EPIC Step by step

by Gary Lacoste

Epic Showdown is a regular feature I illustrate for Jack & Jill Magazine. It's a 2-page spread featuring surprising facts about historical and public figures who have something in common. Past showdowns have included Thomas Edison vs. Nikola Tesla and Amelia Earhart vs. Sally Ride. My job is to illustrate these folks.

Here's the step by step lowdown of the showdown between Elvis and Michael Jackson.


1. Layout

I always start by bugging the art director Brian Sanchez to send over a layout with the basic information in place.


2. Reference

After reading over the info I'll pull some reference off the web. Brian and I decided it best to focus on Elvis and MJ in their younger years.


3. Rough (part 1)

I'll print Brian's layout at 100 percent. After taping the pieces together I'll start sketching right on top of the print. At this point I'm looking for energetic poses that fill the space. I'm also referring to my reference materials making sure likenesses are starting to develop. Notice on Elvis I was toying with the idea of keeping his eyes open. I also realized after I got done drawing him his nose was too long. I wrote "squish" in the margin to reminded myself to adjust those proportions after scanning.


4. Rough (part 2)

Once I have both characters roughed in I'll scan my sketch and place it into the layout. Using Photoshop I'll squish, push, pull, and rotate the characters until they fill the space nicely without overlapping the fold. I take this extra step so that I don't have to be overly worried about the layout when doing the intial rough. When I'm doing that first sketch all I want to worry about is getting the gestures down as quick as possible. I don't want to overwork the pose and kill the drawing.


5. Final Pencil (part 1)

I'll print my revised rough sketches out, put them on the light table and do the final drawing of the characters. I use copy paper and 4H pencils for all my sketches (very exotic, I know!). Nowadays this is my most favorite part of the process. I can slow down and refine those original scribbles. I'm constantly referring to my reference materials to make sure details and likenesses are as accurate as I'd like them to be.


6. Final Pencil (part 2)

The final pencils are scanned and placed into the layout. At this point I usually add some grays in there to give an idea of light sources and overall tone. This layout gets sent over for approval. Once I get the OK this gets brought into Illustrator where I do the final drawing and coloring.


7. Line art

The sketch gets put on an overlay layer and I redraw the sketch with the pen tool. Paths are stroked in different weights to add some line variation.


8. Color (part 1)

Flat color is added on a separate layer below the line art. I color the line art then add highights, shadows and details. You can read more about my coloring process here.


9. Color (part 2)

Once everything is colored I'll export the Illustrator layers into Photoshop where I'll adjust the overall color and add textures. Textures are usually scanned brush strokes, splatters, etc.


10. Ta-daa!

Once the color is set I'll again bring in the original layout on a seperate layer making sure all text is legible against the final art. Then up on the FTP site it goes for Brian to download. He'll get rid of my layout layer and set the type himself.

I'm always excited to see who will take part in the next Epic Showdown!


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