Hello? Are you there? I’m sorry I haven’t called or written in awhile. It turns out that Actually Making a Graphic Novel takes up a lot of time! But enough excuses. I’m back with the next part of this series, and I own the mistake of my long absence! But since you’re here, let’s get to the rock and roll!
Just a quick recap: Last time, I talked about working out the entire story, script, and layout in thumbnail form. After that’s been approved – which could mean okay’d by my editor, or just given the mental thumbs up from me – it’s time to start drawing the actual art!
I’m afraid to say that there really isn’t a whole lot of magic or secret tips to impart at this stage. It’s really just a matter of doing the heavy lifting! So, I think it’s best that I just detail my own personal working methods as opposed to teaching you how to draw. Which would be hard since I’m here and you’re over there.
The first step is actually a very recent addition to my arsenal. In the past, I used to rule out my pages and layout the comic panels by hand. But now, with the acquisition of a large format printer (an Epson Stylus Photo 1400), I’ve taken to creating my layouts in Photoshop and printing them out! I use smooth Bristol cut to 11″ x 17″ with an image area of 10″ x 13″. These are pretty standard comic dimensions, but depending on your project, your mileage may vary.
In addition to printing out the black borders for the panels, I also print out the dialogue and captions in very light blue ink on the pages. The text has been placed in roughly the area that it will go, but the light blue will not reproduce in the scanning, that way I can still change its location if need be. The reason I lay in the rough text is VERY IMPORTANT! Many comic artists do NOT leave enough room for the necessary text in the panels, thus words need to be crammed in by the letterer, or art that you’ve spent so much time creating needs to be covered up. Either way, it’s tragic and sloppy, but easily avoided. So always remember, before you pencil in a single figure, ROUGH IN YOUR TEXT AS CLOSE TO ACTUAL SIZE AS YOU CAN. If the text is not leaving you very much room for the actual drawing, think about breaking down your layout differently, or editing your text.
After that, the penciling begins. I don’t use anything fancy, just a regular off-the-shelf mechanical pencil. Some people like to use blue pencil for their rough drawing. This is because the blue will not show up when scanned and gets rid of the need to erase after inking. But I’ve never been comfortable working that way and I like the small detail and versatility that the mechanical pencil affords me. Try out lots of different methods and you’ll find what’s right for you! Admittedly, I have a pretty heavy hand and erasing can be a bit of a chore, but c’est la vie.
My pencils tend to be really, really, loose and rough. I like to get as much energy as I can, and then refine at the inking stage. I am also not a tremendously tight inker, but that is by choice. I like things loose and kinetic and so I’ve chosen to keep my comic art like that without going too far into the realm of complete chaos.
Remember too, that most artists work big, generally double the size of the final print form. This is basically a cheat so that your drawing will look sharper and cooler when reduced down to a smaller size! However, keep in mind that lots of tiny details and textures will likely also become lost once they are reduced down, so try to avoid futzing over little tiny figures and other minutia. It will only bring you heartache!
After a page is penciled, it is then ready to be committed to the page with ink for ALL OF ETERNITY! Scary thought, right? Fear not my intrepid cartoonlings! That stage is for another installment!