I’ve gotten this question a fair bit when giving people art “How do you do that?”
Aside from years and years and years of practice… generally I have a process for making certain kinds of art. Often when I do fan art, I use a process that will be fairly quick. Every so often, I will try something more elaborate that uses a different process, but much of the time – in the interest of speed – I’m doing this.
I decided I wanted to make some fan art of Mike Drucker. He’s a local comedian that I’ve seen twice now. He opened once for Dan Telfer, and once for Kumail Nanjiani. My early research efforts were kind of lazy, so I looked harder this time, and found some good reference photos. Then I put music on, because it is a requirement to help me focus (it is also not uncommon to hone my playlist down as I work to only a couple of or one looping song(s), somehow it snags a particular thing in my brain and keeps me there). Tonight, I’d picked some cheesy metal. Poor Mike ended up getting drawn mostly to “Little Suzi” by Tesla.
I started sketching, but I was having a hard time, so I ended up pulling it apart and trying pieces that I can put together later. This is not common, usually I just throw it out and start over.
Since I do not currently have a webcam suitable for this, I took a few seconds of regular-camera video. I’m inking with a super cheap Japanese brush pen in the tiniest size. Once I found out about these things, I became addicted. I love drawing with them. They’re about a buck-fiddy, and they do get used up relatively quickly. I would tell you the name of it if I could read Japanese!
That’s about it for inking. I did whip out a .05 Staedtler for some smaller details toward the end.
This is what it looks like after scanning, and getting it into Photoshop. I used blue pencil for sketching not just because I love the feel of this particular Japanese mechanical pencil and lead, but because it makes it easy to pull out just the inks. I kind of opted out for showing you my layering and stuff, I was pretty lazy this time. I will stick it in later, for the bored and still curious.
Then I assemble the parts, and start mashing it all around to get better proportions and hopefully make it look more like Mike. After a while I just gave up fussing over it and figured I would work on it during the next bit.
Cleaning up the lines, and redrawing anything really horrible.
That’s better! Not gonna lie, I still have the urge to start over. I console myself at this point that it’s more of a “portrait” than a “caricature” or fun, cartoon-y/comic-y thing.
Highlights. There are two types here, but I missed one. I have two layers going, one for sharp highlights, one for subtle effects. Later on, it swells to about 6 layers… I get carried away noodling around.
See what I mean? CRAZY TIMES. This is also after adding little details here and there, fixing weird spots. Then I stick a background in.
Well, and then I go ahead and finish tweaking it because it is almost 5am is what I do. The backdrop is from a photo I took and made into a fill pattern. Same with at least half of my textures.
And that’s the layering at the end. If I’m planning ahead and really spending the time, I’ll actually label things so they make sense. That probably only matters to printers or anyone using things for professional purposes later… but you know. Since I was making the effort… That, and sometimes I end up with 50 layers, no labeling and I’d go crazy trying to find things.
Anywho, this isn’t an exact science or anything, but you get the rough idea of what goes into most of the fan art I do lately.
Now, for this Paul and Storm fan art, I went fancy. I would show you a Felicia Day version (because her’s was one of the longest ever things, I spent all day every day for about a week), but I can’t find enough examples from that process.
With this version of things, I start with a sketch…
With this amount of detail, I decided it’d be much more clean to ink digitally. For the sake of short story, my thumbs are arthritic and spasm-y, and when I try to do tiny or detailed work of any kind, it can get messy and broken pretty quickly. One of the biggest reasons I cling to digital media? UNDO. It saves me so, so much grief.
However, because I am poor, I have a very old version of Photoshop, and one of the earliest Wacom Tablets (which now has invisible grooves and hiccups, but… I can work around that). Getting this nice, clean, smooth line work takes a long, long time. Some days I weep with longing for a Cintique and Adobe Suite CS987 or whatever they’re on now. OK, not really… as far as you know.
And from here things get pretty similar. Flat colors, shading layers of various types, finishing effects, etc.
The advantages of spending crazy time on a thing:
You can see what I mean about the neat, clean lines in the version that takes a million years to do, and the sort of quick process for smaller, simpler pieces.
Good gravy it’s late… early… pumpernickel?
I should head to bed, but I hope this gives some idea of what goes into making fan art, and how my techniques can range. It will always take me some amount of time, I’m never really sitting here thinking “Ah, screw it” and throwing it out there. I usually research, and spend time making a thing because I really appreciate the subjects.