Liiiiiiines

The last few days I’ve uploaded the w.i.p.s of the pin up I was working on, today I’ll go a little more into how I did the line work for her. To be clear this is all, head to toe, created using Photoshop CS6. First off, brushes! I used only two for this piece. The sketching and hard lines are all created using just the basic preset Hard Round Pressure Size brush with the opacity set to 100% for the final hard lines and somewhere around 30% for sketching. This isn’t a perfect brush but it has worked very nicely for me so far. It feels closest to a pen to me which is always my preference.

I won’t go into much detail on the second brush since the interior coloring, but it is a pretty fun custom brush I created for myself using clouds. It has a nice soft quality but leaves some of that fun texture.

Now that that’s explained, next up comes the color picking. For my inking I tend to lean towards a soft ruddy black, but if left that way it gives the piece a flat and stark look. That can be a really nice effect, but I wanted to keep this one looking soft. So below are a couple of screen shots showing how I chose the colors, taking from the base skin and hair colors and bringing them down to a much darker color for the lines. Lighter for the skin than the hair to keep it a bit softer.

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Also… Some color tests for her hair. The blonde was a “oooh hell no.”

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Freelancing: Issue #8503

I really love to brag about my job. As far as desk jobs go, mine’s juuuuust about one of the coolest! I’m basically doing for money what I’d be doing if I had nothing better to do =)
But every job has it’s downsides, right? Freelancing is definitely a “Feast or Famine” type of gig. I always have either WAY too much to get done nownownow… or nuthin’. Zip. Zero. And then back to omgwaytoomuch aaaaaaaaah!… It’s fun though, and it’s all a matter of pacing myself I’ve found, and lots of planning ahead. I try to always have several projects of my own on the back burner; drawings, crafty stuff, new signs or product ideas, etc. That way when those slow times come around I don’t end up just sitting on my hands, I can grab one of those projects and run with it until I get more paid work.

On the flip side, the same goes for the paid work. I never seem to have just one commission at a time; it’s always 5-10 all of a sudden and I need to get ’em done quick! Unfortunately, especially for the work I do in illustration, a lot of the pacing depends on the customer. I often find myself waiting on payments (which I almost always take up front. More on that later…), commission details, references, contact information, yadayadayada. Sometimes I send previews of the work and end up waiting days to weeks, even months before I get a response! So I’ve found it’s really important to be able to switch between commissions and work easily, without getting too hung up on the one I’m working on. Multitasking! Very important.

That said, I do have a “queue”, a sort of commission line that people get on depending both on when they contact me about the commission and when they pay. While I give the current commissions at the top of the queue top priority, I also bounce around the queue line while waiting on any of the many things I talked about above, or sometimes when I hit an art block on a certain piece and need to take a short break to get my groove back.

As for what I said earlier about always taking payments upfront, I’ve been burned before, but more than that a lot of friends of mine in the same field have been burned before. It’s (really unfortunately) not too unusual for people to try to get art for “free” by ordering work, then either disappearing or simply ignoring any payment requests once the work is complete. Luckily this has never happened to me, but I have had clients that procrastinate and procrastinate and make one excuse after another about why they can’t pay yet “but next week for sure!”. Basically it just becomes very unpleasant for everyone involved as I then have to take on the role of Collector and they have to deal with getting hounded about debts. After doing this several times I decided that I had enough of a clean track record with commissions and clients that it wasn’t unreasonable to ask for all payments upfront. Now, I do understand that it’s not always easy to pay for expensive things like art all in one lump sum, so I do offer small payment options for the more expensive works. But again, in order to protect myself, the payment always has to be made in full before work is completed.

I know lots of artists that have very different policies on how they take and work through commissions, and how they accept payments, but this is the method that I’ve settled on for myself and it seems to be working out. In fact, if there are any artists/freelancers reading this, I’d love to hear your methods/thoughts on this process!

Pen Work – Mangal Singh

Another part of the Portrait series I did a while back. If I’m remembering correctly this guy took me the longest out of the four (shocker, right?). His beard alone killed about 6 pens! I think I timed myself around 45 hours from start to finish on him.

With the previous portrait I used a sort of “squiggly” technique, never really lifting my pen but using very light and even pressure to build layers of shadow, but that didn’t seem to fit this image. I started out using that style after loosely sketching the image, and you can see it in his right eye.

I quickly decided that it was too messy of a look for him; that I needed to find a way to separate the texture and shadows of his skin and his crazy-enormous-beard so instead I began using cross-hatching. On his skin, since that was the first part that I did, I was a bit looser with the type of lines I used, changing from long to short and not grouping them very well.

By the time I got to his coat I had realized that cleaner, more ordered lines were much better and I began grouping the lines into rough pairs of 4 or 5 letting them get larger and farther apart to create the gradient.

To give myself a break from the straight ordered lines of the rest of the piece I went into his beard bit by bit, section by section, as I did the rest of the shading on his coat, face and turban. To get the look of hair (and not just a crazy squiggly mess!) I used clumping. First I roughly sketched out the overall shape of the beard, then used long overlapping strokes to create smaller shapes within the beard. By going in and deepening the shadows where those strokes crossed each other it created the effect of overlapping hair.

By the time I got to his turban, you can see how much stronger and more confidant my pen strokes were, and how much more evenly the cross-hatching is used. The best part though, is that you can still see the original loose sketch underneath. It may seem sloppy to leave something like that behind, but I really enjoy being able to see the stages and growth of an image, just as much as the rendered final product. Without those mistakes this would be a fairly boring portrait, but with them it tells a story.

Turtles and Designs

There’s something really cathartic about doing very simple line/shape designs. They build on themselves very easily, so they can end up looking very complicated, but really they are just a series of tiny little line strokes with little to no active thought involved. I have pages and pages of images like this in my sketchbooks. When I’m bored and don’t really have any ideas, this is my go-to. They begin with a simple design, sometimes just a random shape and then build and build and build. Here’s one in pen of some turtles.

This was an old school project that I used the exact same technique on. The project was to illustrate a word and mine was “Trivialize”, so I did something so graphic and detailed above the word that it’s completely overwhelmed. It looked great next to all of the other projects in the class that were very focused on displaying the word.

I created a mock up of the image with pen on 11×17 paper to get the idea of the amount of detail to go into it, then I created the final image in Illustrator. It took me hours and hours to do, but I just put on music or a movie in the background and let my hands do all the work.

Kokoro Cafe – Step by Step

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.

Scarf – Final

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 =)

Scarf – Lines

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….

Scarf – Sketch

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.