Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How-To: Original Computer Assisted Color Art

Ever wanted to create original color art without using paint nor markers nor color pencils nor oil pastels nor crayons? Well, I sure did and I hit upon the notion of using an inkjet printer (in this case a low-end Epson that has since died and been sent to e-recycle heaven) to "pre-paint" an otherwise created-by-hand brush and ink drawing.

I began by creating a drawing in my sketchbook and then scanning it as a greyscale image. In Photoshop I converted the greyscale to a bitmap image (you may need to fiddle with contrast settings while the art is in greyscale) -- see art below left.

I then imported the bitmap file into Freehand (Illustrator and Photoshop -- using layers -- would work too). I used the bitmap image (Important: the bitmap image needs to be at 100% of the final art size) as a guide to place my color and create areas where there would be no color. I also tossed in a background drawn in Freehand from an earlier test of this Modern Coloring Technique (see image above right). I then printed out the result on a sheet of 2-ply bristol board.

Next I placed the color printout on top of a printout of the bitmap image and placed them on a lightbox. I then lightly penciled in any necessary details. (Alternate tracing method: take the two sheets and tape them on a window backlit by bright sunlight.) Your art is now ready to be inked so ink away. The final art, done for my pal Dan, can be seen below.

I don't recommend this technique for creating work that is intended to be reproduced. But if you are, say, a comic book or strip artist who wants to create inexpensive original color art for your fans at conventions or via eBay this sort of thing might work for you.

Here are a couple of other original pieces I did using this gimmick (click on the art for larger images).

A Couple of Notes

SLG Publishing may be the only publisher in the history of comics to create gigantic convention displays primarily out of corrugated cardboard. I suppose the main reasons for this are that the publisher is open to novel approaches to problems and, most importantly, SLG's Editor-in-Chief Jennifer de Guzman's talented husband Brian Belew is a complete frickin' genius with cardboard. Brian is currently working on SLG's latest convention display (it'll debut at Comic-Con International: San Diego this July). You can see his most current progress here and don't forget to check out the rest of his blog (I really liked his spiff pirate).

The Ephemerist (an excellent blog) helpfully shares his pristine copy of the Top Shelf coaster referenced in a previous post.

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Poorly Timed Gag

I'm very fond of cheap gags of the type that used to be found in Johnson Smith Company ads in old comic books. A few years ago when I was doing more work as an illustrator than as a designer I came up with the notion to use a whoopee cushion as part of a gag-themed self-promotion package. With a bit of experimentation I discovered that I could use an inkjet printer to print onto the rubber noise-makers. My promotional mailer had other elements as well but I was really pleased with the whoopee cushion as I thought it would definitely make an impression with potential clients. I was still trying to work out the bugs with the whoopee cushion printing (smudging was a real issue) and put together the other bits of the package when the events of 9/11 transpired. Not long after that there were a series of anthrax mail attacks and suddenly unsolicited mail was deeply unwelcome. Also, whoopee cushions are lightly coated with some kind of powder (probably to keep the rubber from sticking together) and I was concerned that this could further alarm recipients (I know, it seems overly cautious now but those were the nature of the times). And not too long after that I got busy doing graphic design. So I reluctantly set the concept aside.