Posted on Leave a comment

How I Letter My Comic Book

how to letter comics with InDesign

How I Letter My Comic Book

I’ve been making comic books since I was around 10 or 11 years old. Somewhere in my studio, I have old examples of comic books I made. I drew on both blank typewriter paper and pre-ruled, three-hole punched binder paper. Back then, there was no graphic design software and computers where one could easily letter comic books. In those early years as a youngster, I lettered all of my comics by hand. I cringe with embarrassment when I look at them today and I’ll only show these if anyone is actually reading this post and requests it. So there, I’m game if you’re game!

Fast forward many years later to around the late 90s to early 2000s when I began work in a commercial print shop. It was there that I was first introduced to the software that is still used today for many a varied graphic arts application: Adobe Illustrator. Personally, the first copy of Illustrator I bought was still on CD. It was version 10. Back then, I worked on a PC and I taught myself how to use Illustrator. Coupled with my day job working in the prepress department of the print shop and learning Illustrator on my own after hours and on weekends, I became adept at using this vector-based graphics program. Because of my job at the time, I also learned Adobe Photoshop along with QuarkXpress.

QuarkXpress was the 800-pound gorilla of desktop publishing layout software back when I started in digital prepress. It eventually gave way to Adobe InDesign. InDesign soon became the program of choice when it came to page layout software. Adobe InDesign is not like Illustrator or Photoshop. Illustrator is used for mainly creating vector based artwork. Photohop is an image editing program. InDesign is where you would place Illustrator and Photoshop files into to create compositions. Compositions such as posters, flyers, brochures, and…books. Like comic books.

In the video posted here, I go into more detail why I prefer using InDesign to letter my comics. I even show you how I actually do it, using the tools within InDesign. But, in a nutshell, I like using InDesign for my lettering because my approach to lettering is one of creating a finished publication. You see, as I letter, I am able to review all of my pages at the same time. That’s because with InDesign, I can have all the pages of my comic book assembled in one place and I can literally scroll up and down from page to page, reviewing each one. If I were lettering in Illustrator, I’d have to work off each individual Illustrator file. Or, have an Illustrator file with multiple artboards. That’s too time consuming and the latter would create a file way too large to work with.

In addition to that, I’m able to create a document within InDesign that is essentially my comic book set up to spec. My Realm Ethereal comic book currently has a page size set up for 8.5″ x 11″. It’s not the normal comic book size and that’s intentional. But with InDesign, I can start lettering and laying out my pages so that I’m building the actual print file at the same time.

Now, I’m a totally independent creator/publisher/writer/artist/website designer/marketer who is totally in charge of all my own art production, wearing all of those hats. And I freakin’ LOVE it. I can’t think of anything that more accurately describes “indie creator”, right?  I understand my method of lettering might not pertain to someone who is part of the production chain. So, I can see how a letterer who is only doing lettering would probably work just within Illustrator. She or he would letter the pages as they receive them, then pass them along down the production line. And that’s cool. Since I’m doing all of my own production work, it makes sense for me to tidy up my process and make it as streamlined as possible. I try to practice a “touch it only once” method in my process. If I can do in one program what others might do in three programs, I see a huge time saver.

I hope you like the video. If you find InDesign works for your lettering needs, awesome. If not, there’s always more than one way to cat a skin. Cheers!

 

GET EMAIL UPDATES

No spam, just updates on what I’m working on, thinking about, and things I’m putting out into the world, like my Realm Ethereal online comic book.

I respect your privacy and won’t share or sell your info.

QUESTIONS? EMAIL ARTOFRENE@GMAIL.COM

Realm-Ethereal.com and all contents of this website © Rene Arreola unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy.

Posted on Leave a comment

Painting A Humming Bird

humming bird grayscale painting

Painting A Humming Bird

The last thing I expected to include in the painting “Ena, Ethereal Reveal” was a humming bird. In fact, in my very first sketch, I wanted to paint frogs. Frogs? Yeah, that idea pretty much came from out of left field. And while the last thing I expected to paint lately was a humming bird, I couldn’t help but notice that the last four paintings prior to Ena, Ethereal Reveal. Each painting below includes some kind of flying creature. From left to right below, I have falcons, a dragon, butterflies and an eagle.

Ena Ethereal Reveal fantasy artThe idea of flight and “spreading my wings” has been the major theme in my life so far in 2019. This is the first time I have really taken the leap to pursue making art full-time. This year has been a great year of exploring my own characters in a universe I am creating called The Realm Ethereal. By coming up with my own designs and worlds, I continue to push myself to make art consistently. And as can be seen, I have consistently been adding creatures of flight in my latest works.

Today’s post is going to be mostly taken up by the video shown here. The video captures me working on the drawing on the grayscale painting phase of the humming bird in the Ena, Ethereal Reveal painting. Be warned, this video is over an hour long but it does capture me from start to finish on painting the humming bird, using photo reference.

So, if you’ve got about an hour and fifteen minutes to spare, feel free to watch. Or, if you feel like listening to me talk about my art methods, show which digital brushes I like to use in Procreate, and listen to my cat begging to be let out at about 4:12 into the video, then by all means click play.

The Realm Ethereal was created by me, Rene Arreola. I am an artist who draws and paints fantastic imagery in the style of imaginative realism. My interest in making art lies at the intersection of character design and creation while owning my art and intellectual properties.

On top of all that, I really just enjoy playing with colors in a painting while paying homage the superhero comic books I read as a child. That’s why my fantasy art illustration will always have some kind of look to it that draws from and is inspired by superhero comic books.

GET EMAIL UPDATES

No spam, just updates on what I’m working on, thinking about, and things I’m putting out into the world, like my Realm Ethereal online comic book.

I respect your privacy and won’t share or sell your info.

QUESTIONS? EMAIL ARTOFRENE@GMAIL.COM

Realm-Ethereal.com and all contents of this website © Rene Arreola unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy.

Posted on Leave a comment

Digital Painting In Color

digital fantasy painting Avalina

Digital Painting In Color

The Realm Ethereal was born out of my love for superhero comic books and fantasy art. Blending these both gave birth to The Realm Ethereal. A feel for something both superheroish and fantasy based is what I am for in this “realm”.

All character creations, as I like to call them, are in fact character studies in my process. I often start drawing and these characters eventually emerge. From nothing more than a single word such as “space” or “ocean” or “butterfly” or “green” do these creations first manifest.

Once the character starts to manifest in a sketch and eventually a full composition in a painting, I start really refining the character’s visual look. Once a painting gets through the full detail grayscale phase, it’s time to add color. In this video, I show how I do that.

GET EMAIL UPDATES

No spam, just updates on what I’m working on, thinking about, and things I’m putting out into the world, like my Realm Ethereal online comic book.

I respect your privacy and won’t share or sell your info.

QUESTIONS? EMAIL ARTOFRENE@GMAIL.COM

Realm-Ethereal.com and all contents of this website © Rene Arreola unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy.

Posted on Leave a comment

My Secret Art Arsenal: Photo Reference

photo reference for art

My Secret Art Arsenal: Photo Reference

When it comes to one of my many “secrets” to making art, one of the biggest ones is my use of photo reference. In fact, it’s the biggest one, period. In this day and age, there’s no excuse for finding the right reference photos.

I have no shame in admitting I use photo reference for my art. The fact is, when it comes to making comics, the process is a rather time-intensive effort. Especially when you’re like me, the type of creator that is truly independent and is in charge of the whole package: writes, draws, colors and letters. A long time ago, I thought using photos was cheating. I also thought using photos would slow down my process of actual art making. In all my years of drawing and looking back in hindsight, I’m here to tell you using photo reference is going to help your learning process and actually make you faster…even if it slows you down a bit in the beginning.

I attended a California State University many moons ago, but ultimately dropped out because it was getting expensive and the instructor was having me do something I hated at the time: using photo reference! Now, it’s not like I never used photo reference prior to university. Keep in mind this was after community college, so I was well into my mid to late twenties when I decided to go to university. I used photo reference for some drawings, but I hated how it slowed down my process. But I was so enamored with drawing comics at the time that I only thought of looking at comics and emulating my favorite artists. That meant I was trying to draw like them after only having seen their final artwork in printed format in a comic book. Anatomy books? Figure drawing classes? More figure drawing classes at night where the students all chipped in to hire their own models after drawing live models all day long? I signed up for this?? Screw this–I wanna draw comics! Ah, I know the sentiment.

I guess I had a really bad attitude back in my day toward using photos to draw from. Let’s face it: we don’t see the human figure one day and decide we want to draw it. We see comics, manga, video games, etc. and we start drawing and copying those things. Not a bad start necessarily, but… a bad thing nonetheless. For me, it was the era of the Jim Lees and Todd McFarlanes at Image Comics. I saw WildCATS and Spawn and, BAM, I was off and drawing! Again, this was great for inspiring me and making me want to draw endlessly. But I lacked the knowledge at the time that using photo reference was such a thing. I guess you couldn’t blame me for not knowing any better, right?

I think that is an important part of our development, especially as comic book artists. We kind of have to first fall in love with the work we see, figure out how to do it, figure out if we really love drawing enough keep doing it even though the work really sucks (which we wouldn’t be able to see at the time anyway because we’re too new to it), do it any way we can, and (after potentially many years of struggling and learning our craft) finally learn how to do it in a way that actually improves our level of art. This only happens after having somehow found a path that points us in the right direction. This path could take the form of school, instructional videos or books, or another more skilled/advanced artist.

While I was glad I left university at the time (and quite frankly, I still am glad–no student debt for me, EVER!), I should have stuck to using photo reference. I think my disdain for using photo reference back in the day was because it was more of a hassle than it is today. Back then, to get really specific figure poses, I bought a 35mm camera as well as a Polaroid camera. Then came digital cameras, my first being a Kodak. And that was kind of cool, but still somewhat of a hassle because I had to put the memory card in the computer, download the JPEGs, etc., etc. Then, I got a really nice printer to compose and print out my work onto sheets of 11″ x 17″ paper. Which I would then trace off if I were doing a painting. But for comic books, man, such a pain! I did eventually print out a “morgue” file of some photos I took plus stuff I found online. I put them into a binder and created a catalog of reference photos. After a time, this became a hassle too. For me, all this work was a barrier to wanting to use photo reference for my art, especially for comic book work.

But today? It is zero hassle these days to use photo reference. Provided you have the right hardware and a decent internet connection, the barrier for using photo reference these days is only limited by my imagination. The main reason, in my opinion, is because of mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad. Damn, it is so easy these days to get a hold of any photo reference. As a co-worker of mine used to say outright and outloud, “Google that shit!” I routinely gather photo reference these days, especially for heads and faces, from Google images. For human figure work, when I really need to, I use small, poseable manikins or an app on my iPad where I can pose a figure in literally any position I can come up with. It’s helped my art tremendously.

The big take away here is this: photo reference is just a means to an end. The end result is creating a credible image or drawing that looks as we intend it to look in the eyes of other people. If I were never to show my work to anyone, the point is moot. But guess what? If we’re posting our art online for others to enjoy or critique, we’re opening our work and ourselves up to the world. For better or worse, people are going to talk. The worst of it: no one cares, and they keep scrolling. But, if someone takes the time to actually crit your work, man, that is golden in this era of social media. Sometimes we get good feedback, sometimes bad feedback. And at times it kind of stings when someone says something negative about our work, right? Some take it better than others for sure.

I feel using photo reference enhances my art, improving my chances of successfully creating an image that most accurately conveys what I’m trying to express. Consider my most recent endeavor “The Realm Ethereal”. In this comic book series, I am using photo reference as I never have before. This frankly due to the fact that I am now working entirely digitally and primarily using my iPad Pro. This has worked wonders for my love of using photo reference. As an example of some of the handful of reference I’ve used in this series, check out the examples below.

 

Straight on view, head tilted up. This is always an easy one to blow if you don’t have reference.

Eyes half-closed, looks better when referenced

Eyes fully closed…much better with reference!

Profile shot with contrasting light and dark areas…don’t even try to make that stuff up, especially if it’s a woman and you still need for her to look dramatically lighted and still appear attractive.

This one is challenging enough to draw even with a photo reference. How often have I drawn this particular expression? Prior to his, I don’t think ever. Forget trying to make it up out of my head!

This particular expression could only have been successfully achieved using this photo reference. And even then, the drawing itself might still be a bit wonky. Imagine if I had no photo reference at all!

These three-quarter views from behind are also a gem. Don’t even think about pulling this one from out of your head. That ear in that position will mess with you every time unless you have photo reference!

Did you know there’s more to eyes than just eyeballs? How about the way eyelashes attach to the eyelids and their formations as they bend up and back and down and back? Eyelids? The shape of the eyebrows and the insertion and origin points of the eyebrows from the middle of the brow area of the head? No thanks, I’ll use photo reference when I want this to look TIGHT!

That squinty-eyed look. But remember, she still needs to look attractive. Best chances are by using…photo reference!!

Eyeballs looking up. Trickier than you think. Don’t rush this stuff. Reference!

That darned three-quarter view agin, PLUS looking down at an angle. Tough stuff here…drawing a mouth from that angle is like a booby-trap. Photo reference, baby!

So, while photo reference won’t make your work perfect (no one’s work is perfect, and certainly not my own), you have a better chance of success by using it. We can all look at the photo reference and agree on one thing: you’re doing your best and the reference will always be there as gauge to see how much we’re really putting in to our art. And remember, you get out what you put in. The rest is talent, so don’t even worry about it. Just keep drawing, and when you have a chance, get some photo reference. After all, there really is no excuse.

GET EMAIL UPDATES

No spam, just updates on what I’m working on, thinking about, and things I’m putting out into the world, like my Realm Ethereal online comic book.

I respect your privacy and won’t share or sell your info.

QUESTIONS? EMAIL ARTOFRENE@GMAIL.COM

Realm-Ethereal.com and all contents of this website © Rene Arreola unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy.

Posted on Leave a comment

Work in progress: “Caelestis, Ethereal Guard” ***UPDATE 4-1-19

Caelestis Ethereal Guard featured

Work in progress: “Caelestis, Ethereal Guard” ***UPDATE 4-1-19

I’m going to be detailing my working methods with this blog post regarding this new painting “Caelestis, Ethereal Guard”. As an experiment, I’ll be updating this particular article post as the painting progresses.

For the most part, I have been painting digitally since early 2018, using my iPad Pro along with the Apple Pencil. My app of choice is Procreate. I do have several other apps and from time to time I used them for miscellaneous things. Such as I’ll use Affinity Photo to sometimes adjust the levels of some sketches for posting directly online from my iPad to social media and the like.

Other times, I’ll just want to get out of Procreate and work in a different app. Isn’t that kind of funny? I like the simplicity and how light weight Procreate feels. I’ve read online that Photoshop is coming to the iPad Pro and I’m very interested to see what the experience and file handling is like for digital painting. When I do work outside of Procreate, I find myself using Adobe Sketch. These first images here show my attempt at working up some really loose sketching, trying to hit something that captures my interest. The sketch of the lady just went nowhere for me. But, as I worked smaller and smaller, finally I hit upon something.

 

In the image above, the small thumbnail toward the upper right is where things just finally clicked for me. The app I’m using is Adobe Sketch.

Zoomed in 400%, you can see the basic, rough sketch of Caelestis. The sketch itself is tiny, but therein is where I finally hit upon a certain satisfaction sketch-wise.

The initial thumbnail then gets ported into Procreate, my app of choice for more detailed sketching and rendering. A quick side note here, I am currently fully drawing my Realm Ethereal comic book pages all within the Procreate app. Getting back to the topic at hand, here is the thumbnail now in Procreate.

Here is the tightened up sketch, fully rendered in Procreate.

As a bonus of sorts, I’m including a downloadable PSD file if you’d like to see my layers for this first stage of sketching. It’s not too involved, but you can check it out just to get an idea of how I work. Interesting note: you are limited in how many layers you can use in Procreate based on how large your canvas is. I’m also including a video time-lapse of the sketching phase. Enjoy!

As I mentioned, I’ll be updating this blog post as I progress further with this painting in the coming days. The next stage is a fully rendered greyscale painting. So check back in a few days (or subscribe to my email list and get notified when the next update happens) to see how things are coming along.

UPDATE: 3-25-19

The next phase of the painting involves working entirely in grayscale. It’s been quite some time since I’ve worked this way and when I did, it was using traditional media. Bringing it back for this painting is motivated by the fact that I am curious to add color using gradient maps in Photoshop. What I’ve done so far is leveraged my comfort painting in Procreate to do much of the heavy lifting in drawing and establishing value first hand.

So right of the bat, I’m delaying any colors. Instead, colors will be added using a totally different approach. I’m still a little nervous because I’m really comfortable with working in Procreate. I know Photoshop inside and out, but have never really used it to paint with. The adventure continues.
Caelestis fantasy art

UPDATE: 4-1-19

As I finish up this blog post, and after having completed the painting shown below, I’ve come to the realization that working in grayscale was of tremendous benefit to the outcome of this piece. After making the very first print, I could see how the time I spent working on my values really paid off in the end. But the other element that struck me was this: my color palette. Painting digitally, it’s so easy to use almost any color you can dial up on the color picker. But since I was “painting” color in Photoshop, I was able to see what I was not seeing before: how a limited color palette helps to unify a piece throughout.
 
Using the gradient map method in Photoshop was a bit of a struggle at first. And I’m sure I’m still going to learn a lot more the more I stick with it and pick away at the process. But, for the first time, I think this painting gets as close to what I would define as being ideal. Ideal in the sense that the composition clearly has the main subject in focus (the robed figure) with stark contrast to help keep the focus right on him. The background element of the bird, although busy with my mark making, is kept in check due to the values I had worked out beforehand in the grayscale painting.
 
To put things in perspective, I spent (according to the time clocked in the Procreate app) 14 hours and 33 minutes refining that grayscale painting. That’s a big deal, but in a good way. I was really able to focus on more of the drawing aspects in the grayscale since I was not worrying at all about color. I see the advantage in working in this fashion. The painting below is the final result. I’m excited to try the next painting I work on to see what the process reveals as I delve more into gradient maps and painting.
 
 “Caelestis, Ethereal Guard” is available in my online store as a limited edition, 17″ x 22″ art print.
 
 

GET EMAIL UPDATES

No spam, just updates on what I’m working on, thinking about, and things I’m putting out into the world, like my Realm Ethereal online comic book.

I respect your privacy and won’t share or sell your info.

QUESTIONS? EMAIL ARTOFRENE@GMAIL.COM

Realm-Ethereal.com and all contents of this website © Rene Arreola unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy.