Comics Step-by-Step

Latest Update: Added the Comic Strip Artist’s Kit by Disney artist Carson Van Osten.


Always fancied having a go at drawing comics, but don’t know how the artists go about it? Or just admire their work and want a chance to see ‘behind the curtain’? Hawk at Applegeeks, Jeph at Questionable Content, Katie Rice, and Kazu of Copper have offered us the chance to see what goes into their art…

Copper

Copper is an unusual and beautifully drawn comic, so it’s surprising that the artist, Kazu Kibuishi, says…

I use a lot of construction lines since I’m still not able to draw good shapes naturally. I have to work for the image every time. In fact, each time I sit down to work on a comic, especially Copper, I feel like I have to teach myself to draw all over again.

For the actual drawing process, Copper is drawn by hand, with real paper and pencils. He uses a few different pens, but the main inking is done with a dipping pen and bottled ink. The colouring is done on a PC running Adobe Photoshop CS1.

This one is well worth reading all the way though, as there’s lots of useful information in here, and plenty of tips on tools – even down to cleaning the dipping pen.

Applegeeks

Hawk at Applegeeks has given us all a peek into how he goes about drawing the comic, from the first ‘pencil’ sketch to the final result. He’s being especially generous with his time, and also answering questions on his tools and techniques in their forum. The result is some real insight and a chance to find out a lot about the creative process that he and Ananth go through to bring us AppleGeeks.

Hawk has used different tools at different times, but is currently using a Wacom Cintiq, with Alias Sketchbook for the ‘pencil’ bits, and Macromedia Flash for the ‘ink’ bits. Like my tablet PC, the Cintiq is a screen with a Wacom tablet-style digitizer built in. The Cintiq has one huge advantage for Hawk, though – it can be used with an Apple Mac – Applegeeks could hardly be drawn on a Windows machine.

When using paper and ink, he’s mentioned before that he likes Pigma Micron pens and dip pens with india ink.

Another strip from Applegeeks has a sort of ‘mini step-by-step’ to go with it – just the pics at each stage, but still worth a look…

Hawk has also made a couple of videos demonstrating how he works with the Wacom Cintiq…

Not content with all that, Hawk has done another video, this time of him inking Alice, with pen and paper…

  • Inking Alice – link to the video on YouTube near the bottom of the post.

This one was done whilst working on a banner for them to use at shows and conventions – Ananth posted later to show off the finished banner.

Onezumi

Onezumi is an odd sort of comic. I’d not seen it until Applegeeks linked to their video tutorial. I’m not much wiser having spent a while looking through them. It doesn’t often make much sense, but it does contain flatulance, swearing, and some nice cute-goth artwork. Anyway, the thing that especially interests me about their tutorial is that it’s all done on a Toshiba Tecra M4 Tablet PC. I’ve started downloading it with KeepVid, but it’s going to take a while – it’s around 90Mb.

Katie Rice on Inking

Katie draws cute girls, and has her own blog. In this post, she describes the inking process, with some good examples, including pics from the inking of the Bjork video that her friend John K (of Ren and Stimpy fame) did…

Questionable Content

For some odd reason, this one is available from the BunnyTorrent page for another excellent comic strip – Bunny. Maybe Lem wanted to give us all a peek inside his head, but knew how badly that could damage us mere humans. Bunny is the only comic strip I know of that has a special page set aside for when the comic is in formats other than pictures.

Anyway, the ‘drawing demo’ on the BunnyTorrent page is a .mov file, with a video of the screen as Jeph draws a panel from Questionable Content. There’s no commentary or notes on technique, but it’s a wonderful thing to watch. The only problem is that he makes it look so easy that you find yourself thinking you’ll have a go at the same, and then can’t work out why yours doesn’t work out quite as well as his. Well, maybe yours will work out better than mine.

The whole thing is done in Photoshop from start to finish, using layers to keep the ‘pencil’ marks out of the way.

If you already use a BitTorrent program for downloads, you can use that to get the file. If not, there’s ‘Easy Download’ links that should automatically run a plugin to do the download for you. I can recommend Azureus if you need a decent BitTorrent client.

  • BunnyTorrent – look for “drawing demo – jephdraw-QC.mov”.
  • Questionable Content – indy romantic comedy.
  • Bunny – I have no idea what at least half of the Bunny comics are referring to, but I still read every day. It just feels like a nice ‘bonus’ when I actually understand one.
  • Azureus – a Java BitTorrent client – works nicely. The main advantage it has over several others I tried is that it actually does work. You probably need to be at least a little geeky to want this rather than the ‘easy’ options, and if you’re behind a firewall at work, it’s unlikely to get through.

Other Bits

  • Evolution of a Caricature from John K, where he shows how his drawings of Tom Cruise have evolved with time.
  • Draw Angelina Contest – not really a step-by-step, but connected to the post above. John K invited readers to send in their own drawings of Angelina Jolie, and he shows quite a few of them off.
  • Comic Strip Artist’s Kit – A scan of a handout from 1975 by Disney artist Carson Van Osten. Via Boing Boing

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