Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pin Up Tutorial - Chapter 1

Chapter 1.  So You Wanna Make It In Comics...
The Magnum Opus of comic tutorials this will be. A complete guide to life, the universe and everything.  Well, maybe not, but you will have to forgive me if I start going on about things that seem like complete common-sense. Back when I was first starting out, it was hard to find a lot of decent tutorials that spoke directly to the comic artist noob, so I want to share anything and everything that I've managed to pick up through trial and error. I also want this to be a completely honest document, and by that, I mean I'm not going to be afraid to share my artistic shortcomings, self-doubts and general silliness. How is this helpful to you? I want you to know that art is always a learning one has all the answers and no one is an expert. We're all novices because the moment we think we know everything, we stop learning. When kids ask me how to draw comic characters, I tell them to get some tracing paper and trace everything. That's how I started out, and I was amazed to find out that I wasn't the only one who got their foundation like this. As a child, you obviously don't realize it at the time, but constantly tracing stuff builds up muscle memory and you start to subconsciously get a correct sense of proportions, perspective, and layouts. I used to go through my issues of DC's Whos Who and look for images of characters with fairly basic, skin-tight costumes and then I would trace over the outlines so that I could draw my own costumes and faces on them.  After months of doing this, I didn't need to trace the comics anymore and I could draw them from memory. But if you're going to try this yourself, or suggest this to a child, make sure you use the work of great technical artists such as George Perez, John Byrne or John Romita Sr. to trace from! These guys really know their anatomy and dynamic poses...on the flipside, try to stay away from some of the artists from the 90's! You know what I'm talking about...
At this point, I should also mention that these tutorials are mainly focused towards working on covers or pin-ups...if you try and use my coloring style for the interior of a comic book, then may your applicable deity have mercy on your soul because IT WILL TAKE YOU FOREVER to color a page. To make any kind of money as a colorist, you need to be able to do 2-3 pages a day, because starting out, you will probably be making roughly $40 per page. Then, if you multiply that by 22 (there are typically 22 pages in a comic), your total income for that month will be...uh (checking calculator)...$880. And that's before the Taxman and Paypal take a healthy chunk of it. You should also be prepared for the fact that you probably won't get paid right away so be sure that you'll be able to live comfortably for a month or so with no income. Some companies require you to invoice them for each job once the entire work for that month has been completed, and even when that goes through the proper channels, it will still take a couple of weeks for the cheque to arrive. However, if you live outside the States, add another 10 to 15 days while your bank's computers refuse to acknowledge the existence of the internet and apparently still use carrier pigeons to converse with their financial counterpart in the land of the free. Anyway, as I was saying before I got sidetracked, if you are going to be working on the interior pages of a comic, then your best bet would be to use the 'cuts' method of digital coloring. This method dates back to the early 90's when many of you were still creating scratch and sniff artwork in your's also a great way to digitally color if you don't have a Wacom or any other brand of digital input apparatus.  I started out using this method, but it's been so long since I tried it that it would probably do more harm than good if I were to try and teach it here. Click here for a good tutorial on 'Cuts' coloring
Ok,  it might seem like things got off to a negative start back there, but to be truthful, Digital Colorists have the best opportunity to make more money starting out because we can do more pages a month than pencilers (who are lucky to make $60 per page in the beginning, and can rarely do more than 22 pages a month), and it's also a great way to get your foot in the door, because let's be's the least glamorous part of the industry so the competition is sparse. Forget those few remaining glorified tracers out there, if you really want to have friends and family members look upon you with confusion, bewilderment, and a hint of pity, then tell them you color comic books for a living. Watch for the blank stare as they imagine you lying on the floor with a pack of crayons and a $2 Whitman coloring book.  No fancy terms like Photoshop Creative Suite, Wacom Intuos 4 or Workstation PC/Mac is going to disguise the  fact that, in their eyes, you color other peoples pictures for a living. If you are able to deal with being the bassplayer in the Guitar Hero world of illustration, then congratulations and move on to the next step.
Again, it might seem like I'm putting down the coloring profession, but as any colorist will attest to, they're actually the backbone of the comic industry. If you were to strip away the colors from many comics, the resulting pages would look like the bathroom floor of an abattoir (in particular, that little area behind the toilet where no one really ever cleans properly). Yeah, I went there! And even though I made a little dig at inkers earlier, they are actually your best friend, because the first time that you get an un-inked page to color, which is entirely likely to be the first page you ever get to color nowadays, you will yearn for the pristine, razor sharp, penmanship of the master draftsman who was mercilessly mocked in 'Chasing Amy.' Think I'm exaggerating? Find a comic page with a forest that hasn't been inked and try coloring it.  You can find the razorblades in the bathroom...make sure you leave a note.  Fortunately, pencilers are becoming more aware of the technical process these days and a lot of them are tightening up their lineart so that the lack of inks are not so apparent.  And this is a great jumping off point for the first technical part of this the next section, I'll go over the initial stage of creating your first cover/pin-up.

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