A Process Post (I expose my secrets)

This post is actually just as much for me as it is for everyone who reads this.

Mainly, to keep me in line.

Sometimes I get too excited while I'm making my comic pages and I do stupid things. Things like inking some part of the page too early, then smudging my hand in this prematurely inked portion and then watching my whole system start to fall apart before my tired eyes. I am then left with only the option of retreating into the other room and messing about on the internet for an hour or so.

To help prevent this sort of mishap happening again, I have decided to take photos of the (correct) process of making one of my pages.

Disclaimer: This is the way I do it. It works for me. If you've got an easier way, then by all means, do it that way. Just don't come running to me with ink all down your shirt and pen nibs caught in your hair.

Step One: The rough thumbnail. I actually drew this thinking it would never be seen by anyone other than myself and maybe Briony. It's kinda shocking, I know. But, it helps me with the pacing of the story, possible composition ideas and sometimes spotlights some major problems that I hadn't thought of yet. (Like, should there be a baby in the story.) (No, because that's just one more thing to draw and keep track of.)

Step Two: The Blue Pencil. Why a blue pencil you ask? Wellllll, this blue doesn't show up when I scan it in. I use this to block out where I want the different people and things that will be in the scene.

Step Three: The Penciling. This is just refining the sketches that I started with the blue pencil. I normally, for the diary comics, skip this stage. But because I want this to be at least partially historically accurate, I'm including it to avoid any inking tragedies. Like drawing the eye where the nose should be. This happens a LOT if you're not careful.

Step Four: The Lettering. Lettering is something that I feel comfortable with enough to just dive right in without a pre-pencil sketch. I always do my best job when I'm lettering off-the-cuff. I enjoy it more that way, too. It's also important to do this stage before inking the drawing because you can adjust your work balloon to fit the text. If you do it the other way around, you might have to get your text all squashed into a balloon that's just not big enough. (See Little Nemo in Slumberland. Beautiful, exquisite drawings : crammed-up word balloons.)

Step Five: The Colouring Book Stage. I've invented this one for my own poor brain. Inking can be very dull and monotonous sometimes. Doing an outline drawing lets me see the stage that I've created and helps me to take a step back and start to plan the lighting and textures. Otherwise, I tend to get carried away with my lines and suddenly, there's a wood texture on someone's arm.

Step Six: The rest of it all. This is when I scratch out the textures, fill in the shadows, rub out the pencil lines and white out the place where the cat stepped on wet ink. This stage keep repeating like acid reflux. I think it's finished, then I look at it an hour later and realise that I didn't shade a shoe correctly or an eyelash is missing from one of the eyes. Yeah, it's at this point that I decide to stop and move on to the next page.

Thank you everyone, you've been a great audience!


Matt said...

It's amazing how much thought and hard work goes into each one of your comics. I'll have to try the "blue pencil" technique... I'd heard elsewhere that some scanners don't pick it up and it sounds pretty convenient. Also, I'm absolutely blown away by your lettering; it's so beautiful and I can't believe it's done by HAND (I thought you had some super-cool font or something). It's obvious from the amount of detail in your work that you love what you do. Just curious, though, how long does it take to complete a page from start to finish, either your diary comic or a story page?

Sam Spina said...

yeah this is incredible. I have two steps. Pencil (i use an h) and ink (i use a number 2 brush and ink). For me blue pencils are too waxy and sometimes repel the ink, but i think it's because i push to hard and use the prismacolored kind. What materials do you use? thanks for sharing! i wonder if my stuff would look as good if I just copy you, haha

Christopher Downes said...

Matt - I tried timing myself today so that I can answer you and guess what. I started procrastinating! Then I lost track of time. Then I procrastinated more, because...well.

I'll try harder next time, but I CAN say that the diary entries usually take me about 3-4 hours depending on the comic.

Sam - You know, I've never really had that problem with my non-photo blue pencil. But, then again, I sketch lightly with it. Maybe that's the untold secret.

Dojang said...

i used to work similarily back when i was stuck in physical media...(potatoshop layers make things easier)...but it was more like-'2H pencil basics-ink outlines-erase pencil-pencil in shadows-ink shadows-erase pencil...

actually, that's a question. how come you have to hunt down blue pencils when a light greylead usually erases away anyhoo?