Category Archives: Art Process

Working with Clipping Masks in Photoshop


Clipping Masks are pretty powerful when used with shapes or type. Essentially, it allows the type or text to serve as a mask, permitting the images to appear only within the type or created shape. tFor this to work well, I recommend using a thick typeface (I’m using the type “Phosphate Solid” for the example above) to make it easier to see the images that will reside inside. After typing some text in, bring in your images as separate layers into the file you are working on. It’s important to stack your images ABOVE the type layer for this technique […]

More Hand Studies


How do you practice? How do you improve? For me it boils down to one simple action: Go back to the fundamentals.

Art Process: Peter Porker


Today I turned my attention towards Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, channeling a little Skottie Young vibe. It was neat to dabble in this style. I feel that there’s always something new to learn when studying another artist’s technique.

Process Work: Extreme Sports Magazine Cover


This quarter I’m teaching an introductory Photoshop course. The second assignment for the class is to create a cover layout for an extreme sports magazine. As with everything, I like to start by researching the competition first. After amassing a collection of magazine covers, my next task was to sketch the basic layout. Sketching is such a crucial component to design, yet many novice designers try to skip it. Sketching allows me to focus purely on layout, without the distractive element of color or type. At this stage, I can get a sense of the basic composition. The sketch was […]

Girl Power!


Warm-up sketch for the morning, with a focus on using a limited color palette and using type as a design element. And here’s the rough sketch for comparison purposes: -Krishna

Art Process: Sith Lords


I took a few hours to work on something for myself and I thoroughly enjoyed the heck out of it. My compulsion to draw an unmasked version of Darth Vader is now complete. Pencils: Final: -Krishna

Art Process: Jimi Hendrix Gig Poster


It’s always a good idea to never settle for your first design. Below is my first attempt at a Hendrix poster – created for a client who commissioned the piece. The first take wasn’t bad, but it was just an exploration. I started working on it late last night and decided it would be best to sleep on the idea. Below is a totally different take that I created this morning. Obviously, sleeping on the idea created a much more interesting concept. Many student designers stop at their first attempt. Resist that temptation and train your brain to come up […]

Art Process: Rage Skates


One of my goals as artist is to work on high octane, adrenaline fueled designs that get people’s attention. The old adage is make the work you want people to hire you for. Here’s an illustration in that vein. Pencils with Inks overlay: Final illustration: Come on universe. Help me make it happen.

A Case of Less is More


Sometimes more research results in a simpler design. Such was the case for a piece I started working on last night. Given the movie title “Drought 1980: The Return”, I tasked myself with the idea of developing a movie poster that would fit the title. My preliminary concept, drawn off the cuff, is shown below. It’s a pretty general movie poster with some interesting elements in it – but it was coming across as fairly formulaic. The next morning, I went back and created a mind map. I can’t emphasize making mind maps enough. They are incredibly useful tools in […]

Art Process: Abandoned Home


Another lighting study using an initial digital pencil sketch to work out the layout, focal point and overall composition. Below is the final image. Black and white contrast check was up to snuff so I’m pleased overall with how this turned out. -Krishna

Art Process: Space Terror


Design is an iterative process. It should be malleable. It should be fluid. Below is a composition, with three different “takes”. Initially, I started the first version as a quick painting demo in class. I wanted to go back and ink it. The results, in my view, were too stiff and the poses were devoid of energy. I really didn’t like this version at all, but I liked the overall composition from the initial painted version. Not satisfied, I scrapped version 1 completely. I restarted the illustration from scratch, exaggerating the character’s bodies and pushing their poses. As a result, […]

Process: Value Study


A quick value study exercise for the evening. I sketched the image and then used the lasso tool to layer shapes to give the sketch some form. I wanted to make this more of a value study than a finished piece.

Art Process: Hellboy and Friends


Artists need to cleanse their palette every now and then. As a fan of Mignola’s use of shape and negative space, I wanted to incorporate those elements in this Hellboy piece. This might be the only time you’ll see Hellboy “cross over” with Luke Cage and Howard the Duck. Pencils: Inks for Hellboy:

Doom Calling


Above are the inks for a warm-up sketch featuring the diabolical Dr. Doom. His costume, complete with mask and flowing cloak, have always had a ton of visual appeal for me. Below, more process work: -Krishna

Art: Bob and Baymax


No process work. Just feels. We finally saw Big Hero Six this morning, and I felt compelled to draw Baymax. I mean, how could I not? Here he is, with his hug buddy Bob, from my comic strip PC Weenies. -Krishna

Process: Kung Fu meets Fu Manchu


I embarked on taking this composition in a more experimental direction. I wanted to mimic the old mis-registered prints from movie posters and wrap it up in a loving tribute to Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. I wasn’t happy with the initial pencil rendering of Fu Manchu, so I scrapped it completely and started over again. After performing a grayscale test, I realized that what was missing was highlight values. So I added them in. Here’s the first pass grayscale test. And the second pass, with the highlights added around Shang’s muscles and face. Finally, here’s the finished piece.

Art: Bridge to Nowhere


This was another background design exercise using Photoshop and the lasso tool. It took me about 30 minutes to create the finished piece. And in the process, I developed a much better grasp of Photoshop’s mask tool. Experimentation is the key to learning! Monochrome version: Final version: -Krishna

Process: Creature from the Black Lagoon


As a kid, I lived for “The Creature Double Feature”, a 4 hour block of horror movie programming on Channel 56 in Boston, Massachusetts. It was this program that introduced me to a myriad of horror characters, including the Mummy, Frankenstein, the Wolfman and, of course, the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Having never really drawn this character before, I was eager to sink my teeth into it. I wanted to something different with the composition. Instead of the Creature carrying off a helpless damsel in distress, I chose a different route altogether. Pencils for the creature and his gal, […]

Haunted House: Box Art


The original box art: My take, with some noticeable tweaks to crop the image into a square. And a vintage “well used” version of the same cartridge box.

Process: Pencils, Inks and Colors for Haunted House


The layout from my previous blog post was used as an underdrawing for my pencils. Pencils and inks were both created in Manga Studio. Colors and text were added in using Photoshop. It was important for me to pick a typeface that would add context to the game. I needed a typeface that would evoke the feeling of “Haunted House”. Using size and line height, I modified the “House” text to keep it aligned with the word “Haunted” above it. The red rings were added at the very end to reinforce the focal point and create movement around the composition. […]

Process: Haunted House: Mind Map and Composition Layout Planning


Imagine that Atari was bringing back the classic 2600 console, with a retro format (cartridges) but enhanced graphics and gameplay. That’s the premise for a project I assigned to my Concept Art and Design class this quarter. Each student was randomly assigned one of 18 classic Atari 2600 games. I opted to participate in this activity with my students, selecting Haunted House from the draw. First off, here is the original box art. As was the practice that time, the cover art was a very broad design meant to evoke what the game *should* have been like. Given the limited […]

Process: VW “Punchbuggy”


Modern vehicles may have all the tech, but the cars of old have a certain distinct look that makes them beautiful in my eyes. (They don’t make cars like they used to.) For as long as I can remember, I have always dug the Volkswagen Beetle. Maybe because its shape is so friendly. Or that I saw “Herbie the Love Bug” movie as a kid. In any event, Volkswagen Beetle die-cast cars were among my top picks. I was a Matchbox kid all the way, but in later years warmed up to the flashy Hot Wheels cars. Here’s my attempt […]

Character Design: Pap Finn: Working with Silhouettes


I approach character design with research followed by a series of shape explorations. Photoshop’s lasso tool is my tool of choice for shape exploration. Below is my process work for Pap Finn, taken from the book Huckelberry Finn by Mark Twain. These were created about a year ago for a Character Object and Design course I taught. First, I start with a series of silhouette explorations, keeping in mind the text description of the character. Next, I flesh out the silhouettes by adding volumetric shapes to the silhouettes, giving the drawings some depth. Also included are design notes articulating my […]

Process: El Muerto


Imagine that your own comic creation gets turned into a movie. That’s exactly what happened with El Muerto, created by my pal Javier Hernandez. El Muerto, also known as the Aztec Zombie, was debuted on the screen in 2007, and starred Wilmer Valderrama. The film went on to win the Best Feature Film award at the first annual Whittier Film Festival in 2008. Here’s my take on Javier’s character. Sketch: Inks on pencils: Here’s the fills, which I keep on a separate layer under my Inks layer. And, here’s the final, with a splash of red thrown in as an […]

Process: Giant Size PC Weenies


Though I only started reading Marvel comics in the mid ’80’s, I have a special affinity for the Marvel comics from the decade before. As a tribute of sorts, I spoofed the cover design of Giant Size X-Men #1 – which introduced the world to the likes of Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus. Below are the pencils. There were three iterations beforehand that didn’t make the final cut. The pencils were created in a program called Mischief. Next, the inks, created in Manga Studio. The illustration was brought into Photoshop, where it was married with the comic book cover trade […]

Fighting Illustration Stagnation with Animal Celebrity Mashup


Sometimes you want to draw something but you’re just not sure where to begin. One of my favorite warm-up exercises is to take a famous celebrity (or interesting person) and mash him or her up with a random animal. Here I’ve taken Jim Carey and crossed him over with a walrus. The goal here is to come up with an unusual character, and not necessarily make the character “look” like the celebrity. This is another tool in my character design brainstorming process. For this particular sketch, I used a program called Mischief for pencils, with inks in Manga Studio and […]

Process: Fresh of the Boat’s Eddie Huang


This is a quick piece I drew of one of the main characters (Eddie Huang) from the new ABC television series Fresh off the Boat. I was given the opportunity to watch an early screening of the show and found it to be relatable in many ways. Rough pencils: Final art: -Krishna

Process: On the Prairie


Color has a tendency to fool the eye into thinking that the contrast levels are okay. The best method I’ve found to insure that there is sufficient contrast is to take an existing image and convert to grayscale. By looking at the tonal values alone, without the distraction of color, I can see if the range of dark to light shades provide sufficient contrast. A poor tonal range will yield grayscale values that are very close to one another. A good tonal range will have areas of high and low contrast to balance the composition’s midtone grayscale values. Below is […]

Er’mli Revised


I had some second thoughts and wasn’t happy with my first attempt at the character Er’mli. I scrapped the drawing all together and redrew it. This time, I took particular note of the colors that were in the text description of the character (medium yellow and dark blue) and worked those elements into the design. For comparison, here is the first version: and here’s the revised version:

Process: The Ghost Who Eats


What started out as a quick sketch of an overweight Phantom… …developed into a visual narrative with the character. Adding some context, acting and an interesting or humorous situation can breathe life and interest into a character design. Give your character purpose and intent, don’t just have them stand or sit “normally”. Think about who your character is and what makes them tick. What do they want? What do they fear? How do they react in certain situations? I find it useful to map characters onto people that I’ve come into contact with – whether it’s a person I see […]

Process: Modern Day Medusa


This evening, as a wind-down sketch, I drew a modern spin on the classic Greek villainess Medusa. A modern day interpretation of the pantheon of of Greek gods is something I would like to tackle soon. Pencils: Inks over pencils: Inks by themselves: Final!

Process: Er’mli Colors and Final


I opted to go with a more painterly approach when finalizing the look for this character. The process began by taking the pencil sketch and applying a flat color approach, using Photoshop’s lasso tool. From there, I used a few custom Photoshop brushes to add in shading. Next, I applied a paper texture to give the robe a different material feel. I’ve used this technique plenty of times for illustrating background layouts, but this is the first time I’ve applied the same techniques towards character design. It was definitely an enjoyable experience, and I hope to create new character design […]

Process: Another Egyptian Interior: Color Flats and Final


I wrapped up another ancient Egyptian background this evening. I debated as to whether or not to leave the broken pot from the pencils (below) in the final piece. In the end, I decided against it because it would draw too much attention from the eerie mood I am trying to establish. Is an illustration ever “complete”? For me, it is. Onward to the next adventure!

Process: Egyptian Interiors: Color Flats and Final


I’m reading a book on Maurice Noble, the famed background layout artist whose work at Disney and Warner Bros. are the stuff of legend. Mr. Noble’s background designs are brilliant, and I have a lot to learn from studying his work. Though I work digitally, I approach background design from a painting perspective. I prefer the minimalistic, stylized look as opposed to photorealistic rendering. I prefer to let shapes, not lines, dictate the environment. Below are the color flats for one of the Egyptian backgrounds I was working on earlier this week. Using the pencil sketch, I establish a base […]

Process: Er’mli Rough Pencils


Working from the silhouettes I developed last week, I expanded upon a few of them to arrive at the rough pencil drawings you see below. The description of forest shrines led me towards looking at robes of the Far East for the character’s outfit. Er’mli is stated to be a God, donned in formal attire, so the long flowing robe makes a good fit, I think. My research of Mu (referenced as Er’mli’s father in the text description of the character) led me to incorporate the Chinese symbol of “Mu” into the character’s robe. In each of the designs, I […]

Process: Egyptian Interior Pencils


A week back, I documented my thumbnail process for an Egyptian tomb interior. This week, I selected two of the thumbnail images and developed them further. During this phase of the process, I add more details, including elements of a visual narrative. Basic shading was added to give the illustrations more clarity and depth.

Process: Wooden Truck


One of the first assignments in my Character and Object Design course is the Wooden Vehicle Project. The purpose of this project is to give the students the opportunity to visualize and draw objects as three dimensional structures. Using a wooden vehicle of their choice, students work from a 3/4 front or 3/4 back view of their reference photo. The goal of this exercise isn’t to copy the photo – but to use it as a guide for establishing proportions. Students are asked to show their process work from beginning to end. Often times, when time allows, I like to […]

Process: The Yardbirds


Unless you are an aficionado of 1960’s music, you may not have heard of The Yardbirds. But many people recognize Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. Each of these guitarists played in The Yardbirds at an early point in their careers. Here’s a process breakdown for the central figure of this piece, Keith Relf.

Process: Staypuft Marshmallow Ghostbuster Man


I saw Ghostbusters in the theater when I was in 7th grade. It made an indelible impression on me back then. The theme song was anthemic, and the story had a fun mix of sci-fi and crass humor. By the ending credits of the film, my gang of friends and I had already made plans to become neighborhood Ghostbusters, placing flyers around our apartment complex. Good times. In my view, no character embodies that movie more than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Today’s sketch pays tribute to the Man, the Marshmallow Man, and the Myth. Adding a twist, I opted […]

Process: Studded Head Dude


My wind down sketch for the evening features another portrait. The more unusual the subject, the more interested I am in capturing it. Pencils: Inks: Colors:

Process: Er’mli Silhouettes


Drawing from the outside allows me to focus on shape and overall proportions instead of sweating details. Drawing silhouettes is a very quick process, thanks to the symmetry tool in Autodesk Sketchbook. The symmetry tool is a good first start for playing with proportions and shape, but I don’t exclusively rely on it. (The drawings that it generates tend to be stiff and mechanical.) After a few warm-up symmetry sketches, I shift to working out character poses. It gives me an idea of how the character will move, and also allows me to think about the character’s attitude, by way […]

Mind-mapping as a Character Design Brainstorming Tool


Over the course of the next several blog posts, I’ll be sharing my process on how I personally approach character concept design. Constraints are important, and in this case, the constraint I’ve been given is the text description of a character obtained from Chaotic Shiny, a writing and gaming generator. Er’mli, the God of Wrath, is very beautiful, with copper skin, long, pale golden hair, and eyes the color of tree bark. He is very tall and broad-shouldered, and often looks sly. He usually wears formal attire dyed medium yellow and dark blue. He is also associated with water and […]

Process: Egyptian Interior Thumbnails


This quarter I’m teaching a course on background design and layout. Though I’m familiar with background design, this is the first time I am teaching a course specifically on the subject. As such, part of my preparation includes developing my own files to use within my class room demonstrations. Essentially, I’m doing my “homework” to show my students my process and what my expectations are. Designing backgrounds doesn’t have to be intimidating. I spend a considerable amount of time collecting environmental references (both Pinterest and Google are excellent places to start your search). Once I’ve amassed my references, I start […]

Process: Creaturitis


Never underestimate the power of the symmetry tool when it comes to brainstorming character designs. Programs like Sketchbook and Manga Studio offer these tools (providing both X and Y symmetry). Draw one side and your sketch is mirrored simultaneously on the other side. I use this technique quite a bit when I’m developing a series of quick thumbnails for concept work. Pencils: Inks: This is where I add some small variations in texture and some asymmetry to the design. Colors: -Krishna