by mike walton

We’ve now embarked on the 3rd year of False Positive.

In the past 2 years, I’ve learned a lot.

Artistically, while the style I’m using has evolved, the process I follow for creating the digital art has remained fairly consistent all along.

See more after the jump.

Hardware I love working with traditional media, but nothing compares to the convenience of working digitally. There’s no clean up.  I don’t have to run to the store when my favorite brush dies or I run out of Zinc White. My colors are always consistently mixed and never dry out. The trade off: working digitally loses all the unsuspected and spontaneous moments that arise when working with traditional media.

To help facilitate the speed of my process, False Positive is created 100% digitally. When I’m at my studio, I work with my laptop (my tower collects dust in a less convenient spot) and a Wacom Cintiq 21ux, purchased in 2010.  When on the road, I take the same laptop and carry an ancient (2005) 6 in. x 8 in. Wacom Graphire 3 and/ or my Large Wacom Intuos 4  with a 12 in. drawing area.  As you might suspect, I’m a big fan of Wacom products.  Working with my Cintiq isn’t very far removed from working on a traditional drawing.  The stylus interacts directly with the monitor and the monitor easily tilts and rotates in the same way I might flip around a sketchbook or piece of paper.  While I’m curious about newer Wacom interface products, I haven’t yet felt the need to upgrade.

To anyone on a budget, you can make just about any size Wacom stylus and tablet work for you. It’s been a while since I’ve tested other stylus brands, but in my experience, other brands lacked the sensitivity and response of the Wacom hardware and drivers.

Software- To get the most out of my tablets, I use Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. I’m not listing the version of the programs here, because I keep multiple versions of each program loaded on my computers.  I’m a creature of habit.  I’ve found that with each new version of these programs there are little idiosyncrasies that get changed.  In one version of Photoshop, a filter might work in one manner, in a manner I come to depend upon, but then the same filter serves up slightly different results in the newer version of the program. Regardless of the version of the program, both Photoshop and Painter are my favorite 2D digital art programs.  I’ve also messed with Manga Studio and Sketchbook Pro, but neither programs worked out for me.

To anyone on a budget, there’s nothing wrong with getting yourself an older version of these programs as long as they’re still compatible with your computer’s current operating system.

Still with me?

Here’s a rundown of the False Positive art process:

1. Working at 600 dpi and using Corel Painter, I create a loose digital sketch that quickly gets turned into finished line-art on a new Layer. Here is my default Brush settings for drawing/ inking.

corel painter brush settings

2. Moving over to Phototshop, I create multiple layers of the art of various values. Using Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation, decrease the Lightness.  This makes everything white into gray.


3. Then I erase areas of the higher, lighter value, Layer to allow the darker Layer beneath to show through.  This step is not unlike the subtractive method (a.k.a. wipe-out style or rub out method) of underpainting technique used with oils.

4. I repeat steps 2 & 3 until the desired values are achieved. During this process, I might add more whites or darker darks, etc.

5. I flatten all the Layers.

6. Again, I use Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation and select Colorize.  Then I adjust the levels until the desired hue is achieved.

7. If the image calls for more than one color, the Layer is duplicated and the process for step 6 is repeated to achieve the new Layer‘s color.  Then areas of one layer are erased to allow the color of the under Layer to show through.

by big mike walton

Man, that all looks tedious, but it’s actually a rapid process.

I don’t always draw like this. I created this style exclusively for this project.  Next season, I think I might try experimenting with a different art style for each story. I’m wacky like that.

Any questions?

Would anyone want to see a video tutorial of this process?

Do any of you create digital art?

Any tips for tools or programs to share?



Big Mike