frizzly hair

“What tools are good for drawing kinky hair in Illustrator?”

Here’s an Appearance stack that I whipped up in like ten minutes that’s a good start.

kinky hair – open up the Appearance and Graphic Styles palettes to explore just what I did here, click on some effect names and play with the settings, find something better than I did in ten minutes.

It could use a lot of refinement and maybe I’ll do that sometime soon. But this is a decent start IMHO. One major refinement could be to make an art or scatter brush with some squiggles, and add that as a stroke on the “kinky hair” style.


I just put together a little Automatic Kirby Krackle style that I’m pretty happy with. It could be better and maybe it will be by the time I’m done with the drawing I’m doing it for, but it’s more than good enough right now.

The top is the lines I drew, the bottom is what Illustrator turns it into when I use the following Appearance stack:

The magic here is in setting the “coruscation” scatter brush stroke to 0% opacity, and turning on Knockout Group for the whole path. This makes the brush’s clearness punch through everything applied to the path, instead of overlaying it on top of whatever other strokes and fills are applied below it.

And to give you a start on this, here’s the current brush settings. If I really wanted a serious Kirby Krackle I’d probably have two or three copies of the brush, one for big balls closer to the edge of the shape, one for smaller balls that go further in, and maybe one somewhere in between.


(Why has this been sitting in my drafts for a month and a half, this looks perfectly postable…)

The Empress’ Walkies

This past week there was a bunch of drama in the furry scene over the new site “Furrylife.Online” and their public vote as to whether or not allow “feral” characters – which is to say, animals that go around on all four legs but can talk. It got really complicated and it’s kind of hilarious to see the admin post where they try to find a logical justification for the final vote results of “ferals getting busy isn’t okay, but feral dragons/gryphons/other mythical critters are okay, also so are Pokemon and Digimon and My Little Ponies because the furry fandom sure did end up with a lot of MLP fan-insertion characters holy shit”.

I happened to be working up a multi-character YCH commission during this. For laughs, I decided to put in a slot where the winner would be turned into a feral pet who is getting fed tasty treats.

And this slot took off almost immediately in a bidding war. So I found myself thinking about that subject, and wondering if maybe I wanted to delve into it a bit more. And then when I sat down with Illustrator to explore this, I thought of how Erté did like six hundred variations on the them of “tall fashionable lady taking a big cat for a walk” and decided to riff on it.

And when I was done with that rough, I said, hey, fuck it, I’m just gonna finish this for myself and my SO. So here is Peganthyrus taking Rezeya for a walk on a hot summer day.


Also there is a mostly-nude version. NSFW.

Twenty years of no lines.

This is the oldest image in the gallery section of my website. It is not the first thing I drew with Illustrator. But it is the first thing I drew with Illustrator where I went from a scan of a pencil rough to flat shapes, instead of putting color under a scan of an inked drawing.

The date on the gallery is August 29th, 2000. Twenty years ago. The date on the copy of the Illustrator file on my hard drive is 2005, but that’s a lie; somewhere along the journey from a bulky second-hand PowerPC Mac clone running MacOS to a Powerbook running OSX 10.14, all the creation dates on my files got lost.

I’ve been doing this no-lines thing for twenty years. I pretty much stopped doing outlines entirely once I did this piece. It was hard at first, but as I learnt various tricks, I got to a point where using lines feels too easy. Feels like cheating.

And twenty years later I’m finally doing something with this character, too. She was originally the sidekick of “Ensign K”, now Baron K is her sidekick in Parallax. They’ve both got pretty much the same shapes, though the costumes and worlds are different.

That’s from late July of 2001. There’s only a couple finished images between these two, I was mostly busy riding the bus to Spumco, working on Flash animation for a horrible man. And my process was a lot slower back then: I was still learning to draw, to a certain extent. I was figuring out Illustrator from scratch. Illustrator was a smaller toolbox, too – it had just gotten transparency in 2000. I hadn’t found out that the Pencil tool has settings, with terrible defaults; I just thought it was kind of shitty, and painstakingly made all my shapes with the Pen.

The first image is also a skin for Audion, an MP3 player for the Mac that had a very flexible skinning setup. You could arrange your buttons any way you liked, and have whatever weird shape you wanted for your play-control window. Nowadays all my music is in iTunes, which spends its time hidden and being controlled by the media keys on the keyboard; back then those media keys didn’t exist, so we ended up with little desk toys like this.

Or like this. Which was a self-portrait from November 2001, according to the dates in my site’s gallery. It’s a self-portrait of me at the time: a skinny, not-very-masculine guy, who was trying to figure out just what “gender transition” would really entail, and if it was something he wanted to do. I’d been signing most of my art that I posted online as “Peganthyrus” since about 1997 so this was clearly a thing I was playing with; I wouldn’t actually start on hormones until about 2002 or 2003. It’s been a while, I’m not exactly sure beyond “somewhere after Weekend Pussy Hunt collapsed and before Katrina”, which means somewhere between 2000-5.

But I digress.

Here’s one of my earlier experiments in Illustrator. Still clinging to lines but very close to letting go. This is also just about the only piece of mine that involves a gradient mesh, a tool I find to be far more fiddly than its results justify. I think a lot of this might have been experimenting with the pencil tool? Zig-zag effects on simple curves for the ferns – one of my first halting explorations into territory I would end up returning to much later when I started trying to pull on everything I’d learnt over two decades to do full-color comics by myself.

This is pretty typical of my Illustrator-with-lines work. Scanned ink work – this looks like it’s probably some kind of brush pen – with Illustrator shapes below.

Or this. With a badly-drawn version of my then-roomie Gabe Swarr. Who has been spending the last couple of years working on the remake of Tiny Toons. Complete with occasional meetings with Steven Friggin’ Spielberg. I couldn’t hack it in the animation industry but he sure could, geez.

There was experimentation with other tools now and then, too. I’m pretty sure this is Painter. Does that default to saving as a .RIFF file? Because I have this on my drive as both a PSD and a RIFF.

And this. This was done with Creature House’s Expression, a vector package built from the ground up for faking natural media. Sadly by the time I had enough money to buy a legit copy of it they’d been eaten by Microsoft, who made it Windows-only and much less natural-media focused. If they’d stuck around I might be putting out very different work nowadays. But I went with Illustrator because that was the least awkward tool for doing the color workflow I was used to from my formative years in Deluxe Paint I-V on my Amiga, where I could twiddle a palette swatch and see everything drawn in it change. I still rely on that to this day.

Also man I sure did draw stretched-out torsos and necks back then. The arm’s deliberately stretched out to stylize motion; the body and neck, I think, are stretched out because I just… did that a lot.

And finally in this tour of Early Art From Me:

I learnt so damn much about working in sharply limited palettes drawing this. I remember feeling like the whole thing was a complex puzzle: this part has to be this color, but this part that also has to be the same color has to pass behind it – can I make it work solely as silhouettes? or do I find an excuse to use one of the other two colors as a highlight or shadow to create a contrast? Mostly I pushed myself to make it work entirely as silhouettes in this one. I also learnt something important about zooming in; I think it was after finding myself zoomed in and drawing reflections on an iris in this drawing, which were not even a pixel at final size, that I made myself learn the habit of hitting command-1 (view>actual size) on a regular basis to keep myself from getting lost in minutae nobody would ever see.

And for contrast, here’s a piece I did last week:

(click this one for the full size image)

I’ve felt like I’ve been getting too painterly in my recent work so I took this one back towards a limited palette, though I had to expand that out a bit to include the colors of the bisexual and trans flags. Other than that the palette’s only slightly less limited than the “four tints of two colors” that I used in Absinthe. This only took three hours; I don’t have any time tracking on these old files but I am pretty damn sure most of them took a lot more than that, despite their general lack of any kind of background!

(this one links to the full size too)

(yet another link to a full size image)

And some recent painterly stuff: a page of Parallax I’m happy with, and a stream commission that’s actually clean (I’ve been streaming now and then lately, and it has mostly been very horny stuff.). I like the airbrush feeling I have in these; 1990s me really loved the look of airbrush art but found actually dealing with the noisy compressor and trying to organize endless layers of physical masks to be a lot more hassle than it was worth. 2020s me just does a bunch of gradients and blurred shapes and slaps a noise texture on top and figures it’s close enough to airbrushed Dr. Martin’s on cold press illustration board for something that took a fraction of the time. But I’ve been chasing that look pretty hard for the past year and I think it’s time for some fucking around with flat stuff when I’m not working on the comic.


Anyway. If you wanna look at more old art by me, the last page of my site’s gallery is here. Perhaps someday I should make it work better on mobile phones and whatnot, it’s full of neat visual effects that happen when you hover your mouse cursor over stuff.

I like layers.

This is the entire layer structure for pages 18/19 of the Mixolyne side of Parallax. It is pretty average for the number of layers per panel.

I threw together this quick composite screenshot due to a post on the Illustrator subreddit where someone questioned a statement that “most designers don’t use layers”. I am neither “most designers” nor am I “a designer” but layers are super useful.


I spent a while today and Monday doing something I’d been putting off for a good while: resizing the styles for the Mixolyne mechs. See, I’d drawn them super-huge originally, and a lot of the graphic styles I’d built out of those drawings performed poorly when I tried to use them at the right size. I’d been resizing them on an ad-hoc basis every time I pulled the styles into a new page, but last Monday I pulled up the first of several rough pages where Kirt and Noa will be spending a lot of time running around in their mechs, emoting at each other through body language, and I just really did not feel like rescaling these styles for every page individually like I’d done for the first few pages.

A few weird Illustrator hangs later, I’ve generated a feature request for folders in the Graphic Style palette, decided to do an ugly organizational kudge in the meantime of blank styles serving as separators to help me find stuff in the giant sprawling pile of styles I’ve ended up with, and created sets of styles for these mechs in both their shiny, healthy versions and the “dehydrated” versions they started the story in.

This took me a few hours but it should help a lot when I start actually drawing these pages; by doing this I’ve piled up a bunch of cool effects and taught Illustrator how to do them for me, and now I can just mindlessly re-use all of them at high speed.

string art in Illustrator

Another one of those “I answered this on /r/AdobeIllustrator and thought it would make a good technique post” things.

How to make a cute little string-art effect.

1. Draw some lines
2. Use the Blend tool to click on the end of the first line furthest away from the next one
3. Repeat until you run out of lines
4. object>blend>blend options to bring up the number of steps
5. to fix that one line you clicked wrong on, select it and do object>path>reverse path direction.

If you wanted it to really look like the nail-and-string-on-a-board kits I remember doing in the seventies, you could maybe add a highlight and a shadow by putting extra strokes on the whole blend:

Adding nails is left as an exercise for the reader.

Suggestions: dotted lines, custom arrowhead, custom art brush with a nail at one end and the “stretch between guides” scaling option in its settings, a custom art brush that’s *just* a nail plus some blank space and the “stretch between guides” scaling option applied to the whole blend as a new path atop the appearance stack shown here – maybe with a low level of effect>distort & transform>roughen applied to mimic the look of nails hammered in unevenly?

preparing for eye pain

I just spent two hours making this happen in Illustrator.

It’s the safe version of this. If you click on this image, or on any of the other ones in this post, you’ll see a higher-res copy. I am not sure I recommend doing this.

I can now use these flat-color Graphic Styles to draw a whole bunch of assorted shapes in something akin to three-point perspective. Which would involve following this grid that I built in Illustrator before building the previous two images.

And hell, let me try a quick test drawing. Just some basic shapes following these perspective guidelines.

Alt-drag twelve swatches around and…

Yep. This is gonna work. I’ve got a lot of drawing to do, and this won’t work for every single part of the image – but I should be able to lay down a lot of it pretty quickly like this. I’ll end up with tons of hatching that precisely lines up with the perspective I’ve drawn the shapes in. I had to do some funky stuff to set all of this up and part of me thinks I should write it up, but I also spent two hours in front of the computer and think I need to run around some.

Illustrator has a three-point perspective ruler mode. I’m really not sure I’m going to bother with it; I feel like the time I’d spend figuring out how it works is going to be really close to the amount of time I’d spend just doing it the “hard” way. I learnt how to do hardcore perspective years ago, and I’ve forgotten most of it, but I think I remember enough to fake this. Should be fun!

stylized gradient trick #67

Here’s a little stylization trick.

It kinda falls apart on anything besides rectangles; here’s some extra magic to fix that. With slightly different colors because I closed the file and wanted to play with it a little more.

The tilted rectangle on the lower right lacks this extra magic.

The fill is offset by enough to hide the ugly white edges; the stroke is the same width as that offset, and is offset by half its width. Making the stroke 0% opaque and turning on ‘Knockout Group’ makes it work as a built-in opacity mask for this shape – an ugly, but very useful hack. You could also just have some really thick outlines instead, or build a lot of clipping masks; both of those feel like Work to me and I’m generally allergic to that.

The rasterize effect is set to add 0 points around the path, which varies from my usual Document Raster Effect settings of adding about 35 points to give me room for most blurs I’m likely to use. You can also change the resolution, the tilted rectangle’s at a lower resolution than the rest of the shapes.

I might have to try doing some art with this look.