Previously on X-men! Er -- Vector Walkthrough Part 1: ok, so we've gone from sketch to outlines, to basic color. Now we'll move into the more complex aspects of the piece.
Color Correction: I decided that the yellow mawashi competed too much with the flesh tones, and was distracting. So I decided to simplify the color pallet and move to something a little cooler in temperature. On the layer I put down some simple gradients to give a little depth.
I usually separate my shading layers to make managing things a little easier. after I created the color flats, I made another layer to do some flat shading. This is pretty simple stuff and I usually just keep it to one or two shades, usually the same color just set to multiply and at various opacities.
From there I'll create another layer and begin working with gradients. If you look at my "Flesh Tone Tutorial" this is pretty simple stuff, usually only a few gradients, usually a color to white with it's blending mode set to multiply. In this case I went with a ruddy tone to give his flesh some blood in it, and one that was the same color as his skin to indicate depth.
On this layer I also put a pattern down on the mawashi (the apron). This is a custom pattern that I created for this piece. Creating patterns in illustrator is pretty straight forward. I drew the paisleys, the using the pathfinder tool I broke them apart and arranged them on a tile. I think one of the secrets to using patterns effectively is by applying them to individual shapes and then editing them. For example: in this illustration I created three shapes, one for each section, top middle and bottom. I applied the pattern to each shape, but then scaled and rotated the patterns individually for each layer. This prevents the pattern from looking static and tiled, and simulates what would happen with actual fabric.
Merrwizard this is for you. I love love love using watercolor brushes in illustrator. As a general rule, I'm not a big fan of stuff that comes stock in art applications, but I've been pleasantly surprised with Illustrator's ink, watercolor, and chalk brushes. Anyway, the secret, I found, comes down to a few things: the multiply blending mode, opacity and weight. First I dropped in some warmer shades in the same color I used for the ruddy gradient, using the Watercolor Wet brush that comes with Illustrator (window > brush libraries > artistic_watercolor), set to multiple (gets rid of the whitish ending on the stroke) and set to about 30% opacity. I love this brush, because it seems to work really well for the skin tones I like, and can achieve a number of shapes depending on line length and weight. After this I put down some more complex shades with similar brushes but this time in a shade of the blue I used in the mawashi and the water. This, I think, ties the colors together and creates a good harmony.
Also at this stage, I begin modifying the lines I originally put down. you can see in the face detail that I've taken the black lines, and made the exterior ones a deep shade of the dominant blue. I've then taken the interior lines, and turned them brown and used a variety of blending modes and opacities to achieve the look that I want -- avoiding heavy lines, and making them a little more unified with the shading. I like the black lines, but sometimes, and especially in this drawing, they give it a weird, Chinese-Propaganda-Chairman-Mao look.
The Hair: I put down all the hair lines using custom brushes that are EXACTLY like the one I created in the first steps, just in three different colors. Not too tricky.
After this I did some finishing touches -- I asked some friend how they felt about the mawashi and we all agreed the ship was looking a little off -- I wanted it to be a little ambiguous, not really on the mawashi or on the water -- because when I saw Musashimaru the first time thats how his mawashi struck me. Its a long story. In the end I took the ship, pulled it on to its own layer, and basically did everything I did with the rest of the drawing, just in miniature and on one layer. I resized it, and reworked it until it came out the way I wanted it.
I also went back to my color flat layers and put in some highlights in a layer above it. Highlights are a beast to work with for me, because of working with the blending modes. So I basically do them in Illustrator the same way I do them in acrylic -- at the very last, and pretty opaque, but in illustrator I put them down underneath the shading so I can still take advantage of the shading layers' blending modes.
After that I took care of the water, and I'm done as far as the drawing is concerned. From here its just some housekeeping: expanding appearances and deleting empty paths, trimming some of the watercolor effects, and layer management.
So thats it! WHEW! I hope that was helpful. If there's any other questions, feel free to ask! I added at the bottom a spread of my pallets and workspace. This isn't how I work, this is just kind of an exploded view so you can see the individual brushes (watercolors at the top, custom at the bottom) -- the panes I find the most helpful, and a breakdown of the layer organization and corresponding objects.
I realizes this all seems very complicated, but in all honesty I only worked on this for about 4-5 hours. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes very second nature and easy to maneuver. I love working in Illustrator -- its my baby and I feel 100% at home in it. I find myself thinking in terms of Illustrator, and find myself constantly working out how I could achieve something in illustrator. While I was in Hawaii I had this epiphany on how I could wrap a gradient around an object like a brush stroke and I literally (not having access to even a computer) wrote down step by step in my journal (menu commands, process, etc) how I would achieve it -- it was one of the things I looked forward to in getting home: to see if it would work, and it did! So I hope this gives you some insight and I hope that you keep plugging away at it so that you enjoy it as much as I do.
Aloha & Mahalo!