Frank the FinSlappa


Another Wednesday means another #Gillustration. This time it was the Lyretail Killifish.

From last week, I learned that I wanted to do more sketches and iterations. The tricky part is while sketching really helps with form, it's not great for figuring out how paper will react to the folds I want. There's no way around it: I gotta iterate with paper.


For this fish, I really wanted to have it below the viewer with a curve to it's body as it swims away, with scales, tissue paper fins, and with some cool plane-breaking effects - all hand cut, of course -  but after 1.5 hours of trying to make it work, I scrapped it - I was trying too many new things at once (all of the ones I mentioned). I had to refine the idea (and bring back my Cricut).

The new things I wanted to tackle were:

  • tissue paper fins
  • scales
  • facial expression (honestly I looked at Finding Nemo for inspiration)
Photo Apr 25, 11 21 15 AM.jpg

Now with the objectives paired down things picked quite quickly.

For scales I learned:

  • Make one super tall scale, much taller than the fish, but with different wavy lines. Cut many of those out. You can use the lefts overs for the next row of scales.
  • Paint the scales before you glue.
  • Glue scales on just one edge, the one you don't see.

For the fins:

  • Tissue paper, by itself, doesn't look good. It needs to be tied-in to the fish to make it blend, not to mention structure.
  • Tissue paper bleeds color.
  • It tears easily.
  • Cutting the paper with a sharp xacto while keep the paper tight with your hand is the best way to cut.
  • If there's even a little amount of glue on your xacto, your tissue paper will tear.

With Frank (as I dubbed him) finished, it was time to add more of a scene - kelp was a good, quick idea.

Photo Apr 25, 2 00 32 PM.jpg

Armed with my trusty old camera and window light, I started the path to digital. The shutter doesn't work well - it actually triggers every 3 clicks. Patience is key.

In Photoshop there's always a process:

  • Use heal tool to clean up smudges, glue runs
  • Apply a photo filter to meld the colors together
  • Mess with selective color, or hue/saturation
  • Dodge/Burn to emphasize highlights and shadows

With any further ado, meet Frank the FinSlappa.