This Post is a BEAST! Comics 101

I thought I would outline the process I used to create a comic page. At the end I’ll post a gallery to show the progression.

Step 1 – Script: In this case I just wrote a brief description of the scene “flashback of an old man in a makeshift lab in the jungle” and a rough version of the narration text “…Now to…Bzzzz…splice myself with the extracted DNA. I’ve cobbled together an assistant from broken droids scavenged from across the planet and various parts of my ship”. The panel flow and page layout that I chose was largely due to the page turns, keeping surprises for the opposite page.

Step 2 – Plots: Here I made thumbnail sketches of the pages to work out the story flow, panel layout and overall composition. I would post them but unfortunately I can’t find them anywhere. Basically I was just working out the composition of the page.

Step 3 – Pencils: Working from the plots I create a finished version of the page making sure that I leave room for the dialogue. I also scanned them just in case something goes wrong at the inking stage. I do this with any project because I hate having to transfer a drawing with carbon paper, it sucks the life out of art.

Step 4 – Inks: Here is where the process can differ. I inked directly on top of my pencils or a printout from the computer. Sometimes I wanted to slightly adjust something like move a figure to the left. Instead of re-drawing a perfectly good image I just made the change in Photoshop. From there I covert the image to Duotone in the Adjustments palette and set the color as 20-30% cyan and print it out onto bristol. I use all manner of tools when inking, microns, crow quill, brush, toothbrush, white ink and so on. I like to experiment and find different effects.

Step 5 – Cleanup: After scanning the final inks in color. I use the replace color function in Photoshop to remove my blue pencil lines that are still there. I select the color that I don’t want and change it to white. I repeat this process until the image looks clean. I adjust the levels and finally the Threshold to get a nice black and white image. Also in some cases like this page, I wasn’t happy with the first panel so I printed out Blue-lines of just that panel and adjusted the composition and inked that, then I scanned and placed it over the old version and merged it. Next I set up an action that removes the white from the page. Some people just set the layer to multiply which works but doing that can affect some coloring in weird ways so I just remove the white, problem solved. I then save the layer as line art. Here’s a video that explains how to set the action.

Step 6 – Flats: on a separate layer underneath the line art layer I trace each area using the lasso tool with anti aliasing off and fill with a color (it doesn’t matter what color you use they can be changed later). Usually starting with the lightest and then cutting out from that selection by holding the alt key, slowly working my way to the darkest color of that shape.

Step 7 – Coloring / Toning: For this project I colored my flats with a mid tone for each object in the panel. From there I selected a shape on my flats layer and added a shadow on another layer that I called tones. With my selection made I cut out the lighter areas and used a brush with a low opacity to get some gradient tones in the shadowed areas. I then repeated the process using a lighter color. After toning all the areas of the page I overlaid some paint textures just under the Line art layer to make the coloring look more like an ink wash drawing.

Step 8 – Word Balloons and Sound Effects: In Illustrator I type out the text for the page and create caption boxes and word balloons using the pen tool and rectangle or ellipse tool. For balloons I made them irregularly shaped by adjusting the Bezier points, essentially I made one balloon and copied it changing it to fit the text as needed. The tails I added with the pen tool then I combined the two shapes using the pathfinder tool. From there I just copied the finished balloons and captions and pasted them into my Photoshop document as a smart object (in case I need to change something, which you will). After they are in place you can move on to the next page.



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