AlphaBooks Post-Mortem

Phew… AlphaBooks is over–twenty-six weeks of alphabetical literary characters. First off, thanks to everyone who participated–especially co-administrators Andrew Neal and Rich Barrett–and a big congratulations to everyone who finished a full alphabet! I’ve assembled all of my illustrations into a single gallery that I’ve posted below along with a few post-project thoughts.

(And you can of course see the entire project here, with “stragglers” being added sporadically. )

My AlphaBooks A-Z (click through for gallery/slideshow):


  • One of may main goals here was to really stretch my character designs and try to get away from my standard “ball for a head” mode. I don’t think I was really successful at this as a whole. I tended to revert back to this style too often during the project. I think, though, that I did succeed in a few places; Ahab, Vladimir Harkonnen and Wemmick are my three favorite designs in this respect.
  • Another goal was to learn how to ink digitally with Digital Manga Studio. I was much more successful here and I feel like I’ve come out of AlphaBooks reasonably adept at digital inking. I’m now in a good position to begin exploring more of the software’s features.
  • Spot blacks – About half-way through the project I started working on spot blacks–something I’ve never been very good at–in my sketchbook, and you can see that reflected here. Some of  my attempts are better than others. Quasimodo is one of the better ones; Xavier Desmond is one of the least successful.
  • I should have done more advance planning. I had to break my self-imposed rule of “only characters from books I’ve read” for my “X” and “Y” entries, but if I’d planned things better, I wouldn’t have needed to. I should have had my A-Z list decided on before I started–or at least had the more difficult letters populated. Here’s how my list looked at the end of the project:
  • Future alpha-projects: As much as I’ve loved all three of the past alpha-projects–and I think I enjoyed AlphaBooks the most–I’m officially bowing out of the next alpha-project, both as a participant and as an admin. I’ve got other things I want to devote my time to right now. But… that doesn’t mean there won’t be another alpha-project. Stay tuned for an announcement after the holidays!



  1. Eric says:

    Any tips to pass along on digital inking in MS?

  2. Ben says:

    @Eric – Honestly, I don’t really have a lot of tips to pass on. I was surprised by how little difficulty there was in switching. It’s in the hand, not in the tool I guess. I did tweak how much “taper” you get with the outstroke on the standard G-Pen setting in order to get something that seemed more like a real nib. If you follow Ray Frenden on Twitter, he’s got some add-on tools that are supposed to be really great… but they’re for the full DMS package, not the entry-level “debut” package that I’ve got.

  3. Matt Z. Wood says:

    Is ‘H’ for “Hiro Protagonist?”

  4. Matt Z. Wood says:

    Oh my gosh! And ‘R’ is for ‘Sgt. Robert Shafto, USMC!’ Hilarity!

  5. Ben says:

    @Matt Z. Wood – So, I take it you’re a Neal Stephenson fan, since the two of these you commented on are his? I’ve fallen behind with his books, but the ones I’ve read I’ve really liked.

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