View Full Version : Noir practice

12-08-2013, 03:45 AM

I'm playing with noir style comic painting using different effects and rendering styles. One more classic and one more loose and cartoony. I thought the difference in how they turned out between the watercolor and the more classic deep black was really interesting. Comments and critiques welcome!





12-08-2013, 04:25 AM
For the interested, here's the reference photo and contour line I started with.



D Akey
12-08-2013, 06:07 AM
If anyone's ever wondered why women doll themselves up, this photo is the perfect answer. Talk about idealizing the human body -- in a certain direction of course. She's stunning. I can see why you picked the photo. Who is she and was it Hollywood? Sam Spade would doubtless have seen her as T R O U B L E.

Anyway, the rendition you did of her is very respectable -- almost Hollywood meets Aubrey Beardsley. I like the natural lines. Having said that, if you're going the Art Deco route, you might want to consider streamlining your shapes rather than making them quite so textural as with the darks in the hair.

The line you put into the hair is actually a really good choice to keep the marks from getting too heavy handed. Good for a blond. I quite like it this way because it's more modern comic book graphic in approach.

But considering the overall style, and specifically the line of beads across her torso, when you are translating lines and shapes into Deco from a photo you would want to smooth it out rather. That was the trick they were going for. Right now the line of beads is sort of wobbly. And that may translate from the photo that way, but you might want to consider faster lines and improving on the way it appears in the photo. Especially so in the case of the beads since it's so stark white against black = eye catching. Think fancy icing on a cake.

However, if you're not going for such a direct reproduction, it's all fine. It will look less formal and glamorous as a result however like having a wedding picture with part of the groom's shirt not tucked in. That would work for certain contexts, but it would create a very different feel. So it's a matter of taste. And you have to consider the context of all your pictures in this series or book as well as the persona of the character you are depicting. You probably want to have a defined look consistent throughout though and deviate from that for a particular effect. Details matter.

Also, if you simplify and streamline your shapes and lines, you can invent things and pull them into character consistently because you don't have to invent quirks which means it would be safer and practical. Uniqueness is harder to fake. It's doable, but a little iffy to make it seem spontaneous and natural.

Overall it's a really nice job.

Oh, I have to ask, who is the model in your photo?

12-08-2013, 06:35 AM
Thanks! I really appreciate the feedback. I did both of these today and tried to figure out what I liked about them and what I didn't. I think your comments are spot on. I'll give it some edits and see if that improves it any.

Believe it or not, this is a modern pin up. Taken in 2010, by a studio down in Queensland Australia. They post their stuff on Facebook all the time. I figured it was a good place to go for high quality noir references. The models name, from what I can tell from the photo descriptions and the photographers comments, is Katie Barclay.

The reference book for technique notes I'm using is "How to Draw Noir Comics," by Shawn Martinbrough.



12-08-2013, 07:26 AM
Ok, I did a little bit of editing. I'm stopping on it before it gets overworked. I think the dress looks best without the bead line.

For what it's worth, the art rage app works really well for this style of art. The painting took me about 2 hours start to finish. The only thing missing from the tool kit is a polygon feature that can be flood filled. Maybe I should put that on my wish list for Christmas :)




12-08-2013, 07:32 AM
Hello Chris,
I really like these, and where your going with your 'Noir' practice!
Like to see more,
These are great!

My Gallery:http://forums.artrage.com/showthread.php?45586-Stevemawmv

12-08-2013, 08:13 AM
This is terrific! I do like the white lines on the black. She's great, but I would like to see her eyes a little less 'stary' (not starry!).

The photo show what appears to be white at the bottom of the iris, but it's actually the pink of the lower lid. Her whole expression would relax if you lift that lower black line.


12-08-2013, 12:29 PM
This is terrific! I do like the white lines on the black. She's great, but I would like to see her eyes a little less 'stary' (not starry!).

The photo show what appears to be white at the bottom of the iris, but it's actually the pink of the lower lid. Her whole expression would relax if you lift that lower black line.


Like this?


12-08-2013, 12:31 PM
And another one I got in while the kids were napping :)


12-08-2013, 12:39 PM
Here's the reference photo for the second one.


12-08-2013, 05:49 PM
And one last painting before bed :)


12-08-2013, 07:17 PM
The eyes are great now, well done! You're on a real roll now, and I love your work.

Print day would take a lot of ink, as I often tell myself when leaning towards lots of black!! :) :)

12-09-2013, 09:27 PM
What a dramatic change of theme and style, and what a wonderful bunch of impressive outcomes!

12-10-2013, 04:36 AM
Man, these are rad! What got you inspired to do some noir stuff? I really like noir, brick and chinatown are two of my favorite movies. I especially like the first drawing you did. Great use of black! Especially just the big background shape. And I actually liked the beads, though I do agree they could use some cleaning up. That's a chance to deviate from the reference a bit and do some lines of beads that define the shape of the breast and abdomen a bit better. Really nice job otherwise! Thank you for sharing. Can't wait to see more.

12-10-2013, 05:51 AM
Love the style you are using to create these illustrations.....:cool:

12-10-2013, 04:47 PM
Hey, Chris!
I've enjoyed your 'turned off the road abit' from your usually style to do this practice,
kinda cool what a occasional detour can get you!
like them all!
Take Care,

Thanks for visiting my thread!
My Gallery:http://forums.artrage.com/showthread.php?45586-Stevemawmv

12-11-2013, 05:10 PM
Thanks all!

As for inspirations and reasons, I felt I needed to learn more about light and dark and rendering accurate shapes. And I found a treasure trove of black and white comics at a local comic convention. So I wondered if I could figure out how to do it too.

Then I found Shawn Martinborough's book on Amazon and tried following his examples and process. It's a very different style from what I've tried in the past. But I like the results so far. And the bonus of doing it in artrage is you can do it quickly and try several different approaches: dry brush, graphic ink, rough water color, whatever. If you set up the layers properly you can modify and discard looks quickly and easily. And with only two colors, because you get the grey from adjusting opacity in a layer, you don't have as many distractions.

I'm still coloring with my kids at home, but I'm being selfish on the iPad to work through this and see where it takes me :)



12-11-2013, 05:12 PM
An attempt at the Doctor. Not 100% happy with the face but i like the overall effect.


12-11-2013, 05:24 PM
Chalk this one up to my love of Mike Mignolla and Jason Shawn Alexander. Those guys and what they do in comics really make me want to produce art that has an emotional impact.

So when I found a great reference picture of a wolf and wanted to see if I could do something with it.

I tried this with a dry brush style, loading set to 7% for everything but the mouth/teeth details. I kept the brush size constant (10%) and used varying pressure and sides of the stylus to the get the effects. Rather than use a rougher texture for the canvas, I made it completely smooth to stretch the dry brush as far as it would go. The paint was on auto dry so I could build up the piece stroke by stroke with out mixing the paint from one to the next. I still followed the approach in the reference book I'm working with (contour drawing, evaluate shadows, establish line weight, apply black, add texture). But in this case the majority of the work was in the add texture phase.

After what felt like a million brush strokes, I am happy with the result. I almost want to take the blue line contour image to another file and try this on a rough texture canvass to see what the difference would be. The total time to do this was short enough that I could use this style for a comic even. I think I spent 30 minutes on the contour drawing and two hours on the painting phase.

Comments welcome! :)


12-11-2013, 05:37 PM
Both terrific! I think the doctor's face works very well. :cool:

12-12-2013, 12:29 AM
Your Noir inspiration and execution is formidable. Congrats!

12-12-2013, 02:59 AM
I like these very much, well done:)

12-12-2013, 03:18 PM
Hey Chris,
Cool Doctor Who pic!
When I first scrolled down to it...I thought it was the creepy bartender in the movie 'The Shining', then I
saw the 'TARDIS'!...Cool!
Good Wolf, Nice Wolfie!
like them all!
Take Care Chris,

My Gallery:http://forums.artrage.com/showthread.php?45586-Stevemawmv

12-14-2013, 03:52 PM
Trying some looks where the black and white are "flipped" :)




12-14-2013, 03:53 PM
Contour line to go with the last one.


12-14-2013, 07:03 PM
Your lines are gorgeous! :cool:

12-15-2013, 10:17 AM
These are really nice! Remind me of woodcuts, but with far more controlled lines.

12-15-2013, 06:33 PM
Another shot at using water color for a high contrast effect inspired by a pulp magazine cover.




12-16-2013, 07:23 AM
Ok, after looking at the last one I realized it was missing a key element of a pulp composition - there wasn't o way for the hero to escape his peril! The addition of his shadowy savior gave me a chance to play with more greys in the picture. I like the revision a lot :)


12-16-2013, 07:26 AM
And another one in water color. Still learning to use the brushes on rough paper.

D Akey
12-16-2013, 09:14 AM
Slipping out of the Noir genre, at least in the graphic style. I like the more designed deco ones. You seem to have a good knack for that look. The later brush and wash look is very different so I personally wouldn't mix and match them in the same book, were you doing a graphic novel or illustrated piece. The deco stuff speaks of 'style'. The latter speaks of 'crude and brutal'. Very different flavors.

12-16-2013, 01:43 PM
Thank you very much for the feedback.

Yes, I agree with you. I would not mix the two styles in the same work. I have a 'mind to use the brush and wash technique for pulpy, fantasy, oriented stories, and the more deco style in some crime stories I'm working on. But I want to understand how to make a picture to deliver an emotional impact with high contrast images regardless of what style I use.

I wonder how a more fantasy oriented theme would look with a more polished presentation? Hmmm...

D Akey
12-16-2013, 02:04 PM
Regardless of what style you use, you need to hold composition in highest regard. Think staging action. Create a context that dramatically leads the eye to the most telling element.

My recommendation for argument sake: Look at Bernie Wrightson as a brilliant example of staging with darks and lights. Light background shows off dark, dark background shows off light figures, detail against simple. Not all the samples here are perfect, but there are some super gems that looking at and studying would serve you. You don't even need to use the hatching or the level of detail because he was doing his style. But there are some major things about staging to be gleaned from these. Get the general concept of how he stages, and assimilate it into what you want to do with your style(s).

His stuff is definitely NOT Deco. And you are looking at other artists for that. Example, I really liked your owl. I like Beardsley too. But take it all in and play with the notions until you have it working as you want it. I would give it some time to gestate and see what you can come up with.

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1066&bih=451&q=bernie+wrightson&oq=bernie+wrightson&gs_l=img.3..0l10.1617.4654.0.5566. 3.948.8j2.10.0....0...1ac.1.32.img..0.16.972.UYCY6 C5GxIw

Dore is another who was really great with composition:

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1066&bih=451&q=bernie+wrightson&oq=bernie+wrightson&gs_l=img.3..0l10.1617.4654.0.5566. 3.948.8j2.10.0....0...1ac.1.32.img..0.16.972.UYCY6 C5GxIw#hl=en&q=gustav+dore&tbm=isch

You're designing images. That's my recommendation anyway as a base to tag when you're rounding the bases.

12-16-2013, 05:52 PM
Excellent points. And thank you for those links too!

The good news is I still have a lot to learn, but this practice is becoming a good vehicle for me to push myself with. The story telling aspect is definitely the most important aspect of what I'm trying to accomplish. I'll have to think about what to try to give me an opportunity to pull that together.

12-16-2013, 11:42 PM
I like these illustrations and I kept wondering which may ever be the stories behind them ...

12-22-2013, 05:08 PM
Hi Caesar!

If all goes well, the stories and these illustrations will be on my new website in the new year :)

12-22-2013, 05:17 PM
Ok,this one was an experiment in a different work process, rendered and brought to final stages in Artrage, finished in Adobe ideas. The combination is almost a "who put the peanut butter in my chocolate" moment. Almost.

For all of its selling points as a sketching tool, I don't like sketching and drawing in Ideas.

The Artrage ap, or sketchbook pro, or procreate, are better. I like artrage the best because I have to worry about the least getting between me and the sketch. Also, the limited layers and reference options make Ideas less friendly for working something out. You only get 10 layers in a file with ideas. And you can only have one photo reference. Artrage has no limits like that which is great.

For the purposes of my noir learning, Ideas has two things over Artrage once you get the final image you want to work with.

1-I love the inking tool. It is so much easier to use than the one in artrage. And pressure sensitivity helps too!

2- the flood fill tool in ideas feels like cheating after doing blacks in artrage. The vector capability is just icing on the cake compared to this.


12-22-2013, 05:21 PM
Ok,I started this one in artrage, did the inking and blacks in ideas, then brought it back to artrage for blending, touch-ups, and lettering. The infinite canvas and vector capability in ideas let me figure out what size I wanted things to be. But I could never get the blending effects in ideas. Vector can't handle that kind of thing :)


12-22-2013, 05:23 PM
And this one is a contour line I'm working with to learn how to better use composition to tell the story. Drawn in artrage, I will do the inks and blacks in ideas, and then bring it back to artrage for the final work.


12-23-2013, 06:36 AM
And...inks are done :)

For something like this artrage + ideas = win.


D Akey
12-23-2013, 08:52 AM

Lots of different pics -- The blonde with the fedora is mysterious and stylin'. Nice design.

The 'Loser' one is good and depressing. I suppose that's rather Noir as a motivator for the guy to do something nasty to get even. Not my favorite scenario unless that's the start of something where he's going to rise to beat the odds and overcome it all. But it takes all kinds in a graphic novel about the seedy underbelly of society. So are you setting up the reasons for going criminal or are you setting the stage for a hero?

The wrecking yard/auto body shop one for composition. It's a time honored approach to do the line first and then work out the dark and light pattern. You might also consider designing in terms of the dark and light pattern as a way of description/composition in the thinking process. Not necessarily better or worse than the way you did it. But I've found that changing the thinking where you're juggling more than one ball at a time is not that much of a reach especially when thinking about composing and staging the lighting. When you begin, you already know (probably) who your focus is to be - a character or area. So thinking in terms of staging in order to feature your dominant element and then have a hierarchy of elements. It's a thought that might make your compositions more designed. You can think in terms of masses filling space and their relationship that way and think in terms of the way the whole thing fills the spaces as you divide it in order to lead the reader to the precise element that tells your story.

Please don't think this is a negative criticism. You've mentioned you are new to the game. And so you should look at these comments as food for thought as you develop your chops.
Your stuff is looking good already. And I know/have known people making a living at doing art who sometimes never figure these things out because nobody ever told them to look at comic books seriously for the art of it.

Go man go!

12-23-2013, 08:53 AM
Hi, Chris!
I see your enjoying your Noir experiments, I like the last set posted from you!
And, I'm hoping the comments and remarks on the second one, have
been directed at, or said to someone else.
Great job on the final ink on 'bimmer' with issues pic, would make a great 'AutoBodyshop'
Christmas card, just add a wreath and some tinsel, and there you go!
Well done!
Take Care,

12-23-2013, 09:39 AM
I'm a huge lover of linocuts, scratchboard and stencilling (like Banksy), all of which can be emulated relatively easily in Art Rage. Your Black and Whites are very appealing as well, and you are obviously inspired by the possibilities. Looking forward to more! :cool:

01-01-2014, 12:42 AM
You're going pretty well with this thread I really like!