Designing a Retro-Style Superhero
Illustration by John Hersey

Drawing a handful of spikes in Illustrator


Designing a Retro-Style Superhero

with Deke McClelland

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Video: Drawing a handful of spikes in Illustrator

All right. Now at this point, it's time to add the exploding burst lines that are surrounding the figure. And this is where Illustrator comes in to the picture. Because, while we could technically create these spikes this becomes important when we switch over to illustrator.
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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

Drawing a handful of spikes in Illustrator

All right. Now at this point, it's time to add the exploding burst lines that are surrounding the figure. And this is where Illustrator comes in to the picture. Because, while we could technically create these spikes inside of Photoshop, it would take us forever. Whereas in Illustrator, we can take advantage of some much needed automation. So the first thing I want you to notice is that I've gone ahead and save off a progress file called wildly red background.pst, and this becomes important when we switch over to illustrator. And the first thing you want to do is to go up to the file menu and choose the open command and then locate that file while the red backgrounds.psd and click on the open button, in order to open the image up in Photoshop. Now you'll see this Photoshop Import options dialog box. At which point go ahead and select flatten layers into a single image. Because it's not going to do us any good to divide the layers apart, here inside illustrator.

And you'll see a preview if you have the show preview check box turned on. Now, go ahead and click okay in order to create a file that is exactly sized for this specific image, like so. Now, I'm going to press control zero, command zero on the Mac just to center my zoom here. And I'm going to make some adjustments here inside the layers panel. So if you're not seeing the layers panel, you go up to the windows menu, and you choose the layers command. But in my case, it's visible right here on screen. And the first thing that I do when I'm working this way, is I increase the size of the thumbnails because, otherwise, you can't see what you're doing here inside the panel.

So I'll go ahead and click on this fly out menu icon in the upper right corner of the panel and I'll choose this final command, panel options. And then I'll select, other, and I'll dial in, let's say, 60 pixels for the thumbnail size and then press the enter key, or the return key on a Mac. Now we want to convert this image into a tracing template, and you do that by double-clicking on an empty portion of the layer to bring up the layer options dialog box. And I'll go ahead and call this guy template and I'll turn on the template check box as well. And then all you need to do is click okay and the image is locked down and ready to trace. Now we need to create a new layer, and the best way to do that in Illustrator is to drop down to the little page icon at the bottom of the layers panel and Alt click on it or on the Mac you Option click. That way you bring up the layer options dialog box and we can call this layer spikes, let's say. And then change the color to the very first one, light blue. That's up to you but works out pretty nicely for this image, and then click okay. And we now have a new layer upon which we can draw. Here's where the tedium of the process comes in. If we want variety to our spikes, then we need to draw a bunch of different spikes in the first place. We don't have to draw all of those spikes that you saw inside of Photoshop, but we do need to draw a few, and we're going to do so using the pen tool, and it's not hard, by the way, this work that we're about to do is not hard work, it's just boring work. So, I'm going to start by clicking right about here on his thigh and then I'll click down and we want this line to be vertical, essentially, to go through his feet, more or less.

So I'm going to press the control key or the command key on the Mac, to get the last used arrow tool, which happens to be the black arrow tool. That's not the one I want. So I'll press control tilde or command tilde on the Mac. The tilde key is that one that's directly below the escape key in the upper left corner of an American keyboard, and that will switch you to the white arrow tool, assuming that you keep the command or control key down. And so in other words pressing control or command gets you that arrow tool on the fly and then I can just kind of drag this point over a little bit. And you can always modify it later, so you don't have to get it in exactly the right place. And now release that key and you're back to the pen tool here. And you can see the pen tool is active because it doesn't have a little asterisk next to it so I can just click, let's say right about here and then click up there in order to finish the spikes. So everyone of these spikes is a triangle. That's why I say they're real easy to draw. It's just that we have to draw quite a few of them. All right. I don't want to see this fill. It's kind of blocking my view of things. So what I'm going to do is press the A key to switch to the white arrow tool, and I'll Alt click or option click anywhere on this path to select the entire thing. And then you want to go up to the control panel, which is what the options bar is called inside Illustrator. Click on this very first swatch which is the fill and change it to none, this guy right there.

And notice that we're not seeing a bunch of swatches and that's because we created this illustration from an image file. But we don't need swatches so that's okay. All right. Now, I'm going to go ahead and duplicate this guy by alt dragging him. That's an option drag on the Mac and I'll drag him over just a little bit. And then I'll click off the path to deselect it. And I'll grab this top of the spike and drag it down to let's say, somewhere around here. And then I'll Alt drag or option drag the path again in order to duplicate it to, let's say, right about here. Take him down a little bit. And I'll go ahead and increase the width of the bottom of this spike right here. And I'll take the top of the spike up to about this location, might work out pretty well.

And, so, it's going to be a lot of this, by the way, just creating spikes. In all we need nine of them. And what I'm doing here, is I'm just kind of selecting points and nudging them around from the keyboard by pressing an arrow key or two. I'll take this guy to the left and down just a little bit as well. And I'll go ahead and create copy of this guy. And he's going to go down quite a bit actually. I'm going to take him down to about here, let's say. And then I'll take his top to right there. That might work out. I have no idea really. While I'm working it's just kind of guesswork. And so I'm going off of what I did it the past, but it will need adjustment in a future movie. I'll go ahead and Alt drag or option drag this guy over like so. And click off the path, and then drag the point, the top point, up to right about here, let's say. So I'm just kind of trying to vary the tops and the bottoms.

And now I'll just go ahead and Alt drag or option drag it down a little bit. And then I want to take its point quite high indeed up here, almost to that seam so that we have a nice tall spike. All right. Now Alt click this path, or option click it on a Mac, and I'll drag it up to about here while pressing the alt key or the option key on a Mac so that I create a duplicate. And I'll go ahead and take this spike down. Actually pretty low, let's take it down there. And now create another duplicate. We're almost done. I think we have seven. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. So just two more to go. Drag this guy over to about this location, take him down a little bit. And that's an alt drag or an option drag on the Mac. So I'm creating a duplicate, of course, and I'll take this guy down to right about this location. And then let's Alt drag or option drag it one final time in order to create this spike right there. And I'm going to marquee these two bottom points and just nudge them over to the right by pressing the right arrow key a few times and then I'll take this point and nudge it over to the right as well, cause I want this spike to be a little thicker than the others.

And I believe we've got what we need. So now what you want to do is press the V key to switch to the black arrow tool. There it is, up there at the top of the tool box. And then just marquee these paths like so in order to select them all. So a partial marquee is all you need. Don't have marquee around the entire thing. Just like that. And then you can swap the fill for the stroke by pressing shift X like that. And we now have black fills and no strokes as you can see right there. And you can make some adjustments if you like, if this doesn't look exactly the way you think it should. You could select for example this point and move it over a little bit, maybe this guy right there needs to come over.

Maybe this guy right there needs to come over as well. because I want some consistency where the spacing is concerned between the spikes. But, I think this is going to work for now. And so now that the boring spike drawing is done, we're ready to have fun by applying a couple of dynamic effects, starting in the next movie.

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