In the third issue of IDW's Turtles in Time miniseries, the four brothers find themselves on a pirate ship! When editor Bobby Curnow originally pitched me the 4 issue lineup, the third issue was in a bit of flux for the setting....WWI and the Old West were both tossed around and I had visual ideas for how to handle both,,,(bi-planes and trains!) But when the series solidified, Bobby emailed "PIRATES!". And I was off to doodle and research (even calling on my pal Jeremy Bastian for piratey-tips) for a swashbuckling ninja turtles cover. To the left you can see the finished art, but below I go into the process it took to get there.
Michelangelo has a lead role in this issue and so I started with his design as a captain keeping in mind with Mike's lighthearted attitude. To fit everyone on the cover, I figured I'd have to have someone up on the rigging and some turtles further back. By this point I'd also looked at lots and lots of photos of ship deck photos to find something I thought I could make work. With the angles of the setting in mind, I drew Don on the rigging with a spyglass (using technology of-the-day) and Raph & Leo squabbling and swordfighting further back. These were all sketched on various sheets of copy paper to keep me loose and unattached to any drawing going poorly (there were two that were not working early on that I pitched and moved on)
Those pencil drawn elements were all scanned and then assembled in photoshop to come up with the layout of the cover. At this stage, I made a few adjustments where I'd drawn heads too small, replacement hands to patch in, and swords to angle correctly to avoid bad tangents. The colors were added not just to help me see the drawings better (where one character ended and the next began) but also to show my editor and Nickelodeon as to which turtle is which. This is now my secont TMNT cover where I have shown them all without bandannas or their traditional weapons (though for #2, Leo did have a katana) and I found it fun trying to show some of each turtle's personality in other ways...though their bandanna colors do play a part again later on.
The digital composite, once approved by my editors, was then printed out at roughly 10" x 15" and taped to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 30 series bristol board. I inked with Copic Multiliners on my lightbox. Using a lightbox allows me to see through the surface of the bristol to the printout and use it as a guide instead of pencils on the surface of the bristol. This means less erasing and cleanup when I finish the inks. The stars and moon were inled in black, though I knew I was going to adjust them to be light lines in the color process. While I was inking I realized I'd never drawn pirate garb on Don in my rough, I'd only drawn him in the pose I wanted. So I had to quickly do some last minute design and penciling so I could finish the piece.
To start the color process means that I must establish color areas. It's a way of isolating parts of a drawing as each being different colors than others. This is called flatting (because you aren't rendering or shading, you are just filling in flat colors. I used a lot of high-saturation basic colors to help me see that I was establishing areas that may be next to each other as different colors. Once I got to this stage of the flatting, I desaturated (removed all color information & turned to greyscale) all the layers (other than the sky, ship and moon which I knew I'd gotten close to final colors for. Like issue #2 of this series, I had to incorporate each turtle's bandanna color into their wardrobe to help the readers quickly establish which turtle is which beyond their body language. The final colors can be seen again below.
Other TMNT in Time Cover Process Posts:
Phoenix Comic Con: June 5-8
Heroes Con: June 20-22
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 5-7
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12