Tuesday, December 27, 2011

TMNT Donatello Cover Process

I'm thrilled to be working on a childhood dream thanks to IDW Publishing. The Turtles are what got me excited about comics when I was 10 or 11. It also was my first foray into pen-and-paper role playing. For the IDW line of TMNT 1 issue micro series, I have been doing the covers, one cover per turtle. Here are my past posts about the process for Raphael & Michelangelo, but this post is about Donatello. Covers are storytelling and like the Raph & Mike covers conveying something about the personality of each Turtle, I wanted this cover to talk about the personality I saw Don having.

I decided to place Don in the sewer. It's where the Turtles call home, but I also felt that I could convey a bit of a loney-loner vibe that I see Don having. While I avoid the idea that the cartoons pushed of him being a computer programming rocket scientist, I think of Don as having more of a Mythbuster/practical physics mind..and I'm sure that would separate him from his brothers in terms of relate-able subject matter to discuss. Don is also the favorite turtle of Jesse Glenn (basis for my character Kenzie). Turtles are what brought Jesse & I together as friends, and I thought it would be fun to give Don a Kenzie-esque lantern-staff...but of course using NYC salvaged materials.

After searching for good sewer photos, I wasn't able to come up with something I liked, so I just drew a sewer with a vaulted ceiling. I was worried about all the perspective for the concentric circles the arched roof was made of. I was also worried about getting the spacing of the bricks right. So I quickly mocked up a sewer model to match my sketch using printed out sheets of a brick pattern conformed to the shape of the arched cardboard. I added a few dowels and straws to simulate steam and or electrical pipes that can run along the roof of sewers and drain pipes.

I printed my rough drawing above with a photo of the model substituted for my rough background drawing. I inked the piece on my lightbox using my rough & photo as a guide for the ink lines. Like usual, when inking I'm concerned with texture and line quality...how different patterns of line can suggest different textures or surfaces. For pens I'm now using Copic Multiliners, the same pens I'm using on Mouse Guard. I did a little bit to suggest the lighting with the ink (the cast shadow & the darker recesses of the sewer stippling into lighter foreground) but I wanted to save most of the lighting effects for the coloring.

The next step is to scan the inks and start 'flatting' which is the starting stage of coloring. Here I'm establishing areas of color..making the area that is Don's front shell different than the colors that are his arm or head or the sewer. Some color choices are made in this stage, but they could be all wrong on purpose if I wanted. The goal is to make sure that the different parts are all separated by a different color. Here I was pretty close and only made a few adjustments after I got into the rendering. I have to admit, even though I know the process, the flatness of these flats left me worried. I had envisioned a very atmospheric cover with a lot of depth and the flat colors showed that I had a long way to go to get there.

The last step was to render the piece. This means adding in all the shading and lighting effects and color holds and highlights. I was right when I thought it was going to be a long process from the flats to this point. There was a few hours of just tweaking the lighting and shadows until it was the right amount of contrast and glow.

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Quodler said...

This is great stuff David!!

Rachel said...

Sounds like your optimal Donatello is a lot like mine. I like him fixing cars and water heaters and jury-rigging useful tools, but building hovercraft and hacking into Foot HQ? No thanks. Love the atmosphere in this one - I think you nailed that lonely feeling.

Slim said...

That is the smartest idea, making a mock-up of the sewer for the shot you wanted! I've SO been thinking that's the thing to do for a while now! Bravo, sir!

^ . ^

Casey Crowe said...

Wow, super cool illustration. The glowing lantern light is particularly gorgeous. One question, I notice the final illustration has a series of faint lines going at a diagonal across it (kinda like a zipatone almost) which color shift along with the image. Is that just an overlay of some sort? It seems like a really effective way to help break up any flat areas of color.

DPetersen said...

I've seen some comments elsewhere online that I perhaps wasted my time with the model since the background is straightforward 1 point perspective and implied that I perhaps don't know it.

I was mostly worried about the concentric circles that form the brick pattern on the vaulted ceiling. While I know how to draw circles vanishing in 2 point perspective, I didn't want to take the time or draw up the mess that it takes to get there (draw squares going back into space and then fit a circle inside each one).

Also the model allowed me to look at the sewer from several angles for me to visualize what looked best with the figure I drew. Where if I drew the background and then decided I might prefer it with the sewer angling back this way or that way or with more of a tilt to the 'camera', I'd have to redraw the whole thing.

DPetersen said...

Casey: The zipatone look is a layer set above the color layers that is set to multiply. The layer itself is a merged copy of my color layers imported into a new bitmaped file with the setting for interpreting the greys on halftone screen-->line.

I then copy that bitmap and paste it into the color file lightening the black lines until they are a grey that when set to multiply adds a nice texture which emulates the nostalgia of the zipatone that the original B&W TMNT comics had.

Casey Crowe said...

Right on! Thanks for the info David. Very clever and the end results are great; it really gives the piece a nice sense of texture along with the excellent, subtle color variations.

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