Author Archives: Kiri

The whole process of making “ΔS”>> (part 2/2)

So, as I mentioned in the previous part, this post will be about background work.
Again, this is not a tutorial – just my personal way to work. (Though some parts make the text sound like an advice, those are just my opinions. I do stand behind them, but I’m not saying they are the “right” way to do these things.)

I rely on a few Japanese terms in this post, and I would like to give an excu…explanation for it here: I use Japanese way more than English nowadays, so the words often occur to me in Japanese first – and sometimes they don’t even seem to have English counterparts (or even Finnish for that matter… in some cases corresponding terms just do not seem to exist), which makes writing this kind of blogs post a bit challenging, since I can’t make myself not to use a convenient word when there is one. If you have suggestions for English translations of the words appearing in the post below, I’d be happy to hear them.

The background work is divided (somewhat artificially) into three main categories here: (1) studying, (2) obtaining references and (3) making materials.

1. Studying

For the most part, this could also be described as taking notes. Below is a list of the typical characteristics and the types of these notes.

  • Almost all practices and notes I draw nowadays could be described as “aimaimosha” (曖昧模写, i.e. drawing what you see but with your own drawing style).
  • I usually choose a particular topic (e.g. having a cat on your shoulder), make an image search with it on Google and draw several of the photos that were found.
  • Starting from a few months ago, I’ve recently practiced drawing nude models every now and then (here, in case you’re interested in giving it a try yourself), which I should’ve started doing it a lot earlier since it’s quite educating.
  • Other than that, I have also been making notes about manga page layouts I’m fond of. (In practice I’ve drawn a draft-like version of the page and then analyzed why I like it and why it works for the scene in case.)
  • Some years ago I browsed through TV tropes taking notes along the way XD (… I wonder how many others have regarded reading the wiki as “studying”. (Sounds more like a convenient excuse for spending time there. Nevertheless, I think I actually gained a lot of useful story-making-related information and perspective reading the articles.))

Wedding dresses~

Throwing in another Japanese term: “hikidashi” (引き出し, “variety of knowledge and experience useful for handling things impromptu” as translated on jisho.org) is something I aim at continuously expanding. There are two reasons for this: First, you can draw much faster if you’ve already accumulated knowledge on how to draw certain things (say, how a particular kind of cloth folds when the person wearing it bends his hand), as you don’t need to rely on references for those parts. Second, seeing lots of things you (a) want to learn to draw, as well as (b) other people’s written and drawn works, and subsequently analyzing them (in case of things you want to be able to draw: making observations on what kind of “rules” there are for drawing them; and for other’s works: what you like in them and why) makes it easier for you to come up with your own ideas in the long run. Ideas never occur to people from nothingness after all; much like you cannot design a house without having previously seen lots of various houses and other buildings. In other words, you need to have previous information and knowledge to work on.

To wrap up: seeing and studying a lot helps you to get a gist of the essential part of the subject at hand, which in turn enables you to develop your own original ideas on it.

2. Reference materials: searching, designing, making

2.1 Searching

I choose a topic I’m either going to include in a future drawing (or a panel of the comic) or that I just want to draw. After that I make an image search on Google and draw some of the search results – the ones that I can learn something from or that simply look nice to draw. From time to time I scan these practices, after which I sort them into relevant folders (often subfolders of subfolders of subfolders…) where I can later find them if needed for referencing or revising. I like to keep things in order (people having seen my room may refrain from sarcastic comments – it might not look like it, but is in order… -_-; …from my point of view), because otherwise I will be at loss what to do next.

About year and a half ago I bought a figure (“Bandai Tamashii Nations Woman DX ‘S.H Figuarts’ Action Figure”), a purchase I haven’t regretted. (Upon rereading this text, the previous sentence sounds a way too commercial-ish. But I leave it as it is.) The figure doesn’t have the same proportions than any of the characters of the webcomic, but it has been really useful when drawing particular pose from a particular angle. Definitely recommend that or something similar. (The one I bought from Amazon UK was a bit over 80 euros at the time.)

To combine the figure’s pose and the proportions of a particular character, I make use of notes like this. (The one in the image is Hiura’s.)

I also take photos of myself for reference. It’s a good method for pose + outfit (I try to wear something at least remotely resembling the clothes of the character) combinations, but cannot be used for upward/downward angles, running etc. – at least not without an assistant taking the photos for you.

2.2 Designing

This resembles writing the plot. When I hit on an idea of a character, character’s clothes, building etc. I write (or rather, draw) it down. Unlike with plot however, I sometimes need to go and search for ideas – especially when it comes to clothes. Again, image search on the web is a handy tool.

2.3 Making

Some years ago I made a figure’s head from clay. It has been marginally useful. I also made miniature classrooms (with desks, chairs and rather simplified characters – height, width, depth being calculated and corresponding to those in the webcomic) and a part of a suburb, and… they surely took lots of time to make. Which is the main reason why I still can’t make myself throw them away. Though I don’t use them anymore now that I’ve got to know to SketchUp. (The clay model I still use in rare instances.)

So yeah, SketchUp. Having a history of making models from paper, this software has been a real treasure: you can create rather detailed models with the exact dimensions you want (quite elaborated ones even, if you’re adept – I’m not), and after making a, say, desk, you can easily copy it to fill a whole classroom… No need to measure the dimensions with a ruler, cut the paper, bend it and attach it with a paper clip again and again with every single desk… (Thank you modern technology…) And it’s quite cool to see the buildings and rooms you’ve designed existing as 3D models.

One of my ongoing projects is to draw comprehensive enough collection of references of the “ΔS”>> characters. I want to keep the drawing style consistent (which it hasn’t been), and as I’m also somewhat obsessive about the heights of the characters (especially about how they relate to each other when characters are in the same panel), references are a must. Unlike with buildings, though, I’m fine with paper in this matter 😀 Paper, pencil, previous notes, calculator and ruler, to be exact. No need for (read: not enough knowledge or enthusiasm for) building 3D models of them.

A color scheme

Actually, I have built 3D models of characters too (the quality being on the level I can reach with my current SketchUp skills), in order to be able to place them inside the 3D models of rooms, buses etc.

3. Making materials

By materials I mean things that are used in the comic as such, i.e. textures and fonts.

  • I take a lot of photos, some of which use as textures in the comic. Before using the photos I usually adjust contrasts, brightness and levels to modify them for use. Sometimes I combine two photos by putting one over another, after which I make the upper one more transparent or change the layer’s state to “multiply”. And, as with references, I try to keep these files in order by sorting them into relevant subfolders.
  • As for fonts, I have made the one used in “ΔS”>>. I wasn’t quite content with it to begin with, so I’m going to replace it with a new one at some point later. The new font is going to resemble the first one, as both are based on my own handwriting. But this time I’ll be using a different approach on creating the font, so hopefully the result will look nicer.

***

All that said, I’m still very much in the process of practicing…

The whole process of making “ΔS”>> (part 1/2)

I won’t have scanner or drawing tablet at hand for a while, so in order to add at least some content to the site I’ll write a blog post. I have written about behind-the-scenes workflow previously too, but unlike in earlier posts this time I will make an attempt at describing the whole process, from start to finish.

I don’t know whether this will be of any value for others as an example (it’s not even the point of this text; my webcomic is pencil-written, processed-photos-instead-of-screentones oddity anyways), but from time to time I get the chance to explain this project/hobby to someone, and… well, as my verbal presentation skills have quite a lot of room for improvement, I usually end up (figuratively) face-palming at my own explanations. But if I put those things on paper here, it helps me to organize my thoughts and thus express them better from now on. Maybe. Also, if I’m lucky, some visitors of the site might actually read this post too.

So, on to the actual topic. The workflow of making this webcomic can be summarized as following steps (listed in a somewhat chronological order):

1. Jotting down ideas

This is something that I always do when I get an idea I may want to use somewhere. And ideas come when they come, usually when you are about to go to sleep or in the middle of taking a walk. (Trying to actively come up with an idea or a solution to something is important too, but the thing you’re trying to figure out (or something completely unrelated but still useful) often comes to mind some time later, when you’re not actively trying to think about it anymore. The brain continues to work on the problem on its own, which is kind of convenient.)

2. Writing the characters and the plot

Characters and plot could be considered their own separate steps – in which case characters would precede the plot, as the latter cannot exist without the former (especially not in a story this character-driven) – but since characters and plot are often so tightly intertwined, I regard them as one single process.

Each one of the character cast of “ΔS”>> has their own image folders and files, as well as a Word file containing various notes. For the main character and deuteragonist I have written short introductory blog posts too.

I’m not sure if I belong the minority or majority on this aspect (the one thing I know for sure is that I’m not the only one thinking this way), but it’s the characters that are making the story move, not me – I’m only an observer trying to find out what happens with this setting, these characters and an outline of a plot. In that sense I’m also a reader of this story myself. And it’s fun. (Which is really the reason I’m making this comic in the first place.)

For me writing the plot is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle (one that doesn’t have a single particular correct outcome) the pieces being the previously jotted-down ideas (scattered in different places on paper notes, text and Word files…), and trying to make sense of it. Might not be the most efficient way to write a story, but at least this way I can make use of the scenes etc. I’ve already come up with and that like, without trying to forcibly come up with something interesting… But on the other hand, making the story cohesive has been causing me a headache a few times XD

3. Planning the layout of the pages

I usually first just think about angles and draw the characters, dialog etc. on an A4 without worrying about the panels or pages.

Chapter 10 spoiler(?) that I previously uploaded on Twitter

When I have accumulated content for worth of a few pages, I start planning the actual layout: I decide what I want to fit into a particular page or spread, and try to figure out how it could be arranged so that it would both look nice and be easy to read. (I do not always succeed in this.)

The panel layout usually looks something like this. The scene is same as in above image.

4. Background work

I’ll return to this part later. The topic is long enough to deserve its own blog post.

5. Drawing the pages

I draw the line drawing with pencil on A4-sized paper, after which I scan the page, and edit it a bit (i.e. clean it up and adjust contrasts).

6. Lettering

Not anything special to mention on this. Only that I use a font made by myself. (I’m – albeit reaaaally slowly – creating a new one to replace it though, as I’m not so content with the current version.)

… And that the lettering used to be quite tedious for Japanese version – what with writing the text and arranging the rows in Word, taking a screenshot and pasting the thing on a page… and repeating the process until the result looked good enough. This was because I couldn’t write vertical Japanese with Photoshop directly. I guess the process might be easier now with Clip Studio Paint.

7. Flatting and adding textures

I have written on the process of flatting here, and on textures here.

***

That’s about it.

Part 2/2 will be about background work, a thing that I omitted in this post and that in fact (at this point anyway) comprises most of the working hours used on creating this webcomic.

On webcomic updates (June 2018)

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who has read the webcomic and been waiting for updates. I have done too little for the site recently ^_^;

What I have done, on the other hand, is… well, mainly improving my drawing skills and trying to figure out how to solve a few problems related to the website and the process of making the webcomic. (The site was repeatedly crashing, so I upgraded from shared hosting to VPS. From now on, I also try to optimize the images better, as the site has apparently been somewhat slow to load.) What probably needs improving the most is my time management skills, though.

Two of the reference pictures I drew of the characters, for myself. (There are loads of these in total… And I’m going to draw loads of more.)

I’m definitely not going to give up on this project, so if you are interested in the webcomic you might want to check this site from time to time to see whether the contents have been updated. (I can’t say any concrete dates yet, but I want and will update the comic pages in the (near) future.)

As you may have noticed…

… I changed the header!

I had also another version of the header image, but the current one won the poll I did on Twitter…
…is what I was going to say but In the end I went for both 😀

 

Below is a comparison of the alternatives as well as the result of the poll.

Remake of the previous header

Cropping changes the impression of drawings quite a bit, doesn’t it. (As a weird as this one is I rather like it.)

The result of the poll

Here’s also a link to the whole drawing (upright rather than tilted) on Twitter.

From now on

Colors!

Houseplants!

Two new pages are on the site now (line art versions, quality compromised).

Recently I have been thinking how I should work on this project and what is it that makes it stagnate… (More on this on the Finnish site.)

My new strategy is as follows: from now on there will be two different versions of the webcomic. Let’s call them “sketch” (not really) and “final version”.

Cannot quite put it into words though... (Motion? Expressions?)

There’s something here I would like to convey also on the finished version of the pages.

“Sketch”

  • A bit more polished than a storyboard (meaning it won’t be as rough as the drawing above), but still quite quickly drawn
  • Despite not being the final version, it will be easy to read (hopefully)
  • The main function of this version is to enable regular (or frequent) content updates

Final version

  • As it says on the tin
  • Updates will be irregular as hell but, well, there’s always the “sketch” version you can read…

One by one I will replace the sketch pages by the final ones.

… Any thoughts/comments on this?

On webcomic updates (May 2017)

I just dropped by to say I am still working on the webcomic.
However, I’m currently trying to change the way I draw it. (… To change it systematically rather than aimlessly – but at the same time I’d like to avoid changing the look of the comic too radically. We’ll see how well I succeed in this.)

… Because there should be a way (or many alternatives ways) to speed up the process while also improving drawing skills. (Drawing the same way I have drawn until now just won’t do.)

And – as linking to drawings has already become an established practice of a kind for me – here you are:
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C_ET4YxXoAMpbe5.jpg
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C-jfW40XcAA5tlg.jpg
(A background character)

On webcomic updates (April 2017)

The updates of the webcomic have been somewhat irregular recently. My apologies for that.
The next pages will (hopefully) be here later this week.

On another note, the site has apparently got a bit prone to crashing because of the content (largish images) and the current hosting plan… I’ll see what I can do about the matter.

Meanwhile, here are a few links to images on my Twitter account:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C8geEgGWAAA5QYP.jpg
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C6s2OoTWkAERNbi.jpg
(The second one is a finished version of the drawing I previously linked to.)

Character introductions – part 2: Murata

Deuteragonist of a kind. Hiura calls her Sasa, just about everyone else calls her Murata, and I’m having hard time trying to decide what to call her myself.

Murata SasaAs for the short description, I’ll go with “diligent”. (This is what people call oversimplifying.)

 

Name

The previous disclaimer applies.

The name is written as follows: 村田沙々
Again, let’s focus on the given name. “Sasa” contains the kanji 沙, meaning sand (in many cases read as “suna”, or “sa”), as well as the kanji repetition mark 々 (a.k.a. kurikaeshi, dounojiten, noma, onaji, or onajiku).

At one point I also considered naming her 砂沙 or 沙砂 (two different kanji, both meaning sand and read as “sa”) but settled on the current version as I wanted to use the repetition mark.

 


So only a really short introduction this time, but I might write an additional post on this character later on.

On webcomic updates

I will be travelling again soon, which means there will also be a change in the updating schedule. Starting from now. (My apologies… ^_^;)

I’m currently working on the pages for the next three weeks; all at once, so it takes somewhat more time than usually. The estimated date of the next update of the webcomic is on Thursday or Saturday this week. (Most likely not on Friday. And in case the pages are not there by Sunday, that probably means I didn’t make it and the webcomic won’t be updated until January. (I’ll try to avoid that scenario though…))

So instead of new pages today, I’ll leave here a link to a drawing of the main cast of the story.

Genre: contemporary fantasy

(Not that it really matters, but this isn’t part of any blog post series. Just an independent entry.)

As I’ve already mentioned on the About page, this webcomic isn’t a representative of any particular genre but a mixture of several ones – the main one being contemporary fantasy. I could have tried to prune it a bit to keep things simple, but I don’t want to pin the story down to any single narrow category. I personally like variety and certain amount of unpredictability in stories, so that’s what I’m aiming for. And I certainly do not want to be restricted by some established conventions just because they are established conventions. (This is not to say I don’t follow any literary rules. I do, but only the ones I agree with.)

In short, I want to write a story I would enjoy reading myself. (Whether that is a good idea considering the size of potential readership is another matter, but hopefully there are at least some people whose taste overlaps with mine.  ^_^;)

20161204_cinnamon_delta-s-is-much

If I write down the genres of ”ΔS”>> and rank them according to their significance in the story, it results in the following kind of list:

“Mainly”: contemporary fantasy
To some extent: mystery, comedy
At times: slice of life
Maaaaybe: romance
Depends on how you look at it: magical realism, whimsical

Save for contemporary fantasy (and magical realism), I do not recommend reading the story as a representative of the genres listed above, since each of them is but a part of the whole.

 

Contemporary fantasy

Let’s focus on this particular genre, as it is the most relevant one here.

Definition

Also known as modern fantasy, contemporary fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy where the following conditions apply:

  1.  Setting:
    – the putative real world (“like reality unless noted”)
    – the present day (approximately, at least)
  2. Fantastical elements exist. However, they are not common knowledge in the world of the story.

NB The above definition is just my take on the subject, mostly based on the information on these three sites.

Why

As in why the genre of this webcomic ended up being contemporary fantasy rather than pure fantasy or something more true to life

To keep it short:

  • I prefer settings resembling the real word over ones that are completely imaginary.
  • The fantasy elements open up more possibilities for the story, as we are playing by rules slightly different from our world. Or to be more precise, the same rules with slight alterations and more exceptions to them. (In the case of ”ΔS”>> anyway. I would also like to highlight the fact that the rules are rules also in this setting – i.e. the genre is not an excuse for making things up on the fly.)
  • The works listed below…

Examples

During the past few years I have come across quite a few interesting works belonging to this genre. (And if we don’t count Harry Potter, all of them are anime…)

Here’s a list of some of them:

  • Cardcaptor Sakura
  • Durarara!!
  • Suzumiya Haruhi no yuuutsu
  • Kamisama Hajimemashita
  • Uchouten Kazoku
  • Zetsuen no Tempest

They are all worth taking a look at by the way, especially the three last ones. They are also quite different from each other (plot, and nature of the fantastical elements, just to mention a few things), demonstrating the pretty much endless possibilities offered by this genre. (… I somehow turned into an advocate of contemporary fantasy while writing this post.)

To sum up: the genre of this webcomic is what it is.

This week

… the webcomic will be updated on Wednesday instead of Tuesday.

There will also be a blog post. This time around I’ll write about the genre(s) of ”ΔS”>>. I was going to save this post for later, but being an introduction of a kind, it actually fits quite well here. (And as the plot is currently advancing relatively slowly, I’m increasingly anxious to assure the readers that there is more to the story than what meets the eye. – Though what I really should do is to draw more than two pages a week…)

On an unrelated note, I think I’m gradually getting better at coloring. Still slow, but at least I’ve managed to develop a style I like.

Character introductions – part 1: Hiura

Hiura

Hiura

A.k.a. the so-called main character. I originally intended her to be tomboyish and cool, but somehow she ended up being the way she is now. (I’m glad if someone finds the current version cool, but I’m not so sure if I think that way myself.)

She has such a charming personality though that it pretty much makes up for the aforementioned lack of coolness.

She has such a charming personality though that it pretty much makes up for the aforementioned lack of coolness.

… But you chose that course yourself, too?

… But you chose that course yourself, too?

 

Name

First off, a disclaimer:
I am not claiming to have any deep or extensive knowledge of Japanese language, names, or kanji. I’m just really enthusiastic about them. I have studied the language for several years as a hobby, but I do not consider it a specialty of mine. It’s a hobby.
Feel free to point out any mistakes.

So, back on to the topic.

The name written in kanji

The name written in kanji

Most of the other characters call Hiura by her surname (“Hiura”, that is), but let’s talk about her given name “Ran”. In the earlier stages of this project the whole cast had Finnish names, the main character being named “Kielo” – a word meaning lily of the valley.

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis)

When I switched to Japanese names I simply translated “Kielo” to the corresponding Japanese word “鈴蘭”, Suzuran. The name remained that way for a relatively long time, during which I almost always called her by a shorter nickname “Ran” in my mind. (The shorter the better, and I like the sound of that word.) Before long I started to prefer the idea that instead of a nickname it was her actual name. Hence I changed the reading to Ran, while maintaining the original kanji. So – as I see it – the word still means lily of the valley, even if the reading became irregular. (Incidentally, I am also quite fond of irregular readings.)

 

Character design

As far as I know, not many characters in manga or other comics have French braids. And I shouldn’t have drawn a character with them either. Especially not the main character… Even if you try to draw them carefully they still end up looking wrong. Or maybe it’s just me and my lack of skill. In any case, it was a mistake.

That said, it’s not like I’m going to change the character design at this point – not even the hairdo. It has already become a plot point of a kind. Not a particularly important one, but a plot point nevertheless.

There are also a few alternative hair styles that often appear in related art but rarely in the webcomic itself.

This is what the character design should have been from the beginning. But on the other hand, if her hair would be constantly loose, there wouldn’t be the gap between braided and loose versions…

This is what the character design should have been from the beginning. But on the other hand, if her hair would be constantly loose, there wouldn’t be the gap between braided and loose versions…

This also happens to be one of the few drawings that I’m content with even after a relatively long time. The Twitter version with text can be found here. And the line art is on Tumblr in case anyone is interested.

The middle-school version of Hiura

The middle-school version of Hiura

She will only make one or two brief appearances in the comic, and only in flashbacks, but I really like drawing her. Both because of the hair style and because of the clothes. And expressions. (She is way more “cool” than the high-school Hiura.)

 

Other notes

  • The monkeys on the pattern of the hoodie in the prologue were cute, weren’t they? They also happened to be quite tedious to draw (I know they don’t look like it), so you most likely won’t be seeing them in the future chapters. But you can always re-read the prologue.
  • The gray textures in Hiura’s hair and eyes in the webcomic are modified versions of a photograph of snow falling horizontally in the wind
  • You may have noticed that her braids are of different lengths. That’s on purpose. Both on my and on her part. Which is not to say there is any deeper meaning or symbolism behind it. (There isn’t.)
A sketch that serves no other purpose here than ending this post.

A sketch that serves no other purpose here than ending this post.

Only a short post this time too

As I previously mentioned, I’m planning to write two series of blog posts. They will be about

  1. characters of this webcomic (introductions of a kind; a bit more detailed than the ones on the “Characters” page)
  2. this project (webcomic) in general; background, motivation etc.

The first topic is quite straightforward. I’ll introduce one character at a time: name, character design and so on – without explaining too much about the role of the character in the story. The second one is, well, actually pretty straightforward too, now that I think about it.

I am going to write these alternately, sometimes a post about a character, sometimes about a certain aspect of the project. You can browse the posts afterwards in order by using tags, if you wish. There is now a tag cloud on the sidebar for that.

Questions, suggestions etc. are welcome.

I recently…

… tried changing the style of my drawings. (Though chances are that no one notices, as the style is constantly changing anyway.) And I’m still in the process of developing it, because I’m not yet quite content with how the drawings look like.

… updated the Characters page. (Meaning there are now a total of three character introductions…) The drawings will be monochrome until I get better at coloring.

I also changed (or rather, “updated”) the header image. You can consider it a demonstration of my current coloring skills. Finishing the drawing in question took me several hours.

***

As a side note of a side note, I’m planning to write at least two series of blog posts around particular topics. I’ll describe them in more detail during next week.

A blog post…

Taiyaki_-_blogi_-_dS_20160721

… as an excuse to upload the above drawing also onto this site.
I don’t really have anything to say about it, though.

And as I haven’t been receiving new ideas regarding topics for blog posts, I’m going to use the one I was suggested earlier during this summer: a photo of the equipment I use for drawing this webcomic.

So here you are:

pencil_-_webcomic_dS_20160822

Joking aside, I’m travelling again – meaning I don’t have light table etc. (which I admittedly should have included in that photo) with me, so the update of the webcomic will be postponed about a week or so. (Please bear with me. ^_^;)

I might write another blog post though, if I come up with a topic good enough. And in case you find reading my blog posts boring and would rather look at pictures, here are a few drawings I recently made while pracing how to draw yukata. I’m still updating this collection at the time of writing this post. There will probably be nine images in total (or more, if those RTs and likes keep increasing).

As always, comments and questions are welcome!

PS. Actually, I have a question. Which one of these would you prefer:
1) somewhat less polished look on the webcomic + more frequent updates, or
2) the way it currently is?
I’m bit on the fence about this myself, so it would be nice to hear other’s opinion too.