Once upon a time, way back in 1985, an artist named Mike Saenz thought he could use his shiny new Macintosh Plus to draw comics. In MacPaint, a simple B&W paint program that predated the concept of “layers”. With a mouse. These B&W images then had what looked like watercolors overlaid on them to print the final, full-color comic. It looked something like this:
Narratively, it was a bunch of cyberpunk stuff. Saenz left after three issues, other artists worked in more traditional methods before scanning it into the Mac, adding tones, and printing it out for the signature look, until another person crazy enough to actually do it in the Mac (now with a slightly more sophisticated paint program, though still not one much more powerful than MSPaint, and a drawing tablet) came on board for the rest of its run.
It was amazing at the time. Cyberpunk! Made on a computer! SO COOL! Now, of course, it looks insanely retro.
Today I was reminded it existed, and wondered if I could get Illustrator to reproduce its signature look. A half hour later, I had this:
It ain’t perfect but it’s a pretty good start.
Mostly it relies on two effects:
First off, I’ve got a couple of layers that I’m doing some simple B&W art on. One layer’s got the lines and textures, the other’s got a bunch of translucent shapes.
These two layers are crammed into a layer, which has the halftone effect from Astute’s Phantasm plugin applied to it. This gives it that distinctive one-bit MacPaint look.
Below this, there’s a couple of layers for the foreground and background colors, which are also crammed into a layer. This one’s got a Gaussian blur to muck it up. (The white shapes are part of the ‘ink’ layers, and vanish in the final art because I’m telling the halftone plugin to render all of this as an overprint for that extra bit of Four-Color Comics Process authenticity.)
And also here is a quick 15-minute drawing of the Baron from Parallax using these effects. With some slightly different settings on the halftone plugin – Bayer dithering instead of Floyd-Steinberg, which does a better job on large areas of tone.
Now I kinda want to draw a goofy short cyberpunk comic this way. Probably just B&W with a little spot color here and there.