Me & Deleter (a long letter)
Greetings ... new to pencil jack ... haven't even picked an Avatar ... if such things are necessary.
I stumbled across a mention of Pencil Jack somewhere just as I was thinking of starting up a new forum or group dealing with doing Comic Book art on the computer. But having found Pencil Jack I feel you have such a better Forum than I ever expected to see.
I've been doing Comic book art for a long long time ... very much an amatuer ... but a couple of years ago I came across Deleter's CGillust. It took me a long time to think of the proper way to use it but as I was Comic Book oriented I simply adapted the ways of drawing comics into the computer.
I'm writing this in the Tips and techniques section because I want to give you the benefit of my experience using CgIllust, Open Canvas and Comicworks as Comic book creating software. (This is all windows. Mac Users have an equivilent program I'm told, the name escapes me at the moment ... hows that for inconsiderateness.) I feel I got boggled by the potential, the range of possiblities of settings and found I did best if I came back to square one. Some might even say the fact I work in these programs instead of Photoshop or Painter is also a case of intimidation of too many tools and too many settings. But then these programs are compact, Cheap, single purpose ... the original CGIllust I bought worked 100% on a Pentium One 350 mhz computer running Windows 98 with no problem. For me I got the best drawing results of my life.
Okay, problematical is the relation of CGillust to Open Canvas. CgIllust IS Open Canvas 2. Since then there's been an Open Canvas 3 and an Open Canvas 4 and still no upgrade of CGillust ... in fact, they seemed to have shut down their english support site. Learning this I decided to change over to Open Canvas 4, had to rebuy the program essentially, only to find the response pen was less as the program now expects Window XP on a 1gig mhz or better machine. Luckily I got 4 by buying 3 in a free upgrade time and have both 3 and CGillust to fall back on.
The other thing about Open Canvas 4 is the further Open Canvas improves itself the more it seems to look like Photoshop. I have photoshop already. So, I seemed to have burned myself. Still ... I've grown so accustomed to the CgIllust/Open Canvas workspace that I'm still there, in Open Canvas 3.
Have you followed that? I'm recounting my history with CGillust to make the point that everything I ever learned using a computer to draw comics into the computer I learned on a small, cheap, easy to use program that works on an old computer. This is EASY stuff if you clue into it.
First off, first hard won lesson for me, was drawing is NOT the final result of creating a comic book page. Printers nowadays customarily have 600 dpi or better as STANDARD but you try drawing 600 dpi on a computer screen and you can get lost. If it's an old computer like mine a 7x10 illustration (magazine proportions not comics) is 4200x6000 pixels. My machine chokes on that many pixels and it isn't needed in the first place. The screen is 96 pixels an inch is Windows standard. 72 dpi is given as standard for monitors but windows ignores that. 96 is an odd size to reinterpret later so 100 dpi is all the dpi you need to draw in. Figure the size you want your "original art" and do it times 100. Example, an old standard for a thumbnail was 4x6, do 400 x 600 .. then up the resolution to 1000 x 1500 for the working out of the page.
When you're an amatuer like me you find yourself using a variety of pencils. Hard pencils for laying out a page (about 6H), medium for roughs (3 or 4 H) then tighter pencils with softer lead (H, HB, or B). Get proficient with that system and you can come out with clean professional looking pencils without recourse to lightboxes and the like. With CG it's even easier, you layer on top of layer. Do the Thumbnail, re-resolve it to 1000x1500, put over it a new layer and drop the thumbnail layer to 20% or even 10 % and draw over it a better drawing. Keep that up as much as you like. But I usually stick to thumb level, rough level, and finish level with the finish level on magnification 200 %. You don't need to re-resolve just 200% and you'll get all the nose hair drawing you'll ever need.
If you want to get the sort of perfect pro pencils you've seen from the lightbox/blue pencil technique you can do that too in CG. Put a layer over the last layer and fill it with Cyan, then turn it to addition (or multiply or screen) In the original CGillust when I tried this the cyan was too electric so I had to juggle it's percentage and a percentage of a layer of white till I was happy but I still got the traditional "non-photo blue" in the end ... put a layer over that blue image ... and DO watch what layer you're on ... and draw the final fishishes as smooth as you could ever want.
But what then you have this mock comic art drawing at 100 dpi what kind of dpi is that to print?? Up until a year ago I wondered the same thing until Deleter came out with a second program called Comicworks. Basically it's designed to produce finished Black and white art done from 300 to 1200 dpi. It does that by making the working layer BITMAP. Those of you who know the term from scanning comic art know how that can fill some with Horror, it takes gentle pencil tone and forces it by a process called threshold into ONLY black and white. It can be a very unpretty thing even with inked art let alone pencils. BUT using Bitmap as a layer makes the size of the layer tiny, less information, a small machine like mine can thus move from a refined pencil to high DPI black inking layer suitable for publication and not choke a bit.
About Tablets ... At first I had a bargain bin tablet that sort of did scratches ... at best looked like Rapidograph work when I tried to "ink" but I finally broke down and put out the cash to get a 4x6 Intous2 ... then I could "Ink" like I was holding a Sable brush. I'm now learning the splashy professional sort of inking I always admired in old comic books for the first time on the computer screen. It boggles my mind, too.
Okay ... that's what I wanted to say ... just about all of it. I haven't worked out all the kinks myself to every bit of this but these were the biggy's to me. I still am not happy how Comicwork's Ample supply of Zipatone style screens translate to Web pages ... it's a resolution problem I expect I'll crack eventually ... probably need to make one set of screens for standard comic page, keep the masks, and resize the black layers and do the screens again for the Web. But not perfected that technique.
Recently picked up the "Photoshop an Painter Artist Tablet book" to learn Color illustration on the computer ... but I'm already running ahead experimenting in Open Canvas. We'll see if I desert OC for Photoshop or Painter for Illustration ... but I can't see I can do much better with OC for Comics.
Now if only I were a better Comic book artist in the first place.
Heckuva first post there, Joey. (At that age, can I still call you Joey? My brother is a Joseph and he hates it.)
Anyway, I know a lot of people are loving their wacoms and Open Canvas. I need to experiement with it and see if it helps me in the one area I desperately need; speed. If a tablet can help me draw faster, that's great. I love my pencils and paper, so it'll be hard to give them up.
About that ...
You make me feel old, why I'll get to in a minute ... I have an answer for your speed problem.
First off everybody will tell you working on the computer doesn't save time, in fact it can take at least double the time than working on paper -- PERIOD. But I know better, I think. It's not a matter of the tool but the tool user. The secret is having a Method. Much as a writer working with a word Processor can get lost processing his words the potential for refining and perfecting one's art on the computer makes it hard for a lot of people NOT to take advantage of this advantage. With a standard Method of executing a page you don't need to get lost in the pixels.
Okay ... here's where I proove my age. Back in 1966 when I was going to my first comic book convention in New York ... just starting on the road to the comic book wanna be I am today ... I sat and listened to Bill Everret talk about what it takes to be a Pro comic artist. All of us there at the convention that afternoon ... all of about 20 people ... not counting the dozen or so in the hall trading 1940's and 50's comic books from out of suitcases and another maybe dozen in the bedroom sized Dealers room ... heard him tell what was taken as gospel at the time that a pro must be able to pencil three pages a day to be a Pro. He wasn't expected to do that on any constant basis ... two pages of pencil or one of ink was about normal ... but if you couldn't do three you couldn't make deadlines in a pinch.
So, with that knowlege in hand ... and having seen the original art of Creeper by Steve Ditko, which differed with the NEW standard of 10 x15 and was 9x13 1/2 (the old standard was 12x18 but that was more pre Silver Age) ... and also because the common poster paper was 11x14 you could fit 9x13 1/2 snuggly on it ... I developed a Method where I could pretty easily crank out three pages a day.
I already mentioned being a ham-fisted amatuer I used grades of pencils to make developing a drawing a bit more sensitive. The 6h/4H/HB I mentioned above. Well, I divvy'd up the time by the level of pencil with double the amount of time for rough penciling than layout and double the amount of time for finished pencils as Rough. This pie-sliced out to something like 20/40/80 minutes. I sat down and 8 hours later had three finished pencils ... not always good, infact some were horrible but drawing an thinking comics seem to become as normal as breathing.
My main problem was Objects, both background settings as objects and props ... I thought I could solve that with toys ... not big fancy toys, just something to hold in your hand while you drew a car for example. Later, I heard, I don't know if it was true, Captian Action was a popular doll with some comic artists of the day because it could move in a lot of directions and had muscles engraved in it. Some of Steranko's work looks very Captian Action ... but I don't know that as a fact.
Okay, back to pixels. With Open canvas I mentioned I do a thumb layer, a rough layer and a Finish layer. I think that harks back to my days trying that old 3 page a day method. It's a professional attitude not to draw until perfect but to "get it" then move on. You have the next page to do and a deadline to meet.
So ... with this method and attitude I have no problem doing a 10x15 CG pencil page in about 3 or 3 1/2 hours ... and did I mention it's the best work I ever did in my life? I think the stylus is at first so alien you're sort of relearning to draw but at the same time you already know what you want so in using new muscles or in new ways you get better ... at least that's my theory, but you may ge able to tell I'm predjudiced.