I've been having quite a bit of trouble with the new Akisa Web Theme, and unfortunately, there seems no end in sight. Still, I've finally made some headway.
By far the biggest problem I've had with the image is the background. Usually I only give terse attention to anything except the characters. For the most part, this approach works well for me. Eventually I have an idea of what the background should look like and I start drawing it. The downside of this method is occasionally, I foul things up badly.
This was one of those incidents.
This isn't the first time I've gotten stuck with a really good image I've drawn. There are more than a few (like this one) that have gone unfinished for months simply because I became stuck over some little detail. With the web theme, I felt the whole composition of the background was off. My friends gave me several suggestions on how to solve this dilemma, several of them very, very good. Some, such as Ms. Dolari (of Closetspace and A Wish for Wings fame), suggested a full digital approach. Others, such as my follow artist and Otaku Ratz, suggested scanning the image, editing out or altering the background, then drawing on a high quality printout.
In the end, I chose a combination of these strategies. Neither would solve the problem easily on their own. A full digital approach wouldn't work well due to the fact that all my artwork is hand shaded before I color it digitally. The shading takes on the texture of the paper and is very difficult to reproduce in a computer. Altering an already shaded image is flirting with disaster. Drawing on a printout also causes a noticeable loss of quality. It was last Saturday when I realized the obvious solution.
Instead of shading digitally or drawing on a printout, the sketch would be digitally composited only. This means that there are separate sketches for the character and for the background. The trick was to find a way to orchestrate the character sketch "layer" with the background sketch. My first thought was transparency cellulose, the kind used in overhead projectors. The problem is that most of them are made for laser printers, and not ink jets such as my own. There were available, but at a ridiculous $50 a pack. There had to be a better solution.
And there was. Wondering around office and craft stores, I happened upon a pad of tracing paper. The paper is see-through, printable, and can be used for quasi-digital and traditional purposes. Not to mention it was $3 for a high quality pad of 50 sheets. Did I mention they were on sale? Even after all of this, I still have not used to new technique I devised. The reason is that I had a completely different idea for the background. This one, unlike most of my artwork, is a full digital background. Furthermore, it was in color. My backgrounds are black and white both as a functional and stylistic decision. I don't plan to color my backgrounds in the future, but I make and exception for this image. While I didn't use the tracing paper method to create a background, I did use the digital compositing methods I would have used to crop and place the sketch of Akisa in the above image. That turned out to be far more successful than I imagined.
My next problem is to actually design the web part of the theme. Yesterday evening I spent several hours simply staring at the image trying to come up with an idea. One that I toyed around with involved using an old paper texture for the text area. This would be styled to give the impression that it was a single piece of paper lit by flashlight. Unfortunately, it wouldn't work for a dynamic medium such as a webpage. The formatting would simply be too difficult or limiting. The paper texture was also a bit overpowering to the text itself, making it difficult to read.
For now, I've put the image aside to work on other things. I'm hoping some time away from it will give me a fresh perspective. I may toy with it tomorrow evening or during this weekend to see if I hit upon anything interesting.