Dungeon Synth Cards Series 2 Wrapper Design
In early 2021 I had a chance to put together a life-long grail project, a set of music oriented trading cards! Do you remember the KISS cards, the Metal Mania and Rockcards? I always wanted to do something like those and now I had a chance! This set was going to feature bands and artwork from the obscure and visually creative Dungeon Synth music scene, packaged inside a classic 1980s style wax pack wrapper.
I drew the wrapper art for Series 1 in Adobe Photoshop. Here’s a look at the wrapper and the blown up art in A3 (11 x17) poster size.
So for the Series 2 wrapper art I decided I would go with traditional art materials (for the most part) and just do the finishing touches in Photoshop, getting the best of both worlds.
- A4 size LED light panel, for adjusting sketches and going from sketch to ink.
- Regular old No.2 pencil & sharpener.
- Recollections Pen. One end has a very fine tip and the other has a very firm but responsive and pointy “Brush Tip”.
- Gelly Roller white ink pen.
I’ve got a collection of Ken Kelly fantasy art stickers from the 1990s printed by FPG and this is the wrapper for the series. I love the simplicity of the line art and the limited color palette. I wanted to bring that to this project.
The Original Sketch
I drew the above sketch over a decade ago (or two!) on a small scrap of paper and it’s been sitting in a box of other sketches ever since. I scanned and enlarged the original sketch to 5 inches x 7 inches which is the dimensions the paintings for the classic Mars Attacks trading card series were done at.
Since the Series 1 wrapper art character was holding an axe, I didn’t want to have another axe on this wrapper. I decided to go for the classic “ball and chain” flail which is a nice brutal looking weapon and is always an interesting challenge to draw because of the links. Never mind the fact that the ball and chain flail weapon we imagine may have never actually existed outside fantasy art… (<– see this article from the Public Medievalist! )
Research & Reference
If you don’t know what something looks like how are you going to draw it? Truth is you really can’t draw it convincingly unless you really look at it. Whatever it is, you need to understand the shapes that go into creating the form of the object. The best way to do that is to draw it or sculpt it from a reference picture or the real thing if you’re lucky enough to have it in front of you.
In this case, I’ve done a sheet of various shields after some searches on Google & eBay. I actually ended up going with the first one I put on the page but I see plenty of potential in the other shields!
In any case, you should never view your research and reference work on these types of pages as “wasted time”. You are both training your eyes and building an internal library that you’ll be able to recall in your future work. Drawing or sculpting something will teach you a lot more about it than just looking at it.
The “Final” Sketch
Using the LED light panel I transformed the original loose sketch through a couple versions adjusting the anatomy, perspective angles and different costume elements until I settled upon what I call here the final sketch. You can see some notes added to the sketch sheet, early thoughts on logo placement, etc. I generally do not use an eraser in the sketch stage. I will usually just draw the whole image again on the light panel because in each redraw I tend to add something new or make a slight adjustment to something or other and I find that quite often I’m happier each time I redo it.
Varying Line Thickness
In this set of images I’m showing you the difference between how your art looks when you use a pen of a set diameter vs one with a responsive tip.
Pic #1 (Left) Fine point pen only
Pic #2 (Center) Heavy diameter pen only
Pic #3 (Right) Brush pen with responsive tip
You can see just how rigid, mechanical and “dead” the first two look even though they were drawn by hand. If you only have technical pens with unresponsive tips you can simply go over the lower contours of the art a second and third time with larger diameter pens to give more weight and thickness to the lines and help the image “sit” more firmly on the page.
You don’t need to have a specific brand of brush pen, having any type of pen that is responsive to the pressure you apply as you make your marks will give you a more expressive drawing. Felt tip pens, bullet tip pens and the traditional crow quill dip pen will all provide you with more expressive marks than a technical pen. Even some types of Ball Point pens are just responsive enough to work fantastically as a sketch pen, I like the “US Government” ball point pens made by Skillcraft for the US military.
Final Ink & A Note About Fur
Here’s a look at the final line art with the fur added. A note about drawing fur (and hair) is to not actually draw the fur but rather draw the shadow areas of the masses that make up the fur and then using the white ink Gelly Roller pen draw only the highlights of the fur on top of the black masses. It’s much easier to get the sort of results you see here than trying to actually “draw fur”. If you don’t have a white Gelly Roller pen you can use white acrylic paint or white-out with a pointed brush.
Coloring In Photoshop
I scanned the finished ink into Photoshop and used my Monoprice tablet and stylus pen to clean up the scanned art and colorize the versions.
I used the Select > Color Range tool to select the white area of my scanned art and delete it. I labeled this layer “Line Art”.
Then I used the Layer FX to change the Line Art layer to black with Color Overlay.
Then I created a new layer for each color underneath the Line Art layer.
I labeled these layers “Color” (the main color of each variant), “Steel”, “Leather & Wood” and finally “Flesh” I painted them in with flat colors using the stylus.
5 Variant Colorways
Here you can see the 5 variant colors of the Series 2 wrappers (they will be available in both Black & White background versions). There is a definite nod to the early Masters of the Universe art with the skin tones and colors of the orange, green, purple and blue variants.
I tried using the beige flesh tone on the blue, green and purple variants but the combination of those colors made the flesh tones look very sickly and not cool at all. One of the most handy features of working digitally is the undo button!
If you’ve read this far, I hope you feel like you learned something you can apply to your art.
If you would like to support the Dungeon Synth Cards project, please consider purchasing a pack at the link below: