This year the subject was The Walking Dead. Telltale Games has made an extraordinary iOS game set in the world of the Walking Dead comic/TV show that intersects very briefly with existing characters while creating a memorable story and original characters. Specifically, they created a powerful bond between the player’s character, Lee, and an eight-year-old girl in his care, Clementine. Fans and critics alike have heaped praise upon the game and upon this story choice, and in true Game Infarcer fashion, we now suggest that Telltale will, like most other game companies, take this trend to its most preposterous conclusion.
Joe Juba, Tim Turi, and Jeff Marchiafava brought me in to chat about the idea for the picture, and it was this:
|There's a 'Human Centipede'-type vibe here I chose to ignore.|
I’ve mentioned before that I really like when the editors at GI do a sketch. It’s not because I am lazy, nor because I like to be a big fat jerk and laugh at them, but it does two things: 1. it forces them to think about how the information will be presented visually (what is the main focus, what is the POV, what is the field of vision), and 2. generally forces the concept to be simple. Simple concepts make for far better gag illustrations than complex ones, and as mentioned above, make it far easier to cram stuff in the background.
As I learned with the Bioshock image [link to GI article], it’s really nice to just sit down and knock out the main character right away without overthinking it too much. A central figure, Lee, with an expressive posture that expresses the main emotion of the piece (exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed) ties it together and creates something for everything else to orbit around.
|Those kids and their guts!|
One of the new things I did this year was digitally ‘ink’ the illustration on my Cintiq tablet, rather than ink it on paper and scan it in. Last year, on the Mortal Kombat drawing, I inked it all on paper, but did it in a bunch of sections so that I could assemble it in the computer. I figured it was going to be the same effect, but with cleaner lines and a better ability to edit the work.
What that meant for me practically in this case was that I made sure that I had much more polished pencil artwork to work from. I’m pretty well-practiced with real-world brushes and pens, but in the computer inking world, I want the lines I’m following to be sharply defined so that I don’t go too far off the rails. So after doing the pencilling I would have done, usually with a light H lead, I went over it with a softer and very precise .05mm lead mechanical pencil. This served both to make the lines look more finished, and allowed me to get in more detail (since this physical drawing was only print size, not 150% like most original artwork).
|Not too different from my real-world inks.|
PROCESS: COLORS AND SPECIAL EFFECTS
There are three main special effects that I put in my colored pieces. I like to have the color be mostly flat; it serves the humor and cartoonish nature, but a certain amount of sparkle can add interest and make the work more immersive.
1. ATMOSPHERIC PERSPECTIVE
The coloring process was really a matter of having four sets of layers (line art + color), each separated -- eventually -- by a ‘haze’ layer. I say ‘eventually’ because it’s important while coloring that you not have a color affecting your base colors, particularly if you want to sample existing colors and fill other parts of an object with them (you’ll continually be sampling a slightly dustier version, which will look very different placed next to the original).
2. LIGHTING GRADIENTS
Mostly if there is a color gradient on an object, I like the transition from one color to another to be a simple line, as you see in the main picture on characters. But when it comes to sky, ground, or certain other large objects, I sometimes like to use a gradient, just so I can guide the eye to the right place without seeming too obvious about it. In the case of Jin the zombie jockey, I wanted him and the zombie to stand out a little bit more from the tarp in the background, so I gave the tarp a little bit of what would be bounce-light from the ground to make it a little bit lighter and frame the figures. If had done that with flat colors, it would have called more attention to itself than I would have liked, so it’s nice to be able to use the gradient tool sparingly.
|The clipping mask on the group defines the shape of the object -- in this case the ground -- and then the mask on the layer defines the gradient itself, allowing me to use a simple, flat, replaceable color.|
3. GLOWING RIMLIGHT
This is without question the most overt trick I use, and it gets tantalizingly close to being a stylistic crutch. Rimlight corrects for poor composition by muscling objects into your attention with the tried and true method of “Hey, shiny!”. In the case of gag illustrations and humorous comics, I like the effect, because it has a sense of unreality and artificialness about it, which serves to highlight the humor, ideally.
For the basics on how to do that little glow, I did a little tutorial on how to make a glowing eye in a past Game Informer post.
SO HOW'D IT TURN OUT?
I think my desire for dusty haze got out of control, and the lines in the background got a little too light, but it looks great, printing-wise. The best part, of course, is that my son Jin can take it into school on Monday and show it for show and tell. I can't wait to try to explain that to the teachers.
Another great assignment at Game Informer. Thanks, guys! Oh, and also...