I get quite a few emails about my process and technique for creating cartoon illustrations, so I thought I’d put a page up explaining things. I also have a page all about the software I use for cartooning and illustration.
My Art Tools
First, let’s go over the tools I use. All my final artwork is created digitally, so let’s start there. Here’s my current setup:
- Mac Pro (2008) dual-quad 2.8 Ghz, 14GB RAM
- Wacom Intuos4 Medium graphics tablet
- Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro webcam
- Samsung 24″ monitor (main); Samsung 20″ monitor (secondary)
99.9% of all my artwork starts off with a rough sketch, pencil on paper. I use a crazy thick 5.6mm lead holder (clutch pencil) and laser printer paper from the local office supply superstore. Laser paper has a great tooth, and fits nicely into your scanner bed. I typically draw on an artist clipboard-style drawing board. Mine is a portable-sized version.
I used to scan the sketches in with a scanner, but I started having issues which I never fully fixed. It occurred to me that my webcam and Apple’s PhotoBooth software is good enough, since these scans do not need to be of any high quality. I literally hold the paper up to the camera and snap a photo. It’s also great for taking self-poses for reference, especially hands holding objects.
Next, I drag the captured image from PhotoBooth’s “image tray” on to the Photoshop icon in the OS X Dock, and then run a custom Photoshop action to prep the image for sketching.
All sketching and revisions are done in Photoshop, with multiple layers and layer groups as needed. I use a custom Photoshop brush that mimics a pencil line.
Once the final sketch is complete, I will open up a custom Adobe Illustrator file template, and place the .psd file as a template layer. From there, I create all the line art in the illustration as vector objects using the Pen tool (the Brush tool is only used for specific things, and rarely my main line art). You can take a look at some of my cartooning and illustration tutorial posts, as well as a full cartooning walkthrough tutorial on my portfolio site.
Color is added with a custom Illustrator action, which creates the color shapes from the line art objects. Shading and highlighting are added via individual layers for each, using Layer Blend modes on each targeted layer.