Some readers had expressed interest in seeing some process stuff on this blog (I guess not everybody wants to read me ranting about X-Wing all the time) so I thought i would post a little bit about my general design process using a recent commision of the awesome Captain Macbastard by the super funny Twistwood as an example.
The design brief was simple, something along the lines of "Dude! Draw Captain Macbastard in your style!" so I was able to do whatever I wanted with it as long as it wasn't something ridiculous like a turnip with a beard (who knows? maybe that would have been ok?)
The first thing I do is some super quick thumbnails. I usually use a program called Mischief for this early stage. Mischief is a simple vector based drawing program with an infinite canvas. I prefer this because I don't want to worry about resolution size or running out of paper space. I DON'T WANT TO WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING! I WANT TO FREE!!!
At this stage I try to have no preconceived notions of what the final image will be. I find it better to "think" out loud with the pencil, I don't worry about form, structure or even staying on model, I'm just trying to find something that interests me. The drawings that interest me I will naturally resolve more completely. In this case I end up going with the drawing on the bottom right. The pose is a little more static than the other ones but I like it because it presents a clear silhouette of the character and gives me an easy way to play around with the characters proportions.
Now that I have my idea, I export the drawing out as PNG. Because Mischief is resolution independent I have total control about what size I export at. I go with "quite big". I then take that PNG into photoshop and start refining. I start by changing the blue line art to something darker so I can see it better. Twistwood didn't specifically ask for color but I knew i wanted to go with a looser painterly approach for this project so I start slapping colors on a layer underneath the line art. I have a general idea about using a warm, earthy palette but I try not to agonize about getting it perfect at this stage. Its important for me to just slap it on and then re-evaluate. I also flip the drawing horizontally to help me see issues with the drawing. New artists take note! Try flipping your drawings to help you catch mistakes you otherwise would have missed. At this stage, I begin to pay attention to structure and also try to get the character "on model".
I continue refining and clarifying, trying to bring out the character and looking for appealing shapes. Certain problems start occurring here. I get the idea that I want to add a shadow behind him, something that I did not account for in the thumbnailing stage. Also his back leg starts giving me problems.
And finally, the final image. I end up abandoning the shadow idea because it just wasn't working. I lighten the background so Macbastard stands out more. I'm still not crazy about that back leg but I can live with it. I also realize that his right hand is way too big. There are few things I wish I would change if I was doing it over a gain but overall I quite like it and had a blast doing it. Total time spent: about 3 to 4 hours.
Anyways, hope this was helpful in some way. Please take the time to check out Captain Macbastard's comic. Its crazy funny!