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Illustration Demonstration - Conan

Updated on August 29, 2008

This lens was created to demonstrate how I typically produce images. I have a cartoony style and I use this process primarily for T-shirt designs. This is not the only way to create images of course; it is simply my approach.

I hope you find it helpful.

Make a rough sketch

I started out with a rough sketch. I used an HB pencil an I work on 14 x 17 inch smooth bristol board. It's important to stay loose at this stage; the polish comes later.

Loosen Up!

When drawing the rough sketch, I resisted the urge to render it tightly. I forced myself to do this by the way I held my pencil. I used broad, fast strokes in the beginning as the idea half-formed in my head took shape on the paper.

Erase the rough sketch

The rough sketch is typically too rough to be a guide for ink. To clean it up I erased it so that I can faintly see the sketch as a guide for a tighter rendering. You can also accomplish this by using a light table to trace your rough sketch onto a clean sheet of paper.

Make a tighter rendering

Using the faint guides, I redrew the image more carefully to establish detail and style. I held the pencil more traditionally at this stage.

Time lapse video of penciling process

This is a video by another artist that uses the same penciling process I do. Many people start drawing too tightly and become so in love with their well formed marks that they are afraid to change them.

This video shows how to start with a rough drawing and work to a polished one.

Start inking

I inked the outlines first and worked my way in. I was careful to move the paper around in order to push the brush strokes away from my body instead of pulling the brush toward me. This helped me keep a smooth line that I could more easily control.

Gaining control

Rendering tightly requires a grip different than the one used for loose drawing. When drawing the detail and inking, I used a more traditional grip.

Add spotting blacks

Once I had the basic linework fleshed out in ink, I added the dark shadows, called "spotting blacks."

Add ink to straight edges

The comment I most get from people when they talk of their lack of artistic talent is, "I can't even draw a straight line."

Let me divulge an ancient artistic secret: Artists use rulers to draw straight lines. Here I used one with a sharpie marker to ink the sword.

Contrast the line weights

I needed more contrast between the lines that define the detail and those that establish the form. Since my sharpie was already out, used it to strenghthen the line weights around the body and head. I then used a # 1 round brush to add some detail and shadow around the face and other parts of the drawing.

Add final details and scan

To finish the inking, I used bleed proof white and a #1 round brush to add highlights to the hair and lift out white highlights to Conan's fur trunks.

I scanned the image as line art at 600 DPI. I then converted the image to grayscale and downsized it to what size I usually work with for T-shirt art which is 188 DPI. This is just a habit for me, but if it where for print I would work at 300 DPI.

Setting up your Photoshop file

After the image is scanned I placed the line work on its own layer in Photoshop. I then turned the layer attribute to "multiply" (see image below.) Since I wanted to keep my line work pristine, I colored in underneath the image in layers. Scroll down to the bottom if you would like to see what the final layer setup looks like.

Block in color

In photoshop, I blocked in the basic color of the drawing. I separated each color into its own layer to make it easy to adjust a color if I needed to.

Add shadows

Using a Wacom, which is a pressure sensitive digital brush that you use like a pen, I brushed in my shadows. Like before, I kept colors on different layers to make editing easier.

Add highlights

Using the Wacom, I brushed in some highlights.

Add white highlights

Using the wacom, I added white highlights and made a few corrections to the color blocking of the sword.

Add some design elements

Conan is a dark character so I placed him on a black background with an arbitrary shape that I simply thought looked good.

Finishing touch

To make Conan interact with the background a little, I added the shadow. I ran out of ideas to make the image better so I abandoned it.

Final Photoshop file

I prepared my Photoshop file a certain way because I wanted to preserve the ability to make changes. If I put the shadow and hightlights on the same layer it would be difficult for me to edit them. This is preference though and you may find that you like managing your layers differently.

Supply list

I list these supplies in the illustration lens also, but for ease of use, I'll list them here. I'm assuming you have a pencil and eraser.

Speedball 2-Ounce India Ink, Super Black
Speedball 2-Ounce India Ink, Super Black

There are other brands of India Ink. Just find the one you like best, and make sure it's waterproof ink.

Winsor & Newton University Series 860 Script Short Handle Brush, Size 2
Winsor & Newton University Series 860 Script Short Handle Brush, Size 2

In addition to a size 2 brush, try other sizes as well. I'd suggest getting sizes 1 through 4.


Helpful books

The Art Of Comic-Book Inking 2nd Edition
The Art Of Comic-Book Inking 2nd Edition

This book has lots of examples from different artists and comes with sample pages that are worth the cover price alone.

Draw the Looney Tunes
Draw the Looney Tunes

Unlike most cartooning books which only give "recipies" for characters, this book will give you the underlying approach to create your own characters.



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