Monthly Archives: January 2008

Contest final custom illustration

Scorp has approved the final version of the contest-winning Mideios' final illustration, so without further ado, here he is:

Mideios final color drawing

And just to refresh your memory, here was the contest entry itself, direct from the HeroMachine:

Mideios - original web

Many thanks again to all the entrants, and to Scorp for giving me such a fun character to illustrate.

Progress on Mideios

The illustration for Mideios, the contest finalist, is going very well. I've gotten approval on the black and white lineart, and though you might like to see how it's going so far (click the image for a larger, non-pixelated version):

Mideios in black and white

The black and white drawing is done in Flash in layers as I've described elsewhere. I fill the inside bits with white, then export it as a high-resolution Adobe Illustrator file. Now I'll import that Illustrator file into Photoshop for the color work, which I'll post as soon as it's approved. This is fun!


I suppose if you're going to name your super-hero self after a cheap and fruity wine beverage, you ought not to be surprised if your costume also looks cheap and fruity, as if you've just staggered out of "your" alleyway after a long drunken night of homelessness:


Perhaps Marvel intended this character as a "What If Batman Became a Wino" sort of thing, but I can't imagine Bruce Wayne sporting a nifty pencil-thin mustache like that no matter how debased he became. Or maybe this is actually Bruce and Selina "Catwoman" Kyle's love-child, I don't know.

Whatever the case may be, you'd have to be pretty hopped up on MD 20/20 to combine black thigh-boots with a plunging, chest-hair-exposing collar like that. The creepy demon face logo and angry manicured nails complete the image of the angry wino looking to get back a little of what's his. Or at least another bottle of cheap hooch, whichever's easiest.

(Mad-dog character and image ©1985, Marvel Comics Group, "The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe"™, Vol. 2, No. 7.)

And the winner is …

The winner of the first HeroMachine "Free Custom Character Portrait Contest" is ... Mideios! Congratulations to Scorp, he did a great job. I'll be working with him over the next couple of weeks to create the custom portrait, and when it's completed of course I'll post it here.

Many thanks to everyone who entered, and especially to the other four finalists.

Free blank figure templates

Maybe you want to see the character you've designed in a pose unavailable in the HeroMachine. Maybe you want to try freehanding your own illustration, but you're not very good at drawing the basic figure. To help you out, I've created the following "blank" figure drawings for you to use as a base for your own designs. These are all copyright-free, you're welcome to use them however you like without attribution. Just right-click on the template you want, and choose "Save As ..." or "Save Image As ..." to put it on your hard drive. Once you have it, load it into an image editor like Photoshop or MS Paint and start customizing it. You can also click on each image to load it full-size in its own window to see it without pixelation. Good luck!

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Tweak (and I don't mean the South Park character)

Sometimes I get the impression that non-artists think illustrations just leap full-blown and ready-made from the pen to paper, already fully formed and perfect. My friend, nothing could be further from the truth. The odds are that the image you see in front of you has been through more revisions than the story you're concocting to explain to the nice police man why you're naked on the neighbor's front lawn. Here's an example from my own work of what I mean.

Talon Ironhawk

This illustration was for the "Legends of Steel" RPG being developed by my friend Jeff Mejia. He wanted a character sketch of young nobleman Talon Ironhawk. Here's my first pass at it (click on any of these to see them at their actual size, without distortion):

Talon Ironhawk - beard

Jeff replied that the character was too old, that he should be much younger and not quite so grim. Now, when you're an illustrator, time is money. Having to completely redraw something takes hours, hours which you're not spending getting new dollars to roll through the door. (Believe me, getting dollars to roll in the first place is plenty hard enough, you don't want to do anything to make it more difficult.) So I tried to get away with just redoing the face and adding a Three Musketeers type of facial hair effect, because nothing says "youthful exuberance" like a beard and mustache that went out of style 200 years ago:

Talon Ironhawk, Musketeer

Close, but no cigar, was the reply. He told me to lose the facial hair as Talon wasn't really old enough for that sort of thing, and so I ran off and did a color version with those changes:

Talon Ironhawk, first try

Luckily Jeff was not to be distracted by pretty colors, and rightfully declared that this was still not really what he was looking for. At all. Talon was supposed to be a young noble, just starting out on his life of adventuring. He'd have nice but functional gear, no flashing gems and whatnot. This pose was just too flamboyant and frivolous, and he still didn't look young enough. Realizing that I'd just not done a good job at all on the first illustration, I started from scratch and redrew the entire thing, finally ending up with this:

Talon Ironhawk, final

The final result is so much stronger than the initial versions; I'm really glad Jeff had the vision to know what he wanted, and the intestinal fortitude to ask for it.

This was actually a pretty easy project, I've had some that went through many (many!) more revisions before finally being accepted. And some never got accepted at all. So next time you look at that pretty illustration in your favorite magazine or comic, don't kid yourself that it was done all in one fell swoop. Behind every elegant line and perfect color is hours of tweaking; don't get discouraged if it takes you a long time to get your drawing just right. Believer me, you're not alone!

Just three days left to vote!

You only have three more days to vote for your favorite HeroMachine character, with the winner getting a free custom portrait of their creation. If you haven't voted yet, the poll's there in the right column, so get clicking!

Words as sounds

Usually when it comes to onomatopoeia, a sound gets turned into a word. But super-heroes have the power to reverse that, turning words back into sounds. In addition to generally involving massive amounts of violence, that's just one way onomontoPOWia is better, as you can see here:


Sure, "crutch" is misspelled on that last one, but I think if you're using your metal brain to smash out a demon's nose, you're allowed to swap a "c" for a "k" every now and then. I tried using that excuse on my English teachers in high school, but sadly they knew I didn't have a brain at all, much less a metal one. Sigh.

Layers without a computer

A while back I posted a quick tour of how you can use layers to improve your digital illustrations. But not everyone has a Wacom pen tablet, Photoshop, and Flash. Or even a computer. So how can you improve your drawings without those things?

You go old school, baby! You need a pad of tracing paper, which is thin and see-through, a pencil, and some regular paper to start off with.

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Stab helmets

Here's how you rip off a popular character owned by a rival comics company, Image style. First, make part of his costume unmistakably derivative:


Look closely, it's pretty hard to spot! Not.

Then, make sure the derivative costume element is used to stab someone through the chest:

Stab helmet

Finally, make sure your art direction and panel layouts are so bad that even the people involved can't tell what's going on:

Brigade’s gut stab

As you can see, Hawk-ripoff-guy says "How's your gut", when clearly Brigade (the stabee) had the not-Batman helmet shoved through his rib cage and chest. But hey, at least the gut and the heart are both in the torso, which in Image anatomy is close enough.

(Characters and images ©1993, Rob Liefeld.)