***A walk through tutorial for “The Mighty Mini Marshmallow” is below! Enjoy!***
It’s about the little things…
My first pen sketch was of a single tree branch. I used black to emphasize the shadows of the branch and twigs, red to emphasize the shadows of the berries on the branch, and a touch of green on top of the red for a little more shadow. From a distance, it looked like a simple branch scattered with berries. It WAS a simple branch scattered with berries. But, when my college teacher took a closer look, he asked me, “Do you know why this is so good?” I shook my head. I didn’t really think about why I did certain things in my artwork at that time, I just did them according to what I felt was right. He continued, “It’s because of the eye candy.”
‘Eye candy’ was a term that my teacher used to describe the subtle and unnoticeable elements of a drawing that brought it to life. Without these elements the piece would be good, but it would fall flat and taste stale; Eye candy gave the composition a playful and entertaining aura. It was the “random” swoop of purple in the shadow of a golden pear, or it was the messy hatched bundle of lines in the shadow of Superman’s face. Eye candy gave the drawing personality, but not in a distracting way.
There were dots in my branch. From a distance these dots looked like solid lines. In reality, they broke up into pinpoints that came together to form a “line”. Green pen created shadows on the edges of the berries; they were also made from dots, and from a distance, they looked like brown lines. If I had used brown or black to shade the berries, instead of layering the green within the red, the berries would have lost their vibrancy. If the dots had been drawn as thin lines they would have been too harsh, the composition would have lost its delicate flavor, and an observer would probably look at the drawing and think that it was nice, but that something was not right.
Eye candy is what separates good artists from great artists. Being a great artist is about detail. It is about listening to your intuition when it says that something minuscule is missing. It is about shading that strawberry with a swoop of purple, green and yellow, and not just black or brown. It is about dots that don’t seem to matter, layer upon layer of colors that don’t even look all that different, and the tiniest textures of paint that only a few people will be able to point out – if they take the time to look up close. Most of the time, they won’t, and that is quite alright. It’s about the little things…
I hope you enjoy the walk through for “The Mighty Mini Marshmallow”!
Sometimes the biggest surprises come in the smallest packages. My sketching started with the tiniest, squishiest, and most unassuming of characters: a mini marshmallow. It was not just a regular marshmallow, but a mini marshmallow. It was tiny, and cute, and the smallest of all of the marshmallows. I like cute…
I thought it would be ironic if he was a super hero. He seemed to be the opposite of everything that a super hero embodied, and he could be a great foundation for an uplifting children’s picture book story! (It is the field I am aiming for, so I ran with it). I added a cape and an “M” symbol for his costume and drew a scribble of light beaming from behind him. I would pretend that this was the cover of the picture book. Because he was a superhero, he needed to be more than just a mini marshmallow, so his title leveled up to “The Mighty Mini Marshmallow”.
I started with a fresh Photoshop document at 300 dpi and worked with a blue pen to sketch out the rough drawing of the marshmallow. It was important that the first sketches had solid proportions and that the movement was what I wanted in the marshmallow and the cape. It was at this stage that foundation for the rest of the drawing would be built. If the foundation was bad the final drawing would be bad, too!
I lightened the opacity of the blue sketch and created a new layer so that I could draw my clean black outlines. I wanted thicker lines to surround the cute marshmallow because he was my main point of interest. (My secondary points of interest were the cape and the “M” symbol.) I also wanted to emphasize the placement of the shadows using different line weights on the marshmallow. I made the lines just a little thicker around the backside of his lower body.
Once the boarder was drawn for the “M” symbol, I used the blue pen, on a separate layer, to sketch out the rough lines for the “M” in the center.
This project was a good exercise in simple line weight logistics. Foreground objects, such as the front section of the cape, would have thicker outlines than objects that were in the distance, such as the back section of the cape. I also used thinner lines to de-emphasize certain elements, like the “M” symbol; I wanted the focus to be on the marshmallow, initially, not his costume. Once I was happy with the line weights I started to color him in!
I used the wand tool and filled in all of the colors on different layers, so that highlighting them and shading them would be easier. These base colors were the “medium tones.” (Not the brightest and not the darkest shades). If I wanted a bright red cape, I would use a handful of shades darker than bright red, so that I could highlight it and make it pop with the bright red, later. This technique gives a little more depth to the drawing.
Before I started shading and highlighting the marshmallow, I dropped some color into the background so that I could weigh out the true tone of the marshmallow’s colors against something other than white.
I was so excited, because I already had a slight learning curve in my shading technique! For my first digital drawing “Going Fishing” I used the shadow colors as the base colors for the cat and fish. I took an opaque white brush and brightened up the whole drawing in a multitude of swoops and layers. I wanted to try something a little different for the marshmallow, this time around.
For each shaded section, I grabbed the base color and made it a few shades darker. I colored everything that had a hint of shadow touching it. I repeated this but picked out a slightly darker shade and colored the darker parts of the shaded areas. I never used black, but only dark colors, and only with an opaque brush at about 15% most of the time. I used this same technique for the highlights but transitioned into lighter colors. The background was layered with more color and an opaque “off-white” brush added bursts of light behind the marshmallow. A halo of glory, in the slightest tinge of orange and yellow, was added around the outline of the Mighty Mini Marshmallow.
At this point, I saved my drawing as a jpeg, and brought him into Illustrator. Photoshop was wonderful for drawing, but it was a horrendous program to use for anything related to fonts and text. (If you ever have to add text to a photo project, do it in Illustrator, lest your letters be pixilated.) I typed out the title of my would-be children’s book, and set out all of the different fonts that caught my eye. Once I found a few, I looked at them on the drawing to see if the feel of each one matched the feel of the composition. Fonts tell a story all their own. Picking the wrong font (or combination of fonts) can make or break your product. Picking the right fonts can bring closure to a piece. Once I found one that was the essence of what I was aiming for, I tested out some colors
Color can be just as important as the font itself so be aware of the balance of the anatomy of the text, your product, and the message you want to convey. Because this font was for a would-be children’s book I decided to go with something that was cute, but strong, like the Mighty Marshmallow, and I chose a color that emphasized the marshmallow, and not the font.
Red is an eye-catching color, which is why so many magazines and companies have red labels and titles. When “The Mighty Marshmallow” title was red, I found that the eye went to the title of the book cover, first, and not to the drawing of the marshmallow. When the title was blue, my eye went to the marshmallow, and then scanned the rest of the space to see what this marshmallow was all about. It’s the little things that make a big difference, and if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. That being said, a publishing company might want to use the red title, because it does draw so much attention and catches your eye while it floats in a sea of children’s picture books throughout Barnes and Noble. For this project I liked the blue a lot more because it wasn’t distracting.
I surrounded the blue font with a boarder of “gold” that matched the marshmallow costume, and rearranged the letters and font so that they weren’t so static; it needed to be fun! I played around with the size of the words. I made “The” (an insignificant word) small, and “Mighty” large, next to a smaller “Mini”, and separated the “Marshmallow” from the adjectives to bring a little more emphasis to the rounded composition of the layout.
I had so much fun whipping up this little character, and as I did, I could see this a small glimpse of this cute story come to life. Maybe I will have a chance to work on developing it, later on. We shall see!
Thank you for visiting! I hope you enjoyed my mini marshmallow walk-through!