A few weeks ago, a bunch of us from the Paper Wings Community had a conversation on Twitter about using Google’s free 3d modeling software Google SketchUp as a way to speed up the process of making comics.
I was amazed to discover that everyone had the same problem I did before I learned how to use the program. So that got me really excited to teach you all how to use this amazing, FREE tool to help you with perspective for comics.
In This Tutorial:
- I explain some Google SketchUp basics that will help you draw geometric environments, vehicles and props in perspective.
- I show you how to choose your camera angle and lens, shoot and save a screen capture (no long 3d renders necessary).
- I show you how to “clone” elements so you can edit a piece of one clone and all the other clones will update automagically.
Backgrounds are maybe the most obvious application, but SketchUp can also be used to rough-in (or completely design) vehicles and anything else comprised mostly of geometric shapes.
Read on to learn about how I have adapted my character design process at Disney to include Google SketchUp…
Character Design and Perspective For Comics:
Some of you know that I’m currently working as a Character Designer for Disney. When I want to shake things up (which is often), I change my process and/ or switch tools.
Sometimes I start with Super Sculpey.
I quickly sculpt a very rough maquette, light it, shoot photos of it with my iPhone and email the best ones to myself. Then, I open the photos in Photoshop and draw over top of them, staying loose and “searching” for the character.
This technique is really fun and particularly useful if I’m designing a character who is difficult to draw in perspective.
I hate drawing in perspective. It’s just something I have always struggled with. So I always just freehand it. And though I can sort of fake it, I’ve always felt limited by my impatience for perspective and the resulting frustrations.
(Oh, quick side note: The problem with the Super Sculpey technique is that it’s hard to make adjustments to the camera angle and sometimes the clay gets dry and stiff and takes quite a while to loosen up.)
(Bonus side note: Super Sculpey is quite similar, in this way, to turning 30.)
A Google SketchUp Demo From The Heavens:
About a month or two ago, my current Art Director taught me how to use Google SketchUp.
Suddenly and without warning, it was announced at work that he would be teaching a class in the studio training lab.
I can’t even begin to explain how freeing it has been to learn this program.
Much like I do with Super Sculpey, I can rough in a character, prop or set, find the perfect camera angle (which I can easily tweak later on), change the camera lens to get the exact shot and composition I want, take quick screenshot and open that in Photoshop.
It’s a faster and, ironically, more flexible technique than using Super Sculpey. (However, with organic characters, I’ll still be using the Super Sculpey because Google SketchUp absolutely sucks for organic shapes…)
Surprisingly, Google SketchUp Is Super-Easy.
Including his initial in-class Google SketchUp demo and answering my follow-up questions, I think my A.D. spent about a total of 2.5 hours teaching me. …a mere 2.5 hours and I was over the barrier to entry.
The program is extremely simple and easy to use, despite the confusing interface and awkward navigation.
And thus, I wanted to share this information with you in hopes that you will be able to use this tool to overcome your own problems with perspective.