Archive for the ‘Character Designs’ Category

All digital Illustration process: Jack-O

July 16, 2016

I appreciate the precision and clean line work that can be achieved using Illustrator’s pen tool and pathfinder palette. I also enjoy the more freeform options available with the pencil tool.

This illustration used a bit of both approaches and has a clean but organic feel which I like. I also like the color holds (changing the line work to something other than black, depending on the object’s fill color) as a way of softening the edges.

In my view the main drawback of the “all digital” method here is that I am removed from direct contact with the image. There is some nuance lost in translation from hand to tablet to screen. Additionally, The line overlap method which enables  clean line work and “joints” generates some extra work, especially if the places where the lines cross create multiple tiny shapes once the strokes are outlined and divided using the Pathfinder palette.

The upsides, however, are significant: no scanning, no erasing, flexibility, command-Z, speedy color flat stage with CS4’s Live Paint, resizing, perspective shifts, repurposing (I brought in the logo and “mode” symbols from a previous session), etc.

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 10.37.18 AM



Taking The Grix one step further…

February 28, 2016

The character design was so fun that I was inspired to continue.

The Unstoppable Grix

February 26, 2016

A collaboration with T.

On the road with Jack

December 4, 2015

While driving ( technically, “passenger ing”) through the Pacific Northwest I free drew these Jack-O pages, building the story as I went. I guess I will have to find time to clean these up and ink them.

Space Trilogy

November 10, 2015

A little impromptu collaboration with some artists I know.

Process-Turkey time again

October 17, 2015

November is Thanksgiving season and that means I get to do a Turkey illustration. Each year I have tried to refine this process to increase my productivity. I think the current system is working, though there is always room for improvement.


Process: Retro Robot Concert Poster

August 28, 2015

Preparing for another House Concert means creating another poster and flyer. Often I start by kicking around the words “House” and “Concert”. After a few dead ends I started thinking of “Retro Space Theme” as an idea. That didn’t go the way I had hoped, but did get me thinking about robots like the one from “Lost in Space”. Initially I thought I would make a crew of character robots to hold up and interact with the type. Since I’ve done character posters in the past, I recognized their secondary value as stickers/badges/giveaway items.

I tackled the project by research “robot-ish” components. The idea was to use the symbols palette in Illustrator to “frankenstein” a variety of figures from a collection of “bits”. I spent several hours making pieces, some of which I did not end up using, but since they are stored, maybe someday I will use them.


At this point I went back to my sketchbook since the robots I had tried to assemble were uninspired. I came up with an idea to do a “musical” robot, assembled from instruments (my first poster did something like this except with a Victorian house). I had hit on the idea of making the type for the word “house” be out of wire and the word concert out of metal. I hand-built the “concert” font after a quick sketch. Having already created a brush and 1/4″ cable symbol it was just a matter of finessing the script in order to be legible and have a flowy, cable-like personality. I went to work on the concert type and added gears and sprockets, repurposing my symbols to add that industrial touch.

Robo S


typography wireframe

After the type was assembled I jumped into Photoshop and began building and importing vector graphics as needed. I had collected some vintage paper textures and distressed paper folds. I also had researched retro swatches and constructivist motifs…kind of. My first attempt was on target and I was pleased with the robot and the comedic element he played (rather than the brooding overlord I had first envisioned). There was too much wasted space, however. The names of the performers were too small. I stepped back and took a fresh look.

First Try

I was much happier with the second attempt. “House” and :”concert” were grouped more closely and more space was given to the musicians. I added some gradients behind the main text to give it more presence. Additionally, since I was able to drop the text down, more of my background “widget” wallpaper was visible. That had been made by simply selecting a number of my Illustrator symbols and turning them into silhouettes then arranging them in a grid.

Second Attempt

Below are some details. I ended up putting a halftone pattern behind the robot to bring him out better as well as redrawing the curve of his glass dome for the same reason.

detail 1 detail 2

Process: Concert Poster

July 26, 2015

Time again for a new concert promotional poster. For this one I wanted to play around with hand-drawn lettering and some fun characters. My initial sketches were scanned, resized in photoshop, printed, and redrawn before scanning in once more to serve as vector templates.

I opted to do the main coloring inside Illustrator since I could use the “Recolor Artwork” function to rapidly visualize swatch options.

Illustrator paths were imported into Photoshop as smart objects and texture, additional type, and layer adjustments were added.

Since the formats for the two pieces are radically different, I started with the poster first then transferred layer styles and effects into the Facebook header/ handbill format.

IMG_5880 IMG_5879Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 8.07.35 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-26 at 8.07.27 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-26 at 8.07.12 PMAug2015blurredScreen Shot 2015-07-26 at 8.07.59 PM

Intergalactic Menace

July 18, 2015

Taking my cue from these character designs, I drew a Jack O cover using micron pens, ink-filled Niji brush pen, a black Flair fine tipped pen, and 10% gray Prismacolor pen.

One tip: I used a piece of tracing paper to preview the shadows on Jack before I committed to the actual page.

Process – Pseudo-Screen Print Illustration

March 20, 2015

I found this illustration by Tim Gough , an out-0f-register screen print. Prints automatically have a bold, graphic quality that appeals to my design sensibility. I’m not sure if this is an actual print or a digitally created piece, but I liked it so much I wanted to try my hand at making a Photoshop version. Reverse engineering is one of my favorite things to do. It’s a great way to develop new skills and techniques and to think in a different way about image making.

The first image below shows a brush I created and the rough sketch I made to guide me. I took the brush and tweaked spacing, and size and angle jitters in the brush engine. Initially, I filled the area of the sketch with strokes then changed brush sizes and erased out. By doing a few layers of that I came up with a fun rough and “hairy” texture. I used the lasso tool to clean up areas that needed to be crisp as well as the type.

Lastly, I made 3 colored version (red, blue, yellow), set red and blue to 90% multiply and the yellow version to screen in the transparency/opacity options. Using the arrow keys I offset the layers to get the final effect. After seeing the finished version, I thought the type was too hard to read so I layered a Overlayed type copy on top which enabled me to make the monster’s claws more visible too.