Thursday, April 7, 2011

Truth is Overrated, but Timing Your Job is Not

I was thinking for quite a while about timing myself while doing some medium-size project, so I would be more sure how much time what takes. Finally I found a little gap in my lately pretty tight schedule and created a pin-up style illustration for my portfolio, timing myself by hour and taking low-res jpeg "slices" of my progress.

First I draw a pencil sketch and inked it with a gel roller pen. The whole thing, including scanning, took me about an hour. Here is what I started with:

1 hr in: the scan

I noticed that a black outline looks really crude in a piece of this style, so I decided to color the outline itself. That, together with cleaning up the scan, took me another hour or so.

2 hrs in: a colored outline

I needed a special very ornamented lettering for the picture I had in my head. Drawing the letters by hand was quite painstaking (in the glorious battle between OCD and ADD I am a firm adherent of the latest), but it didn't take more then half and hour, and boy I was glad that some letters repeat.

After I scanned, vectorized and arranged the letters I had this composition and I was 3 hours in:

3 hrs in: a composition

Then I traced colored fields (I don't color on a tablet by hand, I prefer coloring vector paths even in Photoshop). At this point I didn't yet come to a decision about the whole color palette for the illo, so don't mind the colors. It was already a middle of the day when I came to this point:

4 hrs in: the paths

I wanted the girl to wear some very traditional red, white and blue, but I wasn't sure about the background and even about her hair color. So after the numerous try-offs, I decided on putting the image on a black background altogether. I also changed the color of the outline on the bow, skirt and boots to white. And I just noticed that the "D" was upside-down, so I fixed it.

5 hrs in: main color scheme

Another hour went on working on details. I put a pattern on the background, rendered the lettering, worked on the girl's outfit and her skin. It was starting to look like something, but I was unhappy with the fact that the character was sort of floating over the letters like a cutout and wasn't really connected to the background.

6 hrs in: details

Next hour I was playing with different blending options and putting on a lighting effect. I also lowered the word "overrated", so the girl would be better seated. Now the character was much better connected to the background. I changed the girl's top pattern as well: now it looked like a popcorn box.

7 hrs in: rendering

At this point the illustration was almost complete and my main concern was to be very careful with further changes and not make it worse. I slightly rendered the girl's body and clothes so she will - again - better blend into the quite realistically looking background. And after 8 hours of work I decided that this is the point where I should stop and call it done.

8 hrs in: finishing touches

So there it is: it takes me 8 hours to finish an illustration of this quality. I think it's well inside the industry standart. Could it cost between 200 and 250 USD? I think it might.