Friday, May 15, 2009

Arms and Ether -- Origins

Oft, I start with a scrappy sketch done in the doldrums of a faculty meeting or while fidgeting about the Beanery in caffeine-stoked reverie. Here's the initial sketch for a recent strip.

With some strips, I'll scan the pencil sketch first, then bring it into Flash and draw over the top of it. Here's my first Arms and Ether strip. You can see the pencil sketch scans, my first "ink" lines drawn in Flash, and some Kaz and Achewood strips I brought in as references for setting up my template and comparing the visual quality of my work with theirs. Since Underworld and Achewood are popular on-line strips I figured they'd be good guides to getting my stuff "internet-ready."

Sometimes I start a strip without a preliminary drawing. Here, I just laid out the text (utilizing my award-winning Miles Inada 3000 font, of course) and made a quick sketch directly in Flash. The screen cap shows my template with pre-made panels and layers. The color layer contains the color swatches for the characters, so I can just grab 'em with the eye-dropper.

When I'm "inking", I'll take at least three passes through the strip. The first pass is to get the main idea blocked in. The second pass is to adjust proportion, composition and detail. The third pass is to clarify and simplify the lines. Here's a strip somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd pass.

After finishing up the inking, I do color passes. I'm a funky fellow, so I do this all in Flash. I like Flash because it's vector-based--a.k.a. resolution-independent. With a vector drawing, I can scale the drawings up and down to my heart's content and do big prints later on. For the most part, I make a quick outline of a color area and fill it with the paint bucket (don't do that in Photoshop--it'll be lousy). I find working in Flash much less fussy than working in Photoshop. In my first pass I go through and color in the main characters. I then make a few more layers and add in the background colors. If you look at the last panel, you'll see that I still haven't finished drawing in the students, even though I've proceeded with the coloring. Shirker.

Somewhere along the line I draw in the balloons, adjust text as needed and add any goofy marginalia. Yes, I just draw the balloons in Flash. No tricks. It looks better. I color them in using the ol' paintbucket. Here's the finished strip in all of its glory.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

are you living my life too?