Wednesday, February 16, 2011

We are siamese, if you please. We are siamese, if you don't please.

Today I took one of my rescued drawings from college (that of a pair of siamese twins' faces) and added a dress and legs and arms. As I was doing that, the absurdity of what I was working on started to sort of take over and I decided to add a teddy bear that was in the same state of 'togetherness'.

I should have stopped there... I COULD have stopped there, but then I thought what could make this more fun except matching monocles (since why would one identical twin have weak eyesight and the other have perfect eyesight? REALISM!! I'm a fan of it).

So, monocles in place, it became completely necessary to add a bubble-pipe. Probably my darkest bit of humor to date...

Enjoy. I'll put them on Etsy tomorrow.

Siamese Twin Paper Doll: matching teddy bear accessory, matching monocles, and singular bubble-pipe (so that they have something to fight over).

Siamese Twin Paper Doll: Detail

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Skin like lime sorbet, a smile that could stop a train... and flaming spheres for if the smile doesn't stop the train and the train still needs to be stopped... THAT'S the Wicked Witch of the West.

Consider the Witch completed. She'll go up on Etsy tomorrow cause tonight I'm going to try and finish up Dorothy. Poor Dorothy has no Toto currently. A Dorothy without a toto is like a house with no foundation. Dorothy focuses on the safety of her dog to cope with the fear she feels herself.

(I'm deep.)

Anyway - here we have a witch. She's very pose-able. She's going to look just smashing with some giant angry flying blue monkeys around her. (I will start those AFTER this weekend's comic book convention.)

Wicked Witch Paper Doll: w/ fire sphere and red poppies, standing pose

Wicked Witch Paper Doll: fire sphere and hat, flying pose

Wicked Witch Paper Doll: 'bad-ass' pose

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The even more better technical-er side of things... um... yeah.

Well, it was just as much fun coloring my Wicked Witch of the West bright green as I suspected it would be. I have no clue why some artistic moments are supremely satisfying and others not, but picking out her skin color and seeing her for the first time as her bright-green-bad-girl self was pretty exciting.

Here is a photo collage I put together showing the different layers that go into making a final colored piece. Sometimes there's more color layers, sometimes less depending on how "cartoony" I'm doing it. If I want a really realistic, watercolor-sort-of-thing then there's usually between 3-6 color layers all with a layer transparency of about 50%.

If the colors are brighter (like here) I usually keep it to just a main color layer and then a layer devoted to shadows in muted (usually gray-brown) palette. This keeps the colors from getting too muddy/soft. Less is more when you're dealing with bright green witches.

Wicked Witch of the West paper doll : photoshop color layers

So layer one is obviously the basic graphite sketch that's been scanned in - some of the shading is taken care of just from the pencil shading. The background has been deleted, so generally in Photoshop I'll "select all", then "nudge" with the arrow keys - and this will snap the selection outline tightly around the drawing. At this point I'll create a new layer, set the property to "multiply", and begin doing broad color washes with my brush at 50% opacity. (This allows me to do shading without selecting a darker color, I can just do another stroke on top of the first one and get a different shade and keep going till I near opacity.)

After I fill in the base (brighter) colors this way, I will create another layer as my "shadow" layer and select colors that are slightly desaturated shades of the colors I'm already using. Here in Layer #3 I selected a desaturated yellowish-brown to compliment the green. Since the witch's outfit is all black... two layers did the job. That and I'm obviously a very lazy person and willing to shrug at myself and say, "That looks ok" and chug a soda before proceeding on.

Layer #4 is the layer where I take pity on all the poor souls who will one day actually attempt to assemble my paper dolls by giving them a chunkier outline to squint at between their scissors. The easiest (i.e. laziest) way of doing this is to go to Layer#1 - do a "select all", then "nudge" to snap the outline to the drawing again - then go into layer #4 and do the "stroke" command. Usually I do a 10 pixel wide black line, and I do it in two different passes. The first time I will do 8px on the "outside" of the selection line, then do 2px on the "inside" of the selection line. This helps cover up that white-jagged-pixelated line that happens when you delete backgrounds on rasterized images.

Still with me? BORING ISN'T IT. (This is why Miss America contestants never do graphic design on an overhead projector for their talent portion of the competition.)

At this point, I usually have to grab an eraser and do a little touch up in some areas, but I call it good enough. It takes literally about 60 seconds to create outlines this way whereas with the pen tool (which is the RIGHT way that all professional graphic designers would salute as the one and true method of outlining) this process would take probably an hour if you're awesome at it, and four hours if you suck. I've never liked the pen tool - my brain and Adobe's design team aren't on the same wavelength. The pen tool has never felt intuitive and mostly I just get frustrated with it and have to go take a walk or lay face down on the floor pondering my existence which only ADDS to my total time in getting it done.

But... that's a quick little snapshot of how you get from the black-and-white pencil sketch to something which looks a lot richer and more complicated... but really isn't. Trust me that I've tried a lot of different methods - when I started doing this I would use colored pencils on my graphite sketches, then scan them into photoshop and use the "blur tool" as a 10px wide brush and smooth the drawing out so that it looked like an oil painting. Sure it looked awesome... but now I have two small children, a business, a house to keep clean, and a demanding schedule of watching disappointing horror movies and then complaining online about the horror movie genre (on forums that I'm pretty sure only 16 year old boys will ever read)...  so I just don't have the patience for that sort of nonsense anymore.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Technical Side of Things.

I'm trying to ramp up for VisionCon in Springfield, MO next Saturday, which mostly means that I've got about 25 projects about 50% complete and will now have a series of daily panic attacks until I get at least SOMETHING done and sitting in the trunk of my car.

The Wicked Witch of the West is one such 50% complete project (along with Dorothy and Glinda). I scanned in all the drawings for her tonight (they took up five 12" x 18" sheets of paper for all the pieces) and got them sized and even a black and white proof made up.
I'm going to try and show more of the technical behind-the-scenes stuff in this blog since maybe some of you out there want to make paper dolls yourself and are wisely looking around first to see what mistakes other people have made.

My general process is that I draw the doll out on a large scale, using the light table to overlap parts and pieces so I can trace them to the correct dimensions.

Once the pieces are scanned into the computer (300dpi setting), I put each doll part into its own layer and delete the background carefully so that I can overlap my doll parts. I am able to set the "center point" of each layer and put that pivot point at the joint. In this way, I can rotate each doll part on the computer screen to make sure the doll is jointed smoothly and looks good in any pose.

I will then do one document (as a giant layout) but grid off my 8-1/2 x 11 sheets. This allows me to see how the final doll parts will be placed on the page, but will keep it all in one document so that when I add the color I can work on the whole doll at once to ensure consistency. Logo, copyright info, piece labeling, etc. will all be added after I color the doll.

Wicked Witch of the West Paper Doll: I will print out a black and white proof on cheap copy paper just so I can piece the doll together and make sure it's easy enough to cut out. Several times I've drawn something that later proved impossible to manage with scissors... so I'll make final adjustments at this point and adjust jointing if necessary.

Wicked Witch of the West Paper Doll: This also lets me try out different poses and props to make sure everything works right. Here for instance, I had to reshape one of the skirt pieces to hide the legs properly when the knees were raised.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Wicked Witch of the West : It's not easy being green.

So I took a break from Dorothy (or technically a break from Dorothy's basket... since who wants to draw a basket?? Baskets are so... basket-y...) and instead I drew The Wicked Witch of the West. Yes, she's going to be green. Oh the lovely green she's going to be! Bile green. Putrid green. Or maybe grass-stain green.

Her dress took a horrifically long time to draw. I watched the entire movie, "The Shining" just to do the ribbons around her torso. It was relaxing, and a good way to spend the night snowed in. We have received some sort of blizzard here - many, many inches of snow.

This sketch is a bit misleading since she's going to have puffy sleeves and a long, full, multi-layered skirt, plus awesome boots, lots of long hair, a broom, lots of flowing ribbons, and a hat... I'm going to really make her pose-able as just standing/walking/looking-formidable as well as flying on her broom. "SURRENDER DOROTHY", indeed. The only thing I can't decide is after all that complexity is whether I want to add some stylized orange smoke bombs.

I love the Wicked Witch. I was afraid of her when I was little but now I must admit she's got the best accessories... I mean... she's got flying MONKEYS. That's cooler than a pink bubble.

Wicked Witch of the West - graphite sketch.