Monday, August 22, 2016

Powers Beyond - Cybertech Illustration

This one was a lot of fun. As with the others, this was created in Daz Studio 4.8 (or was it 4.9? I was using both versions at that time and suddenly I don't recall which computer I did this on). The main problem with this piece was that the bricks needed a lot of work. The Brick in the Wall prop by The Ant Farm is fantastic -- it allows you to animate someone punching through a wall with a lot of options regarding the way the wall bows and flexes.But, although it animates and moves the bricks, it does not deform them. So, you wind up with very smooth bricks... which detracts from the violence of the attack. In other words, it just looks too clean.

So, after it was rendered, I went into Photoshop and distressed each and every brick along the edge, and some of the mortar lines between them, as well. It was a lot of work, but it actually elevated the image from looking too pristine to being pretty good.

The background actually proved to be more problematic -- I was under the gun to get this done, so I just went with a simple film grain and color effect. And, if you look at last week's illustration, you'll see that the hand-drawn smoke lines are present again.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Powers Beyond - Equipment Illustration

This is probably the illustration that I'm most happy with for the Powers Beyond RPG. It's available in both print and PDF from, by the way. It's a pretty good book, so it's worth picking up.

This equipment illustration took a lot of hand work to redraw all the crisp lines. I also tweaked the colors. I suppose I should mention that this -- as was all of the work I did for this book, was created by combining multiple passes from Daz Studio in Photoshop. Weapons and equipment are all 3D assets purchased from, except for the little power-cell cubes. I created those from primitives in Daz Studio.

As for why I like this one -- I think the simplicity and clean lines just work.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Another little bit of retro-styled fun from the Powers Beyond RPG by Epic Age Media. To be honest, I'm not 100% happy with the art I did for this book. James Shade asked me to do color and retro, but I don't think the retro style I chose meshed well with the rest of the book. I think it would have been better if I had seen some of the other art in the book before doing my own. I don't want to copy the other guy's style, but I would have chosen more muted colors and less-intense shading techniques.

This image was a bit of a transitional piece for me, by the way. I was reading Scott McCloud's ZOT! B&W Collection at the time, and got interested in some of the shading techniques he was using. I seriously doubt you'll see his influence here in my own work, but mentally it's about the hand-drawn lines I started using (and retrofitted into other illustrations) for clouds and smoke. The suggestion was also prompted by a Daz Studio user in the forums; she goes by the name of Scribbling Sandy. This also led to the diagonal shading I started using in images going forward, and that appear in my noir comics work.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Powers Beyond - Epic Age Media

I haven't mentioned the Powers Beyond RPG in a while. I thought some of you would like to know that it's finally published, and includes some cool superhero art by yours truly.  I'll post a few samples in the next few days.

First up, here's a reworking of the cover I created for CCN #107. This time with a non-copyrighted villain, and some really bombastic dialogue.

I was going for a 1970s / 1980s vibe with this piece, what with the bright colors and the exaggerated pose and energy crackles. The most difficult thing about this was the background coloring -- it took ages to get the colors "just right," and even now I'm not 100% happy with it. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Enter -- MOON WOLF

Still experimenting with the Noir look from Poser 11's Comic Book Preview. This was just a quickie of a character who is going to be in a story I'm working on (more on that soon!).

The character is Moon Wolf, an athletic Batman / Black Panther / Fox character-type, who will cross paths with a sexy villainesss I'll introduce next week!

I'm not going to say much about this, really. It was a quickie (and I think it shows). It's a perfectly serviceable illustration, though, and I did make it pretty fast. The only bit of interest (at least technically) was that I used a very short focal length (probably around 12 - 15 mm) and placed the subject close to the camera to get the extreme Jack Kriby foreshortening effect.

Friday, July 8, 2016

B&W Guard Test 2

Here's another sample of the black & white line technique I showed last week. In this case, I rendered only the figure and props (hat, clothes & flashlight) in Poser 11 using the Comic Book Preview Mode.

Michael 3 base model
Poser 11 & Manga Studio 5 work
I added the beam and doorway in Manga Studio 5, along with the inking in the background and the "dust" (or fog, or whatever it is) in the light beam. By the way, Smith Micro renamed this product as "Clip Studio Pro," for some weird reason. I have the less-expensive version, which I got on sale for about $20 - $25, if I recall correctly. I may upgrade to the full version at some point... but perhaps not. I still have the old version of Manga Studio 4EX, and I kind of like the interface a little better than I do the new version. The old version had a "Beginner" panel, which made it very easy to find all of the pen settings at once, particularly the starting and ending fade settings (the setting that tells the pen to shrink the start or finish of the ink stroke).

By the way, I could have done the edits for these black & white images in Photoshop, but I chose Manga Studio for two reasons:

  1. Manga Studio has very good pen-simulation tools. As I said above, it easily tapers the pen off at the end (yes, you can do this in Photoshop, even without a pressure-sensitive stylus, but this is a little easier to use). Also, the Manga Studio pen tool will correct your strokes, giving them a cleaner, smoother arc. This might sound like something you don't want ("I want it to show EXACTLY what I drew without fiddling with it!"), but there is an inherent lag in all computer-based drawing. Manga Studio corrects it and helps smooth out curves, which actually gives your work a more natural and organic look, as opposed to the jaggy steps you might see if you drew the strokes solely by hand without any sort of interpolation from the computer.
  2. It has more built-in effects for comics, such as the dust and the etched lines and tones. I could create these by hand myself, but it's faster to just pull up the tools that are already there, waiting for me to use.

Hopefully, next time I'll have a more interesting figure to show you (hint: it's a sexy female supervillain!). 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

B&W Tests with Poser 11

This past weekend I managed to experiment with Poser 11's Comic Book Preview mode. This is a very cool feature that creates a solid black line around 3D objects, based on their geometry. This is a very cool feature that is often confused with something called "Toon" rendering.  In a future post, I''ll  not the same thing, and I'll post some sample images to illustrate the differences.

In the meantime, though, I thought I'd post the image I worked on this weekend.

B&W Test created with Poser 11 & Manga Studio

I'm very pleased with the outcome of this test. This is very close to the effect I'm looking to create for a comic book project I'm working on. Also, it was very fast to create. I can imagine these techniques fitting nicely into my workflow.

The creation process included:

Setting up the figure, including the materials which needed some tweaking (light textures or no textures, and no bump maps).
  1. Adjusting the lights (only 2 infinite lights, with the shadow maps texture sizes pumped up to 4096).
  2. Finding the right size for the Geometric Edge (I think this is set at either .25 or .33)
  3. And then rendering two images at very large size (about 4,000 pixels -- the large size is important for capturing details, but it's very fast because this is black and white with no textures visible):
    - Image 1 has small shadowy areas (the black shadows in this image)
    - Image 2 has large shadowy areas (the gray textured areas)
  4. I then combined the two images in Manga Studio 5 and used the large shadowy areas as a guide to apply the tone.
  5. I also did some hand editing of the edges (there were some gaps here and there, and places where I wanted thicker/thinner lines). 
  6. I also did some hand editing of the tone (like on the curves on the badges, and around his eyes).
  7. I also used a Manga Studio tone for the background.