Monday, December 24, 2012

Santa Claus, The Yeti And The Really Bad Decision Step By Step

Now that my 2012 Xmas Card Slash Book is finally finished I thought I'd post a step by step look at how I work for the two or three people out there who may be interested.

It all starts with a sketch of course. 

Sometimes I sketch with pen and paper, sometimes I sketch right on the screen in Photoshop. This was a Photoshop sketch. The entire book was created in Photoshop, by the way (with the exception of the title logo and the wall graphics, which were done in InDesign).


Once the sketch was done I typeset the text. That's a whole lot of words! Probably too many for a kid's book, but hey, I had a lot of speaking parts.


Once I had everything sketched out I added a background. This blue gray will be the color of the floor.

Next I added the wall color on a separate layer. I use a lot of layers in these drawings. For example, this particular page uses 66 different layers. And that's not even a record!

If you place elements on different layers it makes it much easier to edit them later when you inevitably want to change something. Some advice though-- take the time to label your layers in an orderly manner. It's a lot easier to figure out what's what if your layers are named "santa body" and "santa outlines" rather than "layer 79" and "lay223er."

I used a scratchy brush to give the wall a painterly texture.


It might seem odd to start drawing the background first, but it helps me by giving me an environment into which to place the characters. It's a lot easier to move the characters to fit the background rather than the other way around.


Next I added some floor molding on another layer, complete with shading and a highlight at the top.

Then I added some tile lines to the floor. I added dark lines on one layer, then some corresponding lighter lines on another. See, already the floor's got some depth to it.

Next I added a shadow on the floor, on another layer of course. With the shadow on its own layer I could adjust its opacity until I thought it looked about right.

Now that the background was laid out I started in on the characters. For the characters I like to organize the layers even further. I place all of a character's layers in a folder in Photoshop. That keeps them separate from one another, and once they're in a folder it makes it really easy to move a character around or shrink and enlarge them if necessary.

First up was Decapitator-Of-Foes, Santa's Head Elf. I started him by blocking out the basic shape and colors of his body and added shading.

Usually when I draw a character I draw the outline first and then add the color, much like a comic or coloring book. Most storybooks have a painterly look to them though, so to recreate that style I had to work the opposite of the way I'm used to, drawing the color first and then adding details and a few outlines. I'm not used to working that way and it takes some time to get used to it.


When I first started drawing these characters I was putting the head, torso and legs on separate layers. After a while I realized all that was doing was increasing the file size. I could safely place the entire body on one layer.


Once the body was all blocked out, I added his left arm on a layer. Keeping the arm separate like this makes it easier to add shading.

Next I added the white trim on his jacket and hat.

When that was done I added the various details to him, such as eyes, mouth and a few select outlines. He's finally starting to look like himself here.

Next I added some red highlights to his nose, ears and cheeks. It's always amazing to me how just a little dash of red can add a ton of life to a character.

Ah, but we're not done yet! Decapitator-Of-Foes was blending into the background a bit too much, so I added a white outline around him (on a layer) to make him pop.

He kind of looked like he was floating though, so I added a shadow layer beneath him. I also added a subtle reflection of him on the floor, to indicate it's shiny and glossy.

Next up was Santa. I blocked in his colors and added shading.

Then I added the white trim to his jacket on its own layer and shaded it as well.

Next I added his details and selected outlines on another layer. Santa always has two hairs in the front and one in back. He also always has three dots on each side of his head. I guess they're liver spots.

Then Santa gets some red on his nose and ears to give him some life. As usual I add the red on a layer and then play with the opacity until I think it looks right.

Next I added a white outline around Santa to separate him from the background.

And finally I added a shadow and reflection under his feet. All these elements were added on separate layers of course.

Next up was New Mrs. Claus. I blocked in her basic color. 

You might note that I deviated from her sketch a bit here, slanting her right leg outward to give her a more alluring pose.

Then I added the front of her hairdo on a layer. I did this so it would be easier to shade or edit, without messing up her face below.

Next I added the back portion of her hairdo on a lower layer. Same story, separate layer to make editing easier.

Of course New Mrs. Claus is a platinum blonde.

I then added the white trim to her dress, hat and boots.

Next I added her details and select outlines.

Note that for all the characters their detail lines are a darker version of the color around them. For example, New Mrs. Claus' finger lines are a darker version of the flesh color of her hands. Coloring the lines like this instead of making them plain black ads some visual interest and style to the characters.

Her hair looked like it needed something else, so I added a thin outline around the outer edge. I thought about adding some individual strand lines to her hair, but it ended up looking way to busy so I nixed that plan.

Next I added an outline around her.

And a shadow and reflection, like I did with the other two characters.

Next I tacked the two foreground Elves. I called an audible and decided that instead of them just standing there, they'd now be sitting at a console eavesdropping on the conversation and looking worried.

So of course first I blocked in their colors.

Then added the white trim on their suits.

Then I added their details. I tried to give the various Elves some subtle differences (mostly in their noses & mouths) so they don't all look like clones.

Thinking that all Elves look the same is racist!

Next I added the red to their noses, ears and cheeks.

And they got white outlines like everyone else.

I added a couple of chairs behind them next. Nothing fancy, just a couple of black shapes, as their bodies would be covering most of them.

Again, all of these elements are on their own separate layers.

Next I added the console at which the two Elves are sitting. I drew the basic shape on a layer and then added molding and shading to it.

I added some panel lines to the console. Same process as the tile lines on the floor, several hundred steps ago.

Then I added various objects to the top of the console. Apparently there's a Starbucks even at the North Pole!

The paper at the left really does say something, but I doubt it's readable. For the record it says: 

Monthly Incident Report
December 2012
North Pole Distribution Complex

• 12/02
Altercation in lunch room

• 12/05
Assault charge on Masher-Of-Skulls (the name of one of the Elves, no doubt)

• 12/06
Domestic disturbance in Main Living Complex (perhaps all is not as rosy as it seems between Santa and New Mrs. Claus?)

• 12/08
Breaking and entering Gift Complex

• 12/11
Drunk and disorderly report Elf Dormitory

I felt that the foreground Elves were drawing too much attention to themselves, when your attention should be focused on the three characters in the background (like you can pull your attention away from New Mrs. Claus!). So I added a shadow to them and their console to knock them back some.

Next I added a blue electronic glow to their faces, as if they're sitting in front computer monitors. My intention was that what we're seeing here is the top of a bank of monitors and they're stacking things on top of it. I intended for there to be monitors and a desk below, out of our sight. Now that I look at it though I don't think it reads that way at all. It just looks like a desk, and the blue glow is coming from... somewhere. 

Maybe the monitors are in still in front of them but just behind our point of view? Yeah, that's it. That's how I meant it.

We're in the home stretch now! Next I added the computer graphics on the wall. The idea is that the entire wall is one giant high tech computer display and touch screen.

The graphics were inspired somewhat by Tony Stark's cool heads up displays in the Iron Man  & Avengers movies. 

I drew the displays in InDesign and imported them into Photoshop. InDesign is a lot better at making these kinds of geometric shapes and readouts than Photoshop.

The readouts were way too bright, so I adjusted their opacity to knock them back. Then I used the Distort function in Photoshop to match the perspective of the wall.

I also added grayish white color to the two screens.

Then I drew the Snow Wolf and the Ice Shark on separate layers.

It's funny— you think you know what wolves and sharks look like until you sit down to draw one. I quickly realized I needed to google them to see how the hell to draw them.

I am fully aware that my Latin on the screens is probably horribly inaccurate, but it's good enough for me and hey, it sounds good.

Next I added color to the Wolf and Shark on a layer.

Then I added some readouts on top of the Wolf and Shark. They're intended to be strength and/or speed level readouts on each animal.

It's hard to see here, but next I added some light scan lines over the Wolf and Shark images, to help sell the idea that you're looking at a monitor and not a picture not the wall.

Then I added some shadows on the wall behind each of the characters, to help them stand out a bit more. They're subtle, but trust me, they're there.

The last step was to add yellowing and aging effects to the page, as if it were from a thirty or forty year old book. Needless to say, these aging effects were on their own layers. You have to restrain yourself when you're adding aging to something, as it's very easy to go overboard. In fact I may have gone too far here.

I have a confession to make: these aging effects— the yellowish tint and the dark smudges— are the exact same ones I first created for 2009 Christmas Card. I've been reusing them ever since. Hey, they work, so why waste time recreating them? Why not recycle them?

And voila! Only 45 simple steps from start to finish. Actually there were many more steps to drawing the page than I've shown here; these are just the major ones! Then I repeated the process eleven more times and before I knew it I had a book!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. I always love to see how people work!

    ReplyDelete

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