Designs dekeConstructed: Retro-Style Superhero
Illustration by John Hersey

Drawing consistently rendered letterforms


Designs dekeConstructed: Retro-Style Superhero

with Deke McClelland

Video: Drawing consistently rendered letterforms

In this movie, I'll show you how I approach That font that we used in the previous chapter, just And, for example, where this round layer is concerned, I'll go And now I'm going to go ahead and slant this shape and I'll do so in the
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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 consistently rendered letterforms

In this movie, I'll show you how I approach the creation of the alphabetic characters, here inside Illustrator. And so I'm not going to show you every single character that would get a little tedious over time. But I do want to show you, at least generally, how I built them up. Now I went ahead and set some type in Digital Strip. That font that we used in the previous chapter, just so that I could keep a professionally-rendered font up on screen. In case I need to draw inspiration from it. And then I went ahead and created a few guidelines. They're not ruler guides, they're just horizontal lines. The cyan one represents the baseline and then this orange one down below, that represents how low the rounded characters can dip. And then we've got a caps line up here at the top. I've also gone ahead and organized all my characters according to their type. So, in other words, all of those red rounded characters are on one layer. The vertical blue characters are on another layer and so forth. And, for example, where this round layer is concerned, I'll go ahead and twirl it open by clicking on the little triangle there. And you can see the O and if I turn on this Q tail item, we now have a Q. If I turn that off, we're back to an O. If I turn on C minus, we now have a C, because this path right there is cutting into the O in order to make a C. And then if I turn on G minus, as well as G bar, I end up with an uppercase G, and of course, all the characters in my font are upper case by the way. I have no lower case characters. So if you want to get a sense for how you put something this basic together. When you're drawing Os for example, it's really a function of creating ellipses and then slanting them. And so for example, I'll go ahead and grab my Ellipse tool from the Shape tool fly-out menu. And then I'll drag an elliptical shape about this big, and I'll use the Spacebar in order to scoot it over a little bit on-the-fly, then I'll release the Spacebar and continue drawing, and I'll create an ellipse like this. And I'll go ahead and fill it as well. You may end up with a Stroke shape, I don't have a Stroke, so I'm just going to change the fill to something obvious like this shade of purple right there. And now I'm going to go ahead and slant this shape and I'll do so in the outline mode just so I can see everything that's green by pressing Ctrl+Y or Cmd+Y on the mac. And then you want to switch from the scale tool to the sheer tool which allows you to slant or skew paths, outlines in illustrator. And notice that my transformation origin is located by default, at the center of the shape, which is just fine. And now I'll just go ahead and drag over to the right while pressing the shift key in order to slant my ellipse to the right, like so. I don't have an exact match, of course, but that's all right, this is generally how I approach things. And then I went ahead and switched from the shear tool to the scale tool. Again, the origin's in the center, so I'll just drag up into the left. Like so until my shape looks about like that and then I'll press the alt key or the opt key on the Mac in order to create a copy of that ellipse. Notice that it needs some additional slanting so I'll switch back over to the sheer tool. And then I'll drag like so while pressing the shift key once again in order to constrain the angle of my sheer. Now I'll press Ctrl+Y or Cmd+Y in the mac to switch back to the preview mode.

I'll go ahead and switch back to my black arrow tool as well which I can get by pressing the v key. And then I'll shift+click on the larger shape so both the larger and smaller shape are selected. And then to make the central shape a hole in the O, you go up to the object menu, choose compound path and you choose make. And then you end up with a classic O shape. And basically, really just about every O in just about every font out there is made using this approach. You've got different scaling and different shearing going on, but it's still a combination of those two transformations. All right, I'm going to twirl close this layer and turn it off, and now I'll turn on the layer that's called straight, and notice in parentheses.

All the letters are listed that fall into this group, I, H, N, T, E, L, F. I'll go ahead and twirl this open, scroll to the bottom. You can see we start with an i and then I've got this H and N right shape right there that is used for the H. If I add a cross bar I get an H. And if I turn that off and add a diagonal stroke instead, I get an N. And then I created this shape just by blending between the other two. As we did when we were creating all those grill lines a while back, in order to create this central path right there. And then, if I go ahead and turn off the H, N, and I paths, like so, and turn on the T arm, we end up with a T.

All right, I'll go ahead and turn those two paths off. I'll turn the I back on. And then, we can see we've got everything we need for the E, F, and L, so here's the top of the E. Here's the middle arm, and now we have an F and then if I add the space shape at the bottom, we end up with an E. If I turn off these two paths, we end up with an L. So you get the idea. And so if you have access to this file, you can make your way through it. We've got the combos right here. Which start with a D but then if I turn off this D bowl path right there and turn on this PBR bowl, that gives us a P. If I turn on a B bottom, we now have an uppercase B of course.

If I turn that off and then I turn on this KNR leg, I end up with an R. And then if I turn off the PBR bowl and I turn on this K hook path, and we end up with a K. So the idea is that I'm trying to make sure that my characters are as consistent as possible. So those characters that are related to each other are crafted in very much the same way. What I'd like to do now is show you how I created the letter A, from a letter H. So I'll go ahead and turn off this combos layer. I'll turn on the straight layer once again. Twirl it open and I'll turn off that E and L base path right there. And then I'll turn on the H and N right path and then I'll turn on the H crossbar. So we've got the H, I'll just go ahead and marquis these paths with the black yard tool in order to select them. And I'll press Ctrl+C or Cmd+C on a Mac to copy them. All right now, let's just go ahead and twirl close this later and turn it off and I'll turn on the angles one layer.

Which if you turn it on along with me you'll see the letter Z. I'll go ahead twirl this guy open and turn it off Z paths right there. And then I'll drop down to this a tent. You can see it at this location. And I'll go ahead and select it and I'll change it's color. Let's say to cyan up here in the color panel. So I'll just crank the G value to 255. And now I'll press Ctrl+F or Cmd+F on a Mac in order to paste those shapes that I copied a moment ago. And, I'll click off from the de-select and I'll select this guy, in order to make it active. And then, I'll switch back to my shear tool, right here. And, I'll click down at the bottom to set an origin point. So, this location will not move. And then I'll drag up here at the top while pressing the shift key in order to slant that path like so. And then I'll control, click or command, click on the Mac on this path outline to select it, I'll click right about there to set the origin point. And I'll drag while pressing the shift key to this location in order to slant it into the proper position. Obviously, that's not exactly the desired effect because we've got this little zig zag right there. I'm going to turn off that eight hint path right there because we no longer need it up on screen.

And then, I'll switch back to my black arrow tool, I'll Shift+Click on this right hand path. I'll go up to the Window menu and choose pathfinder in order to bring up the pathfinder panel. And then I'll click on this very first icon, unite, in order to merge those two shapes together. Then I'll switch to the pen tool, which, of course, I can also get by pressing the P key. And I'll hover over this point right there. I don't want it. So because I have a minus sign next to my cursor I can click to get rid of that point without creating a hole in the path outline. And then I'll click here in order to get rid of that anchor point as well and I'll press the "a" key to switch to the wide arrow tool and I'll just go ahead and drag this guy a little bit up and over in order to create that kind of curvature right there. Now, you can see that the bar for the "h", even though it's a great bar and everything, it's too high so I'll press the "v" key to switch back to the black arrow tool. I'll click on that path outline to select it and I'll press Shift+Down Arrow, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten times in order to move that bar down a hundred points and we end up with this letter A. Now of course there's lots more letters that you can plow through. If you have access to the sample file. But that at least gives you a sense on how I approach the creation of my comic book letter forms here, inside Illustrator.

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