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How I make the comics

I’ve been asked a few times how my comic making process works now that I’ve switched to penciling digitally, so I’m going to do a write up about that. As always you can find all my blogging about making comics on this handy tumblr post.

So, previously I made comics completely traditionally. Here’s a write up of how I used to make comics. All of the pre-drawing of the comic still applies: I still do my thumbnails by hand, scribbled in a notebook. 

Now I draw comics on a Cintiq, in Manga Studio. Here’s what my initial desktop looks like:

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That’s Manga Studio, and my template comic page. It’s 10 by 14 inches, and the blue lines are my safety, trim and bleed. All important artwork and dialogue/speech bubbles should go within the safety.

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I draw with a red pencil (Pencil-Layout Red) from the Frenden Manga Studio brush pack. I can’t remember which pack I bought, but there’s only 3 on the Frenden site and I’m sure they’re all great. Frenden does great brushes. Why red? It’s just easier to see than blue. For some reason I have a hard time sketching with a blue pencil on a screen, although I still draw with blue on paper. I don’t know why that is. 

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And here’s a rough comic page! Ta da! It’s pretty messy. I used a lot of reference to draw Nameless City. This is page 97, so a right facing page in the published book. Therefor the bleed on the second panel is bleeding off of the page and not into the spine of the book.

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One of the best things about Manga Studio is its perspective tools. I’m not an expert in using them, so I recommend looking up someone who really knows what they’re doing if you want to know more. I mostly just use the 1 and 2 point perspective grids to figure out where the floor is in certain panels, so I can more easily place characters within space. Very basic stuff, but it has made my life so much easier. I would marry Manga Studio’s perspective grids if I could. :D

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Then I clean up the page a bit. Eventually I hope to eliminate this step, because it’s time consuming. All I do is adjust the colour of the pencils to blue and trace over the figures I feel need improving with red. I usually only do this with main characters, an attempt at keeping everyone consistently drawn (lol).

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This is what it looks like with the rough pencils turned off. I never had to do this when I drew traditionally, and I think it’s because I’m not yet used to inking over digital pencils. People ask me about inking and how I “find the right line” to ink, and the answer is I just do. But for some reason I can’t with my printed out digital pencils. So until I become more accustomed to them, I need to do clean up. It sucks! Just an extra step I want to eleminate.

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Then I bring the file into Photoshop and prepare it for printing. The pencils always print darker than the look in PS, so I put down a layer of white overtop the pencils and adjust the layer’s opacity to 55%. 

Here’s the paper I use for printing, same paper as I’ve always used: Strathmore Bristol, smooth surface. I cut down these 17 x 14 inch sheets to 17 x 12 so they’ll fit in my printer.

My lovely printer! I do adore it. It’s an Epson Artisan 1430, the size of a keyboard and it’s been great. I printed out 200+ pages of blueline comic pages on only two cartridges of ink. 

It’s printing!!!

And done! Now for inking.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of this page when it was half-done, but here’s the finished product. I don’t ink my borders because I can’t draw a straight line, even with a ruler. :D Borders I do in Photoshop. 

I use a brush for inking. These are the brushes I use: Raphael Kolinsky watercolour brush, sizes 0, 1 & 2. I use the 1 for most of the page, the 0 for finer details and the 2 for larger areas. Anything that’s a straight line is inked with a pen. I tend to use Faber Castel pens, usually a small or extra small. 

So that’s pretty much it! After I finish the page I scan it and prep it for printing in Photoshop, which is pretty boring. 

The main question I get when I talk about my process is “Why don’t you ink digitally? Then you won’t have to scan.” I would very much like to eliminate scanning from my process, but at this point, I really love inking traditionally. It’s the part of the comic-making process that I enjoy the most, and I also think that traditional inks give my comics their unique look. I’m just not ready to take that step and ink digitally for my graphic novels, although I have done it for shorter comics. Maybe someday, but not now. :) For now, this is how I work. 

I hope everyone enjoyed the post, and feel free to shoot me any questions you might have. 


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