Q: It is my experience that digital art, even when scanned inks and with digital finishing, takes longer to do, for the artist, than if the art were totally done traditionally. A problem I keep running into is that clients assume anything digital is faster and easier for an artist to complete. Have you found that your working method is any faster than if you worked entirely traditionally? I will agree that a digital file can be easier to make corrections on; but does that make up for a longer initial work time?
A: That question seems to ask two things. First it seems to ask if it’s wrong for clients to think working digitally is easier and faster, and (I assume) then think they should have to pay less. Second if I think digital work is faster.
I’d have to disagree with your statement that digital art takes longer than traditional art. Of course it is all dependent on the style and final look of the work, but for me personally the time involved is about the same, or if anything it’s a little faster to work digitally. Not much, but a little. There is a certain fearlessness about working on the computer that can allow for a looser and more aggressive approach to the final work, but then again it can also lead to spending a lot of time on some insignificant part of an illustration due to the computer’s lack of scale.
By “lack of scale” I mean it’s a lot harder to grasp the actual size of a given illustration when working digitally. It all depends on your monitor’s resolution, the image’s DPI, etc., but it’s very easy to get lost int he scale and end up doing a lot more work that what is necessary on a job.
Here’s¬¨‚Ä† an example. The first job I did after getting my Cintiq was the MAD Magazine parody of the movie “Van Helsing”. I got the Cintiq initially because I thought it would increase my productivity, but I immediately ran into the “scaling” issue. I was happily coloring away on the splash page, working at print size, 300 dpi at 100% zoom. I spent about 20 or so minutes coloring this face in one of the splash page panels:
Okay… it doesn’t look like I spent that much time on it, but I I played with the muted, grayish skin tones, and made his teeth all yellowish, added shadows and modeling. I thought it looked pretty good.
Here was the problem. That face took me 20 minutes to paint. Here is a scan of the actual page at 300 dpi and 100% zoom with a familiar object to demonstrate scale:
That’s right, I spent 20 minutes painting something smaller than a dime on the printed page. You can imagine how long it took to do the rest of the two page splash. Ever since then I work at 50% zoom for most of the coloring I do… on the Cintiq screen that roughly translates to 150% of physical print size, so I get adequate detail without doing so much that it’s lost when the thing is in print.
Once you get a handle on the scale issue, things go much quicker digitally.
As far as the client is concerned, It should not matter to them how much time it takes to do an illustration, at least not in regards to the payment. Illustrators are not paid by how much time it takes to do a given piece, they are paid based on the usage of that piece. It’s the COPYRIGHT to use the art an illustrator sells, not the art itself. The art gets you the job, bit the usage of your art is what has value. I could do the exact same illustration for two different clients, and if client A uses it in a national ad campaign I’ll get paid many thousands for the piece. However if client B is the local pizzeria using it for a local flyer ad I’ll get paid significantly less. Same amount of physical work, totally different uses and therefore totally different payments. I wrote extensively about this subject some time back.
It’s interesting how some clients do consider the relative ease or difficulty of a given illustration to be a factor in what they pay. Some might think that if it’s a simple image with little background and detail it’s somehow worth less that something that took you a long time to create. Considering digital art to be “easier” might cause clients to think they should pay less. These “clients” are inexperienced buyers of illustration and it’s up to you to educate them in how it works.
Thanks to Ernie Kwiat 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!
754 My cover art for the next issue of MAD, exclusive sneak peek from @entertainmentweekly website
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