Designer Passport is our monthly series spotlighting great designers from around the world. Each month, we bring you a new piece of art by a graphic artist we love (created from Shutterstock assets, of course), along with a step-by-step guide on how you can create it (or something equally awesome) yourself.
When we asked illustrator Ryan Quickfall (who also created our fantastic RxMen illustrations) about the inspiration for his Designer Passport creation, he told us that he wanted to portray some of the buildings and history of his hometown of Newcastle, England. “From castles to bridges, this city has a lot of history,” said Quickfall. “I wanted this to feel like it was from a page in a 1960s comic book, with the sourced textures helping to build on that aesthetic.”
Check out the time-lapse video below to see how Quickfall created the artwork above, then read on for his full tutorial on comic book illustration.
I began by creating a composition with imagery sourced from Shutterstock. I cut out the buildings and placed them together in Photoshop. It’s easier, I think, if you do this in grayscale, since I won’t be using color reference from the originals anyway. Once I had a composition I was happy with, I printed it out for reference.
I sketched out the layout prior to inking. You can do this in two ways: by sketching it out or tracing it. I sketched it out freehand, as I think this gives my work the feel that I’m looking for. But there are times, especially when you’re short on time, when tracing would make the job a whole lot easier.
Using a brush pen, I worked over the top of my pencil sketch. I work relatively loosely, and I really wanted that feel in my work. Old comics are a big influence in my work — especially old Commando comics. Solid black imagery is the key to giving this era a good nod.
Once you have your linework, scan it in. 300 dpi is high enough, as we will be adjusting levels to our liking, and you can mask a lot of unwanted brush marks, etc., with the level adjustment. (But if you need to, you can also go through your linework and remove any unwanted splashes or marks with the eraser tool.)
To make the artwork solid black, we’ll adjust those levels (Image>Adjustments>Levels). It’s easy to take the adjustments too far, so work out what suits your work best. Another way to do it without affecting your original scanned artwork is to use a levels adjustment layer. (It’s probably easier this way if you’re just trying this out.)
Textures are the key to giving an aged feel to the work. I sourced a paper texture from Shutterstock, choosing a really simple one for this tutorial. You want the paper texture to sit subtly in the background, but it’s also one of the main features that will emphasize the feel we’re going for.
I didn’t want to stretch or distort my texture in any way, so I copied and filled the texture to cover the size of the artwork. If you find that you now have a texture with unsightly marks in it where you have added areas, you can use the clone stamp and healing brush to neaten up. The content-aware function is also really handy here. Set the texture to the bottom layer, but above the background layer, using the Multiply layer mode.
Next, it’s time to add some halftone, again giving a nod to old comic styles. You can really never have too much halftone pattern in any work, but here, I’m going to tone it down slightly. My file is in CMYK mode, and you need to work in grayscale to get the desired halftone effect. Create a new layer in the artwork and mark out where you would like the halftone to overlay on the image using 30-50% gray. Copy the layer and paste it into a new document. In the new document, flatten your layers and use Filter>Pixelate>Color Halftone. Copy and paste this back into the artwork, using Multiply to overlay. This will need to be grouped in with our black artwork layer.
We can now start adding in color. (I have a brush pack I like to use, but there are an abundance of great brush packs available online created by some equally great artists, who share them for free.) This is a process I use a bit of trial and error with, tweaking and changing colors to suit. I’ll put in a base layer, then build it up using extra layers set to Multiply. This gives the illustration a little more depth. It’s really up to you how far you take the coloring process.
I thought the sky looked a bit bare here, so I decided to add in another texture just for the sky. I found a great rough painted texture on Shutterstock that works well to add some extra depth. Lay the texture into position, cut out unwanted areas so it doesn’t lay over where it shouldn’t, and apply it. Again, set it to Multiply; you’ll also want to adjust the color here to fit with the background of the sky.
Finally, to give that yellowed old comic-page style, I wanted to add another layer overlay. Using the Multiply layer style again, I placed an old paper image over the top of all of the artwork. It needed some torn edges to tidy it up; using the healing brush tool easily fixes any unsightly areas so you have full edge-to-edge texture coverage. Dropping the opacity here is essential to finding a level that doesn’t distract from the main image too much, as the texture can be very dark and heavy.
Overall, textures are really the key here to digitally adding some depth and a vintage feel to the piece. Explore the Shutterstock library to find ones you like, and see what other looks and styles you can create!
To download all the images used in this tutorial, check out the lightbox below »