Besides the stuff i do for myself, i haven't done artwork for a real project aside from birthday gifts and that school place.
Around October last year a friend of mine talked to me about fanzines people do at anime festivals and so on and i thought i'd give it a try. I got a storyboard done within 3 weeks but then assignments started raining down heavy and i couldn't get to the actual doing of it. Now that i'm done with the school year i sat down and got to work but, needless to say, ran into a ton of snags. This one snag in particular has always been bugging me in some form or another but, now that i'm actually supposed to deliver, it's becomening more than a nuisance.
I'm using photoshop and painter to do it. Lineart comes out ok, shading is decent but the real problem is with the surfaces. Most manga artists i read (Hiroaki Samura, Tsutomu Nihei, Kastuhiro Otomo, etc) are able to always give some kind of texture to their masses of shade that sort of reflects the material or mood they're trying to transmit. Not just that, but very often the borders between two distinct tones of shade have some kind of accent as well. Now i've observed into it as far as i could, trying to figure things out. I've compared real printed pages to scans to see to what degree the paper texture is responsible for this, and it does add some character but there seems to be more to it than that.
I've come to grasp that these tings very often look better on paper but all i have for print tests is a regular old inkjet, which is nothing like the printers (or paper) they use for actual production.
Obviously i understand a lot of this comes from each artist's individual experience, which in this area i have little, but right now, 9 out 10 shots i do flat out scream software.
Painter seems to be better in that department than photoshop but it always seems to take it too far from over-smooth to just messy and confusing, so i usualy end up with either a dead shade or gradient, or a grainy mess even i can't discern.
I don't know if it's just my inexperience and i can't find the balance, or there's something i'm missing altogether. Anyway, if anyone could point me out some way to tackle this thing, i'd really appreciate it.
My work right now is, well... crap. Embarassingly so. These are the last few shots i've worked on.
EDIT: This thumbnail seems to dissapear for some reason, a while after the page has loaded. I don't understand why. If you can't see it, let me know and i'll try to post it some other way.
It's pretty much the best i could do so far. Everything before is even farther from what i want it to be.
It's pretty reckognizable what the motif for that thing is, being for a fanzine and all. Anyway the ideal is below.
Tsutomu Nihei: BLAME! and Biomega
Hiroaki Samura: Mugen no Juunin
Katsuhiro Otomo: Akira
I may have come to understand this a little better after trying to do a couple more panels. It's pretty scary/sad/dumb actually the ammount of stuff that was right in front of my eyes that i just couldn't see at first.
I started off by trying to use these big shifts of grey tones, like some oil painting, only in greyscale. I'm paying more attention now to how flat the shades seem to be and the use of all these lines in place of midtones. It's still pretty tough though to have the kind of accuracy that'll allow that perfect near-parallel flow of strokes. I can do it on paper, but on my tablet it's not as easy.
I know i can't get some big secret formula that'll just make it easy as pie, but any insights into the making of these things, i'd be really grateful.
One is that part of that "texture" they have is because their work is printed and has been converted into a "screen" (which is a way to show greyscale without using grey ink- it's instead converted into a pattern that allows black ink to appear grey). You can do the same thing by converting your work to bitmap mode (you may have to convert to greyscale first if you normally work in RGB). Do this at the end, when the page is finished, not while you are working on it.
The other part is because they are inking by hand on paper, not using photoshop for inking. That gives their ink work a lot more life and control. This doesn't affect the greyscale tones really, but tones applied over more interesting inks will just seem more interesting.
It also seems like you are trying to do a little 3d rendering in your greyscales. This isn't really what they are doing. They are using very flat tones, or at most a simple gradiant. Most of the depth comes from the black ink work and those sparingly used flat tones. I see at most like 2 or 3 different greys used per panel.
So, to wrap up, to get that look spend more time on the black ink work (cross hatching and using heavier black lines here and there), use fewer and flatter greys, and then convert to bitmap mode at the end.
PS Do your ink work with actual ink (or pens) and then scan the result in. I wouldn't try inking in Photoshop. If you really want to ink on the computer I'd find another program, as that isn't Photoshop's strength.
About the printing, i noticed that you always get those black dots. It's just that sometimes it gets hard to tell wether there's something more intentional in there.
The 3d rendering thing was really my ineptitude more than anything. I knew as i was doing it that the depth was getting way outta hand but i just couldn't tell what it was i could do to fix it. Looking at it now, it is pretty obvious but back then it just didn't click, i don't know why.
And yeah, photoshop sucks at inking, as far as my experience with it goes. I think it sucks at anything in which individual strokes need to stand out. I got some good results with Painter in that department though, liquid ink in particular turns out pretty awesome (not what i used for that panel up there). Only problem for me is still that the feel and control you get is nothing like on actual paper.
Thanks for the feedback. I'm gonna go a few steps back on this and rethink my approach.
I didn't look at all the artwork, but I bet some of them are using a program like Manga Studio, which attempts to replicate ink and reproduction. It's got built in attention lines and panels and screen textures and splatter. It's really a lot of fun to play with.
I believe you can use a demo free for 30 days, and cut down version is $50 (the pro version is $300).
I'm old enough to have operated a stat camera photographing art through screens. This was such miserably unpleasant work, word 'round the office was you only got assigned these jobs if you pissed the boss off. To this day, we call nasty jobs assigned for spite "pulling a stat job."
Oh, the advantages of being old and working with the same old fossils for 25 years.
I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).