Friday, June 28, 2013

The NBA Draft pics!

So after the last partnership with Draftpedia, we decided to team up again to make more draft pics, this time for the NBA! This was a new experience for me, as I've never really been the biggest Basketball fan, and I've never watched the NBA draft before. It was quite the experience. I'd say it was probably a lot harder to  follow since the NBA draft has players get picked, then traded, which means I'd color a player for one team, then have to spend another couple of minutes frantically re-coloring. Needless to say, it wasn't long before I got backed up and completely confused by everything happening. Eventually I got myself sorted out though, and if I do it again next year, I will be far more prepared.

So thanks to Draftpedia  (A great free app for draft information, go download it!) and also to Bleacher Report for handling some of the pictures, I now give you the entire first round of NBA draft picks!

Now to give my arm a much needed rest. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Draw Play Process

So, I've officially hit a milestone over at my webcomic. 100 comics! And here it is! Aaron Hernandez is so screwed.

 It's been going on for a year now, and for the 100th comic, I figured I'd take some time to talk about the creative process behind the comic.

Basically, each comic consists of roughly 3 big steps. Conception, Production, and Uploading. Each of those steps can further be broken down as well, and that can go even further. I'm going to take you though the 100th comic, step by step, and detail how we get to the finished product. Each comic is more or less the same.

Stages in Conception:
1. Finding a joke concept
2. Molding several joke ideas into one
3. Loose sketches
4. Thumbnails and layout

Before I make a comic, I gotta figure out what that comic is going to be. The ideas come from everywhere. Sometimes I see a post or request online that gives me a starting point, other times I take a joke I've already made earlier and try to develop it, but most of the time, my ideas come from just sitting around and contemplating general NFL topics, usually current ones. Once I know what topic I want to make light of, the jokes come fast and furious.

So for the 100th comic, Aaron Hernandez was the easy topic choice. It's the doldrums of the offseason, and a player possibly murdering someone is big news. So here we are, a broad topic with about a billion angles to hit it from.

It doesn't take long before my brain is going all over the place, trying to find something funny enough to produce. The problem I have most of the time with the Draw Play is that I cannot make comics as fast as the news hits, and I have a designated update schedule, so I can't jump on and make the obvious jokes. I also don't want to. It's a personal goal. I want the comic to stay fresh and different, so I can't take the easy way out. I want to give my readers something fairly unique to keep interest, otherwise I'm no different than a billion other sports humor sites.

This is easily the most challenging but rewarding part of the process, and sometimes my reaching to find a unique angle results in some surreal ideas. The 100th comic was no exception. Lots of Aaron Hernandez jokes have been made (several even by me!: ), but I doubt any of them involved Pat the Patriot acting like a creepy Batman stalking Hernandez the thug.

Anyway it didn't start there. It started with "What if Aaron Hernandez was Ray Liotta from Goodfellas, when he's being chased around by a helicopter as he runs errands!" I thought it was funny, but I don't want the joke to be just a reference to something else. I wanted the joke to be able to work by itself. A good reference is never the joke, but used to supplement the joke. So with that idea scrapped, I thought about Bill Belichick maybe trying to sacrifice something to the football gods for another SB win, and the gods demanded Hernandez's career. Then I thought about Hernandez caught by the police, on his phone, talking to OJ Simpson for advice. Ideas were everywhere. That last one however, led to me thinking maybe Hernandez isn't caught, but on the run, and talking to OJ on the phone. Then I thought maybe he is like a batman thug, and while on the phone with OJ he gets attacked by "Patman". That eventually led to the comic I drew.

That's about normal for my thought process. Lots of pacing around and just talking to myself as I mentally work the comic out in my head. I probably look like a loon while I'm doing it.

After I get the idea, I take out a sketchpad and I doodle some images I had in my head. Then I make thumbnails (For those of you not in the know, Thumbnails are tiny frames where you just sketch out the basic layout/composition at a very low resolution, simply to get a feel for how to draw the frames) and basically work out the whole comic in tiny drawings, until I think I've got good timing and it's not too big. This whole phase takes maybe an hour to 3, depending on how fast I can think of a good joke.

Here is a sketch page, pretty simple. Thumbnails and a few reference doodles


Stages in Production:
1. Sketching
2. Linework
3. Color
4. Shadows and highlights
5. Refinement
6. Text/any extra effects

This is when I make my comics actually exist. First off, I go into Photoshop, open my "Template" file, which is just the black border and the title up top. I update the comic #, then break out the brush tool. I pick a light blue, and I start to sketch it (I use a Wacom Intous 3, with a piece of paper taped over the top to make it feel like I'm drawing on paper). I look at my thumbnails and roughly sketch out everything I need to get the basic layout. Then I go back, refine the sketches a bit so they aren't so loose. This is my favorite part of production, because I work fast and loose and have a lot of ability to change things around. I have a background in Storyboarding, which visually comes across in the comic layout, and I'm used to drawing panels and moving them around in different orders to get the right vibe.

Linework is next. Add a new layer, turn the brush black, and do digital inking. Depending on how complex the comic is, this can take a while and be a pain, or it can be over pretty quickly. Pretty straightforward. I usually put the characters/foreground on one layer, and the background on another.

Then comes color, which is probably the hardest part. I make two new layers (at least, sometimes more depending on the comic), one under the characters and one under the BG. Then I start splattering colors on them. I don't follow the lines, I just throw colors down so I can get a feel for how they are working together, changing things around until I get the color scheme I want. I usually use something online for reference, especially on the more complex lighting comics, like this one.

After I get the scheme I want, then I make a new layer over the color ones, turn the opacity down somewhat, then pick good shadow colors and draw the shadows over the color. Then I do the exact same thing, but with highlights. Pick pure white, set blend mode to overlay, mess with the opacity and draw highlights on everything that needs it.

Once I get that done, I have to clean it up. I go back, erase every color that sticks outside the lines, clean up the edges. Tedious, but necessary.

Then I finally add the text, if there is any. When I draw my panels, I try to leave a certain empty space somewhere for the text bubble to live in without getting in the way. I write the text, add a new layer underneath, make the white bubbles, then add a drop shadow with tweaked effects to get the black borders.

Then I sign it, & put a Sexy Rexy in it somewhere.


This is pretty much the self explanatory stage. I draw the comics at 300 resolution, and the full size is about 3600 pixels wide (The length varies from comic to comic). I save it out at 72 resolution, which takes the width down to about 900 pixels, then save out the PNG. Go onto the site, upload, write the words at the bottom, then set the comic to update at 12:01am tuesday or thursday. Get up the next day, Tweet it out, post it to the facebook page, post it around the web. Moderate comments, Laugh as someone inevitably can't find the Sexy Rexy.

The entire process takes about 6-8 hours total. I spend less time on them than I used to, because #1: I'm just faster and more efficient after doing it for a year and #2: I now update twice a week, which gives me less time to work on a single comic. It's taken the quality down somewhat, but my skill has grown since I started so it kind of evens out.

Anyway, that's enough words for now. I hope this satisfied anyone who was interested in how a comic gets made. I was going to do a post soon giving a retrospective on the Comic thus far, now that it's been out a year and hit #100, and for that, I'd like people to submit questions they have for me about the comic. I'll do a mini Q&A, you can ask me anything about it. Post your question in the comments, on the facebook page, or on my twitter, and I'll get to the post when I can.

Twitter: @DrawPlayDave or @TheDrawPlay

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I am angry about the new Jaguars helmet

 I am mad about the new Jags Helmet. Look at this turd:

I hate it. I want to talk about it. So lets pretend I made this several months ago while it was relevant. I also made a comic about it:

Overall I like what Nike is doing. I disagree with some of the choices they make and tend to think they might go too far in alternate "artistic" directions, but overall I like that they are trying new things. While I hated the Seahawks new uniforms when they debuted, as the season went on I appreciated them more. They were certainly more interesting than the previous uniforms. 

A fair amount of the league suffers from boring uniform syndrome (The Jags were one of them) and Nike seems to be trying to break from the traditional molds. Some of those attempts have looked good (The new Vikings uniform) and some have been misguided concepts (The grey Seahawks uniform, which ended up just looking like a really wet and dirty version of the white ones). But overall, Nike is trying to do new things, and while it tends to be very hit and miss, I love that they are trying. 

The Jaguars revamp is a weird mixture of hit and miss. The new logo is nice, but doesn't really feel different, which considering the radical uniform changes, feels like a missed opportunity to do something new. However I love the Shield variation of the logo. It's classy, and it does enough to set the Jags apart from other angry animal heads (The league has too many angry animal heads for logos)

The new jersey is sweet. I love the teal sleeves, I love the font. I like the shield logo on the shoulder. The gold collar is kinda eh, but it's not bad. It doesn't bother me. The pants I like, I love the big stripe down the sides. But then again I'm very biased against solid pants. Pants need to have vertical stripes.  Stripes are like instant awesome for pants. Solid pants without stripes, especially black ones, just look bad. The Ravens and Saints look like they are wearing leotards. Get stripes you jerks. Fix it, Nike. But I digress. The point is, I like the Jags new uniform. It's very different, it stands out, and it's certainly far more interesting to look at then the boring snoozefest they had going on before (I can barely even remember what the previous uniforms looked like already).

 But then we get to the helmet. Oh god, the helmet. 

The helmet is Nike at it's worst. The helmet is Nike going "Lets do something no one has tried before!" without stopping to wonder if the reason no one has tried it before was because it's stupid. A two tone helmet? I can get behind that idea. In fact, I like that idea. Many helmets have a colored stripe in the middle, I can get behind an expansion of that, taking that idea a few steps up. Check out this helmet from the Navy uniform:

That design is awesome. It's different, it's striking, it's memorable, it follows a neat concept, all in a way that just works. I'd love to see something like this tried with an NFL team. This was a Nike design, so I know they are capable of it. What I don't want? A crappy gradient bisecting the helmet on the least interesting axis, with two different types of finishes.

Seriously what the hell, Nike? First off, the gradient. It's too small/short. The helmet feels very bisected, but in a weird murky sense. The Gradient should be longer, for a more gradual change from black to gold, or smaller, making it harsher and more pronounced. As it stands, the gradient isn't deep enough to make a sexy transition, or sharp enough to make a bold statement. it's in this weird in between world where it you just kinda wonder why it's there. This might have worked, but it's hampered by the second issue: the angle.

The gradient cuts the helmet in two hemispheres, a back and front. It bisects the helmet through the middle, from ear to ear, over the top of the head. From what the Nike folks said, I think the intention here is that from head on, the helmet looks black. From the back, the helmet looks gold. That seems to be a fairly deliberate style choice, but the problem is how often do you look players head on? 99% of the time you are getting an angle that will show the godawful gradient. So practically, it's kind of pointless. The gradient would look cooler, and possibly be just as effective, if if bisected the helmet at a different angle, kind of like how the Navy helmet bisects around 45 degrees, separating the crown/front with the bottom/back. It's a better angle and follows the contour of a football helmet much better, as well as following the design concept. Good designers use concepts to drive the design, instead of doing what "looks cool". So what was the main design concept of the helmet?

When I watched the press conference the dude in charge kept talking about "Coming out of the shadows, we wanted to make a design based on the Jaguar hunting and coming out of the shadows, SHADOWS. 


The helmet has the black in the front. The shadow is in the front. The helmet is going into the shadows.

They didn't even follow their own artistic direction. Which sucks, because some minor changes would have made the helmet look pretty good. If they put the black on the bottom, at the 45 degree angle, even with a gradient, that would give an impression of coming out of the shadows. It would even fit in with the default jersey! Hell, almost anything might have been better then what they tried. Instead we have an extremely awkward helmet that looks black from the front...mostly. Gold from the back...mostly. A Logo Decal that stands out uncomfortably over the gradient instead of blending in like a good design (It looks like a big sticker), and worst of all, two types of finishes. Matte black, and glossy gold. I can't even figure out what the point of that was. Was it because Matte doesn't reflect the sun as much so it looks like shadows? That's all I can come up with. It stupid.

One last thing: The gradient might have worked a little better if there was a gradient somewhere else on the uniform, because at that point it would have been a motif. But since the gradient fade is only on the helmet, it feels isolated from the rest of the uniform in an awkward way.

Despite all the effort that I'm sure went into this design, it looks like some Photoshop novice slapped a crappy gradient on a helmet and called it a day. All this work for this result. It's a shame, because a few tweaks could have made something different and memorable in a good way, instead of a dumb one.

So I decided to have a little fun with it. I pulled the picture I drew for the comic into it's own photoshop file, and I spent half an hour coming up with different combinations, just too see if I could do something better in minimal time. Most of them are just alternate variations, to see how things looked with no gradient. 

Here is the original version I drew for the comic. The gradient is actually a little softer than what appears to be in real life.
Here is a version with a very gradual gradient. I'm not sure it looks better, but it's certainly  more gradual and less  sharp bisect. it makes the angle of the gradient bisect more reasonable with a deeper fade.

Here is a version with the gradient at a better angle, and one that follows the "Coming out of the shadows" theme. The black would blend in with the black on the collar area, and the yellow section would rise out of the shadows. I think the gradient is still questionable, but the angle makes much more sense.
Here is a version of the Navy helmet angle, with hard edges, with the Black up front. It looks a little goofy.
This is a reversed version, with the shadows on the bottom. Still goofy, still better then the bad angle gradient. 

Basically, after messing around with it for a bit, I think the Gradient was a terrible idea, and even a harsher edge might not be a great idea. But with more time, it might work. I'm not willing to give up on the idea of a helmet with multiple tones, so lets try putting a strip in the middle, and play with solid color variations.

Teal stripe. Things look a touch arena league, but I'm okay with that.

Terrible, bad color combo. Woof.

This one I actually kind of like. If you keep the wider bottom on the stripe, it can kind of give the illusion that the jaguar is still in shadows, and is starting to peak through the grass. It's abstract, but I like the balance between the mostly black with yellow highlight.

hahahaha no

Reversed version of the one I liked. Not as good. 

This was a random idea based around the "peeking out of the shadows" theme, but instead of  the top stripe, more of a  highlight around the eye area. It's very arena league however, and I'm not sure would look appropriate for the NFL.  I like it though, it's different.

Blatant rip off of the Navy idea. I actually kinda like it. It also manages to incorporate the Teal, which I think is missing from the helmet. And better yet, it still "rises out of the shadows"
Alternate version of the rip off. Meh, still alright. I tried making the Teal stripe yellow, but it looked terrible.
What the hell was I thinking, ew

I glanced on google, and I started wondering why they decided to do a two tone helmet in the first place. Maybe because they wanted something different, but honestly I wonder why they didn't try solids more.

Teal with black FM

Teal with Gold FM, kinda neat

Gold with black FM, ugh

All gold helmet, actually quite striking, might have been nice to see. If the jersey is all black, it would work as a  "rising from shadows" thing. But I don't know how well it would work with the other color jerseys, with is something you have to keep in mind. You need a helmet that fits all jersey variations.

Straight black. Sexy.
After making multiple variations on the helmet, I got to wondering again. A few teams don't actually use their  logo on the helmet. The Eagles have wings, the Vikings have horns, the Bengals have stripes, and the Rams have the horns, which is the best helmet in the league. Why can't the Jags try something new? What if they put the shield logo on the helmet instead?

I didn't do a very good job on this one, but I think it gets the point across. The shield is different from every other logo, outside the Raiders, but lets face it, the Raiders helmet owns. I think the shield logo would set the Jags apart from every other angry animal head, and I wonder why they didn't do that. It would work with every jersey color, and looks bolder and classier than angry cat face.

I also went with a couple "Jaguar themed" ideas but not the actual jaguar. For variations sake.

I was lazy, but they are cat scratches. It's different at least.

Oh lord what have I done

It's terrible, but I can't stop laughing at the idea of this design on the field.

Fine, maybe that was a dumb idea. But I saw this on google: 

 That looks sweet. I'm not sure if it was official or not, I could barely find info on it, but it looks like it might be an alt helmet. I like it far better. The matte finish looks good when everything is black.

Wait, I had a few more designs in my folder. What might they be?

The Hello Kitties!

The Jags pay tribute to the mighty mustache of Shahid Khan. KHHHHAAAAANNNN



Weirdly enough, over the course of my screwing around, I actually came to appreciate the original more:

It's weird, but I kinda like it more now. It's not as bad as it first looked to me. However, when I look at the helmet in real life, and not a picture I made, I hate it again.

I think it's because my version isn't different finishes, I never bothered to make the gold look glossy. When you actually see the different finishes in real life, it looks like the front half of the helmet got burned. It feels like an idea that looked really cool on a designers computer, but just isn't capable of making the transition between mediums. I'd love to see what the original computer files look like, because I imagine it probably looks much better. The two different finishes are the biggest problem.