Jun 26, 2011

Derby Tattoo Design

Got asked a while back to design a a zombie roller derby tattoo. Here's some process. We discussed the design at the bar and thumbnailed it on a menu. Stole the menu. No big deal.

Let's have a roller derby zombie, and she's just cut the head off another derby girl zombie. Ok, I said, how about if she has the same pose as the statue of Perseus with the Gorgon's head? Yeah. Good, I like referencing classical mythology. Even when the new illustration is so very different from classical sculpture. This is about 1.5 inches tall:

Agree on the idea. Scan the thumbnail. Quickly refine the pose in Illustrator, make sure the design will fit on the arm, make sure the proportions are correct, make sure the composition has a nice flow, then run it by my friend again:

So far so good. She approves. I grab a slice of marker paper. It works as a good tracing paper, though nowhere near as transparent. It's also able to withstand erasing, and maintain a really bright, smooth surface. Avoid bond (or photocopy) paper. I then go over my Illustrator sketch in pencil:

Going back to pencil really allows you to add depth and life to the illustration. Check out how her hips get nice and curvy. Little bit of sexy chub on there. And speaking of sexy, when I showed this to her her my friend was happy, except she said that the face needed to be cute and not be quite so gross and dead. I agree.

Printed it out super-light (just add a photoshop layer of pure white over the art and set the opacity to 70% or so, that way you don't have to eff around with your actual art in photoshop), and then I redrew the head on top of that print. On this one, I made sure that I used a real helmet for reference. Always get the equipment correct, even when it's a cartoon. It matters.

The new face drops perfectly into place:
Rescanned that and went over it again in Illustrator. I kept the color palette simple (red, baby blue, pukey green and a dark blue to estimate the ink) and dropped it on top of an estimate of her skin color. The white highlights on the greenish skin are actually just clear, with no color. Use lots of solid black, and keep the lined areas clean and thin, so that the tattoo artist can decide how thick they should be. 

That's something to remember when you're asked to design a tattoo: the guy (or gal) who is actually doing the tattoo is also an artist. Don't be afraid to just send a rough sketch, or in some way allow him to have as much freedom as possible. If he gets pissed off because you treated him like a photocopier, the final product can reflect that. 

I would have been ok to just let the loose pencil sketch go to the tattoo artist, and tell him to take any liberties he wants, but In this case I was asked to go tighter. So I did:

Might be some more changes, but probably not much. I think this is pretty close to done.


Ron said...

Great design, thanks for the walk through. :)

Fitzzz said...

F-B: Very insightful concept to completion package right here. Anytime you can post these it would be a real treat.

Mr. Faitakes said...

hope you dont mid if I add that to my collection of tattoos of your zombie work