Sunday Mailbag

October 26th, 2008 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: How did you execute your Holmes graphic (see above) ? Did you scan the material for the clothing and hat then skew it in Photoshop.¬¨‚Ć It looks very cool ! Maybe you don’t want to share your secret. I hope you do.

A: It’s not really any kind of secret. It’s just some simple Photoshop trickery. I didn’t save a “step by step” nor did I save the original pattern files, so I will just have to explain it. I do have the original unflattened file so you can see the various elements.

First, I inked the image and scanned it as I always do, then moved the line work to it’s own layer.

Then I painted the background using the paintbrush tool and some airbrush type brushes:

Then I painted the face using my techniques explained HERE:

Finally, the part you asked about… the clothing. Holmes is famous for wearing a type of pattern called “houndstooth”. A simple google of “Houndstooth Pattern” yielded several nice samples. Sorry I didn’t;t save the exact file and I couldn’t find what looked like the same one again, but any decent one would do. I created a single rectangle of the pattern, and then using the “Image>Adjustment>Hue/Saturation” feature I changed the color to a nice green/red for the hat. Then I simply copied the rectangle and moved it “under” each section of panel of the hat, between the seams. Then I used the “Edit>Transform>Distort” feature on the rectangle to create the illusion of perspective and direction of the pattern for each panel. I also would rotate or skew the rectangle to get it to fit in the bill or back of the hat. Then I would erase away the parts of the rectangle not needed to fill the particular panel I was working on. Then I did the same thing for the next panel of the hat.

I again used “Image>Adjustment>Hue/Saturation” to change the colors to a more brown/red for the jacket. I used the same method to alter the rectangle to fill in the various sections of the jacket. Here’s what that layer looks like with the rest hidden:

The shading was done using the “Burn” tool primarily, with some additional painting using a brush on “multiply” mode so it would not have any opacity effect on the pattern.

It’s a pretty simple way to approximate a complex pattern on clothing, but you have to use it warily as it makes for a shocking and out-of-place realism in an otherwise cartoon illustration. I generally dislike the use of realistic textures or patterns in cartoon illustration, and do not use it much. I did use the same method when I did some Spider-Man and Superman illustrations for MAD KIDS, but I created the patterns myself that time:

In this case I was able to use the magic wand tool to isolate the inside ovals or diamonds from the background material and create some shiny light effects that gave the costumes a little more volume and texture.

Thanks to Michael Garisek for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

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