Here is a sneak peek into the process behind one of The Daily Mobster characters and a quick tutorial/explanation of how I work and how to design a character.
1. I, of course, start with a sketch which are usually smaller thumbnails on a scrap paper until I find an acceptable shape and basic look. Because of the nature of mobster characters this often revolves around exaggerated features or an interesting shape. This rule works pretty well for non mobsters as well. If you can create a silhouette or a shape that is instantly recognizable to that character you are already on our way to great design.
2. Then I do the light sketch with all the details fleshed out; this allows me to give a little extra focus to certain areas like hands, belts, buttons, or others that need extra attention. This is also the step where you can focus on contrast, as it is the first thing the human eye notices, it is important to decide where heavy blocks of color/black will be and where dense detail will be. A general rule of thumb, when certain areas are very large in area (such as a belly or a chin) give them less detail as their size will attract attention, and when they are smaller or require extra focus fill in the detail (faces, hands, accessories of interest). Use the lines and shapes to help direct attention as well, notice the tie points to the chin and continues the crevasse in his chin.
3. Then I simply start inking over the pencil. Sometimes I ink over the entire drawing with a single width then fill the blacks and weight the lines afterwards and other times I do the complete process little chunks at a time (as seen here) moving across the drawing. The contrast between full black, white with hatching/textures, and full white is very important in a black and white illustration; luckily suits play a big part in the mobster world. If the background is dark, realize that a heavy black suit will act as a subtle part of the character and his face will stand out. If the character has dark skin, often you want to put him in lighter color costumes, unless his environment will be mostly light. I usually try to balance out the black and the white to create a focal points.
4. Once completed, I erase the pencil lines that poke out.
5. The final step is to bring the scan into the computer. Since the original ink is fairly clean there isn’t really any digital treatment of the character itself other than to overlay it on one of my backgrounds and apply some simple shadowing/lighting effects behind him. I hand draw the background designs as well (I may post a tutorial about how to make repeating wallpapers from drawings like this) in line format, then scan them in, convert them to white and overlay them on grey repeatedly. Tommy will be posted on Thursday, so be sure to check out The Daily Mobster and read his story.