Towing the line (work)

Or how I’m always late to the creative party…

I’ve been eyeing up the adult colouring book market for a while. It suits my love of doing small fiddly things for hours on end. Not colouring them in, but creating the artwork for books. It strikes me that there are quite a few out there that are little more than cash-ins for established IPs such as Harry Potter or Star Wars. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that. Other than grown adults doing Star Wars colouring books…

I’m not going to go into the themes I want to use, for obvious reasons but I can show a bit of it and share my process.

Sketching Up

As ever, I start work in Autodesk Sketchbook, still my favourite drawing app even though I own both Painter 2016 and Clip Studio Paint EX (previously Manga Studio EX).

I tried not to look at too many other colouring books, as I didn’t want to get trapped into a particular method. However, on reflection I feel that perhaps I should have bought a couple of books that I particularly admire as I now find myself worrying that there isn’t enough detail, or it isn’t abstract enough, too boring !

Although I have finished this particular piece, I feel that subsequent ones will need more detail and variation.  I also didn’t want it to be too symmetrical, although the design is circular I tried to avoid too much repetition.

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro interface sketch

To vector or not to vector…

I was torn on this one. It makes sense to illustrate in vector format as it gives complete scalability. However, I have yet to find a pure vector programme that gives me the brush strokes I desire. I decided to start work in Adobe Illustrator but I found myself getting annoyed with it fairly rapidly; I wasn’t getting the desired stroke effect even from a custom brush and using the bezier tool to create lines would make my eyes bleed. So I decided to switch to Clip Studio Paint.

To assume that CSP / Manga Studio is only useful for creating manga is completely mistaken. It’s a powerful programme, with both raster and vector capabilities. Historically this mash-up of approaches hasn’t succeeded (cf: Microsoft Expression and Autodesk’s now redundant Sketchbook Designer); however CSP works well. With one massive drawback: although you can create and draw in adjustable vectors, you cannot export them as such. I find this a real shame, and it has previously stopped me from utilising it as much as I would like. I’m not after anything fancy, I’d just like the option to export as an eps. I don’t even need a proprietary format such as .ai !

However, that said. As I know that:

  1. I will be targeting print only
  2. All the artwork will be in black and white

I decided to fire up CSP, set the file size to 600 dpi and see if I could make it sing.

Linework colouring book Ninja Beaver 1
Linework colouring book Ninja Beaver 2
White Grass

I’m only showing partials here, as I don’t really want to disclose exactly what I have planned, and nor do I particularly want to find it elsewhere with no credit. Yes, this has happened on a depressingly regular basis in the past.

Overall, I’m happy with the method, if not entirely convinced about the artwork yet.  I worked at 600dpi but the file can be exported as a Photoshop file at any resolution or scale I choose. It’s not a perfect vector solution, but it does allow me to work with natural brushes as vectors and gives the ability to export with scale. it’s just a shame that I can’t actually export the vectors as eps or svg formats for use on the web or in other applications.

The other issue with doing a colouring book is the sheer volume of work I need to produce, some of these books are very thick and the images very complex. Lets hope I can find enough time to complete what I want to do, and then find a publisher interested in putting it out.

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