This will be an easy FAQ, because the only question I get frequently is some variation of “how do you create the art for the comic?” So here is a quick and dirty explanation of my process using the cover of Chapter 4 as an example.
Warning, this will be image-heavy!
Equipment: This is just what I use–you can get similar results using other machines and software. Anyway, I do all my artwork on a Quad-core Mac Pro running OS X 10.6.x with 8G of RAM. The image below was created using a Wacom Intuos tablet, but I’ve recently (August 2010) switched to a Wacom Cintiq. In terms of software, as of the writing of this FAQ, I use Photoshop CS3, PoserPro 2010, and occasionally Bryce. I used to use Vue, but the Mac version was buggy and crashed continuously (which may no longer be the case with newer releases, no idea).
Step 1. First I set up the shot in a 3D rendering program, in this case PoserPro 2010. I’ve tried my hand at making my own models in a couple of different programs, but discovered that I hate modeling with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns, so I buy all my models pre-made. Anyway, in this step I decide what I want the scene to look like, set everything up, figure out the camera angle, and–most importantly–how I want to light the scene. Lighting can be fixed in postwork, but it’s a thousand times easier to get it right in the initial render if possible.
Step 2. Open the render in Photoshop. As you can see, I have a bald naked Carter and a background at this point. Sorry for the crappy smiley face over her naughty bits, but this is supposed to be PG-13. In this case, the original render came out looking murkier than I wanted, so the first thing I did was adjust the levels.
Step 3: Okay, the next thing I do is go through and paint everyone’s hair. I don’t know why, other than it bugs me otherwise. I always paint hair, clothes, shadows, whatever in separate layers, so that if I screw up one thing I haven’t messed up the entire image.
Step 4: Here’s where I go through and give everyone clothes. I paint them in a single flat color to start with. In this case, I decided I wanted to make Carter look like she ought to be standing in a field somewhere with her hair and dress blowing in a breeze, and have this contrasted with the very harsh metal background. Accordingly, I left her barefoot.
Step 5: Once the flat colors are done, I go back and add shading, using lighter and darker versions of the base color.
Step 5: Now it’s time for details – deleting the parts of the dress over the rails, adding the shadows of dress and hair onto skin, and fixing any problems that come to my attention.
This doesn’t look too bad, but I want to give it a comic look which will better integrate the painted and rendered elements.
Step 6: Okay, this step will seem a little odd, so let me explain. Here’s a close up of Carter’s face:
The skin looks pretty smooth, right? But there are some minor variations in color and tone that the filters I’ll be using in step 7 will pick up on, and the end result will make her face look dirty. So first I duplicate the base layer of the image, the one that contains the alteration of the original render. Then I grab the blur tool and blur all visible skin.
Step 7: At this point I merge all the layers and run a series of filters. I’d love to detail what exactly I do here, but my method is based off of a Photoshop action developed and sold by NiceNiche, and I haven’t altered it enough to consider it my intellectual property. I’d also love to point you to the action, but unfortunately it isn’t available anymore as far as I’ve been able to determine. At any rate, here is the end result:
Step 8: Last but not least, I add any dialog or text to the scene – in this case, the Riven Sol logo and chapter number. I also adjust levels one last time until I’m happy with the image. Voila:
I hope this helps, and thanks for reading!