Toy Tech: Digital Marker Demo (Part 2—Tonal Shading)



RoboCop, Copyright © 2014, 20th Century Fox


Innovation is the life-blood of industry. Dreamers throughout world history have not only changed our culture by birthing innovative ideas, but also forced the development of amazing infrastructures to make those dreams a reality.

Both idea and the corresponding production process have to be innovative. As the market demands products and services to be constantly improved and updated, the production workflow has to follow suit, causing continued innovations in materials, supply chains, shipping methods, tooling and human resources.

History has taught, that visionaries who overcome the status quo through dreaming big and harnessing technological innovation will find success, while those who fight change in their respective generation eventually find early retirement in a van down by the river.

As for the toy industry, digital tools are changing the way we do business on every level, from cloud based creative and communication software to 3D modeling and engineering applications. Modern digital concept rendering, taught well at the Art Center in California, Otis College of Art and Design and Columbia College in Chicago, does away with many of the repetitive steps in creating traditional line art.

Conventional pencil drawing, for instance, requires you to scan and retouch each drawing and revision adding considerable time to the process. When you honestly add up all of the unnecessary steps, implementing digital innovation just may help you stay within your cost margins.

Working directly in the digital world by drawing on a Wacom tablet speeds the process, making the old ways obsolete to those who have stayed current with creative design applications. To those who haven’t, well not so much.

So, digital innovation allows for a more streamlined workflow, but the process of continued development forces the old guard to learn new digital skills or fight progressive updates to their old system. The latter, of course, is not good for the future of the companies that employ them. 


RoboCop Detail, Copyright © 2014, 20th Century Fox


The concept study featured here was drawn freehand using the shift key to draw straight lines but making sure they were stylized and free flowing. Even the annotations were written freehand to unify the overall design aesthetic—everything works together to sell your design and make it exciting.

In the next progressive stage, color will be added in layers under the halftone sketch. The line art layer is then positioned above them all and set to multiply. Sketching in gray instead of a solid black allows color to tint the outline, which adds more visual depth to the finished image.

When using Photoshop, make sure your dpi is high enough to be used for multiple project needs. I’ve seen great designers render amazing images at low dpi because they thought it was just for the internet, only to find out the images were going to be re-purposed as four color posters and printed advertisements. In cases like this, everything needs to be re-done which, of course, has ramifications on deadlines and budgets.

In toy design, every level of production demands innovation. That innovation causes constant change and adaptation, which will never relent in this modern day global market. Make sure you surround yourself with people who are totally engaged and committed to updating their skills and pushing the limits of creativity.

Ego and complacency have eroded more American companies over the past few years, then any change in market or consumer buying trends. Don’t ever water down your creative vision just to fit in. Reach higher, go farther and never stop dreaming big and playing hard.

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