Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why Digital Art - Part 2

Last week Pierre started explaining why he prefers digital drawing techniques to traditional drawing methods. Today he finishes explaining the advantages with an example of how it helpped him finish the cover of a comics magazine featuring the Marvel character Nova.

I draw the artwork in pencil on paper... then with my "friend" Photoshop... I turn it into the finished artwork. With Photoshop... it allows me to separate the characters from the BG allowing Jim to move the characters around as needed depending on how much lettering he may want to add to this piece.

For example here is the cover for a new Flashback Universe comic we are working on. On one layer I draw the characters...
On another layer I prepared the background.

This way, if they need to be repositioned to accomodate lettering, it's very easy to do that later.

Also... whenever possible... I will use an assignment to experiment in working with the computer.
I had done various sketches when I did some artwork for the 30th anniversary of Nova magazine. And later I was asked to turn one of the sketches we ended up not using into the cover for the 35th anniversary of Nova magazine.

So I jumped at the opportunity of getting some practice in drawing and inking directly in the computer.

And doing this... it allowed me to keep the characters on a separate layer. That meant that it would be easy to decide to change the background.

I made an alternate version to suggest how the cover could be tweaked if needed. And as happens sometimes.... the alternate version was the chosen version in the end.

But in the end... I was happy with either version... so no harm done there.
Making the artwork digitally makes it easier to make some changes to a piece - if the piece is planned properly and the artist works in layers.

As time passes... you can be sure that it will be expected from artists to produce the work in the computer in order to make the job easier for everyone else in the production.

So if you are an aspiring artist... and if you are hoping to work on a production some day... it might be a good idea to learn not only how to use a computer, but also to learn how to draw in the computer.

So "sharpen" that computer... and let's start drawing. ;)


cash_gorman said...

I have a few problems with work done on the computer. What is done on the computer screen and looks good on the screen doesn't always translate. Dynamite's coloring for example. A lot of times it looks fine for reading on a computer screen, but is often too dark and dense for print, especially on glossy paper.

Your Nova pics are a good example also. It wouldn't bother me on the computer screen but in print, having the Novas being drawn in a traditional line work and then the painted Earth planets in the background throw me completely out of a piece instead of being drawn into the world. Often, computer added backgrounds (as well as textures and added special effects such as blurs and lens flares) are just like this, they have a completely different level of realism and style. I see the hand of the computer and it completely disrupts the experience.

Another problem with digital penciling and inking is that at its most basic, it produces a lifeless line. Something not noticed as much with a crisp animation style or viewing on a monitor. Great artists will find ways around it, they'll recognize that limitation. I fear for many that the computer will take mediocre and make it look flatter while glossing it up with shades and special effects.

JimShelley said...

@Cash - I have to agree with you on how the incongruity of the digital backgrounds and pencils can drag you out of a story. I remember being a kid and seeing that sort of thing in Kirby's Thor and not liking it then either.

Pierre Villeneuve said...

I agree with you that the color is often wayyyy to dark in print.

There are ways to try to avoid that... but matching the print color to what we see on the screen is... not easy.

Although... in animation... we had that problem for decades. The color of the artwork produce was not quite the same on the TV screen. Heck maybe I should make a Blog about that.

I understand how the digital BG may seem strange.... it does seem strange to me. but there is a whole generation out there who either cannot tell the difference... or will much prefer such a contrast.

Although technically... again in animation.... we had that contrast for decades. We had cell painting with flat colors over painted BGs.... and most don't see even perceive the difference.

The same with the line quality. I understand that it does kill some of the life in the line and the drawing itself.... but once more.... for most people.... it is something on some level that they cannot even perceive.

Will have to give this come more thoughts and explain it properly in an upcoming Blog. ;)

cash_gorman said...

In animation (and anything dealing with television and movies for that matter, at least up to right now on the cusp of HiDef) you have the advantage of movement and not single fixed scenes. When looking at a single cel on a painted background, that contrast becomes more apparent. But, by also having moving pictures, there actually does not need to be as much detail in what moves because the eye fills in the missing detail from frame to frame.

I worked in a newspaper, and one of the bane of our existence was people trying to use screen grabs from video for use as photos. A single frame is horrible resolution and practically unusable.

With the advent of computers, it became advertisers wanting to use logos from their website for their print ads and trying to explain that what looks good on a monitor at 72dpi will look horrible in print, that most logos need to be at least 300dpi.

It's why I worry about the crop of artists that learn a bit too much about doing things on the computer and not enough about the technical side of print. Coloring stuff for print is not THAT hard. I dealt with it on a daily basis with hundreds of graphics and photos and on a more low end press and paper stock than what comics use. But, I understood a few things about dot gain, maximum ink density and the proper cmyk numbers for good flesh tones, a good red, etc in regards to the press AND paper stock that I'd be working with. If your colorist doesn't have that information, then someone on the pre-press end needs to know that and prepare the pages before they go to print.

I know John Byrne recently did a print from pencils Angel mini and the publishers told him to send in work at 300 dpi. Which would be fine for sending in pencils that were going to be inked and colored or for most photographs being sent for print publication. But, in my experience, there's a lot of visible detail and clarity that is lost in LINE WORK at 300 dpi vs even 600 dpi. If I was doing a copy-dot scan, a scan of a previously printed b/w graphic and thus trying to hold even the smallest dot in the print-screen, I'd actually scan at 1200 dpi. The 300 dpi limit is not one based on the optimum end result of holding detail in line work but one of file size and was dictated almost a decade ago when people still used floppies and dial-ups. Even then, my minimum was 400 dpi and that was with clear and bold lines. End result, I could tell with Byrne's pencils in print, that the resolution was not as high as it could and should have been for the project. There is a fuzziness that was coming from the resolution not holding on the fine edge with the gray screen added on top and not from the fact it was uninked pencils.


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