3d For Comic Artists – Sketchfab to Blender

So if you’ve followed along with the Blender basics, I’m now going to start to get into doing USEFUL stuff with Blender.

When I first started using Blender it was as a bridge to go from sketchup to clipstudio – I know a lot of artists take sketchup screengrabs and push them into clip studio, but I found having the 3d model in clip studio was a whole lot more useful.

Now, I find myself mostly grabbing 3d models from Sketchfab and then bringing those into Blender to ensure they’re the right scale and then going from there to sketchfab.

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Blender, if you’re not familiar, is a free (open source) 3d program. I’ve dipped my toes into blender every few years but it started life with a painful interface (in fact many 3d programs have awful awful interfaces, why – for example – does zbrush put it’s standard menu – file, edit, window, etc in ALPHABETICAL order? madness)

By Blender version 2.8 they’d normalised the interface to something most people would recognise, and I’ve – lately – been pouring more time in to learning it.

If you do 3d in comics at all, you’re probably more familiar with sketchup – sketchup is a brilliantly easy way to build simple 3d models, but it’s ownership has changed hands a number of times (build – ironically – first by a company called @Last Software, then bought by google who made it free, then by Trimble softeware who stopped making it free).

You can still get a free Sketchup, but, largely, it’s hard to find and many people spring for the licence which gives you more features as well as ways to convert sketchup 3d models into other forms.

I’ve been on a bit of a crusade to pursued comic artists to move from sketchup to blender, primarily because it’s cheaper (nothing is cheaper than free, right?), but also I think, more powerful.

In the process of learning sketchup I’ve been following a few youtube videos, firstly, this guy:


Who does a lot of gaming/blender tutorials, building low-poly (ie simple) models in 10 minutes. Which strikes me as the right balance between I NEED TO BUILD A 3D MODEL and I DON’T WANT TO SPEND ALL DAY BUILDING A 3D MODEL.

Blender relies fairly heavily on the keyboard and he says the keys as he’s using them so you very quickly get a sense of how fast you can build when you’re familiar with it (keys you’ll learn : E to extrude, I to insert – you’ll hear those a LOT)

I watched a bunch of these just to get a feel for blender (he’s on video 57 of Build a low poly thing in 10 minutes, which means he’s done it over a number of versions of blender, so i’d start with the later videos to see what it looks like at the moment, before going earlier)

Also this is a good youtube video, take copious notes!

Another great youtuber is Ian Hubert – Hubert makes “lazy tutorials” how to build buildings super quick, very lazily but with lots of details. While Hubert’s focus is for indie filmmakers, there’s lots of good stuff in there.

In my experience, I’ve pretty much avoided worrying about textures, instead focusing on building objects with enough shape so that I can see what they are. I’m still figuring out the best way to work with textures. The end results I’m after are a 3d model I can bring into clip studio (blender saves models in its own .blend format by default) as an OBJ file and put in a scene, I then use clip studios LT render to convert the 3d to simple piece of line art (I like to work this way because it’s super high resolution and I can move the model around on the artwork making it less hit and miss than, say, grabbing a screen shot of a 3d model and drawing over it).

One final youtuber is this guy Paul O Caggegi whose focus is on making comics and using Blender.

There’s lots of free models on sketchfab, and some you can pay for too. If you’re doing wwii stuff it’s pretty darn useful.

I’m still digging my way through it, but largely I’ve been pretty happy with some of the stuff I’ve done, both editing sketchfab models I’ve downloaded and creating whole new things for the new Chimpsky strip I’m working on.


In space no one can hear you procrastinate

I drew a quick alien (about 40 minutes?) I was gonna leave it uncoloured, but I figured I might as well spend the 10 minutes required to colour it.

Anyway, just in case you’re interested, I’ve uploaded a high res version of it for you to colour yourself – have at it, and then drop a comment where others can see it!

Alien B&w

And here’s my stab at the colour!

So farewell then, Captain Cookies

Thought you’d like some behind the scenes stuff on Captain Cookies. Readers, did I make mistakes? of course. Will I pointlessley try and correct them several months (actually a full year) after drawing the strip and a month after it saw print? sure, why not.

But first, here’s episode one in glorious monochrome-o-vision…

So let’s take page 1, which I think, has the worst story telling issues (and entirely my fault) basically I should have stuck with my thumbnails for the Dredd bike, suspect I just couldn’t hack the angle. (And the sound effects are misread as coming from Dredd’s bike canon, so I should’ve drawn the weapon on panel 1 to be obviously something else, and moved the “Blams” somewhere they couldn’t be misinterpreted) I sent these pages to Matt in April, so, Chimpsky fans, if you’re wondering, I drew the Christmas Chimpsky AFTER this one was finished, scheduling meant it worked out the other way round in print.

Since I sent it in April it’s logical to assume I was drawing it in March, about a year ago and just as the first lockdown started – so let’s chalk it all up to that – it was rough last year, father-in-law was seriously ill in hospital (almost a year in and out of hospital before covid hit, and then passed away not long after this) kids taken out of school and the whole covid thing (which is, obviously still on going).

I was struggling with drawing traditionally – my eyesight has been constantly a pain since it started going in my thirties (just as my pro career started- thanks karma) and it’s close up work that I struggle with, so believe it or not, I have to tilt the table now not because of the dangers of back pain but because it lets me keep the art the same distance from my eyes whether it’s the top of the page or the bottom. Drawing digitally takes that issue away since I can just move the digital page around as I like.

So this was me pencilling traditionally and moving to digital inks.

(Of course, all of the above reads as an excuse, it’s not – it’s simply background details that can have an impact)

I’ve largely given up on traditional and moved entirely to digital drawing (traditional drawing is a rubbish term, but there’s no better way of explaining it – analogue drawing? actual drawing? nothing makes sense at all)

More Chimpsky to come, readers, and he’s now off in his own little strip, so no more near misses with Dredd – you’ll be pleased to know… (and let’s face it, he may be superintelligent, but he’s been lucky Joe hasn’t just hit him with a heatseaker already…)


Superfocus. Superprocastination. Sometimes there’s things I’m so desperate to put off I will literally ink an entire comic to get out of doing it. i mean, I need to do both jobs, but drawing is just, fundamentally, the easier of all the jobs.

So I become hyper focused, yesterday I finished four pages of inks. Granted, one was mostly done the day before, two finished during the day/evening and the final one came in around 1am – so strictly speaking, I completed inks on two pages (or three if I’m being generous to myself).

But I wasn’t half aware it was because I was hyperfocused on it, to the point that anything taking me away from it was annoying and I could think beyond those pages. It’s not terribly healthy, is it?

Inking though, (and especially if the pencils are super tight) I’ll sit down, stick on something on netflix (or, actually, more likely at the moment Disney+) and just start inking.

I’ve pretty much thrown my lot in with digital drawing, my clip studio process is now hyper tight, I’ve reprogrammed all the basic function keys and when you’re in that zone…

Galadriel Lord of the Rings gif: Galadriel going power mad saying "All Shall Love Me and Despair!"

Galadriel turning bonkers mad is still one of my favourite, most used call-backs from the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.

At some point I’ll have to write up my entire clip studio experience, it’s extraordinarily flexible.

Anyway, procastination, you’re now a party to it.

And if you’re here, why not share the worst kind of procastination you’ve done…?

(My wife preys on my weakness though, she knows I hate doing dishes, so she’ll suggest a chore she’s not keen on for me to do in exchange for doing the dishes. Walk to the shop to buy milk…? and you’ll do the dishes instead of me? Brilliant, you’re on…)

The Archive Project Volume 2

Prog 1544 to Prog 1630 July ’07 – April ’09 (the written label is a mess, and has the wrong progs, I’ll fix it…)

For the record, these volumes hold 27 progs which means this is averages about 14 progs per year.

This volume pretty much finishes up the 86ers, completed by Arthur Wyatt (originally written by Gordon Rennie). I think Gordon had felt he couldn’t do much more with the 86ers (he hadn’t entirely finished with the Rogue Trooper universe though and would turn his attention to the much more successful – and certainly much better drawn – Jaeger). Between the 86ers, futureshocks and odds and sods, I didn’t get another bite of a series until Al Ewing and I did Dead Signal in prog 1581 – set in two universes, one I greywashed the other drawn in more solid black and white (a trick I’d use to better effect in Numbercruncher with Si Spurrier). We had big, bonkers plans (well, Al did, I was content to go along for the spin) but sadly, this was another series that didn’t get the chance to go beyond one part.

My luck with series with 2000ad has always been pretty grim, there were strips I was originally talking to the writer to draw and didn’t (and then, sometimes would actually end up back on the art as another artist went off). And I’d generally figured my luck with getting a series was so awful even if someone proposed one I’d often tell them “this sounds cool, but honestly, you might be in a better position to pitch this without me first”. More than likely some parts bad luck some parts just a little paranoia on my part, but certainly in this period I felt like a reliable hand on the tiller, but not someone who could get a ship launched.

Of course, this has turned slightly, Chimpsky took off (though I put that down to the strength of the writing, anyone can draw a chimp) and Dept K – a fun little series Rory McCulloch and I came up with for the 2000AD regened progs went down so well, the editor has commissioned a series (sadly, I’m up to my eyeballs, so I couldn’t draw it – boo!)

So volume 2 done and I’m stuck a little as I’ve run out of the 2000ad “Thrill-Power Containment Units”. Need at least two more (maybe three?) to finish what I’ve started and room for the next few years.

The Archive Project Volume 1

Finally got the first of the 2000AD “Thrill Power Containment Vessels” (ie Binder) filled up – from Prog 1233 (March 2001) to Prog 1522 (Jan 2007) one entire volume of about six years worth of work. Doesn’t look like a lot. I’m not even sure I remember what else I did, between it. I had a day job – started a new one in January 2000, after that got married in 2003, then our eldest son, Nathan, was born in 2004. The binder holds about 28 issues, so averaged 4-5 issues a year. But… 2008 is ahead and that’s where it gets interesting, because, fact fans, 2008 is when I gave up my day job…

This first volume, as I said, starts with my Dredd, then Rogue Trooper (mentioned in previous post) after that it’s on to the 86ers, then a little period where I became 2000ad’s oh-my-god-someone-else-has-ballsed-up-their-deadline-can-you-do-it? go to guy, then more 86ers and a fill in Dredd.

And it’s on to Volume 2.