How I Use Reference Images in Thoughtful Dinosaur
Thoughtful Dinosaur is a comic I’m making for newsletter subscribers and patrons on Patreon (until I can collect all the strips into one book). It’s the story of a young dinosaur fresh out of college and learning how to be an adult.
It draws a lot from my own personal experiences, and as such, I include lots of references from my early post-college days. This includes locations like a downtown park in Sandusky, OH, shots of malls from Arizona, and other locales I have photos of.
However, I don’t directly copy from photographs. That’s not the point of reference photos.
Reference photos (at least, how I use them) are more for nailing down the layout of a location. For example, in the Thoughtful Dinosaur panel above, I used the reference images and my memory to lay out where the trees and the walking path were laid out. The lighting scheme in the comic panel was drawn mostly from memory – I have a vivid memory of one morning walk I had, in which the sun was just emerging from cumulonimbus clouds in such a way that it was gold and warm. I wanted to capture that feeling with the colors in this panel.
Sometimes I’ll use reference photos for colors and lights. I didn’t do that so much with this panel, but sometimes, if I want to illustrate how light refracts off a surface (like, say, sunsets), I’ll use photo references.
I hope this gives you some new ideas for your own creative endeavors. Thank you for reading!
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