Kav's Tips for Comic Artists - Facial Shadows
by A. "Kav" Kaviraj
Comic book artist, A. Kaviraj, continues his op/ed series of providing useful tutorials for comic book artists.
Let's look at one of the hardest things to do correctly-facial shadows or 'spotting of blacks'. So hard, in fact, that most artist, even pros, leave them off. Look at this typical page:
Nice, huh? It is very well drawn, but as you can see-no facial shadows whatsoever. Well, there's some shadowing in panel 3 but not much. It's hard. But not insurmountable. Let's look at the master-Sean Phillips:
Just look at those shadows-brushstroked on with absolute sureness. Sean likes to use the double light source shadows-that's where the shadow is in the middle of the face-as in head number two and four above. He shadows bodies the same way-it is very striking and dramatic and NOIR.
So, how do you learn to draw facial shadows? Well you study actual faces, in shadow. Then you try different brush techniques until you find what works for you. I use Copic brush tips on BluLine paper. Sean uses actual brushes on watercolor paper to get the cool brushy look. It takes practice.
Whenever I watch a movie I'm always on the look out for good facial shadows. I never watch a movie straight through-ever. I stop the DVD dozens of times to draw a good shadow. I have THOUSANDS of these now. But it's fun and it's worth it. Panels drawn without facial shadows look like coloring book pages to me-flat and uninteresting.
Ok let's look at some more great examples:
Often Sean will draw a face where you can't even see the eyes but it's real and it looks great. Notice he shades hands also which is VERY difficult and rarely attrempted in the industry.
Let's look at Bryan Hitch:
He's doing all the same things as Phillips, just his technique is a bit different. Awesome.
Ok let's look at another example that doesn't quite make it:
Very well drawn, but, the facial shadows don't make sense-and the reader instinctively feel this and senses something is wrong. The artist has drawn shadows on both sides of the face-what kind of light source would cause this is unknown to me. Al;so the female's facial shadow is awkwardly placed and makes her jaw look weird. I can say with 100% confidence that these were not drawn from actual, observed facial shadows, but are derivative comic book shadows-watch out for this. There is a tendency if an artist has not studied shadows to draw them as a 'shine'. I see it a lot. A shadow is not a shine. All the muscle shadows are typical derivative comic book shadows. Real life is so much more interesting-pull your head out of a comic book sometime and look around you.
If you just can't do facial shadows-don't despair-it's not required-most artists don't do them. But if you want a challenge....
Let's look at a panel I wasn't so happy with the shadows on and changed. Panel two:
It looked awkward and the shadows just didn't look right. It wasn't 'selling'. So I redrew it:
Much better. Although, in retrospect I should have made the character in panel 2 looking to the right to match the character in panel one...it's always something.
For more of Kav's Tips at Comic Related: http://www.comicrelated.com/forums/index.php?showforum=602
A. KAVIRAJ: Kav is an artist, teacher, and biologist who lives in Sacramento, California. He is the artist forThe End of Paradise, Rapid City, and Dr Death vs The Zombie. He is the writer and artist for Dr. Death vs. The Vampire. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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