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Breaking Down a Panel
Posted Sep 24, 2013 - 13:58:57


So the image above is an uncropped version of a panel from today's UnCONventional in which recurring Troy Harrington pretty much challenges a storm to a fight.

Normally when I do this sort of exterior in UnCONventional I like to use photographic sources, but in this case I didn't have access to a photo that conveyed the angle I really wanted... I made it from scratch.

Many of you know that I build my comics in kind of a collage style, using elements from different sources to create a final panel. I talked about doing this waaaay back in 2011, but I thought I'd go through a much more complex example.

Now the first thing I need is the framework for a structure. Using very basic two-point perspective, I chart out the frame of the hotel. After I do that, I erase the unneeded perspective lines.

Now I know ahead of time I'm going to only see a small portion of the building in the panel, so I only need it to resemble the basic structure of a hotel/convention center. I have no need to get too fancy or add detail the reader will never see. My next step is to add flat colors to the building and ground - and I pretty much go as basic as possible.

I also dug out a photo of storm clouds from my hard drive that I took over a decade ago -- because hey, I need some storm clouds for texture.

The next steps are fairly important - first I needed to add the doors and external lights to the building. Now the doors I've baked in advance, as they've shown up in the comic before. The light fixtures will mostly be obscured by the lighting, so I just make a couple basic circles, so that's not too difficult.

Once I've inserted the doors and the lights, it's time to add lighting. I add a couple of basic gradients -- two opaque to transparent circular ones for the light, and then a translucent black to transparent set of gradients to darken the world in general (leaving the "lit" area lighter than the rest of the world).

Now that I've built the basic world, it's time to add the actual weather.

First we add some mist and fog on the ground through a set of translucent white layers. I'm not going for realism in this element, as if it got too realistic the stick figures would feel out of place. Also, by making it multiple layers it will allow Scrappy to stand in the middle of it.

Once I've added the mist/fog it's time to add the rain. Adding the rain is a little more complicated - the short answer is that I create a couple layers of black with a white "noise filter" applied. I then just motion blur the noise and mess with the weather's visibility.

All that's left to do is insert Scrappy and Troy and we have our panel... well, after we crop a bit off the left so I can hide that I didn't draw 90% of the hotel.

So yeah, that's how I do that.

- Traegorn

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