Designs dekeConstructed: Retro-Style Superhero
Illustration by John Hersey

Designs dekeConstructed: Retro-Style Superhero

with Deke McClelland

Video: Drawing cartoon flames as a shape layer

Now the topic of this chapter is refinement, which is an inevitable step in And that is another Jack Kirby convention, but I did And you do that here inside the Layers
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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 Designs dekeConstructed: 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.

Want more of Designs dekeConstructed, the series that breaks down popular graphic designs so you can re-create them on your own? Check out Deke's page.

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

Drawing cartoon flames as a shape layer

Now the topic of this chapter is refinement, which is an inevitable step in the process of creating a piece of artwork inside of Photoshop or any other application. So, it's quite possible that you could sit down and create what we've made so far in a single sitting. I didn't. I revisited this composition several times. But at some point you need to just close the file, save your changes of course, and come back to it the next day. So basically sleep on it and review your artwork fresh, at which point you will want to make some changes, but it's very important you do that before you throw it out there. Now, I made a lot of changes. I revised this artwork several times, but the revision that I'm going to review, inside this chapter, is the addition of these tiny flames here throughout the body.

So you can see that they extend into the legs and the arms and even the hands, but not into the face. And that is another Jack Kirby convention, but I did riff off it and come up with my own solution. And then finally, I decided that the arms were still too long, he has these gorilla arms going right here. And I wanted to elongate his torso in order to create this effect here. And notice his head is a little higher as well. And I also went ahead and pointed the toes downward, in order to give him the appearance of greater momentum. So what we're going to do is create the flames in this movie, and then distort the figure in the next. So I'll go ahead and switch over to my progress file here, and I'm going to zoom in to 100% on his chest. Just go ahead and space bar drag that out. And if you have access to my exercise file, then you can go over to the Paths panel, scroll all the way down, and then select the tiny flame path, which is actually a little higher so I need to scroll up, and it's right there near the center of the chest, and I'm going to zoom in even farther.

It's a little bit hard to see, against the blue barbecue, so I'm going to switch over to the Layers panel and turn off the merge BBQ layer and that way we can see that path a little better. Now, it's an extremely simple path, but let me show you how I put it together. I'll go ahead and select the Pen tool, which you can get, of course, by pressing the P key. And then I'll drag from right about here, in order to set the bottom of the flame. And then I'm going to drag again right here, and that's pretty awful, of course, but the thing is I want to align these two points in a vertical formation here.

And you could do that using a guideline of course or I'm just going to press the Ctrl key, that would be the Cmd on the Mac in order to temporarily access the White Arrow tool. And I'm going to drag this point so it looks like it's aligned to the bottom point. And then I still have the Ctrl key down, or the Cmd key on the Mac, I'll drag this guy up while also pressing the Shift key, so that I'm constraining the angle of my drag to exactly vertical. And now, still with the Ctrl key down, or the Cmd key on a Mac, I'll go ahead and drag this guy down. So we have a fairly symmetrical line going on here. Now, in order to create a cusp point because we need a corner right there, I'll press the Alt key or the Option key on a Mac and drag from that anchor point once again. And then I'll drag down here in order to complete the path outline, and that's basically all there is to it. All right, but I'm going to work from the one I've created in advance, because I want to show this kind of strange problem that we're going to encounter here. You may end up encountering this problem in your own compositions. So I'll go ahead and switch over to my Black Arrow tool, the path selection tool if you prefer, and that's going to select the entire path, and now I'll just press the Backspace key, or the Delete key on a Mac, to get rid of it. We're going to need to create another one, you'll see why in a moment. And, what we need to do, is convert this path into a shape layer. And you do that here inside the Layers panel, by first selecting the hands grill layer, at the top of the stack, because the next layer we create needs to be at the top. And then drop down to the black and white circle, at the bottom of the Layers panel. Press the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, and choose solid color, once again. We've done this before. And we're going to go ahead and call this layer, tiny flames. And of course we're seeing the New Layer dialog box because you have the Alt or Option key down. Now, click OK, and we'll go ahead and fill this layer with a hue value of 60 degrees, a saturation of 100% and a brightness of 100%, which is vivid yellow.

And then click OK in order to accept that change. Alright, now we want to add a stroke. So go up here to the Options bar, and you're going to see the fill and stroke options, assuming that the Black Arrow tool is selected. And what you want to do is click on this little None swatch right there, then click on this tiny color field, and dial in a hue value of 190 degrees, a saturation of 100%, and a brightness of 100% as well, and then click OK. And now, I'm going to change the line weight here to two points. It's going to work out fine. Now, it's very possible you're going to see this weirdness, right here, where the stroke suddenly ends at the end points. And, up here at the cusp point, we have the stroke, basically, extending outward, on both sides.

The thing is, that problem goes away as soon as we create a second flame. So, if you grab that flame, go ahead and click on it to select it, and then, press the Alt key, or the Option key on a Mac, so you have a little plus sign next to your cursor, and drag that flame to a new location, any point will do for now, then you'll see everything gets fixed. So we have good corners now and we have connected end points. I'll just press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z on the Mac to undo. If you ever encounter this problem right here, with an open path in particular, the solution is to Alt or Option drag it or to add some other path to this particular shape layer. Alright, now we want to add a couple of effects.

So drop down to the Effects icon at the bottom at the Layers panel. Alright now I want to add a couple of layer effects. So what I'm going to do is save that portion of the tiny flames effect for the next movie.

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