Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Make McQueen 20% Bigger"

This is my first version of the "A" cover for Cars issue 2. In the story, the Rookie McQueen is encouraged by his new friend, Mack, the semi truck, to approach the Rusteze Brothers, Rusty and Dusty for race sponsorship. McQueen finds their business and appearance distasteful, and so he's a little reluctant. So I chose to illustrate this moment for this cover. I did it up, and I felt quite a bit more comfortable after having done the covers to issue 1, but I was still figuring things out. When I look at it now, I think my use of filters on the street is a little awkward, and my painting of the clouds and sky, while interesting, just isn't quite right. There's room for improvement, but by and large I think it looks pretty good. By this time I was heeding Steve Buccellatto's admonishments to avoid the use of k-tones in the coloring. K-tones is the black ink in the CMYK printing process, and they can make colors look a bit muddy. By and large, I still avoid k-tones except in the line art. You WANT the line art to be black! The other exception I make these days is when I am trying to make a deep, deep red and when I WANT the colors to be dark and muddy. It seems, when you want a really deep red, nothing works as well as a little black in it. 20% or 30% is usually enough. When you try to get that DEEP red with just CMY, it doesn't come out right. It will look wierdly purply orange. But exceptions aside, I avoid k-tones And I did so on this cover, and I think it looks pretty nice

Well, when this cover came back from Disney, it was approved, except that Disney wanted a very specific change. They said that McQueen needed to be 20% larger. It was kinda funny, Paul said he didn't know how they came up with that specific number, but there it was. I had to select and isolate McQueen, enlarge him by 20% and make it seamless, so it doesn't LOOK like a correction. A little fiddling around with Photoshop and I think I managed to do that.

Here's a before and after of that adjustment

Not too bad! And you know, figuring out how to do this turned out to be a skill I would call upon again while doing Cars. Disney didn't often require that I do a lot of changes to my work on Cars, a fact I note with pride! But it happened from time to time, and my ability and willingness to do these corrections turned out to be a very important part of my job. When working on licensed characters, you have to be ready to respond to editorial requirements like this. !t's part of the job! And I think my generally agreeable attitude about this eventually led to continued work, and, I think, was the thing that led to my big chance to do pages!

You know, while I enjoyed doing the covers, and believe me I DID, what I really wanted to do all along was PAGES. It would be almost an entire year before I would get that chance. I'm a cartoonist FIRST. I want to draw PAGES. You can bet I'll talk about that when I get to it.

But first, I have one last thing to say about this cover, and it has to do with the rusty patina on the Rusteze Brothers.

See, the surface of the Rusteze Brothers is a rusty paint and metal patina. I could have used a fancy splatter brush or a filter or something. That is certainly what is being done on the interior pages, but I just HATED how those Photoshopy gimmicks looked. I resolved to use Photoshop like a painting tool, and I PAINTED the patina. I pushed the colors back and forth, changing my opacity and layer effects until I got a look that was descriptive and yet still looked hand-done. I think the look I came up with is pretty nice. It's simple, graphic, clear, and while it's a bit flat, I don't think it comes across as careless or too cartoony. In a wierd, digital way, it looks just the right amount of cartoony. It has weight and contour, variety and moments of improvisation. I think doing this bit here really solidified how I would approach coloring the Cars from now on. I wanted them to have a clean, hand-done, simple, and relatively gimmick-free look. I wanted them to look painted, but not painted in a way that simulated paint. I didn't think it would look good to HIDE the fact that I was using Photoshop. By simulating paint, I mean that I would use Photoshop in the same way that I would use a real set of paints on a real pallette. If I wanted to make a color, I would use the multiply, screen and opacity settings of my Photoshop brushes and layers to make that color, which is a lot like painting with oils. When you paint with oils, you begin with a few basic hues, and you use your knowledge and experience to figure out where between those basic hues the very specific hue you need is, and then you combine your paints to create it. That's what I did with Photoshop. Rather than look around on the color picker endlessly for that ONE color I wanted, I just set up a basic swatch pallette and painted. It was painting without the mess and clean-up. I'm painting with Photoshop.

Thanks for checking this out again, y'all. Keep on coming back.

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