier to be messy I guess), then I started rearranging the bits and pieces to fit into the exact dimensions.
I miss-judged the dimensions in my thumbnail just a bit! So I added a few extra details to stretch the composition out; another tree, longer window display, two more tables, as well as a few little details just for fun. I also cleared up some of the sketch lines. You can really see it on the guy-formerly a man shaped blob, now with a winning smile. And a little cup’o tea.
Next comes the lines. As things clear up I go back into the sketch a few more times and add or subtract details. I also moved a few things around, like the tree. After seeing the clean lines it was obviously way too close to the door. A few more little tweaks and adjustments, as well as cropping the right edge a bit to help the composition out, and finally it’s time for some color.
This is the “Ugly Stage”. It looks finished enough to be complete, but the colors are all flat and boring. Also, what you can’t see in this are all of the color adjustments I went through to get to this point. The first color version had the wall baby blue… Don’t judge, I thought it could be cute… It’s also important to note that there are probably about 20-25 different layers for the colors. It makes adjusting and tweaking color/hue/saturation/texture/everything! so much easier! Someone once told me “You should never need more than three layers MAX”, but I completely and strongly disagree. The Layers function is one of the most useful tools in photoshop, hands down, and I use it shamelessly. The final image probably has around 50 layers.
So that brings me to the final image! All of the colors in the previous image are exactly the same in this image. The only difference are shadow, gradient and texture layers over them. I decided to keep it clean and as clear as possible because of the small size of it’s display (which you can see for yourself here), so while I normally would have added a lot more light and shadow I stuck to only some super basic shadows in the trees and plant. I also added two simple textures to the wall and concrete. The brick was one that I pulled off of Deviantart‘s Resource Stock a long time ago (I think), and the concrete texture is actually high resolution bread overlayed with a super low opacity… So then I just added in a bit of a gradient and shine to the window to make it look more windowy and voila! All done =)
I hope that wasn’t too obscenely long. For my scarf image I uploaded each image one by one, but I thought for this one it was better to see the whole thing together. Oh! and don’t forget, you can click on the images to view them full size.
While inking is the most time consuming part of each piece, coloring is almost always the most difficult for me. I struggled for a long time getting any kind of cohesive color palette into my work. At first my colors were all over the map; everything clashed with everything… It was pretty bad, and I definitely managed to destroy some nice drawings for the sake of color practice, but I’ve come a long way since then because I was willing to ruin some. My coloring still needs a lot of work, but little by little I notice certain tones and techniques starting to “click” and make sense.
So for the colors of this piece I chose muted tones to give it a softer feel. I grayed out the blue of the sky to give it that cool snowy feeling without having to add any clouds (that’s another technique I need to work on: non-cheese ball clouds…). I also decided to leave the white of the “paper” as the snow. Using the white like that was something I picked up from my watercolor professor Harry Heil. I love the way it breaks down the walls of a drawing or painting. I’m not a big fan of image framing (not that I don’t still use it), it just feels too… stamped.
Oh! I almost forgot to talk about where the idea for this one same from. I was watching a really funny Korean movie called “Going by the Book” (it’s on Netflix!) and there was a scene in which a girl with a ridiculously large scarf shares it with the man sitting next to her. It was such a cute image, I screen captured it and sketched out a little thumbnail as soon as I saw it. The image I came up with looks nothing at all like the image in the movie, but that’s where the original inspiration came from.
**You get extra Geek points if you know where that scarf is from!! It was just so long… I had to =)
Inking (especially digitally, like this one) is always the most time consuming part of any piece for me. Each line has to be just right. I keep my left hand on CTRL-Z while I draw with my right so that I can quickly draw and delete, draw and delete, draw and delete… It gets to be second nature while drawing, I’ve actually caught myself reaching for CTRL-Z while sketching in my sketchbook… The average line in each of my drawings has been redrawn at least 3-4 times. If I’m really having a hard time on a certain area, I may go back into the sketch and either clear that area up or come up with something else all together. In fact, I did just that in several places in this image. It’s most obvious in the girl’s feet. I decided while inking that I didn’t like what I had sketched so I went back to that layer, erased what I had drawn and came up with a new design that was simpler and looked a lot better.
I constantly have to remind myself not to get too married to a sketch, or even to already inked lines. No matter how good it looks, it can always get better and going back into an image can save it!
I also realized at this point that I had no idea how I wanted to color it….
When I illustrate an image I do a lot of “pre-sketching” in my head; creating the characters, poses, environment in a rough idea form before ever putting pencil to paper (or in this case pen to tablet). When I do begin sketching it’s usually with a good idea of exactly where I’m going, but there are always lots of changes and tweaks that happen during this stage. I also use lots of photo references, especially for large props like that bench. I wanted to use a bench that was a little vintage and feminine looking, so I googled “bus bench” and browsed through the images for a while picking out photos of benches that fit the style I was looking for. Eventually I found one that looked nearly exactly like what I wanted, I just added in a little style from some of the other images I liked. I also did a little research on bus stop signs, since again I was looking for something that fit the style of the image.
With the props down, the next step was drawing in the characters to fit. Like I said, I already had a good idea of who/what/where but to make sketching and adjusting that much easier I did both characters on their own layer. I sketched them very loosely, then played around with their placement a bit. I decided that I wanted to make the guy look as awkward as possible, so I put him close to the edge, facing away from the girl and then stiffened his posture and gave him a bit of a panicked look. The girl I wanted to a bit more comfortable, so she is placed closer to the middle of the bench, leaning towards the guy just a bit, but still with a stiff posture. With the characters placed, I drew in the rest of the ridiculously long scarf, added a quick tree to balance it out a bit and add a wintry feel, and then detailed their clothing a bit more. Done! Next up: Linework.