CREATING COMIC ART IN PHOTOPAINT by Robert Seidel - RS.HOME.PAGES.DE  

DOWNLOAD COMPLETE TUTORIAL (500KB ZIP)  

This tutorial shows how to create comic art in PhotoPAINT and also discusses experienced problems - so you can get great results in shorter time. 

I created this picture "FOR MY ..." after my holidays in the USA, to thank my father for giving me the chance to visit this beautiful and contradictory country. Why a penguin ? Because he loves penguins - they must have something to do with low temperature physics ;-)  

The style is influenced by some airbrush art and writings (graffiti) - somehow it looks a bit childish. But I liked this, because it's a bit like a these scrawly drawings you gave to your parents as you where younger on Christmas ... everybody can read "Thank you soooo much ..."
 

Before getting more sentimental - How to do this ? I used COREL PhotoPAINT & DRAW 8 because I was a betatester for it and liked some features of it very much. It's very customizable and has some great timesavers. You could also use Adobe Photoshop, Micrografx PicturePublisher, Metacreation Painter or any other other painting tool that gives you features like airbrush, blur and layers. A graphic tablet like my WACOM Artpad II is a great timesaver for coloring and blurring, because a mouse isn't that controllable and it's harder to create soft curves ...  

1. SKETCH  

large sketch
 
Because creating sketches even with a pad is hard (it's relatively small) I took a simple pencil (yes, I can use traditional tools !) and created a fast "1 minute" sketch of the penguin and the octopus present. After this I scanned it with my MUSTEK 12000P (parallelport, slow but cheap) in a low resolution, saved it and imported it into DRAW.  
 
 
2. TRACING 

screenshoot DRAW
 
The next step was to trace the outlines of the sketch for creating objects - I tried COREL (OCR) TRACE, but there where some problems, for example it created many nodes, so it got a bit un-editable and  because  wanted to create independent objects I decided to do this in DRAW. Simply load it as a background picture, lock it and use shape tool and the node edit functions like smooth for creating organic curves. 

Of course you can do this with other vector programms like Macromedia Freehand or Adobe Illustrator or with the path tools included in the painters. The PAINT path tool is a bit uncomfortable - scaling and rotating paths isn't possible - but perhaps nobody ever wanted to do this ? 

Because neither DRAW can export layered bitmaps (CPT) nor PAINT can import layered vector file (CDR) without loosing the layer information (hope his changes with version 9) you have to create some "outside marks". These boundaries are necessary because DRAW exports only the active objects in the wanted resolution - if there are no marks, the eyes would be as large as the penguin.  

I used layers because coloring is much simpler and moving single objects (like the eyes) is possible without destroying the other objects - if you are absolutly clear about your picture you could export it in one layer and use the magic wand mask tool for creating independent color patches. With the objects you could also create simple animations and use the single parts in other projects. 
 

3. IMPORTING  

screenshoot PAINT
 
 I exported every object in a single file (use the small printer symbol in DRAWs object window for exporting only a special layer) loaded it in PAINT, used the magic wand mask tool, copied it into the clipboard and pasted the object into a single main-document. Then I arranged all layers for right position and order.  

For overlapping objects like the penguin fin and the octopus tentacle I created a temporary mask, saved it in a new channel and created a second mask of the other object in the same way. Then I switched the mode to subtractive mask and loaded the first mask - to get rid of the overlapping parts create a clip mask or simply delete them. Now you have your final objects for coloring ...  
 

4. COLORING  

HOW TO DO overview
 
... the "real" problems. PAINT 8(a & b) is very inaccurate for airbrushing and smearing fine color gradients - be prepared ! 

For creating fast colors you simply fill the objects with gradients. First lock the layer and then fill - for easy objects like the octopus eyeballs you don't need much further editing. 

For highlights and shadows you should use airbrush, but you have to be very careful with transpareny, if it's not right you will get a very covering color or see nothing. Another possibilty to fix covering problems is changing the dab spacing, but if the spacing between the single dabs gets too large it will be no closed line, otherwise you will get a very covering stroke ... For good shading it's very difficult to find the right parameters, but by trying you should be able to create useable airbrush lines - it depends of the resolution of the picture, the dab size and spacing, the transparency, the color of the layer, the color you want to add, the weather and daytime ;-)  Save the right brushes and set the undo steps to 3-5 for experiments with the airbrush and pen (pressure) settings. 

screenshoot PAINT
 
For small transitions use blend - to blur more, you have to push the mouse buttons many times on the same place - by only moving it over and over again, you would only blur it one time. Many clicks and the effect gets more and more vissible. 

A technic for creating "large" soft transitions between 2 colors is to smear the colors (EFFECT TOOL), but here PAINT is inaccurate - the colors tends to shift to it's nearest RGB component - a cool effect if you want to create fire or so, but for this it was very annoying ... so be careful and use the airbrush to paint over the shifted color. 

Last to save time for the "rough coloring" - mask parts of the objects, feather this selection and use gaussian blur. Other types of blur are only useful for the final work. 
 

5. FINAL FIXUP and SHADOW 

screenshoot PAINT
 
After coloring all single objects, combine them all together. If you know you have to fix some details, it would help to create masks of the important objects - it's better to this right now - importing them from older file versions only takes time. Now you can use airbrush and blend to fix aliasing problems on the edges, creating the final highlights and shadows. Then you clone the collapsed object, lock transparency and fill it with a black to gray gradient. This shadow object has to be skewed, sized and "perspectived", then use blend, airbrush and the gaussian blur filter. 
 

6. READY ... OR NOT ? 

FOR MY ... (low resolution)

... here it comes - after spending many hours (over some days) in front of my P166 with 64MB I was feed up. Because I wanted to print it in high resolution (1800x1200) the sometimes up to 15 layers and the undo steps caused my system to swap more than normal ... so if you want to create a high-resolution-layer-mask-color-undo-picture, be sure to have enough RAM or time ... perhaps also some more intelligent undo and swapping algorithms in PAINT would help or even a less memory greedy operating system, but it's quite nice and my father liked it ;-) 

Hope you liked this tutorial, for more stuff like freeware, 3D Studio IPAS and more visit my homepage 
All rights reserved - 1998 Robert Seidel, Jena, Germany

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