God Hates Astronauts Poster. 2013.
Ink on bristol board with digital color, 11 × 17″.

Ryan Browne has created his own mythology… and it’s quite irreverent. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s the creator of God Hates Astronauts, a web comic that has transmogrified into a bulldozing Kickstarter campaign  and a handsome hardcover. He’s also my good friend and former college roommate. When I saw how well the pledge drive was going (it made over 75 grand!), I got on the bandwagon by offering my services. The above poster was used as a stretch goal that will now accompany every hardcover. Although the campaign is over, you can still purchase the book from Ryan’s Etsy store.

The poster was colored in Photoshop using my basic two-tone style. (I’m currently working on a process post for digital coloring, complete with videos, so I’ll leave those details for later.) While my Dad usually inks all my work now, I decided to do this one myself — I do miss using a brush on a regular basis.

It’s inked with a Winsor & Newton Series 7 #6 brush and Holbein Drawing Ink. I like using a large brush because it holds more ink for longer strokes and fewer dips in the well. Furthermore, the longer the individual hairs, the better they hold a point. But the real secret of big brushes is that they act as shock absorbers, yielding smoother lines than any tiny brush can provide. The smaller the brush, the less space between your tremulous hand and the unforgiving page. The only way to achieve the same look with a small brush (or a pen) is to move quickly, which isn’t always an option when dealing with intricate details.

Blue pencil

When inking myself, I use a non-repro blue pencil that, once scanned, can be easily filtered out in Photoshop. I avoided blue pencils for most of my career because they had a reputation for being waxy and difficult to erase. I was pleased to find, however, that there’s a 0.7 mm mechanical lead by Pilot that had all the attributes I desired. Its density requires a soft touch, but that tends to be my preference anyway. They also have a full spectrum of colors. (Any 0.7 mm mechanical pencil will do just fine, but I use the Pentel Graph 1000, which is very lightweight.)

Digital Composite
Digital Layout
Since I bought a Cintiq display in 2011, all of my work begins with digital preliminary sketches. If the composition is complex, or features multiple figures, I try to keep the major players on separate layers. This makes placement and scale very easy to modify. In order to keep things organized in the face of numerous layers, I give each a distinctive color. This feature can be accessed under the layers palette: “layer styles/color overlay” with the opacity dropped down to taste.
Uh-oh… it’s Owl Capone