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Yaoi Art: How Winona Creates Those Amazing Artifice Pages

May 29, 2011 | | Comments 7 |

How is artist Winona Nelson creating the “amazing” art of Artifice?

In a comment on my webcomic site, Winona responded to a reader asking just that question. I know there are creators and artists who are following Artifice, so I thought I would post up her response here. It gets a little technical, but even for us non-artists, it’s kinda cool to think about all the work that goes into making one of these pages.

(Click to enlarge the images. Then hit the arrow key to cycle them.)

Winona here :) I’m flattered that you asked (and that it doesn’t look like obvious Photoshoppery!) Here’s the whole process:

Yaoi 911 Artifice Page 5 Pencils. Click to Enlarge.

Yaoi 911 Artifice Page 5 Pencils
Art by Winona Nelson
© 2011 Alex Woolfson

I did pencil 1/4 page thumbnails of each page, then scanned and blew them up and did digital pencils. I like to do the pencils digitally because at that stage I’m still moving things around a lot and this way if I want to move a figure over an inch it doesn’t mean redrawing the whole page. I also built the sets in 3d using Sketchup, and used the models as reference for the perspective.

I then printed the pencils and taped them to the back of the paper I was going to ink on. I didn’t have a big printer for the first half of the project so I was printing on two pages with the middle overlapping, hehe!


Yaoi 911 Artifice Page 5 Inks. Art by Winona Nelson. © 2011 Alex Woolfson. All Rights Reserved.

Yaoi 911 Artifice Page 5 Inks
Art by Winona Nelson
© 2011 Alex Woolfson

The inks are Staedtler and Prisma technical pens (and a .25 Pilot Hi-Tec C for tiny details) on Borden and Riley #234 Paris Bleedproof paper for pens. The paper was trial and error. I tried Blueline boards, which are too thick for lightboxing and too rough (and they aren’t archival; they yellow over time), then regular cover stock which was thin enough to lightbox well but was too absorbent, it bled a lot. Then a friend tipped me off about the B&D paper, which is suuuper smooth, really translucent on a lightbox, and the ink doesn’t spread at all, it’s fantastic :D You have to cut it to size but it really is the best to ink on!


Yaoi 911 Artifice Page 5 Colors. Art by Winona Nelson. © 2011 Alex Woolfson. All Rights Reserved.

Yaoi 911 Artifice Page 5 Colors
Art by Winona Nelson
© 2011 Alex Woolfson

Then I scan the inks and color in Photoshop. For the spots that look more painterly, like that explosion, what I’m using is a hard round brush with pressure set to opacity and the flow set to 25%. [EDITOR NOTE: For us non-artists, what Winona means here is that she is using a pressure-sensitive Wacom pen which changes the opacity of the colors depending on how hard she presses it against her tablet.] I’ve used that hard round brush forever but changing the flow never occurred to me until fairly recently, and it’s made a big difference. It just makes it feel a bit more intuitive and it’s easier to blend with. Most of the form shading is done with that brush (or a soft-edged brush for big gradients and things I want to be very smooth, like skin). The actual shadow areas are done on a separate layer set to Color Burn, all the same sort of purple-blue (no K).

I’ve been subtly colorizing the inks too, which I do by making a new layer and then adding a layer mask made from the ink layer. The layer mask allows you to paint outside the line as much as you want and none of it shows up, but if you then need to make changes to the inks you can delete the layer mask and make it again from the revised inks and the color will still be there. You can get pretty much the same effect by copying the ink layer and locking the transparency and painting on it, but that method doesn’t make it so easy to make changes since you then have to make the changes in the appropriate color and it takes a bit longer.

One final thought that might be interesting to you is that this is all done in CMYK because we’ve always intended to print the book. That means some colors don’t get quite as bright as RGB, but those colors aren’t printable. It also means I had to be very aware of K values sneaking in, because if you’re not picking every color with the color picker and setting the ink percentages to contain 0% K, you can end up with muddy colors when it prints. K is the only opaque ink and it’s also very slightly thick on the paper so it appears ever so slightly raised; you don’t want it anywhere but the inks and maybe some really dark shadow areas if you can help it.

Hope that made some sense to you! I’ve used Photoshop for so long I can get a bit technical talking about it 0_0

Have any questions? Please ask them here and I’ll forward them on to Winona to answer!



In addition to the webcomic Artifice, I’m also offering some of my other yaoi comics as free PDF downloads for my mailing list subscribers, How do you get them? Well, it’s easy! Just fill out the form on the Free Comics page and the links will be sent right to you!

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About the Author: Filmmaker by day, yaoi creator by night, Alex has dedicated himself to helping cute guys fight evil and find love.

RSSComments (7)

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  1. Jenny says:

    Thank you so much for this insight into the process! The shading is just so smooth! I’m loving the fat policeman as well, his expressions are so funny.

    I love Winona’s art! I’ve been to her portfolio site and her stuff is beautiful.

    I think the opening to the comic with the police man playing with Deacon’s face was genius writing! and I’m loving the story so far Alex.

    Thank you so much both of you for your hard work on this:
    I look forward to the comic every week :D

  2. redhairsword says:

    So you print it out and use INK! >[]< THAT'S how you get Deacon's hair done!

  3. ac0n says:

    I’m almost a year late (new reader to the comic here) but wanted to comment/ask: it’d be nice to see what could be achieved by coloring the digital pencil alone in lieu of digital + traditional inking. Do you have examples of work like that. Good work on the comic!

  4. kudorox says:

    Hello Alex and Winona,

    I started following Artifice back when only a few pages were out, and read it with awe until the end. You are both so talented, and I cannot wait until the complete Yaoi911 book is available for purchase. I was skeptical when starting Young Protectors (just this past week) as I had grown attached to Winona’s style of art, but I am very glad I followed through with it. It, like Artifice, is a masterful piece of work. I then signed up and checked out Tough–Winona, your covers are perfect. I have been playing around with photoshop for years (and this is why I checked out this how-to post), but your coloring still looks so much more smooth and natural than anything I have been able to achieve. I will take some of the tips you offered here to heart.

    I just wanted to say thank you both so much for what you do, you have helped me as an artist and entertained me as a fan.

    I look forward to more.

    Thank you!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words! It’s always especially flattering to hear compliments from another creator and I’m really glad you took a chance on some of my other work.

      Your comment has put a big smile on my face. I hope you’re having a great weekend!

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