Monday, January 14, 2008

The Art Process

I have been asked many times what the porocess is that I use for creating comic book artwork. The method used for creating FRONTIER is slightly different to my other comics work so presented here is an explanation.

So the process... I always used to do my work on Bristol board like most comic artists but after working in an animation studio a couple of years back (designing all the characters for Legend of The Dragon) I adopted some of their working practices. All my work is now done on '15 field' animation paper (roughly A3) and then scanned into the computer and coloured using a piece of software called Photoshop.
First I draw the whole thing out in blue pencil. Animators blue pencil. The ones that are erasable (good job really!). This is the stage that I get all the layout and sizing sorted out.
Its a mess at the start but looks like the pic.

and then...

So, blue line pencil roughs are all done. These are then scanned into the computer. Next up is the lettering. Lettering is done in Illustrator, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It can be done in Photoshop and actually no real reason why not other than it doesn't have the same flexibility as Illustrator when fiddling about with the text and fonts and, very definitely, sound effects. I put the art on the bottom layer, the balloons on the next layer, the text on a third layer and then sound FX on a fourth. It's a house keeping thing really, enables you to find stuff easily and change things globally.
The reason I letter these blue line roughs is that if for some reason I have been waaaay off when leaving space for balloons I still have the option to change things before committing myself to finished art.
There are lots of 'rules' to comic lettering that do make for a more workable job that I won't go into here. Of course, I say 'rules' but it's all made up. Rules are only things made up by people who want to be 'right' about stuff so no point being afraid to break them, but it is useful to know what the rules are. Well lets say 'conventions' instead, sounds more friendly and less like school ;-)
Anyway. Lettering all done I save it out (if I am happy it fits) and go on to the finished pencils.

So that's all the lettering done. It then comes to the point of taking the blue line pencilled layouts and making them into something far nicer looking. :-)
This is where the techniques used while working in animation come into play again. I put the blue line art onto the lightbox and lay another sheet of animation paper over the top. On this new sheet I then 'trace' the picture using pencil adding all the detail I need (or as much as time allows). When that is done it is scanned into the computer, opened up in Photoshop and the colouring begins...

With the scanned pencils opened in Photoshop all the areas of colour are blocked in and gradually tone and shade and highlights are added until the desired effect is reached. The look I am going for with FRONTIER is an old watercolour look. That is why none of the pages are inked (which is what would normally happen with a comics page). I want to retain the pencil look and then have the colour look like it is a simple wash. The look of this is enhanced by having all the colours on a multiply layer over the top of a background that is filled with a pale sand colour and a filter applied to make it look like old paper. And thats it. The blue line art that was used for the lettering is replaced with this finished art and the whole lot is exported as a finished file ready for print.

It's all a slightly new process for me but is as close to what I originally intended for the strip as I can imagine. In fact truth to tell it came out better that I thought it would :-)

So that's how it is done. feel free to email me with any questions.

1 comment:

Peter Richardson said...

Fascinating to see the production of these amazing artworks broken down into their varying stages.

It just adds to the magic of the finished product!

Be nice to see more of this sort of thing - say some of the initial scribbles for the cover of issue 34 of the DFC.