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

Posts tagged illustration

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!


If you haven’t been over to the Escape From Illustration Island website before, I strongly recommend you give it a visit. One of the most recent posts, site creator Thomas James’ Open Letter to Art Schools Everywhere is causing quite a stir.

The website has lots of resources for working illustrators and for illustrators trying to get started in the business, which in itself is worthy of a visit (or several). The weekly podcasts are an invaluable resource, I look forward to them each week.

Do swing by and read the letter, read the comments, and join the discussion. It is a worthwhile topic that creative professionals in general will find worthwhile. Graphic designers, illustrators and fine artists alike will find something they relate to.


So, I was sick one week…and last week was a holiday. Time to start the work week off with another jam. This one is from Tom Tom Club, and it’s called Genius of Love.

One of the things I love about this song is that it get’s the party started no matter where you are. It’s got a little something for everyone. My indie-rock friends and hip-hop friends alike are fans of this tune. This is one of those everybody will lose their mind if you play this kinda songs; just ask any DJ.

Additionally, the art and animation in this video appeals to many of my graphic design colleagues. My wife, Stacey actually found this vinyl album at a thrift store here in DC. We have the album cover framed and hanging above my desk as a matter of fact.

As many of you probably know, I am a fan of hand drawn typography and I enjoy seeing design work down entirely by hand. So enjoy this video & music, as it pleases on many levels.


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