Tilted Sun Concept Art: All About Line Art!

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Welcome to a look behind the scenes at Tilted Sun! This blog features line art before it is colored and arranged in the final production, as well as some process notes!

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When making Sam, I wanted him to be a bit unseeable in the earliest parts of the comic, where most of his face would be covered by a hood, goggles, a scarf, and his hair. As time goes on his face and his character get more exposed throughout the story. 

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I tend to make drawings in a separate document in Clip Studio Paint and then copy and paste drawings into their designated panels. This process helps me feel more free, it also allows me to adjust framing. If the drawing is always separate from the panel, it's easier to feel better about moving the drawing around inside of the frame. There's no bias about initial composition or placement being better. I'm sure that this process looks ridiculous to many comics pros, but it works for me. 

Also, I almost always draw with references, with the exception being the Gray Woman and Sam's faces and other character faces. Logger Bird and Orsyn are all drawn from resources such as photos of birds and horses. 

On very specific objects things fall apart if I don't user references - for instance: The Gray Woman's impersonator gun is some kind of rifle, and made the mistake of trying to draw the Impersonator without a reference photo and wow it did not turn out so well: 

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Seriously I could not draw a gun without looking at one to save my life. 


Here are a couple cat sketches, all of which are based off of my grandpa's two cats, Flash and Xena. 


Later in part 1 a character shows up with a skull for a face. I couldn't bear to fudge the skull or make up parts of it, so I drew from a real raccoon skull. It turned out to be rounder than I thought - sort of between a cat and a dog. 



As far as how line art is made, it doesn't start out perfect! I usually sketch out ideas on a light blue bottom layer, similar to sketching out ideas in traditional comics creation in blue pencil. It's fun to use sketches to get a feel for weight, direction, and motion. I can't exactly put into words what I do when I draw, but the best way to explain is in a question. I ask myself: "What does this comic want to do" and from there the art takes over. 

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The image above and the image below are both screencaps from Clip Studio Paint (or Manga Studio) on the iPad Pro. You've probably heard me rave about this software before. These screencaps show how I work from blue line into an inked layer or final layer of line art. Nothing at all starts out perfectly, there are a lot of scribbly failed ideas on that bottom layer. 

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Seriously Clip Studio Paint is so baller.

Since Tilted Sun is in full color, the line art holds a lot less shadow than traditional comics and it's a bit less dramatic. Still, there are moments though where black becomes a powerful point of conceptualization - the stronger the line art, the stronger the final panel.

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Comics are an exciting medium in that everything matters - color, line, lettering, panels. Aside from a single two-page comic in an anthology, Tilted Sun is my first comic, so I am learning as I go. It's one thing to read and experience comics, it's a separate beast to create them. As time goes on I'll keep sharing blogs like this one - I'll be as honest as possible because I don't believe that the fake-it-till-you-make-it mode of living helps anyone be a better artist. I don't even think it helps people enjoy art!

While I am bringing my traditional art skills to the drawing table, comics production is still very new for me. Stay with me, I promise you it will get even better. :) 



Tilted Sun Concept Art: The Logger Bird, Orsyn, and The Tether Orb

Late concept art for the Logger Bird

Late concept art for the Logger Bird


The Logger Bird is a creepy-but-kinda-cute little guy who serves The Gray Woman in multiple forms. He keeps track of things and overall watches over The Gray Woman, almost like a drone. Eventually you get the idea that the bird isn't just a bird, it's a computer, and a pretty terrible computer at that. To draw the Logger Bird, I usually use reference photos of sparrows or small land birds - the kinds of birds that nobody would ever notice. 

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I played with the idea of the Logger Bird having red wings, but ultimately decided that this was too flashy for what the Logger Bird was meant to do. Eye-searing, depthless pink seemed right for his eyes. Later, I added in the trailing effect of his eyes to show movement and also a kind of blinking - it ended up looking quasi-mystical.

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As Sam's somewhat-trusted transportational friend, Orsyn gets a lot of screen time in Tilted Sun Part 1. Of all the characters in Tilted Sun, Orsyn seems to be the most diffucult for me to draw, because, horses are weird little guys! They have all kinds of knees and ankles and their noses are pretty funny. 

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Orsyn Tilted Sun concept art.png

At one point I drew Orsyn with a full harness and bit, and decided to scrap the harness as Orsyn is more of a freewheeling wild horse. 


Part One of Tilted Sun opens with an orb that is pursuing Sam and Orsyn. The orb is tiny, but I wanted to conceptualize it as something very front of mind - it's small and annoying, but to Sam, it takes up a huge amount of mental space. He's heard rumors about Tether Orbs but has never seen one before, and the orb won't stop following him. 


How do you give an orb a personality? Given that it's just an orb for many pages, the orb relies a lot on framing to be communicated - the orb's relationship and placement versus other characters like Orsyn and Sam were the key decision points. It will all make sense later, or not, I promise. 

This page below is an almost-completed concept for the world of Tilted Sun. Saturn is now a ringed sun, and Sam, Orsyn, the Orb, and the Gray Woman live on one of the moons of Saturn. In the foreground of this page, you can see the Tether Orb as a tiny dot. In the final version the orb will likely be much more noticeable. 





Below is a photo of my studio in Houston in 2017 where I was working with some early layouts for part one. This was before Clip Studio Paint was released for the iPad Pro, and the comic was being made entirely in Procreate using panel templates created in Photoshop. 

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I liked printing out each page and hanging it up to get an overall feel for how the story would flow. After a while I translated this workflow into Photoshop, where I compiled thumbnails of each page so that I could remember which page went where. Usually, you'd do this in InDesign or in a book format in Clip Studio Paint, but since all I was doing is creating thumbnails, it worked. 

I ended up adding a lot of pages in between the pages that you see depicted, and not every panel conceptualization made it into the final cut. If I didn't like something or if it did not look cool, I scrapped it. Everything changed, however, when Clip Studio Paint was released - processes like filling an area with a flat color of paint became a one click process instead of a handpainted deal. Handpainting sounds romantic until you try it with 60 pages of line art... 

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The next Concept-to-Panel feature will cover some of the other characters in Tilted Sun, including The Gray Woman, Sam, and the guards!