The objective of this experiment was to try out as many visual variations as possible over a week in order to discover the best approach(es) that I could develop in the comic.
The experiment explored two different things:
- Inking – covering line weight, materials, tools
As well as assessing the visual impact of a particular approach, an important factor to consider was the effort required to do the work.
Visual design experiment
I could approach visual design in a number of different ways. The problem was that didn’t know which one(s) would work best for this project
Creating visual mock-ups of the same page layout and content using different visual approaches will allow me to test and learn the best option(s) to apply to the project.
Creating a mock-ups using a variety of different styles will allow me to test and learn the best option(s) to take forward and develop.
I used the pencil reference created during the page layout experiment as the basis for creating a number of visual variations:
- Variation 1 – Fine liner linking
- Variation 2 – Dip pen inking
- Variation 3 – Liquid watercolour and colour overlay
- Variation 4 – Flats
- Variation 5 – Half tone
- Variation 6 – Pencil with overlay
- Variation 7 – Digital
Variation 1 – Fine liner inking
This variation was created with a variety of permanent fine liner pens, using a lightbox to trace through the line art. The pencil reference was approx. A3 sized and the paper was fairly light weight (120gsm cartridge paper).
I tried printing out the reference in non-photo blue and tried working directly onto that, but found it distracting.
The resulting image has no tonal value and was used as the basis of Variation 3 – Liquid watercolour and overlay and Variation 5 – Half tones.
Fine liners are quicker to use that dip pens and not so messy, but the uniform line weights lacks the expressive quality of pen and ink.
Variation 2 – Dip pen inking
This variation was inked using a combination of the dip pens and brushes with Indian Ink on A3 Bristol Board.
To create texture in the dark backgrounds I experimented masking out the foreground using frisket masking film and applying Indian ink using a printmaking brayer.
I like how expressive dip pens and brushwork can be.
The downside is that the process requires a lot of care and is relatively time consuming.
Variation 3 – Liquid watercolour and overlay
I applied Ecoline liquid watercolour tone onto the fine liner line art.
This is a relatively quick process.
Colour is added using the overlay feature in Photoshop. This gives a lot of control to the artist and the result looks like watercolour paint.
Variation 4 – Flats
Combining inked line art and colour flats is a classic comic technique that is pushed to it’s creative limits by Dave McKean in his graphic novel ‘Cages’
I tried to emulate this approach using the dip pen inking variation as the base artwork.
Adding the single colour flats layer was relatively quick.
Variation 5 – Half tone
The halftone variations used the fine liner artwork as a basis. CMYK halftones were added as separate layers using True Grit brushes for Photoshop.
It was the first time I’d used the brushes, and once I understood how they worked I found them quite easy to use.
Applying colour was more time consuming but this was probably due to having to learn how to do it at the same time.
The results have a definite comic retro feel that works well with the sci fi aesthetic.
Variation 6 – Pencil with overlay
This variation simply applied a blue colour overlay to the pencil reference artwork produced in the Page layout experiment.
The pencil artwork didn’t really have much tone because it didn’t need to, and the effect of the overlay could be improved quickly by adding more tonal cross hatching to the drawing.
This approach is the quickest to create by far because it doesn’t involve any additional inking.
Variation 7 – Digital
The final variation was completely digital using Photoshop. Rather than use the page 2 pencil reference I decided to create a new page to provide me with some variation.
The approach cuts out at least one analogue step in the process flow so is relatively quick.
What I learned
A decision on which visual style(s) to use needed to balance the speed of doing the work with its suitability for the project.
The following table is a prioritisation matrix that uses simple scoring to identify the best solution.
1 > 3 with 3 = fastest
1 > 3 with 3 = high
|Liquid watercolour and colour overlay||1||2||3|
|Pencil with overlay||3||1||4|
The completely digital approach scored the highest, although in line with my objective of using the project to showcase a range of different drawing styles, it is likely that a variety of approaches will be used.
What I’ll do next
Use the findings from this experiment to create a mock-up of the complete mezcal sequence.
List of illustrations
Figure 1 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Fine liner variation [Fine liner] In possession of: The author
Figure 2 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Dip pen work in progress using Bristol Board on a lightbox [Photograph] In possession of: The author
Figure 3 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Backgrounds added using drawing ink applied using a brayer through masking film [Photograph] In possession of: The author
Figure 4 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Dip pen variation [Pen and ink] In possession of: The author
Figure 5 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Liquid watercolour adding tone to fine liner pen line art [Photograph] In possession of: The author
Figure 6 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Liquid watercolour overlay variation [Ecoline liquid watercolour] In possession of: The author
Figure 7 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Colour overlay added digitally on top of the liquid watercolour to give a watercolour effect [Ecoline liquid watercolour] In possession of: The author
Figure 8 – Carroll, Tobias Dave McKean’s Cages 25th Anniversary Edition Pushes Words & Pictures to Their Limit At: https://www.pastemagazine.com/comics/dave-mckean/dave-mckeans-cages-pushes-words-pictures-to-their/ (Accessed: 08/09/22)
Figure 9 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Colour flats added digitally on top of dip pen line art [Pen and ink] In possession of: The author
Figure 10 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Black half tone variation on top of fine liner line art [Fine liner] In possession of: The author
Figure 11 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) CMYK half tone layers on top of fine liner line art [Fine liner] In possession of: The author
Figure 12 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Colour overlay on top of pencil reference artwork [Pencil drawing] In possession of: The author
Figure 13 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Digital variation [Digital] In possession of: The author
Figure 14 – Hadfield, Hugh (2022) Prioritisation matrix [Digital] In possession of: The author