Friday, April 17, 2020

Comic Book Boxes – Weight

I'm trying to make the most of this pandemic by organizing my various comic books. So, I'm putting up some more shelves to store boxes and make it easier to sort through things and box them up. Here's a picture of the mess I'm starting with.

Here's the "before picture" of the mess that needs sorting out.
And this is just ONE of the tables and areas that need help!

One thing that I need to be mindful of when buying the shelves is that they be strong enough to support the books. That means, of course, I need to know how much a short box weighs. Rather than try to sort it out myself, here's what I found after a quick google search:

  • Long box, old style that was thicker, one comic per bag and board, 211 comics, 38.24 lbs.
  • Long box, new style that is thinner, 2 comics per bag/board, 348 comics, 60.25 lbs.
  • Long box, new style, 2 per, 353 comics, 59.04 lbs.
  • Magazine box, one comic per mylar bag and board, 148 comics, 31.79 lbs.
Short boxes vary:
  • Short box, new style with old comics, about 22 lbs.
  • Short box, new style with new comics, about 25 lbs.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Kitbashing a Space Ship 3

Next up, something that's a mix of the previous two:

  • Keeps the stair steps of the main unit.
  • Brings back the three engines to the rear, but smaller.
© Mike Mitchell

Similar problems continue. The proportions are off and it just doesn't look as cool as the first one.

I still have a few more to go, and these will be rather different from these first three.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Kitbashing a Space Ship 2

When I started kitbashing these spaceships, I spent about four hours one night just going through my Runtime and mixing and matching ships and pushing things together. The next night I reviewed my work and chose the one I thought would work best, and that is the one I posted on Wednesday.

Here's the second one I thought would be workable. The things I liked about it:

  • The little "stair steps" behind the main module; I thought they would catch some cool shadows.
  • I thought the square engines on the back would be more in style with the square engines on the front.

© 2020 Mike Mitchell

It's not bad, but not good enough to be the "hero ship" of my series. I think the main issues are that it's just too stubby and the stair steps don't really catch the shadows the way I thought they would. They're kind of weak.

Oh well, maybe it can appear as a background ship.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Making Comics: Nebula Background

My online buddy and fellow space enthusiast, tkrobert, asked how I created the nebula background in my recent space illustration (see Wednesday's post), so I thought I'd share that answer with you guys.

It's a remarkably easy process. The ship is, of course, on its own layer(s). So, to create the background:

  1. Set background layer to solid black.
  2. Go to and search their gallery for "nebula." (Their space images are generally free for personal and commercial use - just don't use the NASA logo or photos of people.)
  3. Once you have an image you like (look for things with nice, abstract patterns and high-contrast areas), paste it into your image editing software on a layer between the black background and the ship.
  4. Photoshop/GIMP, etc.: Play around with the following filters: Poster Edges, Stamp, Find Edges. Mix-and-match effects until you get something nice and abstract. You might also want to play around with Levels or Contrast. Then I convert the layer to b&w. Personally, I like the strong posterized look (sharp deleniations between the colors, but you can easily go for a softer, more gentle look).
  5. Adjust the nebula layer's opacity (usually 30% - 50% works well.
  6. Just move the nebula around until it works with the composition. 

A side note on composition: In the case of a ship being dead center of the frame, I tend to put the brighter parts behind it, near the exhaust areas. Also, because I planned to use those white motion lines in front of the ship, I left that part of the background completely black (note that there aren't even any stars). I did this to simplify things, because those speed lines quickly clutter things up.

I spent significantly more time playing around with the white lines than I did creating the background (in this case, I used some version of "find edges" filter in Clip Studio Paint (not Photoshop) because I wanted to do all the work in CSP.

I learned/self-taught myself this technique when I was working on the illustrations I created for the Galaxy Prime Role Playing Game.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Kitbashing a Space Ship

I'm working on a comic book set in space (more on this soon), and so (naturally) I need a space ship. Unfortunately, I have not yet found a model at Renderosity or Daz3D that suits both my artistic and my story needs.

Specifically, I need a starship that can fulfill two needs:

  • It needs to look cool when rendered in b&w (which means more angles and less curves).
  • It is about the right size to fit 4-6 crewmen and some cargo.
© 2020 Mike Mitchell

Most ships are too big or too small (Enterprise vs X-Wing Fighter). So I got a bunch of stuff at Renderosity (50% off sales are verrrrry dangerous to my wallet) and decided to mix-and-match it. In modeling terms, this is known as "Kit Bashing" (or kitbashing). And by "modeling," I mean this terms goes back to the days when boys routinely spent a rainy afternoon working on plastic kits wherein they glued together replicas of airplanes, spaceships and cars. My older brother was really into that pastime around ages 10-14; right up until that time he "discovered girls" and then started obsessing about cars.

So, back to my ship. Poking around the stuff I bought from Renderosity, I really liked look of the HeavyLander by shawnaloroc, but its not big enough. So I decided to modify it to create a slightly larger/longer version of the ship by adding elements from Simon-3D's Space Ship Constructor Set 4 (which came with a pre-built ship called the C Hume).

I'm not sure this ship will make the cut, but I think I'm on the right track. A few more experiments (and mixing-and-matching parts) should yield something I can use, so stay tuned: more ships to come!

Workflow: Poser Pro 11 (Comic Book Preview) and Clip Studio Paint

Friday, February 21, 2020

Thoughts about Poser and Daz Studio

A recent topic over at the Daz3D forums sparked me to reminisce about my interactions with Poser and Daz Studio. Like almost all 3D artists in this arena, I started out with Poser and then shifted over to Daz Studio when Poser was floundering (and it looked like the product might die). But for me, the shift was gradual.

I didn't care at all for Daz Studio until version 4 came along. I remember looking at DS2 and asking people, "What's so great about it that I should invest the time to learn it?" And I just kept getting the same answer: "It's free!" I remember that I finally snapped and said, "Look, I'm an adult with a JOB. I can afford to buy Poser. What the heck is in DS that would make it worth my while?" Finally, one guy said, "Nothing. If you have Poser just stick with it. DS2 isn't a mature program."

 And that was true, until Daz Studio 4. That was when it finally had the tools and power to make it worthwhile. And that's when I jumped ship and went over to Daz Studio. Things I really liked:

  •  The Download Manager. One click and everything comes down and goes where it's supposed to. 
  • Smart wardrobes: Again, click on the figure and the library filters the view to show you stuff that works with that figure. 
  • Easier figure manipulation. 
  • Iray (Poser's Superfly is a poor, VERY distant runner up to Iray). 

But... As much as I liked DS and the pretty Iray pictures I could make, it wasn't fulfilling my desires to create line art out of 3D. Workarounds like Toon shaders and geoshells were (not to be rude): rubbish. Yes, with a LOT of work you could make something that worked. But the look wasn't all that good. The same is true for using Filter Forge and other image manipulation tricks. Yeah, you could get something that looked okay... but it really wasn't anything that knocked my socks off.

Even in the hands of an expert it usually looks like someone did some Filter magic on a standard render. And then in January 2016 I attended a Webinar hosted by professional comic artist Brian Haberlin and he showed a feature I had never seen before: "The Live Comic Book Preview" (he added the word "Live" to its name).

Brian showed the tricks to setting up lights and adjusting the geometric edge settings, and suddenly I was off and running because I had actually won a free copy of Poser 11 and had it installed on my computer. For about a year I tried to duplicate his workflow (even bought Blacksmith 7 so I could work on my texture maps the way he did in Z-Brush), but soon tired of copying him and developed my own style.

Now I finally have a style and workflow that I like. BUT... even though I'm happy with the art I create, I'm a bit frustrated by exactly one thing that is still missing from Poser: a modern flagship figure that content creators supported. Yeah, that's still a problem.

I see lots of great content out there, but mostly I pass on it because I can't use it in Poser. I know Renderosity has high hopes for La Femme, but I just don't see the market support for her, yet. The new products are tickling out, and frankly they're not that interesting.

Yeah, I know "slut wear" sells, but not to me. I need clothes, characters and POSES. So far, there just isn't enough support for her to make me consider using her for any project. Which is too bad: I think she has potential.

Frankly, unless Poser gets support for the Genesis figures, and soon, I don't see a bright future for the software. Especially since I've hear rumors that Daz Studio is working on creating its own Comic Book Preview.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Poser Class: Create a Signature Line Art Style with Poser

Hey there, art fiends!

On Sunday, Feb. 16 at about 1:30 pm CST, I will be teaching a class for Digital Art Live: How to Create a Signature Line Art Style with Poser.  Here is a video I made to promote the class:

The registration page can be found here: