This was originally written by Rudy Mora, Fri Jan 19, 2018 03:55 on their "Zomboon House" tumblr blog, now defunct at this dead link.
It’s been a bit since the last chapter of Red Muscle came out and i felt like making a post about how i go about making the comic from beginning to final page since i don’t know, maybe it will be helpful to some to just see how other people do it? I also love to say too much about the things I draw, so this will be fun for at least me!
Since this story is my first exploration into making comics that are over a few pages long, I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to get the mess of ideas in my brain into tangible story beats that I was really enthusiastic about. I have a hard time feeling confident about my visual thought process for ways of telling a story so I started my chapters as outlines in pure text. It might not work for everyone, but I’ve found that I can most easily get myself in the headspace of a story if I can just write it down, almost conversationally. This helped me push past the initial fear of trying to tackle drawing things that my brain kept telling me are above my skill level (which can keep a lot of people from starting their dream projects). I’ll write all the general story beats and keep dialogue to a minimum and just focus on the events. I treat is as if it was an outline for a short cartoon, and try to keep the story moving pretty fast.
Photo of Script on Tablet Device
After I feel I’ve got a good chapter going and I’ve written enough that I can start thinking visually, I’ll start doing really tiny layouts in my sketchbook. This step is the most loose and scattered part of the process, and I think where I purposefully limit myself to just get it done. I’ll try to get general placing and sizing of panels down to keep a good amount of story happening on each page and something interesting to go at the bottom to take the reader to the next page. I tell myself to keep this comic’s layouts really basic shapes, no diagonal panels or fancy tricks, and even though it might not be the BEST looking pages, the basics always work and teach you just how versatile their uses are (and where you feel like breaking from that will ADD to the story).
First Photo from Sketchbook
Second Photo from Sketchbook
I’ll start to write down really rough speech for the characters here, which I hadn’t always done but I take so long drawing out layouts that I’d forget what I wanted the characters to say (story beats will get written down here too). I do a lot of rethinking the pages or specific compositions as I draw these, so panel replacements/inserts are scattered around the page. A lot of times I have trouble thinking up how I want to place the characters, so I’ll end up with sketchbook pages with multiple tests on posing/acting to teach myself something that will work well enough and I’ll move on.
Third Photo from Sketchbook
After I get the layouts done, I move to photoshop and start drawing thumbnails with more cleaned up and clear versions of the pages. I’ll spend more time making sure the poses I put in the panels are something I’m more satisfied with. Some people might think of skipping either this step or the previous step and that might work better for them, but i’ve gotten into the habit of doing these 2 passes of pages. It probably stems from my weird habit of overworking the HELL out of these thumbs, I draw way too much detail on them!!! If you’re like me, adding the previous step to let yourself draw loose and messy and decide your panels there will make the neurotic clean thumbs feel like less of a chore to draw up.
Fourth Photo from Sketchbook
Fifth Photo from Sketchbook
When the thumbs are done, I just resize them and start final inks. This part of the process is the funnest!!! all of the hardest work is done (except maybe some BG design because i wait until the last minute) and I just get to draw pretty pictures. I’ll also type up the final version of the text because if I try to write the text too early, I’ll always hate it! something about deciding what the characters say when the final poses/expressions are drawn helps me work through it better (but I know dialogue is one of my weak points!).
Sixth Photo from Sketchbook
From here, I just color all of the characters on one layer and the BG elements on another layer underneath. Before i start coloring though, I’ll try to decide on a color set or a feel that I want to execute for the chapter and go looking through my references to get some color ideas. This part is something I really enjoy, but I know I’ve been locking myself into pretty muted warm colors a lot, so it’s something I try to challenge myself with whenever I color more things.
Screencap of Background reference images
First color page before text/word bubbles
After the colors are in place, I’ll just draw over the text because I like the look of handwritten text, and I’ll make the speech bubbles.
First color page with text/word bubbles added
Then I just repeat these last steps for the rest of the pages!!! Even though i love the last steps a lot, they take up so much time, so I keep my colors flat and keep the shading for limited situations that need them.
I’m still honing in on improving the parts of my process that need work, but I’ve completed about 36 pages just for this story alone! Hopefully seeing all of the steps will help someone reading this feel like they can approach their own stories a little more prepared. I just rewrote some chapters of Red Muscle recently to be a stronger story after completing 2 chapters and seeing what works and what needs to be improved, and just getting work done is the best way to see and tackle the things you need to work on to be a better creator!!
Good luck to you all on your comics that you’re working on, and thanks for reading!