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Incoming! part 1

Posted by Nathan Strum, 11 November 2008 · 3,282 views

Label Artwork
I'm splitting this "making of" into two parts. The first part will go over the usual "how I made the label" thing (is this getting boring yet?), and part two will be more of a Photoshop tutorial.

After the Lead contest, I really wanted to do something that felt more like a painting, or a loose illustration. Not really tight and fussed over as my Lead illustrations had been. A lot of the early Atari 2600 artwork has a loose feel to it, where you can still see some of the pencil art underneath. I've always liked that look. It's like I'm getting a peek at something behind-the-scenes, and stepping back through time to get a little closer to the thought processes of the artist who created the work.

For Incoming!, I started looking at pictures of tanks, and read the intro paragraph Ben Larson had written for the contest. I decided to focus on the idea of a tank dropping in from out of the sky. Even though that didn't constitute the main part of the game play, it was the coolest part of the backstory.

So I started sketching, and pretty quickly, this jumped off the end of the pencil:
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Every once in awhile that just happens - where the first sketch is the one you want to work with. It didn't take much fussing around. It had the action, dynamic, and even the basic composition I was after. The trick then was to take that (which was a pretty small sketch), and turn it into something presentable.

After a few failed attempts at redrawing it, I simply blew up the sketch on my copier to a size I could work at, and drew over the top of it on another sheet of paper:
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Unlike a lot of my previous work - there's no graphite pencil lines here. I liked the rough drawing enough to just use it. I felt if I started fussing around with it too much, it would lose what I liked about it. Instead, I just isolated the tank in Photoshop, cleaned up the lines a little bit, and used that to start painting:
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I took the tank and background layers into Painter, and started painting. At first, I just laid down a huge swath of sand-colored paint. Then, I started adding shadows and highlights to the tank to give it some dimension, but it was still mostly just the color of the sand behind it. Some camouflage completed the tank, and pulled it away from the background. After that, I took it back into Photoshop and painted the sky, mountains, dust, and the "swoosh" effect to make it look like it was being dropped into the scene, and bouncing off of the sand dune:
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At this point, the artwork was about where I wanted it, based on my original sketch. But it didn't look finished. I thought about adding some soldiers to the tank, but wasn't quite sure how to make that work. Plus, I was struggling trying to come up with a logo for it.

At first, I planned on just using a military-like stencil:
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With various other attempts at making it look like spray paint, or rust.

Then, I tried variations on a computer read-out:
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But nothing even remotely worked the way I wanted. Then Dave Dries suggested a big cartoon balloon for the logo (like Q*bert), and everything clicked. The tank was already on the cartoony side, so I could add a couple of cartoon soldiers to the tank yelling, "Incoming!" and I'd have the illustration I was after.

First, I sketched a couple of soldiers, and added them to the painting:
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I printed out the artwork, and used that as a guide to draw the logo:
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Then I scanned it, and cleaned it up in FreeHand. Since this was the logo, I didn't want it to be sketchy. Plus, as vector art, I could freely resize it as needed:
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Finally, I added the logo and text, and cropped the label to the correct dimensions:
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At this point, I was pretty happy with the whole thing. But I decided that it could use something else...


...explosions!! :D


Next time: we blow stuff up... real good!




This is like watching "How its Made" on the Discovery channel. :) I like the evolving illustrations during the development cycle. It is in many ways similar to programming. More please ... :D
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I really like the comic idea behind this label. But IMO the tank still looks too realistic, too martial.

Maybe because its too detailed? :)
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Probably because the proportions aren't highly exaggerated. As it is, it still lacks most of the detail of a real tank. By the time I decided to go with the cartoony approach, the tank was already done. To me, it still strikes a nice balance between realistic and cartoony, but if I were to start from scratch, I'd probably exaggerate things more.
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I thought this label was odd until I saw your bit about the backstory and read it. Just tried the game and sure enough, the tanks fall out of the sky! Wasn't expecting that :D

I like the "pop" the explosion gives your 2nd submission, but with this additional information I like the way the 1st submission reinforces the unexpected meaning of "Incoming!". Now I'm torn between the two :)
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I like the "pop" the explosion gives your 2nd submission, but with this additional information I like the way the 1st submission reinforces the unexpected meaning of "Incoming!". Now I'm torn between the two :)

Thanks - I'm glad you got the double-meaning! That's exactly why I submitted both. After I added the explosion as an experiment, I liked the look of that one better, but preferred the original label's concept.

I just made a change to the labels as well, and resubmitted them. After looking at them as thumbnails on the main contest page, I decided the logo placement was just too lopsided in context on a cart. So I straightened them up.

However, about halfway through making the thumbnails for this blog comment, I decided that I'd straightened them up too much. So I decided to split the difference, and that did the trick. So I resubmitted them again.

By the way... Albert just loves it when I do this. :D

Original (too wonky):
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Revised (too straight):
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Re-revised (just right):
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Original (too wonky):
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Revised (too straight):
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Re-revised (just right):
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Thanks - I'm glad you got the double-meaning! That's exactly why I submitted both. After I added the explosion as an experiment, I liked the look of that one better, but preferred the original label's concept.

Agreed, the concept works much better without the explosion and it also is more logical (e.g. usually one would close the eyes during an explosion). But the explosion makes the label more lively.

:)
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This is like watching "How its Made" on the Discovery channel. :D

I love that show. But they never tie in any of the stories together in a given episode. It's always something completely random like, "This week on 'How It's Made'... Twinkies, chainsaws, breast implants, and kayaks." :)
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Or... "Hearing aids, nuclear power plants, cricket bats, and candy corn."
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I always liked Connections. Never would have thought of sewers and frogs being part of the path to the space shuttle.

sewers -> ceramics -> Space Shuttle Tiles

frogs -> detached legs moving when touched by 2 metals -> batteries
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Connections was a great series!

That reminds me of another documentary series that I really liked: "The Machine That Changed The World". It's the history of computers, and has been out of print forever. Fortunately, someone recently posted all five episodes on the web. (I love the internet... sooner or later, everything shows up there.)

"Machine" is more comprehensive than "Triumph Of The Nerds" (which is also excellent), but being several years older, it's also further out-of-date.
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