After my detailed research into various two-dimensional art styles showcased in Week 1: The Start of Semester II and Week 1: From Comics to Animated Films, I concluded that the most appropriate visuals for As It Lies would be in the style of modern comic books. As this is an illustration style I have not worked in, I needed to spend the week honing my skills and learning how to do it properly. Basically, I was about the spend some time reading about and analyzing comic book art. This was very much a necessary step before starting to do any actual assets, because I needed to create a consistent visual language, an art bible if you will. Furthermore, I needed to determine the specific brushes and other technical specifications I would be working with. Once I had those building blocks of the style, I would then be able to create all of my characters and animations with a unified methodology.
The first step in this exploration was to conduct a study of the appropriate brush to use when creating my digital illustrations. The outlines are a crucial element of the comic book art style, which is why it was so essential to get those right. The smoothness, thickness, and shape of the outlines can be used to achieve very different stylistic effects in comic books. I was going for rather standard outlines, which would not be too essential to the scene and too distracting to any of the gameplay. The outlines cannot take the player’s attention away from the puzzles, but rather must accentuate the ongoing actions and communicate those clearly. I started the process of selecting the best brush for As It Lies by choosing an appropriate reference photo to guide me. As I am striving to imitate a modern comic book style that would not be too intrusive with the gameplay, I decided to base my work on panels from Ashe: Warmother. Ashe: Warmother is published by Marvel Comics and its first issue was released in December 2018, which is why I thought it would be a fine example of some of the most recent trends in the medium. Additionally, that comic also focuses primarily on its story and action, which is why the line work is not very intrusive, making it an ideal reference for my purposes.
Once I had picked my reference images, I opened Procreate to attempt to recreate that style of line work. I conducted a series of experiments with different Inking Brushes, with different thicknesses, but with 100% opacity. I attempted to make different shapes and lines in order to see how the brushes would behave under different conditions. After I analysed the results, I came to the conclusion that the Technical Pen and the Fine Tip Pen seemed to look closest to the line work in Ashe: Warmother. However, I could not quite make up my mind about which one seemed to work better between those two. In order to make that decision, I decided to try and redraw one of the faces in Ashe: Warmother and to then compare which one seemed to represent the line work from that comic better. After I drew the same face twice with the two separate pens, I came to the conclusion that the Fine Tip Pen seemed to handle that type of illustration smoother and was more true to the art style I was going for. Therefore, a large part of As It Lies would be lovingly crafted with the Fine Tip Pen in Procreate at 100% Opacity.
Once I knew what brush I was going to use, I need to start practicing the style and I figured that the best way to do that would be to try and recreate my latest portrait of Zeta in the newly established style. I began the process very similarly to the way I created the original concept piece, which was to start with the basic construction of the human body based on a pose by Liv Boeree. The difference this time around was that I was using further reference photos from Ashe: Warmother in order to determine how noses, eyes, lips, and so on are drawn in the desired style. The illustration was coming across as much more realistic than the original concept art I created, however, it was also rather sketchy and not as neat and clean. Upon analyzing my reference materials, I realized that comic book artists are not afraid to draw multiple lines and to show their audience that the work in a drawing. They do not always remove their mistakes and often include lines that fill large gaps of empty space. One issue I faced was with the construction of the nose as I kept making it look rather unnatural. However, after a few attempts and close looks at my reference materials I ended up getting it right with reasonably few lines. Following reasonable anatomical proportions and constantly looking at my references, I was able to construct my outline rather quickly.
After I had crafted my outline for this concept piece, I thought it would be nice to experiment with a bit of shading, which is why I rather intuitively started filling in some of the spaces that needed it. As I began this process from the areas that would be darkest on the drawing, such as the shadows under her chin and around her neck, I progressively moved on to lighter areas. I was continuously trying to ensure that there is overall good contrast in the sketch and that no one area seems unnaturally dark or out of place. Once I was happy with the finished result, I saved that as a separate copy, so now I had the opportunity to compare which version seemed to work best. Overall, I would say that I prefer the cleaner version, which is showcased above, because it would allow for the opportunity to do some lovely coloring. If the game were black and white, the more high contrast version would be more appropriate as it would make the characters pop. However, as there will be color, the stark black shading might not allow for any other vibrancy at all.
Thoughts and Reflection
Overall, I really enjoyed learning how to draw in the style of modern comic books and I think I had reasonable success with my first attempts of replicating it. I did not find the process incredibly challenging and I was even surprised at how naturally it felt to draw in this way. I think that picking the appropriate reference images helped me quite a bit as I could see the way the artists used different types of line work in each panel. Specifically, I was very pleased to discover that the lines were not particularly clean and that there were occasional mistakes and roughed up sections in the illustration. After finishing the drawing I was also very happy to discover that the Fine Tip Pen I had selected earlier was appropriate. I have yet to explore how exactly I will be coloring this sketch, but nonetheless, this has been an excellent start thus far and I am excited to continue the exploration into the style.