April 15, 2008

Cartooning practice and Inkscape 0.46

School’s out for a fortnight here at uni. Which as a PhD student who is tutoring means I get two weeks of unfettered PhD write-up time. I’m pretty worn out from the teaching and marking over the last couple of days, although it just might be lack of sleep catching up with me.

I’ve also noticed a few more trackings from Inkscape fans to the tutorial I made for Order of the Stick avatars. I’m guessing people need Inkscape tutorials. Once my PhD write-up is over I’ll write up some more (general purpose this time).

I need some practice with the new version however. And practice in general. I’m not that much of an artist really, and my cartooning really needs some brushing up.

I’ve started playing around with Inkscape 0.46 by just giving it a spin in creating a character using my old techniques:

  1. Sketch out a draft with pencil on paper.

  2. Resketch it using the calligraphy tool in Inkscape on a draft layer
  3. Construct the figure out of basic shapes and curves (this is the long part)
  4. Put in any special effects, shading, corrections and what-have-you.


This is a pretty early concept for the character “Eight” that part of one of two ideas for a webcomic that I’d like to launch later this year. I still haven’t made up my mind about the little details like colouration and accessories.

So far the process for creating this character isn’t working - not because of the final output, but because it take so freakin’ long to do. I don’t know if it’s because I’m out of practice in the whole Inkscaping, but it could just be I don’t have an efficient process. To test this, I’ll give making this character another go, but this time using a more traditional inking based approach - both digitially and on paper. I’m rubbish at paper inking and almost as rubbish at digital inking, but it’s something I should at least try to see how it turns out.

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March 28, 2008

New links

It’s the end of the week, and my voice is shot from taking tutorials and labs for the last three days. I’ve been living a life of a quiet research student for years, so my vocal chords aren’t up to the extra stress of hours of explaining things to students. I’m looking forward to a somewhat quiet weekend of typing.

I’ve been somewhat neglecting this site as of late (way too busy, sorry), and I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting traffic from some Inkscape sites for the tutorial I wrote for Order of the Stick avatars. I mainly wrote that for the Order of the Stick forums - I noticed they had a lot of people using Inkscape but were in need of a good tutorial, and the style of that art works really well as a tutorial. But I didn’t expect it to get any attention from elsewhere. It’s good to know that it’s of extended benefit to the community at large. I’m hoping to write more tutorials once I get enough time to do so (it takes far longer than you think to write one of those things!). If you’ve stumbled on my blog from one of those sites, welcome! And I hope you enjoy the tutorial!

I’m also hoping to clean this site up a bit some day soon - it needs a new face lift and a new poll. Unfortunately I’ve got a huge amount of stuff to do right now, so I can never guarantee I’ll actually get to do something until after I submit. I’m looking forward to having less deadline pressure and more time to devote to projects like these - I’m sure I’m due a week or four off after I submit.

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January 18, 2008

Introducing the Webcomic Project

As I mentioned last time, it’s time to put some content into this journal for 2008. I’ll start with something that wouldn’t quite fit into my old gamedev journal; my webcomic project.

I’ve been planning to start a webcomic ever since I first seriously tried Inkscape and realised that working with computers and vector can overcome my inability to draw straight or to use a pen without smudging. That was back in 2006; I’d stopped and restarted a few times since then. However I realised late last year that I still really wanted to go ahead with this, so I’ve put some effort into planning this thing. It’s now reached the point where I can consider it a full scale project with a decent chance of going ahead this year, hence the post. I’m still a little bit hesitant to be posting about the webcomic as there’s still a fair chance it might die before publication; I need to ensure I can keep up the pace of content creation before going live. But it’s now my top hobby project, eclipsing game development for the time being (although that’s still going on, albeit slowly).

My main source of delay is nailing down exactly what it is I want this webcomic to be. I’ve cycled through a number of different premises, all comedic; semi-autobiographical ones about hobby game development, unlikely superheroes, various gaming ideas, and so on. It’s hard to hit upon an idea that screams out “Here’s something you can write compelling material on for over a year”, as well as something I gauge to be within my somewhat limited abilities.

At the moment, I’m leaning towards something gaming related: preferably something within a game than commentary about games. I was hesitant about going down the gaming route because there’s a big stigma against them in the webcomic creator circles, probably for good reasons. Gaming comics typically fall into one of two categories: sprite comics which generally consist of Megaman and Mario yelling about how they/each other/the webcomic sucks; and the “two snarky male losers on a couch playing video games” variety (may also contain generic wackiness).

However after some thought, I realised that this was running counter to my original goal - to improve my art skills specifically for the creation of game graphics. If I’m going to aiming to illustrate my own games, I might as well base the comic on games. Plus this allows me to tie into one strength I have over other webcomic; the chance to make games based on my own webcomic. It’d be great to be able to tie the two hobbies together.

At the moment I’m thrashing out ideas in a wiki while sketching out character designs on paper. So far I’ve got a fair idea of what I want the basic characters to be, but I’m really unsure about the best way to make them interact with each other in a sensible way. I’m looking for a gag-a-day type format but with some story driven continuity, which is pretty tricky given my general rustiness in creative writing and lack of experience in webcomic creation. I might be biting off more than I can chew for a first comic, so there’s a danger it might start off crap for a few months while I find my feet.

I’ve been dragging my feet though in wrapping this up; it’s a lot of fun to brainstorm new characters and idly sketch different designs, but I need to put my foot down and make some decisions on things and start tying all the threads together.

I’ll be posting more info of the comic in creation here, partly for feedback and partly as an attempt to clear things in my mind. I’m not sure if this is the usual way most people come up with webcomic ideas, but I’d like to run this through a bunch of people who won’t have any qualms about pointing out the obvious flaws in my design.

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