Drawing comic book pages – my process

August 19, 2013 0 Comments

After doing 24 pages of layouts on plain old typing paper, I now know my story fits into a standard American comic book format.  I started penciling page one on August 17th.  The longer term goal is to tell my story arc in 4-6 issues.  I’ve drawn quite a bit but I haven’t drawn actual comic book pages for a years.  A few issues came up so I made some notes that came to mind.  It’s back to self teaching once again.

Getting good paper is a great investment!

I had some Blue Line Comic Book Pro pages lying around so I measured them out and inked in the panel borders for the first five pages.  The paper is not acid free so it is yellow already.  The second thing that bugged me was that the surface is too smooth so every mark smears too easily.  Some lighter line work gets lost after working on the page for a while.  There is also an annoying sheen on the paper surface so the light reflects the light into my eyes which makes my eyes tire faster.  I know they have a “Premium” paper that costs more but seeing how crappy their “Pro” paper is, I decided to not risk it.  So I went out and bought some Strathmore Bristol smooth paper 11″x17″ 300 series 100 lb.  It is acid-free and was cheaper than the Blue Line paper at regular price and Michael’s had a BOGO sale.  $15 for 48 sheets total.  Super good.  😀  After I finish penciling the first 5 pages on the Blue Line paper, I’ll switch to the Strathmore.  It’s very nice that Strathmore made them specifically with the comic book artist in mind.  There are some other good choices for paper at Dickblick also for reasonable prices especially if they are on sale.  There are several kinds of surfaces; vellum, semi-smooth, smooth, and plate in a few different series.  They describe vellum as “toothy” so I assume that is the most texured one, and plate finish as ultra smooth.  Too smooth and your pencils don’t stick.  The graphite will just float and smear around.  Press too hard and it’ll carve into the paper.  Then when you ink it with a quill, you’ll tear it up or something unpleasant like that.  Draw too lightly and you lose your drawing from smearing.  That is why I chose what they considered “traditional” smooth.

Light matters

Second issue was my drawing table light had a nasty yellow bulb.  So I went out and got a nicer 3 in 1 Ottlite with a nice 24W daylight tube bulb.  This will help reduce eye strain, and give me better light coverage on my paper due to the shape and length of the tube.  It also saves electricity without being dimmer and keeps the temperature underneath the bulb noticeably cooler.  The lamp was $138, but it was worth every penny.  I can draw for longer periods due to less eye strain, pleasant color, and less heat.

Here is my drawing cave with the new 3-in-1 Ottlite:


I got a Mustek large format scanner a while back and for a while I couldn’t get it to work but I just tried again and it’s working fine on my Mac OS 10.8.4 when some reviews on Amazon for my scanner say that it doesn’t work on the Mac OSX at all.  All I did was download the driver for Mac OS 10.4-10.6,  and the application called “image Acquire” from their website.  I’ve heard that it’s a slow scanner but for the low price, you can’t complain.  The quality of the scan is good so use some patience.  After all the drawing and inking, scanning will be a relief because it’s the easiest part of the whole process.  11″x17″ at 600 dpi takes about 90 seconds to scan with my scanner.

Production notes – Establishing the look of my comic book

The most important thing is to finish the book!  But not make it look crappy.  Simple as that.  And I’ve told people I’d have book 1 done by next San Diego Comic Con.  This means I have to finish it no later than April of 2014.  I have to pencil, ink, color, and letter the book.  It’s quite a lot of work after coming home from a full time job.


I stressed too much on the process but it came down to this…  Drawing on paper with pencil is the easiest and most economic.  There is a feeling you get in traditional media that you just can’t replicate with digital work.  Although I have seen some amazing exceptions, I still think traditional is the best way for me to pencil and ink the pages.  So I’ll stop dreaming of the $2,000 Cintiq for a while.  So far I’ve learned that I can pencil one page in approximately a full work day.  And yes, I do use photo references.  I strongly believe that in order to create the illusion of reality, you just have to.  Finding reference takes time and I take that time into account and count it as a part of my penciling process.  During my regular work week which is not art related, I can only do one page over the course of three free nights.  But over the weekend, I can do two to three more.  So that’s about 3 pages a week.  That means I should be able to finish penciling my 24 page book in two months if all goes well.

And since you were so patient to check out my blog, here is a preview of what my page 1 actually looks like from layout stage to finished pencils.  After all, I can’t possibly spoil anything yet with just a one page sneak peek.  😉

For inks, people kept asking me if my pages must be inked.  The answer is yes.  It’s easier to ink it than for me to try to clean up my pencils.  When I clean up my pencils in one area, I smear it in another.  Might as well ink it and erase every smear along the way.  For now I plan on using mainly bushes and pens.  I have Windsor Newton brushes, and Copic and Micron pens.  I also have a croquill, but lets just say it’s for experimenting with for now.

I plan to color with some Copic markers and some digitally with my Intuos tablet in photoshop.  I have these things and like I said, because it’s the most economical.  The rough plan is to use a limited earthy palette to keep things simple.  The important part is getting the tones right.  The rest will be icing on the cake.

Manga studio seems like a reasonable choice.  I played with it a little and it seems very doable for what I need it for.