Designing a Retro-Style Superhero
Illustration by John Hersey

Creating the extreme paths for the grill lines


Designing a Retro-Style Superhero

with Deke McClelland

Video: Creating the extreme paths for the grill lines

In this chapter, we're going to take on these vertical grill lines inside the character. And I call them grill lines because they're a stylistic invention, that conveys the fact that he is a kind of human grill. He's putting out a ton of heat. And the genius of this effect, and I believe it was created by Jack Kirby, because his Human version of our superhero, he's got fire behind him.
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  1. 41s
    1. Welcome
  2. 13m 6s
    1. Masking a person from a white background
      8m 20s
    2. Smoothing out the edges of a jagged mask
      4m 46s
  3. 28m 52s
    1. Adding power and motion with Liquify
      8m 21s
    2. Puppet warping the legs closer together
      6m 36s
    3. Applying a perspective-style transformation
      5m 34s
    4. Smoothing and removing details with Liquify
      8m 21s
  4. 28m 34s
    1. Filling and stroking the silhouette
      3m 47s
    2. Drawing with the Pen and Brush tools
      7m 56s
    3. Hand-painting the face
      8m 56s
    4. Refining brushstrokes with Median and Minimum
      7m 55s
  5. 39m 2s
    1. Adding complementary colored clouds
      5m 28s
    2. Drawing a handful of spikes in Illustrator
      8m 34s
    3. Creating a burst pattern with Transform
      9m 36s
    4. Adjusting the spikes for a better effect
      7m 20s
    5. Bringing the burst pattern into Photoshop
      8m 4s
  6. 51m 4s
    1. Creating the extreme paths for the grill lines
      7m 31s
    2. Blending the grill lines in Illustrator
      9m 42s
    3. Correcting potential blending problems
      9m 58s
    4. Bringing the blended paths into Photoshop
      8m 27s
    5. Simulating pressure when stroking paths
      5m 35s
    6. Contouring the grill lines onto the face
      9m 51s
  7. 23m 47s
    1. Drawing a hand with the Pen tool
      9m 29s
    2. Converting the hand path to a shape layer
      6m 2s
    3. Finishing off the hands and gloves
      8m 16s
  8. 28m 49s
    1. Blend, scale, and rotate photographic flames
      6m 17s
    2. Filling in gaps with symmetrical flames
      7m 15s
    3. Shooting flames out of the hero's hands
      7m 34s
    4. Stroking the composite flames
      7m 43s
  9. 19m 13s
    1. Drawing cartoon flames as a shape layer
      5m 56s
    2. Enhancing the flames with layer effects
      5m 32s
    3. Adjusting Puppet Warp and Expansion
      7m 45s
  10. 16m 56s
    1. Installing a free comic-lettering font
      3m 59s
    2. Formatting the monologue text
      5m 43s
    3. Drawing the talk balloons (a.k.a. speech bubbles)
      7m 14s
  11. 43m 10s
    1. Selecting a font-creation software
      5m 17s
    2. Drawing consistently rendered letterforms
      9m 10s
    3. Pasting the letters into Glyphs Mini (Mac only)
      8m 11s
    4. Copying capitals into lowercase positions (Mac only)
      6m 45s
    5. Generating an OpenType font (Mac only)
      7m 56s
    6. Stylizing the custom font in Photoshop
      5m 51s
  12. 4m 24s
    1. Time lapse of the retro superhero
      3m 4s
    2. Until next time
      1m 20s

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Watch the Online Video Course Designing a Retro-Style Superhero
4h 57m Intermediate Jun 30, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Learn what it takes to design and create your own custom silver-age superhero. Join Deke as he starts by tracing a photo to create the hero's body and then jumps into Illustrator for the creation of the final effects. Finally, Deke takes us through the steps to lay out our own custom type to complete the comic.

Topics include:
  • Turning a person into a silhouette
  • Adding power and motion with Liquify
  • Drawing with the Pen and Brush tools
  • Creating a dramatic background
  • Adding grill lines and flames
  • Inserting talk balloons
  • Creating a custom comic font
Illustrator Photoshop
Deke McClelland

Creating the extreme paths for the grill lines

In this chapter, we're going to take on these vertical grill lines inside the character. And I call them grill lines because they're a stylistic invention, that conveys the fact that he is a kind of human grill. He's putting out a ton of heat. And the genius of this effect, and I believe it was created by Jack Kirby, because his Human Torch looks quite different from the original Human Torch created by Carl Burgos back in the late 30s. The genius of this effect is that we can see the character's face. So if you take a look at the final version of our superhero, he's got fire behind him. It's not wrapped around him the way it would really be. Or the way it's done in the movies, for example. And then he's got these flames at work in front of him, on the body, but not on his face. And that way he remains a recognizable character, who is capable of conveying emotion on the page. Now, you may wonder how in the world we're going to pull this off because after all, drawing this many lines would be a bit mind boggling. That's what Kirby, and the guys who followed him, had to do. They'd pencil in all these lines and then an inkist would follow up and trace all the pencil lines. But what we're going to do is take advantage of some powerful technology that's been with us since 1988. And that is blends, inside of Illustrator. So we're going to draw a bunch of path outlines and blend between them. So right now we're inside Photoshop, I'm going to switch over to the most recent version of the artwork so far, but I have done some work in advance for you. So if you have access to the exercise files, you'll want to go up to the Window menu, and choose the Paths command, in order to bring up the Paths panel. And then go ahead and click on Edge Contours, that second path, in order to display these various path outlines that you see here. Now, for now, we're going to take on every grill line. All the grill lines, except those inside of the arms and hands. And that's because we're going to be redrawing the hands in the next chapter. But, in the meantime what I want you to see is, I have done all this work because otherwise it's a fair amount of tedium for you. But you of course are welcome to draw your own lines using the pen tool. So what I'm going to do, is I'm going to switch to the white arrow tool, known as the Direct Selection Tool, here inside Photoshop, and I'm going to marquee one of these paths so that you can see it. They're all two anchor point paths, none of 'em have more than two anchor points in 'em. And they're smooth points. As you can see, because they have these control handles, that allow the paths to bend. And all that I've done is I've meticulously, it took me about an hour, to draw all these paths along the edges. So you can see that they're just inset from the outline of the character, and I went ahead and created pairs of lines so that I can blend between them. So we've got these two lines on ether side of the forearm. Then, we've got these two lines on either side of the bicep. We've got two lines here, on either side of the shoulder, and so forth. And that way we'll have breaks between the grill lines, just as you see in this version of the artwork here. And there are times where I created more than a pair of lines. Around the neck for example, you can see that we have one, two three, four, five lines, that we'll be blending. I needed some additional definition around the chest, and the abdomen as well. Down here in the trunks, we need some extra definition, so I've got some additional path outlines that work. And a lot of this, I have to admit, I didn't really approach this project in quite the linear fashion that I'm laying it out for you. So there is a little bit of reverse engineering going on here. And you can see that I've got lines around the thighs, and then around the knees. And then down here around the calves I've got three lines, actually at work. And we've got three sets, one, two, three working vertically, that are at work inside the shoes, and so we've got three lines around the ankles. We've got a couple around the heel, and then a couple around the toes. Just to give you a sense of what's going on here, because, after all, I've done this work in advance for you.

Now I'm going to scroll up here and I want you to see that things are quite a bit more complicated in the face. And the face is going to be the hardest thing to pull off, because after all, the face is the thing that we have to nail, that we have to get exactly right. And this whole convention of these grill lines is built around the visibility of the face. So what you want to do if you're working along with me, click off the paths, to make sure their deselected. Then go up to the File menu, choose Export, and choose Paths to Illustrator. And the beauty of working this way, as opposed to copying the paths and pasting them inside Illustrator, is that this will take care of any registration problems. So these paths will come into Illustrator at exactly the right point. So I'll go ahead and choose Paths to Illustrator, and then I do want to export the paths associated with this little bucket right there, Edge Contour.

So I'll click okay. And you can see I've already created this file, in advance. But, I'm going to create it again. So, just want to make that your file type, your format, is set to Adobe Illustrator, .ai. And then click Save. In my case, I'm going to replace my existing file, and that's all there is to it. Now, you want to switch over to Illustrator, where I'll see all of those spikes that we created in the previous chapter. I'm going to go ahead and turn those spikes off. So, I'll turn off that layer called expanded paths. So that we're just seeing the template in the background, which we want to continue to see.

And now I'm going to add a layer, by pressing the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, and clicking on the little page icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. And I'll call this guy edges, let's say. And then I'll change the color to something I don't really care about like Olive. Because we're not going to be doing all that much with this layer. And then I'll click OK. All right, now we need to bring in those paths that we just exported, and you do that by going up to the File menu and choosing the Open command. Or of course, you can press Ctrl+O, or Cmd+O on the Mac. And then go ahead and locate that file that we just created,, and click on the Open button.

Photoshop is going to ask you what to do with the art ports, because this the legacy format in the old version of the yellow string four rat. We don't really care so just go ahead and click OK. And, you're not going to see anything, or, so it's going to seem, but that's because the paths don't have any fills or strokes. So press Ctrl+A, or Cmd+A on the Mac, in order to select all of the paths' outlines. And then go up to the control panel here and just change the Line Weight value to one point. Like so, so we can see the paths. And then I want you to go up to the Edit Menu and choose the Copy command or of course you can just press Ctrl+C, or Cmd+C on the Mac.

And now go ahead and switch back to my document in progress. And I'll revisit the Edit Menu and choose Paste in Front. Or press Ctrl+F, or Cmd+F on the Mac, in order to paste those paths' outlines into my illustration. And you can see. By virtue of the fact that we exported the paths and then opened 'em, copied 'em, and pasted 'em in Illustrator, as opposed to copying them from Photoshop and then pasting them in Illustrator. All the paths are exactly aligned to the template.

And that, friends, is how we go about creating the base path outlines, that we'll be using to create those hundreds of grill lines, using a combination of Photoshop and Illustrator, working together.

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