Friday, March 25, 2011

Making Comics

(All content in this post, images and otherwise, belong to me. If you wish to reproduce an image you have found here, please ask me first.)

As everyone who knows me in real life knows (because I won't shut up about it!), I'm currently working on my M.A thesis. And as many who know me in real life also know, I'm working on a graphic prologue and epilogue to it.

In the past, I've done comics the old-fashioned way-- pencil, paper, felt-tip pen, correction fluid, and a whole lot of erasers. For short, one or two page graphic essays, this is probably quicker. Anything longer, though, and it becomes quite labor-intensive. Further, the paper-and pen method has very little room for error-- too much correction fluid and it's obvious, too much erasing and you risk tearing the paper, etc. And because I do everything that you're not supposed to do when I draw, I need to work with a medium that lets me screw up several times until I find the line I like. Finally, paper and pen scanned in just doesn't look as professional. There are eraser marks, smudges, built-up bits of white-out, etc.

So, bearing all this in mind, this summer I invested in a Wacom Cintiq 12x graphics tablet and some graphics software (Photoshop Elements and ArtRage Studio Pro). Best. Decision. Ever.

Now that I have something *fairly* close to a completed page of my prologue, I thought I would post the steps I use to get there. Click on an image to embiggen.

1. First, I write a script in M.S word. I organize it by panel and set apart the text that goes in speech bubbles, etc.

2. Next, I draw out a panel sequence in Photoshop, using the line tool.

3. Still in Photoshop, I add the narration text.

4. I then import the Photoshop file into ArtRage. Here, I start thinking about where in each panel the drawings will go, and I add the speech-bubble text.

5. I add a new layer, and do rough sketches of each panel using the pencil tool. I do this in blue so I can see where my sketches were when I draw over them in my final medium (pen, in this case).

6. Drawing time! I start by going over my sketches in black pen and correcting flaws in my line. This usually involves a lot of scribbling, erasing, and redrawing-- one reason I'm so grateful for how forgiving the tablet is! Then I begin shading. In this case, I'm continuing to use felt pen for this and doing the shading in greyscale. I've always loved comics, a la Edward Gorey, that use lots of tiny, precise cross-hatching to shade, but at this point I have neither the technique nor the patience to do that for more than about two panels.

7. Sometimes I will add a watercolor wash for background shading or more dimension. Then, once I'm satisfied with what I have, I'll remove the blue pencil layer. Ta-da! Actually, this page isn't quite done-- the bottom panel, as you can see, needs some more work. But for now I will leave it alone and move on to the next page!

And that's how a comic is made. By me, that is.

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