Monday, November 7, 2016

Noir Comics: A sample page from my Moon Wolf + Hatta Mari Comic

I've talked about the characters (Moon Wolf and Hatta Mari), my software choices (Poser 11, Manga Studio 5) and even my font (Blambot Casual). I guess I've beat around the bush long enough and should finally show you one of the comic pages I've created that brings it all together.

Copyright 2016 Mike Mitchell
Moon Wolf & Hatta Mari TM 2016 Mike Mitchell
Click on image to make it big.
As with all the other work in this project, I've created the art in Poser 11 (using the Live Comic Book Preview). Then, I bring multiple renders into Manga Studio 5 and combine them to create a single image. Panels, clean-up and lettering are all done in MS5. In a future post, I will show how this process works in more detail.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Noir Illustration: Hatta Mari Takes the City

I was glancing back through my blog and realized that I've been a little tease. I've been promising you a glimpse of my sexy supervillain, Hatta Mari, and have yet to follow through. I feel like a mean girl on prom night.

Without further ado, here she is.

Hatta Mari Copyright & TM Mike Mitchell
This image was created by:
  • Rendering the figure in Poser 11 using the Live Comic Book Preview mode
  • I created three renders, each with slightly different light settings
  • I then brought them into Manga Studio 5 and layered them
  • There is a base "Black" layer
  • A layer on top of that is set to about 20% transparency -- this provides the light gray areas on her body
  • This one time, I needed a separate opacity setting for the hair -- I believe that layer (which is layer masked to show only the hair) is set to 50%. I needed this to get the right shading on the hair.
  • I then created a tone layer (the thin diagonal lines used for shading) and used a layer mask to show it along her legs, and inside he squares. This was done with hand editing; it wasn't possible to automate this by selecting regions with the magic wand or other tools.
  • I then added the background layer (clip art with an MS5 tone filling it) and the text

Next time, I'll do a post that shows each of the layers and how they look during the compositing process.


Monday, October 17, 2016

My comic fonts just went BLAMbot!

I'm still working on the pages for my Moon Wolf + Hatta Mari comic. I'm having fun, and learning a lot about the use of my current tool set (Poser 11 Comic Book Preview and Manga Studio 5). In general, the comments on the art have been solid, but I've had a few negatives on my decision to use uppercase and lowercase lettering (i.e. Sentence Case.).

You see, traditionally, comics use all uppercase letters.

I've never really liked that. Even though it dates back to the dawn of comics (and earlier, for that matter), I don't have any facts on this, but I have long thought that the ALL UPPERCASE LETTERING was used because the comics were printed on low-quality paper and mostly read by kids. So, there was a strong need to keep the fonts as legible as possible.

I've wondered why we're continuing those traditions when there is no longer a need to do so. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so. Many newsstand comics are bucking the trend right now, including: Howard the Duck, AKA Patsy Walker Hellcat, Squirrel Girl, Josie and the Pussycats, and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

So, unless I get too much kickback from readers, I think I'm going to mostly go with Sentence Case for this project.



Speaking of this project, the original font did get a lot of criticism, so I am going to switch to Blambot Casual. This is a pro-font that I picked up from the super nice folks over at Blambot.com. It was only $30 for four faces, and includes a nice mix of uppercase and lowercase lettering. I'm also planning on using some of their great FREE fonts. BTW: check the bottom of the home page -- I found a 10% off promo code there (saved me $3).


Blambot Casual includes four variants;
I'm only showing you two of them.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Noir Illustrations: Det. "Lancelot" Worthington

I've been working on my various "Crime Noir" projects for the past few weeks. These include tough-as-nails characters with stark lighting and a high-contrast appearance. Obviously, Frank Miller's Sin City is an influence, but I'm trying to add my own stamp on this look. So far, I think it's working. I'm definitely getting a handle on the look and creation of this type of illustration.

A character sketch and background info for someone
appearing in one of my upcoming projects.
As before, this illustration was created using Poser 11's Comic Book Preview from two renders that were composited in Manga Studio 5. I'll explain this process in detail in some future post.

Also, if you're having trouble reading the text, here it is:
J.C. "Julius Caesar" Worthington's head almost exploded when his son stood there and boldly proclaimed that he was "throwing away wealth, privilage and an Ivy League education that could have sent him to the White House," just to be take a job that any "flatfoot, half-sober Irishman could do!" At least that's how J.C. put it as he cut Lance off from both family and fortune. But after a few years walking a beat -- and rising through the ranks with a combination of book smarts and learned-on-the-job street smarts, he worked his way up to Detective. That's when grandma laughed and "cut him back in," giving him a trust fund that would keep him in expensive suits and convertables for the rest of his days. "He's the first one of this brood who's not afraid to get some dirt under his nails and actually work for a living!"
Known on the force for sharp clothes and a clean conscience, his fellow cops gave him a lot of nicknames over the years: from "The White Knight" to "Little Boy Blue Blood." But the one that stuck was the most apt: "Lancelot."

Monday, September 5, 2016

Powers Beyond Cover Logo & Type

I'll wrap up my work on Powers Beyond with a look at the cover. I DID NOT DO THE ART for this cover. However, I did do the following:

  • Logo design
  • Color adjustments of the base image it to enhance/hide certain elements around the text
  • Typeset text on back cover (which was hard to find a color that would show up well on such a varied background)
This is worth opening at full size, folks!
You can buy Powers Beyond at Lulu as a print book, or as a PDF. This actually looks like a lot of fun to play (I haven't yet had the opportunity to sit down with James at the game table for this one, but I shall). It's a superheroes game set in a semi-apocalyptic future. There's a detailed world for this game, so you can run many different types of adventures. In other words... it's EPIC!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Powers Beyond - Med Lab

Another illustration from the Powers Beyond RPG by James Shade. This was another equipment-type illustration -- I think it wound up in the back of the book, rather than in the equipment section, though.


This one is a bit of a cheat -- I combined both comic-style coloring and lines with the raytraced shadows form the Iray render engine. This one took a few more render passes than usual because the floor and background were coming out too dark in the original renders. In retrospect, I should have changed the alien to a human or something else. Looking at it now, I think it looks more like a robot than a creature in a suspension tank.

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 Lulu.com, 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 Daz3D.com, 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.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Lighting the Noir Look

Found another great video that discusses the art of lighting comics in Poser. Even though this is an older video (it uses Poser 9, and the old duplicate-figure-then-flip-normals" trick to get an outline), the lighting tips are VERY good.


This is definitely worth checking out!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Daz Studio: Noir Shaders

Below is a very interesting video tutorial on how to use shaders to achieve the high-contrast Sin City look used by Frank Miller. For those of you not really into 3D, shaders provide the texturing information that provide information about color, reflectiveness, transparency and stuff like that.




This requires the use of the Visual Style Shaders by DraagonStorm and TheNathanParable. I will be experimenting with these shortly.

Friday, June 3, 2016

CCN #114 Christmas Cover

Wow! How has (almost) half the year sped by already? I just recalled that a while back I promised that I'd post the cover I created for the Christmas issue of the Collectors' Club Newsletter.

CCN #114 Cover: The Front & Back View

The cover is a front and back view of a hectic, odd Christmas scene. For those of you into details like this, it was done in Daz Studio 4.8 with Iray. I actually modeled the candles and candle holders that are on the tree (and used instances for the first time to replicate about 20 of them). I did the modeling in Strata 3D ver 7.

The entire scene was so complex that it actually took about 48 hours or rendering to get a decent, high-resolution image. Post work was done in Photoshop.

By the way, a tip of the (Santa) hat to Alan Sissom for giving me the idea to do a front-and-back scene. I sent him a different image, and when I told him it was done in 3D, he asked if I could also show what was behind him. I thought it was a brilliant idea and started the task of updating it for Christmas, and showing what was going on behind the scenes, so to speak.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Poser & Daz Comic Links

A while back, I enjoyed a great online Webinar about using 3D tools to create comics. It was really one of the most informative Webinars I've ever attended.

Another blogger has gone through it and written up 10 tips from the show, and they can be found here: http://www.jurn.org/dazposer/?p=5496 and you can find a link to the Webinar here: http://www.jurn.org/dazposer/?p=5482

A link to the actual presentation can be found here (but it has lousy audio, whereas the live event had good audio): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ql9OOKgeCII
I think this is a longer version of the same show, with still-bad audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ub1CKSKN6U
Slightly better audio on the Concrete Park segment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ub1CKSKN6U

Here's another link to a tutorial by Brian Haberlin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqDY9_dYOVY
And yet another: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heSn6iVB__M

Another one on coloring: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCNn0dqjDMc

A different tutorial on coloring: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yix6u5K9MKg

Finally, some links to training videos for Poser and Daz Studio.
Poser: http://www.jurn.org/dazposer/?page_id=56
Daz Studio: http://www.jurn.org/dazposer/?page_id=204

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Whooo Goes There?

It's been a long time since I've done an update. I'm still busy with my "day job," so my fun-time projects have really fallen behind schedule. Still, I've managed to work in a little bit of fun here ant there. This illustration is one thing I managed to get done a week or so ago.

Abandoned. Desolate. Shunned... All fancy ways to say "Feared." A child's mind is blissfully uncluttered by concepts of equity, potential and renovation. A child knows when you should just stay away and leave it to the guardians of the night. Listen to the children, listen to midnight warning of the owl on its perch. Just move on, grown-ups. Just move on.

This was a render of Ken Gilliand's Owls of the World vol. 1 that I purchased at the annual Audubon charity sale over at Hivewire3D.com. The render was created in Daz Studio 4.9 with the Iray render engine. This was a quickie, but it was still a nice showcase for the owl figure.

As you might guess from a previous post, I've got owls on the brain right now. So, as I finally wrap up the Ultra reprint project, I'll be adding some new comics fun to my schedule.

Look for some new and exciting posts to come soon.