Process: Molees

So today, I’m gonna go into my process a bit.  I figured that would be interesting for some folks.

Here’s a page from the comic The Molees. This was written by Damian Duffy and produced for the Our Fair City comic anthology. This was the last page of this story and it left on a bit of a cliffhanger. Basically, the Molees discover a long buried train station that they believe is their way out of the city and possibly the road to a mole shangri la. Here’s the finished page:

I start with some rough sketching in Photoshop. I know that I want to depict a large space that is overrun with decay. I also know the rough positions of all The Molees from previous pages.  

The line art is the first thing to tackle. I tend to work on foreground and backgrounds separately so here’s the characters inked in:

I fill in the character flats. These are just the flat colors that denote what is called “local color.” Local color is the natural color of a thing when it is unaffected by light, atmosphere, or shadow.

Now I can get to work on that background. Since the characters are on a layer above the background, I can work without having to worry about ruining the character artwork. This will be the same process where I start with line art…

…and then fill in the flats.

This next step was to create extra outlines around all the line art with a multiply layer. It seems like a strange decision, but it was part of the Molees look and I found it helped make the line art a little bolder. I think it also helped bring the whole scene together in the sense that all the elements now look like they belong in the scene, instead of a bunch of disparate objects that are drawn together. It look a little weird when this outline is by itself, but once the other layers come into play, it will make more sense.

Now for the shadow layer. This one is the most fun because the results are very visible as I work – instant gratification. The look I wanted for The Molees was a cell-shaded animation aesthetic. so shadows are laid in accordingly.

One final, subtle step. Another layer is added to the top of the whole scene. The blending mode of this layer is “soft light” and the opacity is set real low. This is done for two reasons. First, to soften the shadows. Second, to further unify the scene with  common color overlay.

There you have it! A relatively simple layer composition, but part of my goal with Molees was to have a more streamlined approach. Much of my other work is more “painterly” looking so there are more layers involved. This is a much cleaner look and I think it turned out quite successful. Here is the final page again with Duff’s lettering.

I hope you liked this insight. I plan on doing a few more of these as time goes on.

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