Process: Photo to Illustration

I had the pleasure of doing a very fun Pin Up commission just recently and I thought it might be fun to show the basic process, step by step.

Unlike many of my commissions, I began right off the bat with a very clear idea of what was wanted since I was to be working from a photograph and the direction of “baking”, so the sketch process was much shorter than normal. Usually I’d play around with several poses and ideas before settling on one or two that I like, but this one came together right away.

So, with permission, here is the photo reference I was sent. It’s been modified to protect the client’s identity, but you can see how I got to the pose in the sketch.

MWPhoto

MW1

The sketch is basically the same as the photo, but with a few liberties taken for the sake of balance and composition. I use photo references often in my work, but it’s always important to remember that photos distort and flatten. If you draw an image directly from a photo, that distortion shows and the drawing will look awkward.

From the sketch I move on to the hard lines, using a simple Hard Round Brush set to pen pressure sensitivity, 10-15px. To make the process easier later on I draw the lines for different pieces of the image on different layers. All lines of skin are on one layer, apron and shoes on another, as well as hair. I knew already that the dress would be transparent, and to create that effect I would need to treat those lines differently, so they are on their own layer as well.

MW2

With the lines approved, I move on to the colors. I won’t go too much into detail with that process for this round, since I don’t have any in-between shots. That and I’ve already mentioned the color process in a few other posts. So I’ll keep it simple, here’s the first draft of the colors.

MW3

Then come a few last tweaks and revisions, and the final version.

MWFinal

Ta-dah! So like I said, this one was a lot of fun. Hopefully I’ll be doing some more of these soon =)

If you’re interested in commissions, you can always contact me for a quote or idea at Kirkpatrickm7@gmail.com

Advertisements

Kokoro Cafe Winter Banner

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??

KokoroCafeBanner

KokoroCafe

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”.

KokoroCafeKiriban

KokoroCafeHanami

KokoroCafeWinter

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.

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.