Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 231

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 Variant Cover. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board with digital color, 11 × 17″.

My profession is usually pretty darn cool, but sometimes... it gets even better. My editor, Stephen Wacker, came to me with the idea and I jumped at the chance. This is the first of 3 Guardians variants based on old-school sci-fi covers, primarily by the inimitable-but-I'll-try-anyway Wallace Wood. The issue should be out in stores today! (Preview here.)

While I've only got 3 examples of Wood's art here, there's a ton more that I used as inspiration, both for this as well as the next 2 covers. Whether you're familiar with his work or not, it'll be worth checking out James Halperin's site for great scans of the originals.

More classic covers here.

inks by my Dad
blue-line print of pencils

pencils over digital sketch
digital sketch

digital layout

I hope Rocket Raccoon can hold his breath!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Green Hornet #6

Green Hornet #6 Cover. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Loki. 2013. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 230

Green Hornet #3 Cover. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

This issue of Green Hornet came out earlier in the month, but I never got a chance to post the preliminary work or reference used. You can see a preview of the comic here. (I just received my comp copies, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet.) Aside from the photos of myself, I was looking at plenty of pics of fedoras — I've gotten much better at them after 8 covers. The signs are based on Citizen Kane, which served as inspiration for Waid's story. Lastly, the lettering was done in Photoshop as a smart object, allowing me to draw the poster once and place it wherever needed.

... doing my best Orson Welles

layouts: 7.5
digital sketch: 5.5
pencils: 6
colors: 3
∑: 22 hours
Layouts include other sketches that were used for subsequent covers.

inks by my Dad
blue-line print of pencils

pencils over digital sketch
digital sketch

digital layout

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cintiq Tips, Part 3 of 3

This is a cross-post with Muddy Colors — An Illustration Collective

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 Variant Cover. 2013. 
Digital sketch. Final Artwork

If you've ever seen the Brushes palette, then you know it can be pretty daunting. I keep it open at all times so I can always see the stroke of the brush I'm using and the criteria that govern its behavior. There's no easy way to learn what all the parameters do, so experimentation is key. Among the many options, Dual Brush is a nice feature that provides another level of texture and richness, but I find that it sometimes slows down my computer. If and when that happens, I just turn it off — a lagging cursor defeats the purpose of drawing on screen.

The Brushes Palette

At their heart, digital strokes are nothing more than a stamp that is repeated at a level that approaches fluid motion. One way to counteract a "stamped" or "patterned" look is to play with the Jitter sliders for each variable. I will often set the Angle Jitter to 60% so that the "stamp" will automatically rotate as I draw. You can do the same with opacity and diameter, or tie them to pen pressure for complete control. The more you use them, the sooner you'll discover your favorites (much like real painting).

Brush Presets

When you do find something worthy, save it as a Brush Preset — they're the key to a facile drawing and painting experience. I have all my favorite brushes at the top of the list, which is available by right-clicking (or Control clicking) while using the Brush, Pencil, or Eraser tools. I sometimes save them without the Shape Dynamics checked so I can toggle it on and off in the Options bar. This makes it easier to draw fixed-width straight lines by shift-clicking.

The Occultist #1 Variant Cover. 2013.
Photoshop, 7 × 10.5″ @400ppi.

While some of the parameters overlap, Tool Presets are different from Brush Presets. They appear in their own palette and can be saved with the current painting mode intact, which is perfect for "special effects." Painting modes feature the same names as Layer Modes and behave in much the same way, only they do their magic as you work, as opposed to being applied universally across a layer. I have brushes saved to Darken (only affects lighter colors), Screen (great for glowing effects), Color (shifts hue and saturation without altering brightness), and Dissolve (gives the airbrush tool a speckled appearance).

The airbrushed effect is courtesy of my "Dissolve" brush.

The easiest way to change brush size is to hold down Control and Option on the keyboard while dragging the pen left or right. Dragging up and down modifies the hardness. As you move, a brush tip preview will transform accordingly. This is probably the single most important keyboard shortcut — I simply can't draw without it.

The HUD Color Picker (and Spider-Man)

If you hold Control, Option, and Command while clicking, the Heads-Up Display (HUD) Color Picker will appear, making color selection easier than ever. But if all that seems too complicated (or you're left-handed), you can assign those same keys to a single Cintiq button. (You can also use the pen's eraser as I detailed in a previous post — I never used it for its intended purpose, anyway.)

Everyone should be familiar with using the Space Bar to bring up the Hand tool — it's essential for navigating around your artwork. Basically, my left hand never leaves that area of the keyboard: The Space Bar, Shift, Control, Option, and Command, whether alone or in concert, are constantly being used.

Iron Man 3. 2013. Digital Sketch.
Final Artwork

Under Photoshop Preferences, you can choose what type of cursors you like. I prefer Precise ones for the painting tools (a crosshair) and Standard ones for everything else (tiny icons of the current tool). If I want to see the exact shape of the brush I'm using, I can always press Caps Lock to bring it up.

Felt Nibs from Wacom

Finally, you should pay special attention to the act of drawing itself. Since I like a bit of resistance while I draw, I use the felt nibs that come with the pen (I can't even use the plastic ones). I've tried the rubber-tipped nibs as well — they've got a great feel, but for as much as I draw, they wear out far too quickly.

The Interactive Pressure Profile

The pen's pressure sensitivity can be customized as well, and it's well worth experimenting to achieve the desired response. The quickest way is to choose your preference along a scale of Soft to Firm, but if you click the Customize button, you'll see a graph that displays the Interactive Pressure Profile. The graph that is displayed represents the ratio of pressure to output. There's even a space at the right where you can test the results.

Because drawing against mild resistance facilitates hand control, I move the Click Threshold slightly to the right. This means that the pen won't register a stroke until that pressure is met. On the other hand, if I were to use the full pressure that the pen is capable of, my hand would quickly fatigue. To combat this, I set the Max Pressure a quarter of the way to the left, so I never have to press that hard to get the full range of sizes from my brush.

The blue square represents Sensitivity. By dragging it around, you can alter the curve of the graph. Moving the square to the right makes it concave, the result being that low pressures yield low sensitivity while high pressures yield the opposite. If I'm pressing that hard against the pen, chances are I just want the brush to get as large (or as opaque) as possible.


That wraps up my in-depth look at the Cintiq 13HD. If you have any other questions — or great tips of your own — feel free to comment. But before I let you go, I wanted to mention SmudgeGuard, which is the perfect companion for any tablet or Cintiq. It keeps the screen clean and allows the hand to glide freely over the surface (I sometimes even use it in the analog world).

Part 1
Part 2

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wonder Woman Commission

Wonder Woman. 2013. Watercolor on paper, 9 × 12″.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wacky Reference Wednesdays, No. 229

Green Hornet #2 Cover. 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

This issue already hit shelves, but I never got a chance to do a full process post. Been super-busy (and things are about to get busier—I just took on another fully-painted poster gig). Also, for those of you who have been patiently waiting for my return to sequential work, I'll be doing a short story this month. No idea when I can announce it, but I promise it'll be worth the wait.

My old NYC apartment!

inks by my Paw
blue-line pencils

pencils over digital sketch
digital sketch

digital layouts

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 Variant Cover

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 Variant Cover. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board with digital color, 11 × 17″.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #5

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #5 Cover. 2013.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board with digital color, 11 × 17″.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cintiq Tips, Part 2 of 3

This is a cross-post with Muddy Colors — An Illustration Collective

Daredevil #10, Page 7 Digital Sketch. 2012. Photoshop, 11 × 17″.

I use the Cintiq in close collaboration with my wireless keyboard and trackpad, which are linked together with Clique from Henge Docks. They rest on an adjustable-height tray that I installed underneath my drafting table (video here). This makes it easy to place the keyboard right where I want it. Learning keyboard shortcuts is an essential part of using programs like Photoshop efficiently — here's the default list, but you can also customize buttons and actions (Edit> Keyboard Shortcuts... or Menus...).

The more you use the program, the more the keys become second nature. If you can't touch type, learn, as it will free your eyes from having to chaperone your fingers. Since I've given custom assignments to each of the buttons on my pen, I'm forced to press Control with my left hand to elicit a right-click, which is essential for bringing up submenus and other options.

Daredevil #21 Cover Digital Sketch. 2012. Photoshop, 11 × 17″.

Besides common functions, I use the keyboard to switch to my favorite tools: B for Brush and W for the Magic Wand are the easiest examples. I set the N key to the Pencil tool since I often use it to color comics (The Pencil is strictly one color, whereas the Brush varies in opacity). In the case of the Eraser (E) and Rotate (R) tools, I hold down the key during use, utilizing their "spring-loaded" attribute. When released, the cursor snaps back to whatever tool was being used previously. Since I only use those tools briefly in the midst of other work, it keeps me focused on the task at hand. (The Rotate tool makes it easier to find a good working angle while drawing. Pressing Escape snaps the canvas back to its default position.)

You can go to town with button assignments, depending on your personal preference. This option is available under your computer's general settings, and you can even assign buttons to have different functions depending on the application used (though this can get confusing if not used sparingly). If it's a repetitive task, then it's a good candidate for a Keystroke: instead of assigning one key to each button, the single button can be programmed with a whole chain of tasks.

X-O Manowar #10 Variant Cover. 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on bristol board, 11 × 17″.

Since I often color digitally, I am constantly using the Hue/Saturation/Brightness function (Command-U) and Color Balance (Command-B) to alter patches of color. This is usually after selecting a particular section with the Magic Wand, which is then highlighted by the "marching ants." This is distracting to me, so I include the Hide function (Command-H) in the keystroke, combining both actions into one. (Instead of grabbing the palette sliders, I tend to use the keyboard arrows to adjust the numbers. Holding shift makes them jump by 10s. Tab cycles through all the attributes.)

Rounding out the list of buttons are many other programmed functions:
Snap (Shift-Command-;), Fit on Screen (Command-0), Step Backward (Command-Option-Z), Step Forward (Command-Shift-Z). The Radial Menu is a Wacom-specific list of options that can be customized with everything from Wacom settings to screen capture. (There are videos about this and many other topics on Wacom's YouTube channel.)

I hope you all don't mind if I extend this topic for one more post — it's pretty technical information, and I want to make it easily digestible. The last part will focus on brushes. Thanks!

Part 1