A Study of Lines with Dungeons & Dragons

Making Of / 15 September 2019

One thing I really love about manga is how effectively the linework conveys motion. Despite being just black and white images, the action seems to move faster than it does in animation.  So one of my random personal projects this year was to take a break from 3d and draw my friends' Dungeons & Dragons characters in this style. Doing so helped me revisit some 2d fundamentals and study crosshatching techniques in a creative way.


The first drawing is of a Tabaxi (cat-person) rogue assassinating an enemy minion in their sleep. I'm really happy with the background, and how the negative space creates and ominous silhouette around the central action. The effect was created with a custom brush that I rotated in the brush settings to fit the direction I wanted.  The brush was a bunch of tapered vertical lines I drew freehand with my stylus. The imperfections create gaps similar to what you get if you try to fill a page by scribbling with markers. These gaps helps add texture and direction to an otherwise solid fill. 

I used a different custom brush that I stamped really close together in order to get the textured highlights for the coarse fabric feel. 

This Tortle (turtle-person) bard/barbarian had completely different lighting and mostly different materials, so I couldn't reuse the same linework brushes. For the new brush, I made the lines more parallel with a blunter taper on the tips. There's definitely an art to how a line tapers that gets lost in a lot of toon/outline shaders in 3d. That and variation of line weight. Here lines are not only are thicker on edges closer to the camera, but also when there'd be a really tight cast shadow (such as under the ridge of the drums). In places, I also made the lines slightly thicker when they'd overlap another outline.  The background was a happy accident of combining the same brush used for the Tabaxi Rogue with a brush that was a single straight tapered line.

I was getting tired of the background defaulting to pure black, so made it more of a gradient here. I modified the droplets on a splatter brush to be more opaque and pointy, so they would look more like bits of rock instead. The original brush was a Kyle Webster brush: https://helpx.adobe.com/mobile-apps/how-to/kyles-brushes-in-sketch.html 
I also tried to save time by drawing over a 3d blockout.  It didn't save as much time as expected, since having a 3d blockout doesn't eliminate the need for perspective drawing.

Half orc paladin fighting some drakes. It was a fun challenge to draw the same imaginary creature from two different angles, in two different action poses, but also in the same scene. Experimented with making the smaller scales a crosshatching brush, which was challenging to use since the brush would need to follow the drake's skin surface instead of just light direction.  I struggled a lot with figuring out the falloff of shadows and light sources. When does reflected light interfere with a cast shadow, and what direction is it coming from when there's multiple light sources on complex forms? Definitely going to need to do some lighting studies. But this one is my favorite composition wise.  

Young tiefling (not necessarily evil devil person) warlock casting a fireball spell.  Wanted to convey the teenager-ness of the character by using a football throw as pose reference.  Picking out shapes in fire was a purely intuitive process aside from using reference.  I used 3 different flame brushes: one narrow vertical flame, one wider horizontal fire, and one that was more scattered.