Monday, March 24, 2008

Songs Perverse, and Songs of Lament

For kicks and giggles I thought I'd do a sort of process rundown post, ala Matthew Woodson or James Jean, detailing how I went about creating a recent image. If anyone finds this post interesting or useful, let me know and maybe I'll do more in the future!

Here's the original drawing in pencil and ink (click on thumbnails for larger images):

I wasn't at all happy with how the small hand-lettering was going on the scrolls, so I decided about 5/6ths of the way through that I'd probably be far better off just trying to do it digitally.

Due to the size of the image--I was working at about 27.5" x 10"--I had to scan it in two pieces and digitally combine them into one image. Fortunately, Photoshop CS3 has an amazing feature that can do this automatically and (as far as I can tell, at least) flawlessly. After scanning, I lighten all of the blue and darken the blacks before using a threshold filter to switch it to straight black and white:

The digital lettering ends up being acceptable, after a whole lot of fiddling. I get rid of the hand-drawn circles, deciding I'd rather use perfect digital shapes. The plan is to put portraits (which I've already drawn) of each of the respective characters into those circles.

I set the linework as a multiply layer, and create a flat color layer beneath it to figure out a general color scheme. After a lot of experimentation, I decided on a triadic primary color scheme--primary colors have a vibrant, child-like appeal to them that I think is appropriately warped, given the subject matter.

I add a few layers of rendering to some of the objects to draw out the forms a bit.

Adding the color holds takes a long time, but it is always fun to see what a difference it makes. This time I push the background backward by lightening those lines, and decide to play around with colored linework on the text. I think it gives it a more frenzied, neon-sign type of effect that I like.

I mask off a bunch of the foreground and add a few gradient layers to the background to create some lighting and atmosphere. Things are starting to come together now.

I add another layer to put a few highlights on the characters, add some lighting effects to the main display text to give it a little more substance and unify it with the environment, and put some gradient layers over the characters.

I decided the display text was a bit *too* jarringly bright, so I tune it down a bit in an effort to keep things harmonious. Then I add some lighting effects to create some more atmosphere. Finally, I add an adjustment layer to give the whole image a very slight red tint--didn't plan that part, but everything was looking a little green to me, for some reason. This helps to unify the composition:

I'm happy with the advances I'm making as far as my drawing, though it's clear to me I've got some work to do if I plan to keep adding hand lettering to my work. I do like how the display text turned out, for the most part, though I have to remember just how time consuming it is to make that look decent and plan my days accordingly!

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