Making a Comic

Certain individuals indicated they had an interest in seeing how I go about putting a comic together, so I've assembled this little synopsis. (In an effort to maintain an air of family-friendly disingenuousness, I've opted to leave out the portions involving inspirational nude car chases and blood sacrifices made to Huitzilopochtli).

So here I present How A Comic is Made: The Boring Version or, if you like: Tracy's Misguided and Somewhat Truncated Adventures in the Land of Sequential Art.

Step 1. Thumbnails and Script


To start with, I flesh out a script and thumbnail sized layout for the scenario the comic will cover. Because the script is so reliant on the visuals and vice versa, I work on both simultaneously. These typically undergo at least two or three revisions, accounting for highly refined, expertly wrought dialogue the likes of, "AUGH!" and "AAAAAAAUUUGGHH!"

Step 2. Layout and Rough Pencils


On a piece of 14x17" smooth Bristol board, I begin blocking out frames with a straightedge based on the thumbnail layout. To start with, I use light pencil lines so that I can easily erase and rearrange things if necessary.


Next, I begin roughing in the content of each frame. I've been asked a few times whether or not I draw all of the frames that make up a comic on one page - for the most part I do. When everything is in one place, it's easier to think of it as a cohesive piece rather than a series of independent panels. This helps me maintain some semblance of continuity from one frame to the next... sort of.

Step 3. Penciling, Caffeine, and More Penciling

Many, many hours, cups of tea and mugs of coffee later, I've finished penciling. Copy paper is my usual M.O. for any extra frames that don't fit unobtrusively with the main body of the comic on the Bristol board. Copy paper is pretty flimsy compared to Bristol, but I like the smooth surface for pencil drawing.


Step 4. Agonized Self-scrutiny

As anyone dwelling in the artist's milieu could tell you, this is a vital and, one might say, defining characteristic of the artistic process. There are a number of methods to be utilized here: long brooding walks in the rain, pensive posturing atop cemetery monuments, LiveJournal updates, or simply spending some time crumpled in a heap, face down on the floor. "I'm a creative cipher - a husk empty of meaningful expression!" and "What am I doing? I'm such a hack!" are some of the more popular platitudes for this state of mind.


Step 5. Scanning, Layout, and Cleanup

Following the requisite deluge of histrionics and perhaps a brief affliction of ennui, it's time to visit the flatbed scanner. The unfortunate difficulty with working on large pieces of paper is that affordable scanners aren't very accommodating of such outrageous caprice. This means scanning segments, and then piecing them back together in their proper order in Photoshop. I break the frames apart into separate layers so that I can more easily arrange them. I also use this step to do any cleanup work I either couldn't or didn't do with an eraser.


Step 6. Dialog


Using a font I created (with FontCreator 5), I begin filling in the dialogue I had worked out in the script. Despite previous revisions, the dialogue tends to undergo another round of alteration at this point to make sure it's as well-suited to the characters and situation as possible.


I use a separate layer to place speech bubbles beneath the text.

Step 7. Shadows

To emphasize shaded areas I didn't pay enough attention to with my pencil and to add some extra contrast or depth where needed, I paint in shadows on top of the layer containing the original penciling with a low opacity, hard-round brush. I work in grayscale only at this stage. If the shadow layer begins to obfuscate the penciling, I'll add a copy of the pencil layer (set to 'multiply' and turned down to about 30% opacity) on top of the shadows to reinforce any lost linework.


Step 8. Final


The last step (and just about the only one that doesn't require hours of work) is the minor color balance adjustment I use on the bitmap to create the overall sepia tone.