How I Draw Comics

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To get started I like to make thumbnails and initial sketches for what would be the Pencilling stage in a light blue line. In the traditional on-actual-paper comics creation process, light blue pencil is typically used for under-drawings. The best thing about light blue is that it doesn't get picked up by scanners. When scanned, blue will simply disappear - it can’t get collected by a computer. 

Blue is easy for me to see and draw over - I can't imagine drawing thumbnails in light red or light yellow, so it's light blue! 

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After getting the basic thought of the art worked out in the light blue pencilling line, I start to make commitments in ink. Ink is all about commitment and confidence.

I never really erase the blue line - it stays in it's own layer - and when I need it I turn it on and when I don't need it I make the blue line layer invisible. It is nice to have the ability to see and unsee the original plan for the art and to see how the final inks either deviate or match the original intent. 

Before finishing the inks I start adding color, this is probably why I can only work alone. If I don’t see the relationship between inks and colors, something doesn’t feel cohesive about the work to me. At this point the art looks like a mess, but I understand it:

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Typically I work top down on art, solving problems in ink from head to toe on the page. It would probably be fine to work more completely, throughout the entire page, but my guess is this is one of those 'to each their own!' kinds of things in art - what works for you is best! 

Sometimes coloring on the same layer as the line art feels pretty ballsy. It's a huge commitment. Occasionally I'll use selection cells to color on an additional layer instead of the same layer. This is probably the proper way to color. 

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I also add opacity-reduced color layers below the ink and blue line layers to get a sense of where the colors will go on the panel, and if the backgrounds make sense overall. Backgrounds and set design have always been very hard for me - I tend to think only in terms of story ideas and characters - I don't automatically consider furniture or environments, so I tend to be very impressed by good set design in comics and film. 


Here is the panel with the blue line underdrawing and the inks on to:

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And here are just the inks: 

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Sometimes I like the blue/black version a lot better than the final ink version - I'm not sure why, I think it is because the blue lines retain a lot of the original feeling and motion that goes into the panel. It's a lot of chaos and indecisiveness, and it doesn't make sense, but the feelings are there, and that matters. 


Here are another couple panels where I laid down some blue underdrawings first with inks on a higher layer:

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After a couple touchups the final layer looked pretty good!

This is my whole process for making most of Tilted Sun, aside from the writing and lettering!

It’s been a wild ride so far and I’ve pretty much been rehammering the process as I go along. I think it is fine to think actively about art, and to change approaches and ideas, even struggle with art a little bit instead of adhering absolutely to a process.  

Tilted Sun Concept Art: All About Line Art!

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Welcome to a look behind the scenes at Tilted Sun! This blog features line art before it is colored and arranged in the final production, as well as some process notes!

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When making Sam, I wanted him to be a bit unseeable in the earliest parts of the comic, where most of his face would be covered by a hood, goggles, a scarf, and his hair. As time goes on his face and his character get more exposed throughout the story. 

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tilted sun line art gray woman and orsyn.JPG

I tend to make drawings in a separate document in Clip Studio Paint and then copy and paste drawings into their designated panels. This process helps me feel more free, it also allows me to adjust framing. If the drawing is always separate from the panel, it's easier to feel better about moving the drawing around inside of the frame. There's no bias about initial composition or placement being better. I'm sure that this process looks ridiculous to many comics pros, but it works for me. 

Also, I almost always draw with references, with the exception being the Gray Woman and Sam's faces and other character faces. Logger Bird and Orsyn are all drawn from resources such as photos of birds and horses. 

On very specific objects things fall apart if I don't user references - for instance: The Gray Woman's impersonator gun is some kind of rifle, and made the mistake of trying to draw the Impersonator without a reference photo and wow it did not turn out so well: 

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Seriously I could not draw a gun without looking at one to save my life. 


Here are a couple cat sketches, all of which are based off of my grandpa's two cats, Flash and Xena. 


Later in part 1 a character shows up with a skull for a face. I couldn't bear to fudge the skull or make up parts of it, so I drew from a real raccoon skull. It turned out to be rounder than I thought - sort of between a cat and a dog. 



As far as how line art is made, it doesn't start out perfect! I usually sketch out ideas on a light blue bottom layer, similar to sketching out ideas in traditional comics creation in blue pencil. It's fun to use sketches to get a feel for weight, direction, and motion. I can't exactly put into words what I do when I draw, but the best way to explain is in a question. I ask myself: "What does this comic want to do" and from there the art takes over. 

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The image above and the image below are both screencaps from Clip Studio Paint (or Manga Studio) on the iPad Pro. You've probably heard me rave about this software before. These screencaps show how I work from blue line into an inked layer or final layer of line art. Nothing at all starts out perfectly, there are a lot of scribbly failed ideas on that bottom layer. 

Tilted Sun Process Detail.PNG

Seriously Clip Studio Paint is so baller.

Since Tilted Sun is in full color, the line art holds a lot less shadow than traditional comics and it's a bit less dramatic. Still, there are moments though where black becomes a powerful point of conceptualization - the stronger the line art, the stronger the final panel.

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Comics are an exciting medium in that everything matters - color, line, lettering, panels. Aside from a single two-page comic in an anthology, Tilted Sun is my first comic, so I am learning as I go. It's one thing to read and experience comics, it's a separate beast to create them. As time goes on I'll keep sharing blogs like this one - I'll be as honest as possible because I don't believe that the fake-it-till-you-make-it mode of living helps anyone be a better artist. I don't even think it helps people enjoy art!

While I am bringing my traditional art skills to the drawing table, comics production is still very new for me. Stay with me, I promise you it will get even better. :)