I design and build nifty web­sites, apps, icons and more.

Robot Masters Collab: Plug Man

After having so much fun drawing that fin piranha, I decided to go ahead and join Justin Hill’s Robot Master Collab. Robot Masters are the bosses in the Mega Man series of games. Some are really cool, some are pretty quirky, but they’re all really fun and creative.

Colin Abel beat me to my first choice (Magnet Man), but I consider that something of a “happy accident,” since it meant I got to draw Plug Man… a quirkier character probably better suited to my style.


I work at Cloud Four, home of the Mobile Portland Device Lab, so inspiration wasn’t an issue. He had to be waiting for his phone to charge.

One of the benefits of sketching with a tablet is that you can create new layers for certain portions of your sketch and adjust them as needed. In this case, the character’s arm was giving me some trouble, so I started sketching on a separate layer and used purple (instead of the usual blue) so that portion would be visible without erasing whatever’s beneath.


One challenge with drawing cartoony robots is to strike the right balance of precision and character. If your lines are too wobbly, it won’t feel mechanical. If your lines are too stiff, it won’t feel expressive. Instead of relying on the steadiness of my hand, I used three simple tricks to help maintain that balance:

  • I used the Rotate View Tool to make sure I was always drawing at a comfortable angle. This helped steady some of my lines a tad.
  • I held down shift while drawing straight lines. (Totally cheating, I know!)
  • For things like the power prongs that come in pairs, I would draw one, then make a copy and re-draw portions of it so it wouldn’t look xeroxed.


When I can, I like to avoid simply color-matching the source material (unless I’m trying to do a really literal homage to the original game sprites or something like that). I chose a more blue-based gray and saturated fuchsia, which I thought would compliment the chunky lines better.

Final Touches

I think it’s fun how the robot masters are typically rendered kind of like they’re made out of plastic rather than chrome, so I maintained that simplicity in my shadows and highlights. I felt the previous version of the word balloon and battery indicator competed too much with the figure, so I changed it to something closer to the original sketch.

You can see the finished collaboration here. (My favorite piece is definitely Frog Man by Eric Kubli.)

Zelda Collab: Fin Piranha

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more artists I follow on Twitter participating in some gloriously geeky collaborations. One example is Mario Collab, where each artist draws a unique character from Nintendo’s wonderful and enduring flagship franchise.

I thought it might be fun to join in, but the Mario project was too far along. Then my pal Colter let me know about a similar Zelda-themed collaboration that Dan Jones was organizing, which seemed like a wonderful jumping-on point.


Anyone who’s played the first world of Ramps knows I have a soft spot for piranha-based enemies in video games (I blame Chopper and Masher). So it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that I chose the Fin Piranha when picking an enemy for the Zelda Collab. (It also helped that I recently beat Oracle of Seasons.)

I wanted my drawing to be free of the restraint of pixel art without losing the inherent simplicity of the character design.

I’ve been told my sketches are really loose. I like to get my ideas out quickly, and I find that the inking stage holds my interest better when my pencils aren’t very refined. Otherwise it can feel like I’m tracing my own artwork!


Colter gave me some feedback that the squarish tail fin in the sketch was working against the motion of the piranha jumping out of the pool. I agreed, so I made the fin shape more stylized and kinetic.

At first I thought that the rocky “exoskeleton” of the top half of the fish might feel too similar to the smooth underbelly. I changed my inking style between the two halves to try to convey the difference in texture more clearly. The eye got a bit more furrowed and angry in the process.


After filling in the major areas with color, I like to go in and color the line work, too. Maybe it counteracts the inherent falseness of objects rendered with lines (see this interview with the amazing Bernie Wrightson), maybe it softens the unnatural harshness of pure RGB black on-screen, or maybe it just obscures some of the drawing’s imperfections.

I held off on finishing any of the pool until the rest of the image was finished. I don’t remember exactly why… I think maybe I was nervous about getting it too far along only to have it steal focus from the piranha.

Final Touches

Here’s the final image (original tweet here). I added some highlights and shading, finished the pool and added my Twitter handle (standard for this sort of collaboration).

This was a lot of fun, especially when you get to see what other talented artists cook up, too. I did a few more before ringing in the New Year… but those will have to wait for another post.

Christmas tag toons

This year, I pre-made Christmas gift tags using my trusty Wacom Intuos tablet and some Avery shipping labels (I still addressed the tags by hand with Prismacolor markers):

Santa ClauseSnowmanRudolph the red-nosed reindeergingerbread manelfpenguin

Mal and I thought my brother Tim deserved an extra-special tag, so I also drew Belsnickel:

Be you impish or admirable?

Colorpeek for Chrome (and on CSS-Tricks)

Hey, remember Colorpeek, my web app for quickly sharing and previewing colors? Well, good news: I just released an accompanying Chrome extension that makes the creation of palettes from text, webpages or images even easier!

I’m honored to announce the extension in an article I wrote for CSS-Tricks, one of my favorite blogs and an indispensable resource for any self-respecting web designer. Stay tuned for Part Two, which will walk through the process of making your own simple Chrome extension. (Update: Part Two is now available!)

And if you use Chrome and dig Colorpeek, try the darn extension already!

Goku and Bulma

Art submission for Dragon Ball Zine. My first exposure to Dragon Ball was a second-hand copy of the first Viz reprint, so Goku’s initial encounters with Bulma are some of my faves.