Tuesday, 10 November 2015

How I Make Comics Part 2: MULP #1 Cover

In light of the release of MULP: Sceptre of the Sun issue #2 I had started to share the process in which I use to draw and colour comics, using the cover for issue #1 as an example.

I'd previously covered the process from Pencils and Inks to the first stage of adding colour in Photoshop. If you missed it, Part 1 can be found here.

Next I'll show you how I digitally paint in the details!

Colour Palette

First things first, I have a pre-selected palette of swatches for everything from locations to individual characters.

The top row of colours are specifically for Egypt, they are used to add detail to the landscapes and to add additional shadows and highlights to the characters in order to sit them into their environment. These have been selected using the eye dropper tool from the background textures used throughout the comic.

The next row separated by a partition are colours for Cornelius' Bentley Speed Six. These have again been lifted using the eye dropper tool from photographic reference of the car.

The row directly below the Bentley's colours are swatches that have been selected for the second half of issue #1 where our characters travel to England. These are used in the same way as the colours for Egypt, and are a good example of the different colour schemes for each location.

The block of swatches underneath those top three rows, again separated by a partition, are all character colours. Each row belongs to a different character; the first four colours are fur tones and then skin tones (which are lifted from photo reference of the specific species of mouse that each character is based on!) then you have colours for clothing. Again this acts as a good example of how each character has their own individual colour scheme. The top row of colours out of that block that you can see belong to Jack, Victoria is next, then Elisabeth and so on.

I feel it is important to create a pre-selected palette in order to maintain colour continuity throughout not only a single issue, but through the series as a whole. (And yes, I'm even so organised as to label every swatch!)

Digital Painting - Foreground

So with all colours ready I start by colouring the characters and foreground details. I use a medium Wacom Bamboo Fun tablet and pen and a variety of custom made brushes.

I use a Chalk Blender brush for the bulk of my colouring at this stage and I rarely colour at full opacity, instead I lay in the base colours at 60-80% which allows the hue of the background texture to subtly tint  the colours I paint in and help set the characters in that location. As an object with a red light shining on it will look red, so I wanted the golden hues of the Egyptian environment to effect the character swatches I'd pre-selected.

I then build up shadows on the same layer as the base colour by varying the opacity of the brush and blending the colours together, highlights are then added on a layer on top of the line work. 

You can see from the screenshots that I like to try and keep the number of layers used for each illustration/panel to a minimum. It's a pet hate of mine when photoshop files contain hundreds of unlabelled layers! And on a standard comic page where you can have up to 9 panels a page it can get a bit crazy. So I keep my layers organised into groups; In this case the background textures are in a folder on the bottom, then background base colours on top of that, then background details, and then the car and character colours. A folder containing the pencils and inks are on top of that, another containing the magic texture (which I'll talk about later), and lastly highlights on top of everything!

Digital Painting - Background

Next we need to add some definition into the background. So using the top row of swatches and the Chalk Blender brush on a low opacity I began by picking out the dirt road with a lighter tone and working in some shadows on the ground around the pyramids, the edges of the road and under the car. This acts as the background base layer.

Then on another layer I work up the details such as the Pyramids, palm trees and Cairo in the distance!
For the most part here I'm using the Chalk Blender again on varying opacities, however to create more variation and texture I occasionally work in colour using some of my custom brushes. These can help create dappled shadows, mottled stone, smoke, light haze, even fur!

Digital Painting - Final Touches

Now all that left of the painting is to add the finishing touches such as, highlights on the buildings of Cairo, colouring the rocks and stones on the ground, and to knock back the horizon with a heat haze and a more definite light source.

Do you remember earlier that I mentioned that magic texture layer? Well it's time to explain it's significance. What it is, is simply the grey-scaled natural paper texture pictured above! I place it on top of the entire illustration with a 100% opacity and the Colour Burn blending mode. I use it to give everything a very traditional feel, so what would look like smooth digital colours on a heavily textured background now look as though those colours were created traditionally on watercolour paper. This also adds to the vintage 1930's feel of the era in which the comic is set!

I tend to colour with this natural paper texture switched on from the start, so I instantly have an idea of the end result. However, here are examples of the cover with this layer switched off on the left and how it compares when it's switched on on the right. 

You can see how flat the colouring appears against the underlaying textures of the ground and sky when it's switched off. But also how the texture brings the whole illustration together and makes the colours richer and intensifies the shadows when it is applied.

So there you have it! One finished cover!

All that is left is for the logo and text to be added by our master of letters; Jim Campbell, who expertly designed both.

MULP: Sceptre of the Sun issue #2 will be available from supporting UK comic stores on Wednesday 11th November, and will be making it's convention debut at Thought Bubble on the 14th - 15th November.

Issue #1 is already available to purchase from the same stores previously mentioned, however you can check out a free 12 page preview here

If you would like to learn more about the MULP: Sceptre of the Sun series then check out our website where we post the latest news and reviews: mulpcomic.com

And we're always happy to hear from our readers, you can let us know what you thought of the comic as well as ask any questions via our twitter @MULPcomic

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