Saturday, September 30

Digital Approach Study

Today Brian Bolland is my hero not only because of Camelot 3000 (perhaps the best sequential novel of all times) but mainly for this tutorial that I just happened to stumble across while digging the Internet for comic artists that actually do it all digitally. I knew it could be done! This is just the first time I've seen it done with such control. The final result doesn't look stiff at all.

The good thing is that Brian explains both what he thinks works and where the digital approach falls behind. I've already figured out that rotating the paper is something that needs to be implemented. I think Painter has that feature, where you can rotate the view of the artwork without actually resampling the bitmap so that you always can return to your original pixels.

It's also interesting to see how Brian works with paths, specially for the perspective stuff. I've always hated paths in Photoshop because they are so inferior to strokes. However... Brian uses his paths like a ruler (or a curved ruler at times). I think there is a way to combine these two techniques where you end up with a path that is partially filled in with a stroke that you still can adjust.

Bollands pattern technique is also interesting. In some way it's similar to how I think about colors. He has a circular splatter pattern that he can sample ink splatter from. For all that I know we can create similar circular patterns mathematically. I never thought of it that way before but it's genius. Now I know what the feathering tool should look like.

Tuesday, September 26

Counting Heads & Bluelines

Today I've been mostly sketching on my tablet. It wasn't as bad as I first thought after I turned down the opacity on both the pen and the eraser to 50%. While sketching along on different character concepts I started to think about proportions.

Take a look at the diagram to the right. Half of the image is what I first sketched out (using Ben Caldwells suggested female proportions) and the other half is my digital mapping. I think perhaps that my guidelines aren't perfect but it still would be a nice tool to have. You select how many heads tall your character is supposed to be and how wide the character should be. Then you specify where the shoulders, the pelvis and the knees are and sim-sala-bim, there you have the bluelines you need to get the proportions you're looking for.

The next step would be to create 360 degree turn-arounds from our guide. And if straight lines look to stiff (as if your bones weren't straight) and you want a more dynamic feel to your bluelines there is nothing stopping us from making the skeleton bendable.

Monday, September 25

Resources Gallery

When creating a new comic book story or developing a new character you might want to keep all your sketches and references in a folder. This is at least what I'm doing myself right now.

If we're building a Comic Studio we got everything we need to quickly create model sheets and sketches with descriptions and what not. If we just add some kind of search functionality it will be easy to find specific model sheets when you need them. This way we don't have to order these model sheets hierarchically in the same way that we do with issues, pages and panels. Instead we can tag model sheets with its subject matter the same way flickr and all other digital albums work.

catch-phraseWe can also apply this search functionality on all pages we create within the Studio. This would make it possible to search for individual characters down to every panel in all publications. If the script is written in the Studio it will be easy to use the script as input to the index of the search motor. If nothing else it's pretty cool to search for all panels that includes some character saying their catch-phrase.

Sunday, September 24

The Right Curve for the Job

Today I've been working with digital ink strokes again. After a couple of tests in Flash I have (almost) decided on using cubic bézier curves to generate brush strokes. Sadly you can't, for all that I know, draw cubic bézier curves in Flash. At least not with the standard graphic libraries. I ought to be able to write a library myself but perhaps it's not as easy as I think.

The nice thing with cubic bézier curves is that they have four handles per curve and if you've ever uses Illustrator or Freehand or Xara this is what you are used to. You define two end points and then you've got two guide points that define the curve. My previous brush stroke prototypes where both quadratic bézier curves (that only have one guide point) and they have the tendency to not look so good when you draw strokes with more than one segment.

I'm sorry I couldn't show you a prototype this time but I'm afraid these things are gonna take some time if I'm going to get it right. All tests that I did today came out weird and not as smooth as I wanted. Before I can decide I'll have to verify that you can create advanced strokes with a dynamic line weight using these kinds of curves. It's all about line weight really. Drawing curves is nothing new. The trick is to make a convincing brush stroke that we can control exactly the way we want.

Even though it's terrible boring to work on these damn curves I'm looking forward to when they work the way I want so I can go on to making convincing feathering. That's when it gets alot more interesting.

Thursday, September 21

From Idea to Basic Structure

Today I've decided on the basic structure of my story. Naturally I had to see how it plays with the Studio and how it would look. By doing so I found that I had the scene metaphore wrong. A scene in a comic book can be much shorter than a scene in a play. A scene might be just one or two panel at times. It gets pretty weird when I get these labels mixed up all the time.

Wednesday, September 20

Making Comics

I got my copy of Making Comics today and since I own half of my hits to Scott I guess I don't feel bad about making a post just about that.

On the other hand I had an idea for a mini series (that could possible grow from there) that I just have to do something with. So it suits me fine to use this story to try out a couple of theories I've had about making comics. How can I build a studio if I haven't written/drawn at least one comic book?

Initial Idea

The basic idea circulates around a female protagonist with a father who is in prison for a bank robbery that he committed several years ago. Our main character is driven by this guilt by association to look into a missing child case and finds herself more and more involved when the supposed kidnapping mirrors some events of the hostage situation during the bank robbery that separated her with her father.

These two parallel plots is accented by a sub plot where the main character stumbles into another character that is driven more by revenge. These two characters join forces, after a proof of loyalty, for the final showdown.

My plan is to base the story in Stockholm and to borrow heavily for the superhero genre and use a crime noir theme.

I'm going to store all notes and drafts and what ever I create and publish them here side by side with all the other posts I'm writing.

Tuesday, September 19

Panel Elements

Today I did an analysis of the 22 panels that always work by picking out all the different elements in each panel. Then I couldn't resist to add a couple of elements of my own. After arranging them I finally came up with this mindmap.

Monday, September 18

Video Studies

After watching loads of videos of Nick Bertozzi on Google Video and Adam Hughes on YouTube I'm trying to digest what I've seen and pick up some of the methods used. Watching really good artists and how they work is overwhelming and inspiring to say the least. I suggest that you go botanise yourself, it shouldn't be hard to find lots more.

Sunday, September 17

Perspective Grid 0.2

I've been experimenting with different user interfaces for the Perspective Grid and here is the result. It's now possible to zoom in and out of the grid by using the mouse wheel. All other new features are pretty obvious.

It's also apparent, if you look closely, that the 3D representation is a bit off. Either one of the axes is scaling wrong or I've forgotten some step in the 3D transformation.

COMYK Comic Color Mode

I've written a white paper on this new comic color concept. For all obvious reasons I had to name it COMYK. Download the pdf here.

Saturday, September 16

Flexibility and Control

Currently I'm in the process of trying out different ideas to see how they "play" so to speak. During this process I'm trying to have an open mind and not restrict myself to ideas that has already been proven.

If the comic book studio (I'm open to name suggestions) is going to be a success the system needs to be highly flexible and give the comic creators more control than they have with the current tools of the trade.

There must be flexibility so that you are never forced to work in a special way or use a special method to create your comics. I wouldn't want to create something that makes for "cookie cutter" results. We're not looking for a new "lens flare" filter or anything like that.

Adding control does not mean to make it possible to draw straight lines. More control could be making it easier to draw expressionistic artwork that you can't distinguish from hand drawn artwork. It's easier to sketch on paper than it is to ink on paper but in the digital world we can use the mechanics of sketching to control inks as well.

There are a couple of tricks you can use to control if the artwork you're working on is "correct". I think most of us have tried the mirror trick, holding up a drawing in front of a mirror to see the drawing for a different point of view. Such a feature is easily transferred to a digital studio but we don't have to stop there.

The DC Comics Guide to Coloring and Lettering Comics talks a lot about the principles of colors and how colors work together and I want to integrated these theories in the studio as well. Making it easy to check the colors on a page for color value, or saturation or temperature would be useful.

It would also be great if you could try out different colors next to each other and then adjust the color swatch and have an already painted area update in real time. In other words, if you paint with a color and then make changes to that color swatch all artwork that is painted with that color should also be updated.

In Photoshop this is usually done by painting on different layers but this is a solution that comes from the fact that Photoshop is used to handle high definitions photos. If we're coloring for comics we apply one color at the time so we can keep a channel of every individual color that has been applied to the artwork. This means that we can go in and adjust colors individually at any point. The finished product will have the same number of colors, it's just that we're given more control over how they are mixed.

It's Called Shaders

After reading Shea McCombs tutorial on shaders and the Blender documentation I now have a better understanding of what we need to create some excellent comic color swatches. I think what we're looking for is something along the lines of:

Color = (Shading * (Lamp Color + Material Color)/2) + Incandescence + (Specular Value * Specular Color)

And for this we also need a little color mixing box where we can add multiple light sources and store different settings to be reused later.

Come to think of it perhaps you should be able to store these settings for every individual panel if you want to. Features like this would need the user interface to be highly intuitive otherwise the whole studio would look like a helicopter cockpit. That is far from what I'm aiming at.

Friday, September 15

Perspective Grid 0.1

After struggling with the math longer than I feel comfortable with I've finally got a first ultra simple version of the perspective grid. This is nothing more than three triangles that that you can move around while you hold down your mouse button.

Don't think to much about the colors, they where added while I was debugging the matrix multiplications. I'm still not sure I got all the math right but it looks pretty ok.

Currently rotation around the Z-axis is locked, I'm not sorting the triangles (I made them transparent so it's not that obvious), and there is no way to move the grid. We also need a better zoom and some way to input the degree of the cone of vision.

I'm not sure about how I want the actual grid to look. Should it be like an endless chess board or do we want a more complex structure?

Thursday, September 14

3D Color Swatches

Here is a simplified version of Yesterdays color globe. Since I myself often color animation-stylee why bother about thousands of colors when I mostly only use a few. There definitely should be an option to jump between a full set of colors and swatches.

I was going to color something to prove my point but sadly it didn't came out the way I wanted. Perhaps this was to be expected since a green color with a red highlight is far from the most useful. Before I can truly test my theory I need to create a few accurate and useful color globes like generic skin tones and such.

Sunday, September 10

Mixing Colors in 3D

As you might have noticed I'm trying to touch on everything that has anything to do with creating comics. Todays topic is coloring ,and to be more specific, selecting colors.

My theory is that you should not normally be looking for one single base color or one shade or highlight. You're instead looking for the color of the fabric you're going to paint and how that color reflects light in the scene you're painting. We need a base color AND one or two colored light sources and how this object we're painting reflects light.

Take a look at this green globe that is lit by one light source and also reflects an amount of red. To me this is can be treated as ONE unit. The color of the globe lit this way. We could create similar color mixes for skin under moonlight or spandex lit by green neon. All we need to do is select one base color, one or two light sources and a reflex value to calculate a huge amount of different colors that we then can use depending on what angle the area we're painting is supposed to be at.

I'm not sure how that works out but if we were using a wacom board the angle of the stylus might control where on the globe we sample the color we're currently painting with. This means that we track the surface normal of each pixel and map that to globe much like in ray tracing.

I'm pretty sure there is a more scientific and correct way of explaining what I just said but I figure it's just as easy to just show you. I'll do that as soon as I've read up on how ray tracing works.

Saturday, September 9

Updated Studio Workspace

I've been working a lot with the Comic Book Studio since the last post about the studio workspace. I hope that you instincts can see what I'm trying to do.

The first five buttons are toggle buttons that show you the script, pencils, inks colors and letters.

After that we got five issue buttons that switch the following 22 page buttons.

If you look at the tree with all the elements you'll see that I've tried to stuff a lot of them in there. To be honest I don't think anyone will use all of them but on the other hand I truly can't predict who will use what.

Thursday, September 7

Drawing Balloons

If you're interested in how you can use software to create comics you need to check out Smith & Tinker's Balloonist. My ego is a little bruised by the fact that they've done it the way I'm going to organize my Comic Studio. It almost feels like they've beat me to it. On the other hand it's fun to know that there are others that believe in this kind of product.

Here's a sketch of how I envision the balloon editor to render balloons. Not too different from the Smith & Tinker approach. I'm just not dealing with semi-oval balloons.

I left out rectangular caption boxes but it goes without saying (well I'm telling you now) that those are the first ones to be implemented since they are the easiest to handle.

The thought balloon is completely mathematically calculated (by a brush in Xara X) that I created back in 2002 for a strip I made called Birch. The Comic Studio will have a similar widget.

Tuesday, September 5

Quick 3D Guidelines

This weekend I spent working on a 3D renderer for creating guidelines to backgrounds. If you haven't read David Chelseas book Perspective! for Comic Book Artists I highly recommend you buying it. But as long as you understand the theory behind perspective there really should be no need for you to do the math and measurements yourself.

I'm currently experimenting with how you will define the horizon and the field of view. The user interface must be simple so you don't get scare out of using it and it should be faster than drawing a one, two or three point perspective by hand. There should also be a simple way to add additional guidelines to a given grid. Perhaps you should be able to drop boxes into the grid to represent buildings or cars or people even.

I have no intent to make this into a 3D modeler so I'll just start with a plain 3D grid and we'll see where we can take it from there.

Monday, September 4

Comic Format 1st Draft

Here's the first draft for a comic book format. I figured I can't hold things that I'm working on until they are perfect and also I've heard that "the first attempt is the most difficult" so why wait?

The theory behind this Comic Format is that most of the information is optional and that you use a program to edit these types of files (i.e the Comic Studio I'm building). Every piece of information you add to the file should feed the next step in the process until you've got everything you need to stitch the entire comic together.

This format is more of a model of what you're doing than what the finished product should look like. It is not designed to describe the comic book, it's primarily designed to store the information you might need when creating the comic book.

It's more of a road map than a blue print I guess.