My cartoon style varies depending on the job in hand but I will always start with a rough sketch to depict form. I try not to add too much detail to the sketch as it can have a pretty negative effect on the final piece.
Sketch of a cartoon character in Mischief
Once the sketch is complete and I’m happy with the form and composition of the character, I dive straight into the clean up.
For me there’s nothing worse than ‘perfection’ in art. In fine art I love to see the brush strokes or the effect of the canvas through the acrylic or oil. In fact, in animation, I often prefer the roughs to the final piece.
Milt Kahl’s character sketches were beautiful and didn’t necessarily gain anything from going through the clean up process. In some respects I’d love to see Madame Medusa in action purely from the roughs.
Madame Medusa by Milt Kahl
I use Mischief to create most of my cartoon work and I always start with a modified pencil to create the rough outlines.
When I ‘ink’ the work I use a straightforward pen with the colour set to black. At this point I’m thinking more about the colouring than I am about the quality of the inked stroke. I want to create something that lends itself to good colour but also something that has imperfections. For me this is far more interesting to look at.
I see some wonderful art around the web that is most likely created professionally using Manga Studio or Photoshop. These images can look stunning but just a little too perfect. The lines are pixel perfect where they join. The variation in the line is minimal and the edges can be just too smooth for my tastes.
I like to adopt a ‘sketching style’ with my ink pen that is precise but not pixel perfect.
When the ink work is complete I sit back and look at it in terms of my colour ideas. It often helps me to but a strong background colour in place. Normally a deep blue. I generally think that most images look fantastic against blue.
As I’m colouring I’m really just concerned with filling the shapes with solid colour. The texture is in the outlines so I’m happy just to use this flat coloured approach.
I also add some coloured tone and I usually like to have my light sourced from the right. i.e. shadow falls to the left.
I also employ thicker ink lines where body parts are pretty tight, such as under the arm or the neck.
To set the image from the background I add a white fringe. The finished piece is enormously satisfying to me as it honours my love of strong colour and an interesting line.
You can see this in action on YouTube.