Wednesday, July 26, 2006

IN THE WORKS: Youth Net Hamilton Website (Part 2 - Character Designs)

In this blog, I provide some "behind the scene" looks at various cartooning and multimedia related projects that I'm currently working on (or have recently completed). My intentions here are to offer a few insights, however small, to aspiring young cartoonists and/or designers who may be interested in these sorts of things. For those projects in development, I title my posts, "IN THE WORKS."

Logo: Youth Net HamiltonIn PART ONE, I introduced you to the Youth Net Hamilton website that I'm currently designing. Since then, I'm happy to say that we've made a lot of progress and are preparing to launch the new website very soon!

But before we do, here's a sneak peak at the cartoon character designs that will be featured as part of the user interface.

From Rough Sketches to Clean-up & Colour ...

One of the great mysteries of cartooning is that journey known as the "creative process." Personally, I find it kind of fun to not only look at a final product, but also see how it evolved during the creation process. If you're reading this, I'm guessing that you do too!

My first step in designing the cartoon characters for this project was to have some idea of what my client was looking for. As I mentioned in PART ONE, Youth Net Hamilton is a community-based organization of youth and adults that promotes the mental health and well-being of youth. With that in mind, my client was looking for character designs that depicted the diversity of teen culture, but they didn't want the characters too ideal or bubbly.

And so, when I started rough sketching ideas, I was thinking, "Happy, healthy, and clean."

Since the website's interface randomly selects a character to display, our goal was to have six different options to choose from. The following snapshot is a rough model sheet of the character designs that were approved by my client ...


Above: Character Designs - Rough Model Sheet.
(click to enlarge)

With the rough sketches approved, my next step was to clean-up each drawing by inking them with my dip pens and ink.

Tools of the Trade ...

All of my favoured cartoon drawing tools are available at most local art supply stores.

Pen-wise, I currently use Hunt Globe Bowl Pointed pen nibs (#513EF and #512) to do most of my clean-up work. I dip these in black Indian Ink from Winsor & Newton. Personally, I like using "Koh-I-Noor" No. 127N pen holders -- their cork finger grips are pretty comfortable.

If I'm inking something with a special texture, I might switch to a brush to achieve a certain effect such as the character's hair in the following snapshot ...


Above: Inking and Cleanup - Pen Nibs vs. Brush.

I ink directly over my rough work (drawn using a 2H pencil) on sheets of Strathmore Bristol with a smooth surface. That said, ink isn't as forgiving as a pencil if/when you make a mistake, but I enjoy taking this risk. The real challenge is keeping your hand relaxed so that your clean-up lines flow naturally and don't become stiff or over calculated -- you might think of this as "controlled spontaneity."

My drawing board is actually a modified surveyor's drawing table, equipped with an animation drawing disc and backlight. By fixing the bristol with a few pieces of tape, I can rotate the drawing as required.


Above: With the aid of an animation drawing disc.

Once completed, the clean-up character designs were then sent back to my client for approval ...


Above: Character Designs - Clean-Up Model Sheet.
(click to enlarge)

The final step was to colour all of the characters and import them into the website's Flash interface. As I mentioned in PART ONE, there was a certain colour palette that I had to adhere to in this project so that all of the elements complemented one another.

The clean-up drawings were scanned into Adobe Photoshop at 1200 dpi resolution. After adjusting each image's brightness and contrast levels, I converted them into a 2 colour bitmap and reduced their resolution to 300 dpi. I coloured the majority of the characters by hand using my Wacom Graphire tablet, however, larger regions of colour were quickly filled using a single click of the paint bucket.

The following snapshot is of the full-colour Youth Net Hamilton character designs line-up sheet ...


Above: Youth Net Hamilton - Character Line-Up Sheet.
(click to enlarge)

The all new Youth Net Hamilton website is heading out to the launchpad and should be online very soon. I'll post an announcement when it's officially open for business.

If you have any questions or comments about this posting, please feel free to submit it using the "comments" link below, or you can contact me privately via e-mail by using the address provided on my contact page.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Click to Continue ...
IN THE WORKS: Youth Net Hamilton Website
(Part 3 - Official Launch)

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