< Piro >
Friday - July 22, 2011
Some of you may not have noticed, but there is a big difference between comic 1309 and comic 1310. Oddly enough, its really not as easy to spot as i thought it would be - Comic 1309 was drawn digitally (like i've been doing for the past four years or so) but comic 1310 was drawn by hand.
This is, of course, how i used to draw comics before i started drawing entirely digital back around the start of Chapter 10. I always assumed that drawing digitally would speed up the comic production process, but for years things kept getting slower, not faster. Since i am a colossal idiot, i never really considered the fact that maybe drawing digitally might actually be slower than drawing by pencil.
Logically (to me) that makes no sense. Scanning, cleaning up, not being able to have different layers, copy paste, infinite undo, etc - how can the old fashion way of drawing be *faster*?
While working on all the sketches that people ordered for VirtualCon (i'm still working my way through them >_<) it was odd but i found myself wondering why i was able to go through five or six sketches of fairly decent quality in the same amount of time it sometimes to to do a single comic frame. One day i did a ton of sketches in the morning and then moved onto working on a comic in the afternoon. I could not help but notice that drawing digitally seemed, for some bizzare reason, to take longer. WTF?
So i decided to try something. I did the last comic the old fasion way, drawing each frame by hand in pencil. I was kinda bothered by how much quicker they all went. Then, after scanning, cleaning them up and hatching them with my recent forays into digitally hatching and rendering things (thats for another rant) i was rather surprised to see that the two comics didn't look all that different. Comic 1309 took about 9 hrs to draw (before hatching). Comic 1310 took about three (before scanning and hatching). huh.
The fruit of this experiment (other than chopping the time down as much as it did) was that I actually figured out why drawing comics by hand in pencil goes faster. It's not because of fuzzyfuzzy froo froo feeling crap about analogue vs. digital and stuff. When i realized what the difference was i literally did an agonized facepalm... it's all about scale.
See, when i work on paper, the general size of a frame is about 3" high by 4" wide, give or take. The scale of a character's head is about 1.5 to 2" diameter at most. That's been the general scale i have always drawn things at, and it works pretty well. This has to do with the general movement of the pencil in your hand, the natural arc, so to speak, when you sketch a line, If this were math, that arc would be a constant, and would be a non-changing factor in the equation of whatever scale you work at. You can use pencils or brushes of different diameters, you can use paper of any and all sizes, but the comfortable sketched line (CSL, lets call it) doesn't change. For instance, drawing a character with a head diameter of 2" is a lot easier than drawing the same character with a head diameter of say five inches, filling a large sheet of paper.
Now, if you start drawing digitally, you can do something you can't do with normal paper - you can zoom in and out pretty much to any level you want. The problem has always been that the hand eye coordination, the ability to draw on a tablet and have it synch with what you are drawing on screen is something most of us simply can't do. the Cintiq, where you can draw right on the screen, fixes this problem... or at least, fixes it for the most part.
Two problems with drawing digitally. First one is - i don't draw frames at the same real life scale that i draw them on paper. If you watch the live drawing stream, you will note that i typically are zoomed in enough that the frame fills the screen, right? that means that in real life, on the screen of my cintiq, that character's head is at least twice as big as i would draw it on paper. The end result, and this is why comics take so damn long to draw, is that i have been drawing each frame like it is a full sized drawing on a 8x11 sheet of paper - with my pencil style of building up lines and details to add texture and depth and stuff, it means that there is a lot to draw, even in simple headshots.
So why not zoom out, work at the frame at the same scale as you would on paper? Ahhh... see, that's where the difference between digital and pencil on paper comes in: it's that tiny but huge difference between where the point of my pencil is on the drawing. Sure, on the cintiq, it's pretty close - but that small difference (which for the most part is the distance between the drawing surface and the screen itself where the pixels are) is not much, but it's enough that at that scale where i think i'm putting a line down and where it ends up is not the same. It's enough to throw off an expression or not meet up with an edge the way i expected it to.
See, this isn't a problem when you are more zoomed in, working at a larger scale. So... by default, given how i work, when i draw digitally i work at a bigger scale than i work on paper. For evidence, i present the following screenshot:
the Miho on the left i drew digitally, the one on the right i drew in pencil. One thing that makes things look similar is that the hatching method i am working with i used for both. They look remarkably similar (sorta surprised me actually) but you can get a sense of the difference in detailing by looking at miho's eyes in the digital drawing:
look at Miho's eyes in this screenshot, taken at the resolution i draw at digitally:
The drawing on the left took at least an hour, probably longer. The one on the right took about 10-15 min.
So, no question layers and undo and the ability to grey out sketch lines and trace over things is great - i'm not about to ditch digital drawing completely, but i feel like i have a better sense of how i work with my tools now. Being as stubborn as i am, these lessons do not come easy. ^^;;
There are other factors that add to things moving along a little quicker... the 'you have to commit to drawings on paper far more than you do to ones digitally (which provide for infinite fiddling, whereas paper will wear down if you erase too much), it's more portable - i can work on comic frames pretty much wherever i am, something i can't do digitally. Also... the computer is a distractive tool, it just is. But we all know that.
I still need to work on speeding hatching up - it went faster than usual because i was using my digital method, but hopefully with time it will also go quicker. Dialogue as always takes a lot of muddling with, but if i do comics more regularly i know for a fact that this will also be easier on account of momentum.
So, really, comics in the end aren't looking all that different than what i was doing digitally... which is kinda sad, when you consider how much work the digital drawings tend to be. And people wonder why i call myself an idiot...