Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Process Post: Fantastic Life Page 5

Here's another pile of my dirty laundry, also known as a process post. In this little animation, you can see me struggling to improve my stiffly posed and badly proportioned drawings for the fifth page of my graphic novel Fantastic Life (buy it HERE! I've got a basement full!).

I started with a pencil drawing on a 16 x 20" sheet of 100 lb. bristol board which I scanned at 300 dpi (I wrote and drew these pages at the same time, so there are no separate "thumbnail" sketches for them). Then I added a lot of contrast using a color correction Curve, and used other Curves (controlled via Layer Masks) to "dodge" and "burn" various areas so as to clean them up a bit, all in the vain hope that this would result in a "finished" page. Eventually realizing that I'd never be happy with the sketchy results, I decided to "ink" the pencils on a new Layer using the "Pencil" tool (ironic, right?). Then I finished the page (or so I told myself) by adding color ( a Layer set to Multiply) and lettering (in this case using a font made from my own hand lettering).

But... still unhappy with the drawing, I returned obsessively to the page many times over a period of months and reworked the "inks". One trick I used repeatedly was to "flip" the page left to right (Image > Rotation > Flip Canvas Horizontal) which helped me spot some of the many glaring deficiencies in the proportions and anatomy of my drawings. By the way, flipping the page (or rotating it in 90 degree increments) is "non-destructive" in Photoshop because pixels are square - the program doesn't have to "interpolate" the image by guessing what values the pixels will have - so you can do it over and over without degrading the image.

Another trick I used was to smoosh my drawings around using the Liquify Filter. This is a fantastic way to refine a drawing which completely removes the distinction between working "loose" and "tight". Try it and see! The only drawback is that if you do it repeatedly (which I do) the lines will "soften" and you'll need to periodically sharpen them back up (I use the Levels Command for this, forcing the white and black points close together in the center). 

Finally somewhat satisfied (or maybe resigned and exhausted would be a better way to put it), I promised myself to leave the page alone for awhile. Then I went back and reworked it some more once it came time to publish the book. Total elapsed time from start to finish for this page: about three years!

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