Make Mis­chief on an in­fi­nite can­vas

Nick Har­ris test drives fledg­ling soft­ware Mis­chief to cre­ate an im­age fea­tur­ing ogres, a pixie and a girl in a bit of a pickle…

ImagineFX - - Workshops -

Ev­ery now and again some­thing new comes along that starts you think­ing. Fledg­ling soft­ware Mis­chief is such a thing. First im­pres­sions present a ba­sic draw­ing and paint­ing setup like many oth­ers, and in­deed it is. The pro­gram’s small range of brushes re­spond very nicely, but it’s not about to have the likes of Corel or Adobe quak­ing in their boots. Lay­ers don’t of­fer blend­ing modes nor even some ba­sic func­tions such as Du­pli­cate or Lock Trans­parency.

So what has this in­nocu­ous, mod­estly priced new­comer got to of­fer to make it worth a look? The sim­ple an­swer is in­fin­ity. And by that I mean that the lim­i­ta­tion of edges has been re­moved. Mis­chief de­liv­ers end­less can­vas in any di­rec­tion and at any scale you want. You can zoom and pan in­fin­itely, cre­at­ing re­mark­ably small, na­tive file sizes. Ex­port files are big­ger. What’s more re­mark­able is that re­sults are also res­o­lu­tion in­de­pen­dent. Some­how the de­vel­op­ment team be­hind it has pro­duced brushes that re­spond like bitmaps, but are vec­tor based. Down­load the 15-day trial at

www.made­with­mis­chief.com and try it to un­der­stand what this means, and how you might be able to ex­ploit it yourself.

In this work­shop I’ll run through some ba­sic op­er­a­tions to in­tro­duce you to the soft­ware, and I also pro­vide au­dio com­men­tary on the sup­plied video.

1 Let’s make Mis­chief

First things first. Let’s get you to un­der­stand just what Mis­chief is of­fer­ing that is dif­fer­ent. I pro­duced this splash screen for the video for you to zoom into. I cre­ated the text in DrawPlus X6 be­cause Mis­chief doesn’t boast that func­tion yet. Down­load the trial, open the file and try for yourself. Zoom into the cir­cle on the front of the small fig­ure’s book to get to three thumb­nail sketches. There’s some sort of vec­tor ar­chi­tec­ture un­der the bon­net that makes this pos­si­ble.

2 Thumb­nails

It’s al­ways a good idea to start with thumb­nail sketches, to get the juices flow­ing. There’s no art brief ty­ing me down, so I throw down some thoughts us­ing the char­ac­ter idea from the splash­screen. Gi­ant mush­rooms (Alice in Won­der­lan­dish), the abil­ity to fly and an en­counter with a pixie are what spring to mind first. I try to vary the eye level in each sketch to keep things in­ter­est­ing.

3 Go with your gut

Not a med­i­cal sug­ges­tion, but ad­vice I was given at art col­lege. The third thumb­nail just feels more right than the other two to me, so I pur­sue that idea. Us­ing Mis­chief’s in­cred­i­ble zoom­ing abil­ity I en­large the thumb­nail with­out hav­ing to cre­ate a new, big­ger file. I can sim­ply tighten up the draw­ing on or over the ac­tual thumb­nail. I re­duce the opac­ity of the layer and cre­ate a new one to re­draw over the top.

4 Keep it loose

While I’m rea­son­ably happy with the idea of a lurk­ing ogre about to ex­ploit the en­counter be­tween the young girl and the pixie, I’m not de­cided on how he’s go­ing to look or stand yet. Don’t panic if you haven’t re­solved ev­ery­thing be­fore­hand. Yes, that’s the ideal, but some­times it just doesn’t work out that way. View it as an op­por­tu­nity to re­spond to how the im­age de­vel­ops as you go.

5 Block and wash over

I tend to block in opaque body colour lay­ers un­der the draw­ing, then us­ing semi-trans­par­ent lay­ers on top of that to build up tone and shadow. Mis­chief doesn’t boast layer-blend­ing modes, but I’ve worked with­out them in the past in Sketch­Book Pro be­fore they ar­rived. Fur­ther­more, Mis­chief does have High­lighters that of­fer a work­able al­ter­na­tive for build­ing up translu­cent val­ues. I also work vol­ume into the body colour layer.

6 Against the grain

Mis­chief also lacks tex­tures, save the va­ri­ety of Pa­pers you can ac­cess through the icon to the right of Cur­rent Brush. Once a Paper is selected you can change its colour. Here, I don’t think it’s look­ing tex­tu­ral enough for my rock, so I im­port a photo and ro­tate it, ir­reg­u­larly trans­form­ing it to lie along the shape that I’ve blocked in. Cut away ar­eas you don’t need with the Erasers, then work into it over the top on an­other layer to add in­ter­est and have it fit the light­ing.

7 Ins and outs

As the layer count rises, so nav­i­ga­tion be­comes more slug­gish. I zoom in on the girl and the pixie to work out the dy­namic be­tween them. It’s im­por­tant to en­sure the girl’s eye­line is look­ing straight at our lit­tle chap. I get it pretty wrong for a while, but keep at it un­til it reaches an ac­cept­able state. I then block in the body colour us­ing the Mark­ers and Conte Crayons, and add tone us­ing Conte Crayons again, as well as High­lighters.

8 Change what doesn’t work

Not work­ing out that ogre bet­ter in the thumb­nail stage comes back to bite me. He sim­ply isn’t ap­peal­ing, isn’t well drawn or posed, and isn’t pro­vid­ing the fun ten­sion I want. I ex­per­i­ment with al­ter­ing his scale and po­si­tion, but that doesn’t work ei­ther. Time to bite the bul­let and wipe those lay­ers us­ing the X op­tion in the but­tons above the Layer pal­ette. As soon as I start sketch­ing two ogres the scene starts to work bet­ter.

9 Wash and go for it

As a con­verted real me­dia wa­ter­colourist, I still use washes. Even with­out layer blend­ing modes they’re use­ful here. I block in a dark pur­ple/blue tone across the en­tire im­age on a new layer with re­duced Opac­ity, and save the colour by drag­ging the swatch from Cur­rent into one of the free slots be­low. I’ll need it to re­pair mis­takes. I cut into the layer us­ing the Erasers. It all looks com­pletely over the top, but can unify an im­age.

10 Keep on tweak­ing

With more eras­ing, the im­age be­gins to make sense. Chang­ing the ogre from one to two also al­ters the story idea be­hind the im­age. Now they’re us­ing their cap­tive hu­man as bait to catch the pixie. It feels like a bet­ter fairy tale idea to me. I keep cut­ting into the wash layer with the Erasers, but also add an­other low­ered Opac­ity layer above that to ac­cent the dark­est ar­eas with the Conte Crayons.

11 Light­en­ing strikes

I con­tinue to work in the same way, iso­lat­ing the base colours, tone and line of the char­ac­ters where pos­si­ble. How­ever, there is a def­i­nite limit on how many lay­ers you can have, and oc­ca­sion­ally I merge two to­gether to free an­other for use. I bring warm, mot­tled hues into the ground plane at the bot­tom to bring it for­ward, while try­ing to add leafy tex­tures with­out too much de­tail on the base layer to make those ar­eas re­cede. The im­age grad­u­ally be­comes more sunny.

12 Change of em­pha­sis

Truth be told, I thought only a video of my process was needed, which means I get the lay­out for a work­shop spread later than usual. No prob­lem. I’ve been ex­pand­ing the com­po­si­tion side­ways, but now drop a JPG of the im­age into my page guide to de­fine the di­men­sions. Dan, Imag­ineFX’s art edi­tor, has done a great job of crop­ping the im­age in a way that works on its own and with print con­straints such as the gut­ter (where the pages are bound to­gether).

13 That’s handy

The change of com­po­si­tion di­men­sions in­tro­duces a gap on the left, which we agree to fill with an­other ogre. Po­si­tioned in the fore­ground, he’s nec­es­sar­ily large and so I draw ideas for him us­ing light colours on a new layer that show up eas­ily. I quickly go with a reach­ing up pose and set to block­ing in a thick-fin­gered hand, us­ing bold colours. The shadow layer knocks them back. It’s a bit close to the gut­ter, but it should work.

14 Small won­der

An on­go­ing nig­gle is that the pixie in green re­fuses to stand out enough from the green back­ground to fo­cus the viewer on him. I add yel­low stripes to his jacket, and lay a light coloured wash over the area around him to ac­cen­tu­ate con­trast. I erase as needed for crisp edges. Sharp edges and tonal con­trasts are gen­er­ally ac­cepted to work to­wards bring­ing el­e­ments of an im­age closer to the viewer.

15 An end in sight

I change Pixie’s coat to red and this helps a bit. I darken the front ogre with more shadow and strengthen the dap­pled light around the girl. This helps to draw the eye across to that side of the spread. Don’t for­get to zoom in and out to as­sess the over­all feel­ing of the piece. I add warmer colours to the fore­ground, but also yel­low to the left back­ground, fad­ing as the eye trav­els right. It helps lift the pixie more.

16 The fat ogre sings

A bit more work on the girl’s hands, some gen­eral crisp­ing, and a few bright ac­cents here and there and I call it a day. I make a se­lec­tion and go to file/Ex­port Se­lec­tion, al­ter­ing the longer di­men­sion to the max­i­mum 10,000px, with res­o­lu­tion at 450dpi. It should pro­vide the big­gest pos­si­ble file to work with. I process the im­age us­ing Pho­toPlusX7, ad­just­ing the lev­els be­fore ex­port­ing. And I’m done.

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