Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Usagi Yojimbo: Lone Goat & Kid #4

I was fortunate enough to be asked by IDW and Stan Sakai to do a run of covers on the new Usagi Yojimbo reprints of short story issues that will be collectively called 'Lone Goat and Kid'. I've done six in total, and for this blogpost I'll be sharing my process for the creation of the cover art for issue #4.

This issue is currently up for pre-order through Diamond with the code FEB220445. Just ask your local comic shop to order it for you, or order it though an online retailer. The issue will be in shops Apr 27, 2022.

To the left you can see the finished cover, but below I'll go through the steps in creating it.

In this issue, Usagi is a captive of the Komori Ninjas––bats with sword blades on their wings. And in a scene oddly like that of Saxon vs the bats in my Winter 1152 book, Usagi attacks one of his foes as they plummet to the bottom of the cave. I wanted to use that moment to draw for my cover. 

So, I started by drawing the bat falling backwards. I did pull up some quickly googled photo reference of people falling backwards to get the pose. Then I placed that drawing on my lightpad and with a clean sheet on top, I drew Usagi's attack lunge.

I used a real photo of Gyokusendo Cave in Okinawa Japan as photo reference. On the lightpad I drew over the forms of the stalactites to get the linework for the background.

Once I had those three drawings, I assembled them in Photoshop. Each drawing was tinted a different color to help me see as I masked out any overlapping lines. I then did a quick blocking in of all the forms with colors. This helps not just me to see the forms and understand the composition overall––but also as I send it in to the editor and Stan Sakai for them to completely understand what I'm going for.

It may seem like overkill to have gone this far in the 'pencils/roughs' stage, but in my experience doing covers, I do less work overall (meaning fewer changes & edits) when the first approval image is so clear and nothing is left to guesswork or interpretation.

When the layout was approved by the editor and Stan, I started the inks. First step was to print the layout file onto copy paper (over two sheets that had to be taped together at the seam) and tape that to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 bristol. On my Huion lightpad I was able to ink the cover art using the printout as my pencils lines. This way in the end the inked artwork is very crisp and clean with no need to erase pencils lines. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens to ink the art (the 0.7 and 0.3 nibs).

On my previous cover I'd spent most of my inking time on the Kimori bodysuit lines. And while there was a lot of that to do on this cover, there was only one of them––and a LOT of stalactites to render in a gradient of ink intensity.

Color Flats:

The inks were approved and I scanned them in to Photoshop to start the coloring process. This first part of coloring digitally is called 'flatting' and is a professional version of coloring inside the lines. Establishing what each area's color is and where it ends. This not only is a color base for the image, but also allows a quick flat color area to be able to quickly isolate to render or make adjustments on.

Most of the color choices had been made in the layout stage, but I made changes to the value structure as I worked. In this step I also made all the background a color holds (areas where I want the lineart to be a color other than black) 

Final Colors:
Here again is the finished art (this time sans-logo). To render all of the color I mostly used the Dodge and Burn tools (Photoshop tools based on real photography techniques for purposely over or under exposing film as it develops). Burn is do darken and Dodge is to lighten. I use a stock Photoshop textured brush as I add shadows and highlights with these tools so the work looks a little more organic and less digital.

Usagi Yojimbo: Lone Goat & Kid #4 is out in stores Apr 27, 2022.

No comments:

Blog Archive