Speed Lines and Drawing Tools

GREG TO HOWARD: Do you have any hints on drawing special effects such as swish lines. For example, I am drawing a comic character who has a sword. He swings the sword. How do I create a clean trail of the sword motion?

I will be doing black and white line art, no cross hatching. Color graduated tones. I’m basically going to draw and ink the motion lines with the rest of the artwork, yet my confusion comes in how to transform the color of the motion lines to another color in Photoshop and fade it to make it look like motion lines. Ultimately I’m trying to achieve smooth free and loose motion lines rather than if I would use the mouse and draw it directly on the computer, which would cause "nervous looking motion lines."

HOWARD TO GREG: Nothing beats the pen tool for creating "smooth" motion lines. Just create the path you want, convert the path to a selection, and fill the selection (on a separate layer) with black, gray, or whatever color you like.

Since you’re shading and coloring digitally, you automatically have at least one special tool available: partial transparency for layers. Coupled with broad brush effects or the eraser tool set on its brush rather than pencil mode, you can create a streak through the "air" that is strong near the sword (or whatever) and fainter as you approach the opposite end of the trail.

If you like you can use the blur filter to soften the edges of your actual speed lines.

STEVE TO HOWARD: Enjoyed your comic [For those who came in late, Steve’s referring to my Mark the Art Guy webcomic—H.C.] for Adobe. It has that animated Wolverton/Crumb look I like. But I have to ask: did you ink all, much or any or it with Illustrator (and a Wacom?). I’ve just discovered how smooth the brush tool in it works with my graphire and I’m using it to ink some drawings for a flash animation. Never thought my shaky hand would be able to ink with the computer.

HOWARD TO STEVE: I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my Mark strips. As for the tools I’ve used for that project: Adobe Illustrator has been extensively used for special effects (for simulating elements that have precision aspects like, for example, the grids that appear in my Mark strips when Vanishing Point is used).

But no, the Wacom tablet I bought years ago (but never mastered) has not been involved in my Mark drawings. I really should have another go at getting comfortable with that device; I know a lot of artists who really like it, as you do. Looking at a screen instead of my hand while I was drawing spooked me! I’ve gotta get over that—but finding time to learn new skills has been hard of late.

There’s a lot of digital-to-pen-&-ink-and-back-to-digital back-and-forth action in my way of working (some of which I’ve touched on in earlier blog entries), but my initial drawing still happens on paper. Sketches are scanned for fine-tuning compositions and finished art is scanned for clean-ups, corrections, and coloring. But thanks for reminding me that I really shouldn’t be letting that Wacom tablet gather dust on a shelf!

HOWARD to BLOG READERS: If you visit Steve’s web site, Caricatures Etc., you’ll discover that he can whip out a mean caricature from a submitted photo. Got a friend who deserves a unique gift sometime soon?

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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3 Responses to Speed Lines and Drawing Tools

  1. Pingback: Loose Cruse: The Blog » Blog Archive » More on Motion Lines

  2. Howard says:

    Stay tuned, David. I’ll try and clarify things in a future “Email to the Chief” blog entry.

  3. David Bark says:

    I’m trying to replicate the motion swoosh, and I just can’t seem to do it. I made the shape with the pen tool, filled the path, stroked it and then started messing around with the eraser brush set at different opacities, but it just looks horrible. I can’t get it to look smooth and natural. Where might I find a step by step?