joeyweiser (joeyweiser) wrote,

Evolution of a Page



I always enjoy seeing cartoonist friends of mine (like Drew Weing, Chris Schweizer, and Kazu Kibuishi for instance) post comics process guides/tutorials.  They often make me think, "Hm...maybe I'd like to do that some time..."  I've had this thought in the back of my head while working on my next book, Cavemen in Space.  The other day it occurred to me that as I head towards the final stretch of CiS, it would be harder and harder to do this without giving away too many spoilers!  So, I found a relatively tame page, and decided to go for it!

I'll try to keep it relatively brief, while touching on some details that I find myself repeating to people from time to time.  So, here it is, the evolution of page 185 of Cavemen in Space!
 

Outlines

I always start with outlines.  Depending on the length and complexity of a work, it may take several outlines to get to a point where I feel comfortable starting on thumbnails.  The first CiS outlines were very brief, only touching on major points.  In looking through my sketchbook at all my hand-written outlines for CiS, I literally came across one that had some breakdowns for the beginning and end of the book, with just "MIDDLE PART" written in big block letters in between them.  Sometimes it helps to just get what I know I want down, and worry about how to connect them later.

Anyway, after going through a couple of hand-written outlines, getting a little more and more detailed each time, I finally type up a pretty comprehensive outline like the one shown below:


 
As you can see, I have broken down each scene with a heading and description of what basically is going on here.  Still not too detailed, but this helps me get everything in order, and I can fill in any big gaps in the plot that I hadn't figured out yet.  The purple arrow is pointing to the scene in which page 185 appears.



After I am satisfied with my typed outline, I move onto a page breakdown.  Here I'm still not getting too hung up on picturing each page, and sometimes what I put down for 1 page ends up expanding to 2 or more pages in the finals.  Notice that page 185 is written as "Pg 132."  Descriptions are still pretty loose.  I don't often put full dialogue, but as you can see, I will occasionally have a line (or the basic gist of a line) that I will throw in there.  This helps me further smooth out the finer details, and get a general idea of the books length (keeping in mind that it will expand).

Thumbnails



Next are the thumbnails.  I do these pretty small, usually two to a page in a sketchbook.  This is as close as I get to a "final script."  I'm usually pretty loose with thumbnails.  The CiS thumbs were a little tighter because I wanted them to be legible for friends, colleagues, and editors to be able to read and give feedback.  Even this stage isn't the most finalized version of the book though.  The thumbnails went through a few different drafts.  For instance, this page was originally page 171 in the first draft of the thumbnails. 

Anyway, this is where I finally get to write final dialogue and figure out the real pacing and all that.  One reason why the page count expands so much is not just because of my misjudgments in the page breakdown, but also because I allow myself to keep going in scenes that I'm feeling strong about, insert new jokes that come to me, etc.

Pencils



When getting to the final art, I completely redraw my pages on 14" x 17" Strathmore 400 Series Smooth Bristol with Light Blue Col-Erase pencil.  I rule out a 10" x 15" area and the panels within with 1/4" gutters using a T-Square.  First I very roughly place all of the characters and dialogue, just figuring out placement and making sure everything fits comfortably. 



Then I tighten things up with most of the details, until I feel comfortable inking it.  You can see on the doors in panel 1 that I've used my T-Square to define these edges more solidly. At this stage I figure out all of the perspective and things like that as well.  I don't actually use any rulers when I am inking, but I want all of the panel borders, background perspective, etc. to be pretty solid, so that I have a good backbone to do my more freehand inking on top of. 

Here you can also see that I've used the Ames Lettering Guide to rule out where the final lettering will go.  People often do double takes when they look at my pencils, and they see ruled out lettering guides, and then what appears to be me writing crazily on top of it without any regards to the ruling!  This is actually because I write all the dialogue in first to get general placement, and then use the guide afterwards to ink my final lettering in.

Inks



First thing I ink is the panel borders, usually with an old brush that's lost it's fine point.  This works fine because I like pretty thick panels.  Then I letter using a Hunt 512 Crowquill and often ink in little effects like sweatbeads and puffs of smoke with the same nib.  Then I ink in the balloons using a brush.



Next, is my favorite step, inking with a brush!  This is often reserved for the characters, and any objects in the foreground.  I use a Raphael Kolinsky Red Sable Fine Pointed Round Brush Series 8404 Size 2.  Phew!  What a mouthful!  I'm just letting you know what materials I use.  You have to find what is most comfortable to you.  This is the brush that I learned to use at SCAD, and I like it.  It's nice and thick, so I can get big brushy lines, but comes to a nice fine point at the tip so that I can make finer marks as well.


Getting close to the end of the inks!  Next I use a Hunt 107 Crowquill to do fine character details (like Dolley's makeup on her cheeks) and background details.  I'm not a huge fan of using nibs, personally, but the 107 nib is nice and stiff, and is good for creating solid looking architecture and making little marks.  Not too much background details in this page, but you can see in the first panel how the thin, straight lines have a different quality than that of the characters.

I'm super paranoid about smudging, so this step usually takes 3 or 4 "passes" through a page, doing something like only doing horizontal lines first, then vertical, then diagonals and other details.



Finally I do any other brushwork that I need to do.  Like motion or impact lines with a nice brush, and then filling in large areas of black with an older brush.  Also, take note of the little puffs of smoke I added in the margins.  Those will come in later.

Digital

Next I scan my pages at 600 dpi, full color.  I have a small scanner so I have to scan my pages in 2 or 3 chunks to assemble together.  Thankfully, I more or less work based on a 6 panel grid, and don't often have to actually piece together any art that gets cut off mid-line.

So, in Adobe Photoshop, I assemble my page, reduce it in size and throw them onto a CMYK, 6.667" x 10" template that I keep on my computer.  Here's what I do next (please excuse my flashy desktop):



In the Channels tab, I select only the Cyan channel.  Then I select the entire canvas and delete.



Then I select all of the channels, and you see what I have now is this redish, brownish colored linework.  That's fine.  It may be too small to see here, but what I've also done is completely deleted all of the stray blue linework, from my blue pencils, leaving only the ink lines.



Next I switch to Grayscale.  Cavemen in Space is a black and white book.  If I were doing this for a color image, I'd just skip this step and keep it CMYK.



Here you can see what the page looks like now that it's been converted to Grayscale.  No more wierd brown color, but not exactly nice, crisp black and white linework.  That's why I threshold it.  Threshold takes away all grays and leaves only black and only white.  Threshold gives you a dial that you can go up and down to determine how much of that gray turns black, and how much of it disappears.  I usually set mine to about 150.



And finally, I do any last touch-ups needed!  This usually involved adjusting lettering a bit, and using the black & white Pencil Tool (NOT Brush!) to clean up any stray marks.  I don't use white-out, so here's where I fix any big mistakes.  I try to keep the page looking as close to as-is as possible, but sometimes it can't be helped.  For instance, I wasn't happy with how much Martha was blending in with the Zanntu troops in panel 2, so I added in a smoke trail from her running (which I originally had in the thumbnails! whoops!) and gave her a bit of a white halo around her body to help separate her.  I don't often do too much "drawing" like that digitally, but this page happened to need it!
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