Or more specifically… how I draw chain mail in my webcomic The Middle Age.
I get a lot of comments and questions asking how I create the chain mail texture in The Middle Age. The hero of the story, Sir Quimp, wears armor that looks sort of like chain mail or banded mail armor. Artist friends have presumed it’s a special brush or a texture map or something computery.
But it’s all drawn by hand, one link at a time. And it might look complicated but it’s not.
Now, I work on an iPad Pro using the Procreate App but this approach works with any software and even works with traditional pen-and-ink tools.
Step 1: Start by drawing a grid on the form which will act as a guide for your texture. Keep in mind the shape, perspective, folds and bends. It should look 3-D. If it looks like graph-paper, the pattern will look flat. But it doesn’t need to be perfect. We’re just using it as reference and we’ll erase it when we’re done. In the example, you can see mine in light blue. Extra tip: I draw my guides on a separate layer to make them easy to hide and delete.
Step 2: Now let’s start the pattern. Somewhere around the two-thirds point on the side where light is coming from (not down the middle), draw small, single, evenly-spaced tick marks. Again, they don’t need to be perfectly spaced or identical. Do your best and that’ll be fine. Remember that this is armor wrapping a living figure, not a robot, and we expect variations. Those variations make the figure feel more alive. Extra tip: I make the texture extend a little bit beyond the shape – you can see it overlapping the cape – this helps me keep the pattern and spacing consistent. I erase the overlapping bits when I’m done.
Step 3: Between each one of those tick marks, draw two tick marks next to each other. Extra tip: The longer each tick mark, the wider each chain segment will seem later.
Step 4: Between each of the double-tick marks, draw three tick marks next to each other. You can see where I’m going with this.
Step 5: Between each of the triple-tick marks, draw four ticks marks next to each other.
And so on… until you run out of room. Always increase the number of tick marks per row and you’ll get the proper effect. Then do the same thing in the other direction. Extra tip: don’t draw all the way to the shape’s outline on one side to give a hint of really-bright side lighting.
If you want to see how other cartoonists handled drawing armor textures, I recommend checking out the work of Hal Foster, Wally Wood, Russ Manning, and David Petersen.
Here’s a video clip of my approach…
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— Steve @theSteveConley