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Imagine FX 67 How To by AdamHughes Imagine FX 67 How To by AdamHughes
Year: 2011
Client: Imagine FX magazine
Media: Media: Pencil, PITT Pen, COPIC marker, Dr. PH Martin's Hi-Carb India Ink, and Winsor-Newton's process white on Strathmore Drawing paper, then colored with Adobe Photoshop CS2.

On sale in the United Kingdom on February 8th! It will be available in North America a few weeks afterwards...

Here's the link for the digital version! [link]

Here's the final art:


In the issue, I only had about 1100 words to cover how I did the piece. I elected to focus on the digital coloring aspect, since IMAGINEFX is about digital graphic arts.

But! Here you can see what I didn't have room for in the actual issue: the step-by-step of the actual physical art. In case you don't now, I drew this piece with paper and pencil, and then scanned it & colorized it in Photoshop. If you read above, you can see the tools I used.

Let's begin!

1. Hand in a sketch for the editor/art director/head monkey. If you're lucky, you won't have to deal with an editor. The sketch you like the least will invariably get picked, so - have fun! That's life in the Bigs, punk.

I doodled several, and this was what was picked. You won't see the others here. I don't like running unused sketches, because, well, you might get to use them for something different someday. If you run them publicly, some bottom-feeder will steal your ideas.

2. Gather reference! At this stage in my career, I love working from life as much as I can. I'm a big fan of classic American illustration, and if using reference was good enough for Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, and Dean Cornwell, it's good enough for the likes of us.

While I've used Audrey Hepburn as inspiration for my Catwoman in the past, it's dangerous to rely only on the reference you can find in books or online. Your resources are limited. Find your own, if can. The lovely lady in this pic is the fabulous Ashley Taffar (you can see her on page 205 of my book COVER RUN). She shares a few facial features with my take on Catwoman, so I like to use her as a face model! While not matching the final drawing exactly, this angle was close enough! I eyeballed the mouth and eyes. If you're inclined to ask "How do you eyeball something, Adam?" the answer is "Learn how to draw!" Reference is an aid, not a substitute.

3. Some nice body reference will help as well. Seen here providing more than just nice body reference is the wonderful Riki LeCotey (she's so pretty, she's on page 204, twice!). I'm not running all the pics I took, because that's too much space-wasting here. Suffice to say, I never use ONE IMAGE as a source for reference. I use an arm here, a leg from another, a face from somewhere else. It's all about the final art! In this shot, I like the basic pose, but ended up using arms from a different shot.

4. This is my tight sketch, made using my reference, and a lot of pencil lead and erasers. You'll notice I didn't show my latex reference. Well, there's a couple reasons. One is space; as I said before, I use bits & pieces and showing all the reference would take up tons of space. Too many to show. The other reason is because I find a lot of reference online. When you use an elbow for reference from a picture you find online, you don't the elbow owner running around going "I posed for ADAM HUGHES!" Trust me - people do this. Can you imagine someone running around boasting "NORMAN ROCKWELL used a tree from my back yard in a Saturday Evening Post cover!!" It's that level of insanity. That being said - thank you, Bianca Beauchamp, for not modeling parkas.

In my sketch, I try to work out proportions, expressions, anatomy, and all the crap that you'll end up drawing and erasing 20 times. In this version, you'll see I contemplated giving Selina high-heels, even though she doesn't wear them in this current era.

5. Once I'm happy (enough), I transfer the art to a fresh, virgin piece of Strathmore Drawing paper, using a light-box. That's not how I do EVERY piece, but it IS how I work much of the time. By transferring it, I now have the pencils on a fresh piece of paper with no canal-lines gouged in with my pencil & then erased. I decide it's best to go with Selina's regular shoes, even though the high-heels provide a sexier silhouette. Continuity is best.

6. I start by lightly inking the piece with a Faber-Castell PITT pen, size XS. I do this so that I can erase the pencils, yet I still have some guide to where the shapes and forms are, when I head in with the COPIC markers.

I do the face first. Why? Because every piece is a roll of the dice. The face could end up not sexy AT ALL. I hate finishing a piece and realizing the face is ugly, so.... I do the face first. If it sucks, you can just transfer your sketch to a new piece of paper and start over with a minimum of lost work.

7. I work light-to-dark with the COPICs, and usually water-color style (wet-on-wet). That helps with the blending. Sometimes you can get some nice effects if you allow the area to dry and then go back with the same value. Play around & experiment!

8. Once the face is done and doesn't suck, I feel confident in attacking the rest of the piece. The latex is fun to do because you can really sell shiny latex with a minimum of values. It's all about where you put the highlights and reflections. On this piece, I learned at this stage that the client wanted a red background, like the cover to CATWOMAN 70 [link] so I drew in the reflection of a lighter background behind Selina, all around the edges of her body.

9. Once finished, I beefed up the shadows and highlights. Why? Because the contrast wasn't strong enough for me, and I didn't want to do it in Photoshop. I added India ink to the blackest blacks, and white ink to the highlights. At this stage, I go over the piece with bold ink lines, beefing up the thin XS ink lines I did earlier. I do it this way to minimalize smudging. Basically, I'm inking it AFTER the markers are all done.

That's pretty much it! I then scan it into Photoshop, and.... of you want to know the rest, please pick up IMAGINEFX #67, available on UK newsstands February 8th, and in North America a few weeks later! It's also available as a digital download (you'll have to Google it; I don't have the link handy).

Add a Comment:
HInoRYUU Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I love this one! The expression, body language, just everything!
onepieceninja Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2016  Student General Artist
love it!!! your art is great, I love Leyendecker too!! 
oscarortizdotcom Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Good old fashion illustration. The way it should be. In the tradition of Leyendecker, Rockwell and many others. Keep up the excellent work!
Uber-Stooge Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2015
not a fan of his costume but a big fan of this work

I love the work in progress theme and how much work goes into this
MayanTimeGod Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2015
You are a legend!
saintwinona Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2015
model  is very beautiful !!!!nice!!!!
iloveyou1989 Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2015
cyberaix Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2015  Professional Artist
SapanVasava Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
PAllora Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2015  Professional Filmographer
Thank you Adam for posting this amazing breakdown on your creative process for your wonderful artwork! Cheers!
RSH26oct88 Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2015  Professional General Artist
Alright! Yes! You forgot something though...Theres Playboy for people without money for artschool.
majaway Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is awesome. Thank you!!
vanKalf Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2014
I envie your talent, very very beautiful drawings!!
rayan101 Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014
I start with the focal point of the head as well, it's what you look at first and what you are drawn (no pun intended) to when first looking at a figure
Lalunabluena Featured By Owner May 22, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I love how you work on the face first when the drawing starts 
Artsend Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2014  Professional General Artist
Process makes me happy X)
ManSapien Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I love that you take time to share your methods with the whole world. Best advice I like from you is "Reference is an aid, not a substitute". :)
ChrisHdzArt Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Wow this is great thank you!
NycterisA Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
The whole reason I came to your gallery was die to reading your (very moving) Foreword to Bancroft's "Character Mentor". Boy am I glad I came! You are tossing out pearls of wisdom here!
Marin95 Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2013  Student General Artist
I want to see the process 
Marin95 Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2013  Student General Artist
Man! how do you get that colors with the copic marker??
Dmancorb06 Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I'm very interested in the process. The finished product is GREAT!
aerodynamicbear Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2013
nice of you to share this :)
cabepfir Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Loved to see the whole process. And "The sketch you like the least will invariably get picked, so - have fun!" - ahah!
LawrencePena Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2013
Thank you for being generous and showing your process in developing such great art! I learned alot from this! Thanks again.
Pintopix Featured By Owner May 23, 2013  Student General Artist
Lol, when you mentioned finding pictures online of people with latex, the first one that came to my mind was Bianca!
SophieNut-Butter Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I noticed you have a pipe in picture 8. it made me laugh a bit...

this issue was actually the first ImagineFX issue I got, I'm actually doing an AH! style catwoman right now :3
DJMingos Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2013  Student General Artist
visualspice Featured By Owner Mar 9, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Love the commentary on this. You're such an amazing artist :) It's nice to read up on how it's all done!
Chibikaos Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
good stuff adam..
KyronicArtist Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Wow, this is amazing. I hope to be such a good artist some day too.
itoons98 Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
I see you use copic markers, cool.
DaEMoN33 Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2012
Hooooooly mother of God...... You are un-freaking-believable man!

I know it doesn't mean much coming from a random stranger on the internet, but your art is amazing and inspiring! Cannot fully express how much I love it!
anyatagomachii Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Newyorkart Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
you make a nice teacher great work
Dnnis Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2012
Amazing work ! I looooove what you do man,
damn , it's awsome! Congragulations
oliver76 Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2012
...i want to learn to do this.... reading is just the start... ...master...
3Ninja Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012
marquisee Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
How this is even possible? :faint:
Dracowyr Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2012
Thank you so much for sharing with us your techniques and process!
PencilApe Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Ahhhh...a fan of Bianca's huh? That's explains so much, she's got quite the following and we all know why.

Thanks for this "How to" I always thought you worked from models for a lot of your stellar cover pieces, you're a modern master of your craft, using classic techniques enhanced with the latest tools.

You're my favourite artist and I really appreciate how open, friendly and helpful you are, you set the standard for excellence. All the best, Al.
CATWOMANU Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2012
That Ashley Taffar certainly is gorgeous!
SixGunslinger Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Just know that you're inspiring a new generation of artists... that's gotta feel good. Keep rockin' man.
Tintetsuro Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I think I have understand now, how to use references. Thank you, that is really helpful^^
nirman Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2012   Digital Artist
"likes of us"? Sir, you're not likes of us. You're above and beyond.
nirman Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2012   Digital Artist
You make me cry.
wiggless Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2012
hey i just wanted to ask something about how you do your other pictures. for this one you used a model but with others do you draw from memory? and how long do you generaly spend geting a good looking compsition for a picture when drawing from memory?
ahmednayyer Featured By Owner May 18, 2012  Professional General Artist
The way you have added those details and explained the process truly tells a lot about you, your kindness towards fellow artists and you skills and experience.

Much appreciated!

Ahmed Nayyer
Danger-Maus Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2012  Hobbyist Interface Designer
Ah and I thought you drew Audrey Hepburn in a catwoman suit! Nevertheless the likeness is inspirational.
shusein Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012
always been a fan and hoped to achieve a level of mastery such as yours.. thank you for sharing this process work ..
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Submitted on
February 5, 2011
Image Size
428 KB


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