Children’s book illustration using Adobe Illustrator and Corel Painter

children's book illustration

 

Video Transcript

In my last blog post , I talked about illustrating a children’s book as a personal project that came about when I was entertaining my daughter by doodling a little teddy bear character and just inventing  a story about him. I’m just going to talk a bit more about the process of finishing the illustrations that I started in Adobe Illustrator by taking them into Photoshop and Painter.

I have an Adobe Illustrator Master file containing all the basic vector graphic elements I need for my book illustrations. Each element is grouped separately, so it’s like a big disorganised library file for all the elements I need. It might be a tree, a character a cloud shape it’s all thrown in here.

The workflow I’m using is to copy and paste the elements I need in to different layers in a Photoshop file. Then I’ll reopen that file in Corel Painter and add shading to it with a Chalk brush, what I’m going for here is to take those sharp hard edged vector graphics and give them a much softer look. So here’s the illustrator graphic that I’ve created of the bear chasing a squirrel up a tree. I want the tree, the bear, the squirrel’s tail and the background of the sky and clouds all on different layers. I could just copy and paste directly from Illustrator to Painter, so why bother to add the extra step of Photoshop? The main reason is, I just find it easier to do this step in Photoshop because I know the software so well,  but the other reason is that Photoshop allows you to paste the element in as a vector object which means I can resize each element up or down without any loss of quality before I rasterize it. Only once it’s rasterized does it then become a bitmap which can be edited and painted over.

The next step is to save my Photoshop file and open it in Painter. I have a palette of custom brushes in Painter but the brush I’m going to use is the default brush called “Blunt Chalk 30” I make a new layer above all the others and this is going to be a white border. Then I’m going to add some shading to the tree. I’ve got the checkbox for “Preserve Transparency” checked and that locks the layer so that only the only the tree can be painted on. Then I’m going to soften the hard edges of those white clouds with the chalk brush, so now I need to turn off the “Preserve transparency” setting  in order to paint around and outside the area of the cloud.

Finally I add some finishing shading  to the bear and the squirrel and I’m pretty much done. Back in Photoshop, the advantage of layers can be seen because I just want to shift some of the elements around slightly.  I prefer to do this in Photoshop because it has an autoselect layer checkbox which makes this part easier. If you’ve never used it, checking the Autoselect layer checkbox allows you to quickly select layers by clicking on the element you want to move rather than having to highlight the layer in the layers palette first, it’s just one of those little time saving things that really adds up over time plus if you’re dealing with lots of layers you don’t have to waste time naming and organising them  and then scrolling through them all to find the one you want. It’s basically a lazy person’s way of doing layer selection  and I make no apology for it. So there we have it, I’m one illustration closer to finishing my children’s book project. If you’d like to know when the book is available either as a digital download or a hard copy please feel free to send me a message. You can contact me via my website www.zengrenade.com or just post a comment on this video.

 

Eddie the bad tempered teddy:Children’s book project

This project got started in the way many children’s book ideas have got started. To keep my 2.5 year old daughter entertained one day, I started doodling a cute little character and began to make up a story about him.

In this case the character was a bad tempered teddy bear called Eddie and his character just seemed to spring into life as I drew him. Here are some of those original doodles. (Colouring added by my daughter Josie.)
teddy001

Half an hour later we were both laughing at Eddie and the story I’d just made up about his poor anger management skills. I now had a simple character design and a basic story outline. I thought, to myself, why not make a children’s book out of this? At the very least it would make a nice present to my daughter. It shouldn’t even take me long if I keep it simple, I reasoned.

Wrong.

I started roughing things out in Sketchbook Pro. SP when used in conjunction with a Wacom Cintiq gives a very natural pencil line quality, I really enjoy using it.
I thought maybe I could do the whole thing in Sketchbook Pro, just using simple pencil strokes and subtle “watercolourey” type colouring, but somehow I just never managed to find a happy balance between my loose and lively roughs and my clean but stiff looking finished drawings. The magic elusive quality that animators call “Appeal” just seemed to drain away every time.

teddy003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I went back to my tool of choice Adobe Illustrator. This was a bit disappointing to me because part of the aim of a personal project I feel should be to experiment with new styles and to do something different. So for now I’ve settled on a compromise which I feel is still somewhat experimental for me but gives a natural look that I’m pretty happy with.

teddy005

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I’ve taken my original vector artwork as a base and added paint and chalk brush elements on layers with Corel Painter.

The main time-consuming factor has been this whole issue of working out the style. My usual trad animation influenced style is one I’m pretty comfortable with and this differs in that there is minimal linework and flat colours with very simple iconic character designs. This should in theory have made things easier but Ironically, it was this simplification of style that threw up new issues and caused problems. The main one being that when there is no linework, only colour, body parts start to become a confusion of lost edges and the character’s pose starts to become very hard to read. This meant that I needed to go back and make changes to the original character design but I didn’t want to overcomplicate the design and lose the simple cuteness of the character..
teddy008

The first thing which goes a long way to address this problem is to always make sure that the pose is readable in silhouette. However, I found that to really solve these reoccurring problems I also had to go back and add some additional elements. I made some variations in the character’s tonal values to break up the big mass of tone. So you can see I’ve put a lighter coloured patch of fur on his stomach, I’ve differentiated the tones between his paws and the rest of his arm. Adding little paw pads makes it clear which way up the paw is actually facing. I added a crease line above his legs so now you can tell where his legs end and his belly starts. I also needed to strategically place a couple of shadows here and there to really make him legible. In the image above I’m still losing the shoulder as it blends into the head but I think I’ve done just enough to make him legible.

There are several advantages to working in Adobe illustrator. There’s the issue of resolution independence and also the ability to build up a “library” of reuseable and movable elements. For instance. If I create a library with a small number of trees. By flipping and resizing them, I can quickly make a forest scene . I always create illustrations now with this library approach in mind so for instance it may not be necessary to create a whole tree or other element of an illustration but I do anyway as I may be able to reuse it in a different context.

I’m about three quarters of the way to finishing the book now and I’m not sure what I’ll do with it once it’s done. I may use an on demand printing service to get a copy for my daughter and I’m also looking into the whole digital publishing thing right now, so we’ll see.

Designing a cave girl pinup girl for a T-Shirt

In my latest YouTube video I go through my process of creating this piece of pinup style art for a Zazzle Tshirt. In order to do this I start off by sketching in Sketchbook Pro and refine it, then bring it into Illustrator for digital inking and flat colouring and finally some digital painting in Photoshop. cavegirl

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 8

Final coloured version. A bit more tweaking in Illustrator in Photoshop and I’m finally happy with this piece. I’m particularly happy with the colour contrast between the red hair of the “Glamazon” and the blue monochrome of the background.

 

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 7

In this version I’ve taken the previous greyscale flats and tweaked it in Photoshop adding some shading with the airbrush tool and pushing the hue of he whole image to a monochromatic blue, apart of course, from the red eyes of the pursuing creatures.

Sword wielding and monsters

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 6

Flats done in Greyscale in Adobe Illustrator. A “Flat” is simply a broad area of colour or tone that has no shading or textural detail added to it. Why Greyscale? At this stage it’s important to establish that the tones have enough contrast to create a clear division between the subject  and the foreground and the background

Sword wielding girl and monsters

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 5

Digitally “Inking” the outlines in Adobe Illustrator. This process requires the creation of some custom brushes in Adobe Illustrator. A process which I discuss in some detail in this video http://youtu.be/W8KJ2Fw6lss The custom brushes that I made give nice thick and thin lines like an actual ink brush. The great thing about illustrator’s digital “Ink” is that it can be tweaked and smoothed until it’s exactly right. No whiteout, and no spilled ink on the carpet!

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 2

I’m starting to nail it down a bit more now. With a bit more drawing in Sketchbook Pro. my Glamazon girl is going to be facing some kind of demonic creature and I’ve decided to use the creature as a framing device to make her the central focus of the image.

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 2

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 1

Thought I’d post an experiment with a new digital painting workflow I’m trying out with Sketchbook Pro, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. The idea being to create a piece of work that has a painted look by sketching an idea in Sketchbook Pro then creating a flat tonal greyscale image in Adobe Illustratorand then adding colour and airbrush effects in Photoshop at the end stage. By working this way in a tightly controlled logical sequence of steps I hope to avoid some of the pitfalls involved with a looser digital painting such as getting the colour balance wrong and also losing the feel of the initial sketch with too much overpainting.

Here’s the first stage. A very rough concept sketch done in Sketchbook Pro.

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 1

The Jungle Girl again

Jungle Girl

I recently posted the above finished Jungle Girl Pin Up image on my Deviant Art page, where you can also buy it as a print. Here’s the final You Tube video in this series showing me colouring her up in Adobe illustrator. Hi Res files for this image are also available for download from the Zengrenade Shop

Free video clip: Inking and colouring a superhero character in Adobe illustrator

How to ink and colour in Adobe Illustrator video

After many requests, I finally got around to producing a video that shows in detail my method of inking and colouring using Adobe Illustrator. The video is one hour long and shows how I create the various different custom brushes I use in my artwork, how to create dynamic  colour and shade using gradients and many other tips and tricks that I use to speed up my workflow.

I’ve uploaded a free preview clip here

And the full video is available to download now from the Zen grenade shop for a mere $7.99

New 3 part video – Jungle Girl Pin Up

I posted a new 3 part video on my YouTube channel this week of me drawing a Jungle Girl Pin up. Instead of the usual time lapse videos that I’ve done before , these are in real time and I talk a bit about the process as I do it.

Here’s part one

To see parts one and  two and to subscribe to my YouTube channel please go here