The internet face space of designer, illustrator, type designer, writer, and humorist Terry Biddle.

Posts from the Process Category

I have been an “absentee blogger,” so I figured it was long overdue to give a little update on what’s been going down over the past few months.

I’ve been recharging and rethinking the path forward for 2012. I don’t want to reveal too much before the time is right, but I promise it’ll all be revealed in due time.

In the meantime, let me show you a lil’ something I’ve been working on. Since we’re closer to a release date, I think it’s okay to reveal this now.

My good friend, Artemis…er…Ardamus (gotta get the MC name right) asked me to work on the album art for his upcoming release, The Glass is Half Full of…

Ardamus wanted a style reminiscent of old Blue Note albums—a sort of wink and nod—without being a carbon copy. He had 3 singles to release prior to the album dropping, but wanted them in the same vein without being identical to the album art.

Additionally, we did a variation on these for the instrumental versions of the singles.

If you dig “the hip-hop music” the kids these days are into, you should check it out. Glad to say that even if he wasn’t one of my best friends, I’d listen to his music. If you want to support the DMV and indie hip-hop, pick it up.

I’m Not the One and Wishin’ That Was Me are out now, while Quite Fresh drops on Valentine’s Day.

The full length The Glass is Half Full of… album drops on February 28. I’ll show some interior album art after the album drops.

This was a fun project to work on, I wish my friend Ardamus much success with this release. I think it’s one of his best. I also appreciate him being an awesome client.

If only it was always this easy…


I love reading blogs showing an illustrator or designer’s process, so I thought I’d continue the tradition and show you how I bring you my “labor of love” each week. This process is how I usually go about creating all of my illustrations, but I must admit…comics are more labor intensive than the single page illustrations I’ve done in the past.

Why? Primarily because the page consists of individual frames, each containing their own layout. Not only are comics a design challenge in terms of composition, they also are an illustration challenge. What’s the best angle to show this? Who or what is my main focus? How do I “visually” portray this emotion? You can’t help but improve by tackling all of these things at once, and I really believe that working on this comic has made me a better illustrator. Talk about a steep learning curve. 🙂

“How I Do”

So now let’s get into the nitty-gritty. The above image is of a pencil drawing from my week two illustration (see the final here). I prefer to use hard lead pencils, usually a 3H or 4H pencil which I draw on bristol board. I like hard lead pencils because they erase the cleanest. My pencil lines are mainly for placement, as I leave them slightly rougher than you usually see traditional comic book pages. I make most of my final design decisions in the next stage.


This is my favorite stage of the process. I absolutely love inking. To me this is where it all comes together. When I get to this stage I know whether or not the illustration will be successful. I get to see the positive and negative space and get a real sense of the full composition. This process I like to be fluid. I try not to think too much as I work, because if I over think something…I’m likely to make mistakes. I like this stage to be instinctual. More “feeling” than “doing.”

See final here

I used to ink primarily with Micron ink pens, but I no longer use these in my work. I prefer brushes. I finish my line work only with brushes now. I like the ability to vary the stroke within the same line. I use varied brush sizes, but the main sizes I use are #4 and #2 round. I usually use a bottle of Higgins Design waterproof black ink.

I credit my switch from pen to brush to Tony DiSpigna. He designed some super awesome typefaces you may be familiar with (Lubalin Graph, Serif Gothic and Avant Garde) and is also well-known to designers and type-geeks for his awesome freehand brush lettering. He was my professor when I was working on my Master’s design degree at Pratt. I happened to have some of my illustration work out on the desk. He looked at two of my pieces—one inked by pen, one by brush. His response: “This drawing has more life! Look at that line…now that has character!”

I haven’t used a pen since. 🙂

After inking, I scan all my pieces as a 1-bit B&W tiff. I like to start in Photoshop with solid black lines with no ink modulation.


See final here

Next, I add color. I fill in all spaces with with an underpainting layer. This gives me an overall color impression of the piece. A lot of comics will be finished after this stage—but those guys and gals are much better at this than I—so for me this is really the 3rd step of the process. The bulk of the time it takes me to complete the illustration are done in this and the next stage. Sadly, we can’t all be Charles Burns. 🙂

Dimensional Shading

This is actually my 2nd favorite part of the process. This is where I get the greatest sense of accomplishment, I guess because it’s done after this point! 🙂

I would say that this stage is partly what “defines” my style. I was always inspired by the vibrancy of the “old school” cell painting done in traditionally animated cartoons and motion pictures. I had always wanted my work to have that “feel” of a great animated motion picture, so when I finally discovered Adobe Creative Suite and Pantone swatch books I took the ball and ran with it.

There end up being quite a few different components in this stage, so I think the best way to show you is through a little animated gif.

See final here

I use “shadow” and “highlight” layers to add the rain and lighting effects to the final image. One thing you’ve probably noticed in the final image; it is not pure black. I actually don’t always use pure black as my darkest color. I like to play around with different line colors in my work. So what you may read as black in my comic, is actually a very dark purple.


The last thing I wanted to point out is that I made the decision to use my own hand writing in the webcomic. I know that choosing a comic typeface would have been the easiest (and cleanest) way to go, but I really wanted this work to have a completely hand-drawn feel. That’s also why the borders have rough lines. But…the type breaks my rule, I use a pen for the text. I can’t write that small with a brush on 9″ x 11″ bristol board. 🙂

Eventually, I will make a typeface of my own handwriting to keep the text more consistent. You will see that in the print version of The Mighty Monkey-Men. But for now, I will keep doing all of the work by hand. This also includes The Mighty Monkey-Men masthead, which is actually my Bizzle-Chizzle typeface…a typeface I have now been saying for 4 years I will eventually release to the world. 🙂


So there it is. That’s all the work that goes into it each week. There’s also notebooks with chicken scratch and rough thumbnails that I do as well…but I’ll save that for another time. 😉

I hope you liked this process post, and be sure to check back here (almost) every Friday—same monkey time, same monkey channel. This “ish” is bananas!


I’m back from vacation!

So…how do you all do it? Seriously. How? This is my first foray into the world of web comics, and let me tell ya…it takes a lot of time. Between having a 9 to 5 and maintaining a blog that updates regularly with original content…it is a lot of work, so my hat’s off to you all.

My web comic will be in full color, and will be displayed in “serial” format. Kinda like the old school Spider-Man and Superman strips. Each week (hopefully!) I’ll be offering a full illustrated page of the story, with the eventual goal of collecting them as a bound graphic novel.

Here are a couple of sneak peaks of the work in progress. The rest lives in Photoshop. Full color version will hopefully post tomorrow and subsequent Fridays! I hope you like!


I’m sure by now, most have heard of the new Arizona illegal immigration law, or as it is affectionately (facetiously, of course) called by many in the media the “papers please” law. I was reminded of my second published and first cover illustration, for the Reno News and Review that I did back in 2008 that covered this topic. You can read that article here.

Although this was illustrated a few years back, I thought the subject matter was very timely given the current political climate. I’ll take you through the process and throw a couple of cents at the end if you’ll indulge me.

First sketch to the art director. Looking back, this sketch was particularly Sketchy McSketcherson McGee.

Here’s what it looked like after the initial inking. You’ll notice a light ink wash in the background. Some use pens for inking, but I prefer using brushes. I ink the vast majority of my illustrations with brushes of various thicknesses.

“And-duh,” the final illustration! You’ll see here that most of the ink brush strokes are still intact. The ink wash texture however, did not make it into the final piece. I felt a flat, solid color would work the best.

This illustration was a little different for me, as I use a lot of colors in my illustrations typically. This time I used a more muted palette; and I was pleased with the final outcome. I actually won a Nevada Press Association award for it. Specifically—the title of 2nd Best Illustration…keep scrolling, I’m on here somewhere. 🙂


I know not everyone likes to mix politics with creative work, but I like a little Tabasco sauce in my tequila (no really, it’s delicious).

I’ve read a couple of columns this week that really sum up my feelings on this issue. I was going to chime in with my 2 cents (I probably have a “buck fifty” on the matter), but I’ll leave this to Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu and New York Times columnist Frank Rich.

I doubt I could say it better than them. 😉

Peace and Hairgrease,

T. Biddy


In the first installment of the “Process” section of my new site, I’ll document a current project that I’m working on. To be honest, this is uncharted territory for me as I don’t normally “give away my secrets.” But seriously, it’s not like I’m revealing the secret recipe for Popeye’s Fried Chicken or anything. If you happen to know it, though…hook a brova up… nomsane?… (Pst!) CALL ME. 😉

Back to the task at hand… I am currently designing a book. Much to my surprise, the client was interested in using illustration for the cover. The design work I’m normally tasked with is very conservative in nature, hence my surprise. So in addition to the task of the actual book design and text layout, I would be doing a cover illustration.

I don’t normally do both illustration and design at the same time…at least not on this level, so I found myself in the “harder to do than you think” position of having to “Art Direct” myself.

I discussed the concepts with the client and came up with two “tight” sketches (for me that is). The client wanted to convey a person in their office being interrupted. So I worked up two sketches for him with which to build the final.

The first…

From the “interruptee’s” perspective. The second…

The “interrupter’s” perspective. The client chose this particular option. Again with the honesty, this was not my favorite choice. 🙂

And here’s where I dive in depth into the actual failed experiment. Since I actually use a lot of illustration where I work as a designer, I was wondering if my style is being seen as “too cartoony” and not “artistic” enough. Meaning, more texture, more painterly. That tends to be what most decision makers gravitate towards. So, I have admittedly been feeling a little self-conscious about my illustration style.

I actually do paint, mainly in oil, but I’ve since developed a particular illustration style which is structurally at odds with how I paint. I have a painterly, realistic style of oil painting, my illustration style…not so much. Now, I can paint with acrylics, but I don’t use them as often as I’ve used oil paint.

I recently bought a new acrylic paint set to try to bridge the gap between my two ways of working. The problem I run into with acrylic paints is that the translucency of the paint varies greatly and I never know how the paint will react to the paper once I start using it. On this particular occasion it wasn’t working the way I wanted it to. I like my paint to be as opaque as possible.

To add the texture and the artistic element I was looking for I decided to paint the image.

Um, yeah…I was not feeling this. It didn’t feel like me. Taking a step back (and playing Art Director) it didn’t feel like a Terry Biddle illustration. The colors weren’t there, it just didn’t feel right. I also felt much of my inking was clumsy. I wonder also deep down, since this wasn’t my first choice, whether that might have been sitting in my subconscious. Yeah, I don’t really need to go here

So, what to do? This illustration could not be used as is. It just wasn’t up to snuff. So…I decided to use it as an underpainting, like I normally do with oil painting. But this time the canvas would be Photoshop.

Luckily, I was able to salvage my original ink lines (since they were dark enough). I isolated that on it’s on individual layer.

I did end up using the “imperfect” nature of the paint shadow outlines from the original painting in the final. What we ended up with is this…

I am happy with this version. I still have to crop the cover and add the typography, but this is pretty much the finished illustration. A far cry from where we started. This feels like I did it. At a later date I’ll show the cover and full book after it’s published (at this time sometime in August.)

This is my style, this is what I do, so cartoony, or comic booky…I should just embrace it! Do any other illustrators struggle with this I wonder?

Thanks for letting me share my personal screw up! See you again soon! 🙂