I love reading blogs showing an illustrator or designer’s process, so I thought I’d continue the tradition and show you how I bring you my “labor of love” each week. This process is how I usually go about creating all of my illustrations, but I must admit…comics are more labor intensive than the single page illustrations I’ve done in the past.
Why? Primarily because the page consists of individual frames, each containing their own layout. Not only are comics a design challenge in terms of composition, they also are an illustration challenge. What’s the best angle to show this? Who or what is my main focus? How do I “visually” portray this emotion? You can’t help but improve by tackling all of these things at once, and I really believe that working on this comic has made me a better illustrator. Talk about a steep learning curve. 🙂
“How I Do”
So now let’s get into the nitty-gritty. The above image is of a pencil drawing from my week two illustration (see the final here). I prefer to use hard lead pencils, usually a 3H or 4H pencil which I draw on bristol board. I like hard lead pencils because they erase the cleanest. My pencil lines are mainly for placement, as I leave them slightly rougher than you usually see traditional comic book pages. I make most of my final design decisions in the next stage.
This is my favorite stage of the process. I absolutely love inking. To me this is where it all comes together. When I get to this stage I know whether or not the illustration will be successful. I get to see the positive and negative space and get a real sense of the full composition. This process I like to be fluid. I try not to think too much as I work, because if I over think something…I’m likely to make mistakes. I like this stage to be instinctual. More “feeling” than “doing.”
See final here
I used to ink primarily with Micron ink pens, but I no longer use these in my work. I prefer brushes. I finish my line work only with brushes now. I like the ability to vary the stroke within the same line. I use varied brush sizes, but the main sizes I use are #4 and #2 round. I usually use a bottle of Higgins Design waterproof black ink.
I credit my switch from pen to brush to Tony DiSpigna. He designed some super awesome typefaces you may be familiar with (Lubalin Graph, Serif Gothic and Avant Garde) and is also well-known to designers and type-geeks for his awesome freehand brush lettering. He was my professor when I was working on my Master’s design degree at Pratt. I happened to have some of my illustration work out on the desk. He looked at two of my pieces—one inked by pen, one by brush. His response: “This drawing has more life! Look at that line…now that has character!”
I haven’t used a pen since. 🙂
After inking, I scan all my pieces as a 1-bit B&W tiff. I like to start in Photoshop with solid black lines with no ink modulation.
See final here
Next, I add color. I fill in all spaces with with an underpainting layer. This gives me an overall color impression of the piece. A lot of comics will be finished after this stage—but those guys and gals are much better at this than I—so for me this is really the 3rd step of the process. The bulk of the time it takes me to complete the illustration are done in this and the next stage. Sadly, we can’t all be Charles Burns. 🙂
This is actually my 2nd favorite part of the process. This is where I get the greatest sense of accomplishment, I guess because it’s done after this point! 🙂
I would say that this stage is partly what “defines” my style. I was always inspired by the vibrancy of the “old school” cell painting done in traditionally animated cartoons and motion pictures. I had always wanted my work to have that “feel” of a great animated motion picture, so when I finally discovered Adobe Creative Suite and Pantone swatch books I took the ball and ran with it.
There end up being quite a few different components in this stage, so I think the best way to show you is through a little animated gif.
See final here
I use “shadow” and “highlight” layers to add the rain and lighting effects to the final image. One thing you’ve probably noticed in the final image; it is not pure black. I actually don’t always use pure black as my darkest color. I like to play around with different line colors in my work. So what you may read as black in my comic, is actually a very dark purple.
The last thing I wanted to point out is that I made the decision to use my own hand writing in the webcomic. I know that choosing a comic typeface would have been the easiest (and cleanest) way to go, but I really wanted this work to have a completely hand-drawn feel. That’s also why the borders have rough lines. But…the type breaks my rule, I use a pen for the text. I can’t write that small with a brush on 9″ x 11″ bristol board. 🙂
Eventually, I will make a typeface of my own handwriting to keep the text more consistent. You will see that in the print version of The Mighty Monkey-Men. But for now, I will keep doing all of the work by hand. This also includes The Mighty Monkey-Men masthead, which is actually my Bizzle-Chizzle typeface…a typeface I have now been saying for 4 years I will eventually release to the world. 🙂
So there it is. That’s all the work that goes into it each week. There’s also notebooks with chicken scratch and rough thumbnails that I do as well…but I’ll save that for another time. 😉
I hope you liked this process post, and be sure to check back here (almost) every Friday—same monkey time, same monkey channel. This “ish” is bananas!