Today we have a guest blog from Margaret Trauth who tells us about using Texturino in her bio-mech inspired illustration.




Hi, I’m Margaret and I draw comic books with Illustrator. Sometimes I use some of the Astute Graphics plug-ins for this. Here I will tell you about a character design I finished recently, using Texturino for the finishing touches.  This design is from Parallax, my new space opera about both sides of an interstellar war between a bunch of cute cartoon animals.

It all starts with a sketch (mostly in Illustrator nowadays) with the stock pencil tool. Though this particular piece of character design is something I’ve been kicking around since 2016, with several iterations, so there’s a lot of experimentation behind what you see here.







I opened up the file I keep all the designs for this chapter in and drew some tiny little figures of the goth space dryads who drive these monstrous-looking bio-mecha to set the general scale. Then some rough shapes of the mechs for me to work with. That’s enough, at this point in my career.
I used to do a lot more of my sketching on paper, and work stuff out in a lot more detail, but these days I really tend to rely on telling Illustrator how to achieve half the details for me.

There’s a lot more stuff in this file; it’s a central repository for designs for this chapter of the comic. Everything drawn in it ends up with a set of carefully-named Graphic Styles so I can load this file as a library and use it to quickly turn page sketches into final, colored drawings. But first I’ve got to set them up.






Which I did. I spent about an hour on these colors, using a mix of filled shapes and shapes with one or more strokes piled up in the Appearance palette.
I mostly try to avoid piling up multiple fills nowadays, as that conflicts with using Draw Inside to constrain shading. A few scatter brushes for the “mane” of leaves and flowers. Pattern brushes to put inside the darker body shapes to create a ridged, exposed muscle kind of feel. Layered gradient/patterns on custom stroke width profiles for the horns. Gradient strokes and custom stroke widths for the claws… all of this gets worked out once and then saved into a Graphic Style.
I left a lot of the shapes pretty sloppy; if this was actually a panel in the comic I’d spend a bit more time making sure everything fit together properly, but this is pre-production work. I just knocked a rough approximation of the shapes out with the stock Pencil tool, no need to refine them.

So far, these are all stock Illustrator tools. You can do a lot with them. But the script for this comic calls for these bio-mechs to be all withered and desiccated at the beginning of the story; they’ve been doing a lot and their resources are low. And this is where Texturino comes in.




I made a new copy of the whole thing and started playing with colors.  I changed the horns from a pattern fill over a gradient to a translucent gradient over a solid one, with Knockout Group checked in the Transparency palette to make them see though. I increased the highlights with some effect>distort & transform>roughen, and made new copies of all the styles with these changes. Next, I started thinking about how to create a dried-up look with as little work as possible for both me and Illustrator because I may be drawing this guy a dozen times per page; Illustrator can get really slow by the end of a page if I’m not careful how I build things.
I’d been looking at a bunch of Brian Froud illustrations as a stylistic direction for this, and one thing that’s really prominent in his work is the blending of plant textures and shapes with human forms. I could apply a texture myself, but bitmap fills are generally really fiddly in Illustrator. Much easier to pull out Texturino and its libraries of super-easy-to-apply textures. I spent around twenty minutes going through all the texture packs and finding the right one to apply to the outer shell shapes. “70’s cement, color version”? Works for me!




While I was throwing this together, I took the opportunity to add in something I’d been thinking of: I added a texture to the leaves in Knockout mode, so it’s used as an alpha channel. One more detail to make things look beat-up and falling-apart. I may ultimately need to make my own texture for this purpose. There’s a particular feel to old leaves that I haven’t yet achieved with Astute’s texture packs, and a particular way my inner perfectionist wants to style that makes me feel I’m not likely to achieve this by using anyone else’s textures. I may not bother if it turns out I never go close enough for that to really matter, but I may need it at a larger scale for the dried-up version of the other character’s bio-mech.




All those leafy bits could really use some extra raggedyness, I think! Maybe! I really need to see how it works in actual pages before I can be sure; context matters.




But while I was writing this up, I added a gradient to the underlying ‘exposed muscle’ parts of this mech and heck yes, this one is done! Olivia down there in the corner to provide scale is right to be looking scared of this, especially given the way its head can open into three parts full of serrated, shiny teeth. Jaws that don’t work the way human jaws do are always creepy.
And now that this design is done, I can start turning a few more rough pages into finished comics.

About Margaret Trauth

Margaret Trauth draws comics in Illustrator and posts them on the internet for free.

For more of Margaret’s work check out her social links:

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