Photoshop layers for a comic book page
I had to create a consistent workflow so that I don’t have to reinvent it every time I start a new page. This is the simplest way I came up with that makes sense for me.
There’s 10 layers. The file is 10″ x 15″, 600 dpi, adobe rgb profile. The safe zone is 9″ x 14″. Any drawing that extends beyond that point is for full page bleeds.
From the bottom up; the background layer is white. The 2nd layer is my layout sketch in normal mode which is in black and white. The 3rd layer is filled with afcce9 a light blue and on lighten layer mode. This makes my layout drawing look like blue pencil. The idea is that I will do final work on top of it like traditional inking. When I’m done with my page I will hide the layout and blue line layers.
The 4th layer is for backgrounds. This page obviously takes place in a dojo so I will draw all of that good stuff (curtains, wood floor, drum, and ceiling panels) on this layer and set it on multiply mode. This will make all white areas transparent so that you will see the white background in layer 1. I will draw everything in, including stuff that be hidden behind the characters.
The 5th layer is for characters. After I double check to make sure that character placement makes sense in the background in eyeball perspective, I will turn off the visibility for the background layer and draw my characters in also in multiply mode. Once I’m done with drawing characters, I will simply create a layer mask that subtracts the character shapes from the background layer so that the backgrounds directly behind the characters will not be visible. I am highly likely to change my drawing from the layout stage on this layer and on the background layer even if it’s just small adjustments or clean ups.
The 6th layer is for textures to add the sense of touch to the space and materials on my page. This layer can be used for wall textures, wood grain, and any other surface that I want the audience to feel like they can touch and feel. It helps add another of realism and makes it easier for the audience to suspend disbelief in the world I invented.
The 7th layer is for lettering and word balloons. The 8th is for panel borders. There are so many things you can do with panel borders so I decided that it should get it’s own separate layer for neatness and easy editing. These layers will be on multiply mode also.
The 9th layer is for special effects in normal mode. I like to experiment with action lines so I put them on this separate layer so that I can mess it up without messing up the drawing underneath. I also save this layer for things like painting white on top, such as for falling snow, rain, smoke, light ray effects, etc. It will be used to create an atmosphere to help push and pull things to create more depth of field. Otherwise, everything looks very flat in stark black and white.
And lastly on top is the 10th layer for crop marks also in the same blue I used for the blue line layer. I hid the visibility in this image, but basically it’s a blue line border that is 1/2″ in from each border of the page. It shows where the safe printing zone is in the 9″ x 14″ page. I toggle the visibility on and off when I draw a page that is in full bleed to make sure everything important doesn’t get cropped off.
I am thinking about adding another layer once I finish all of my pages specifically for tones. The main reason is that tones make such a huge difference when the page is handed to the colorist in today’s comics. Hopefully most colorists are painters who understand how to compose using tonal contrast and applying a light source. However, it is not always the case and I’ve seen horror stories where the coloring of a book breaks the finish product. Having a layer for tones will be a back-up structure that will help the colorist not mess up or wrongly interpret my vision of where the light source is and lets me control the overall composition. This is not common practice but this is my comic book so why not? 🙂