My Comics Process: Pencils, Inks, Colors.

I just finished up a 14-page Untold Tales of Bigfoot short (you can read the whole thing from the start right here) and this last page (spoilers?) was a lot of fun for me, so I thought I’d break down my process here.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

I’ll be taking you from the initial pencils all the way through the final colors, and noting my tools/apps as I go along. So if process is your kind of thing, read on, friend.

Pencils

This looks like an unholy mess because it’s my scanned pencil roughs covered in digital scribbles (done in Clip Studio with the Blue Layout Pencil).

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

The pencils were my rough, stream-of-consciousness plans for the page. The blue pencil is my attempt to clean those ideas up and define what I really want.

Inks

Inks are done in Clip Studio. For stuff like this, I use the G-Pen (comes standard) or any one of a handful of custom brushes you can find online (Ray Frenden has a few nice collections for sale).

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

Since this was the final page of the short, I wanted to end it with a big, splashy image. So the dominant illustration of the forest stretches out over all the edges of the page, full-bleed.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

Here’s the entire page, inked (the top two frame borders were made using the Rectangle Frame/Divide Frame tools in Clip Studio).

Flat Color

Next step is flat color. Until Clip Studio has a proper CMYK space, I’m coloring stuff in Photoshop. I’ve also been experimenting with Affinity Photo (one of the few digital art platforms that boasts a CMYK workspace), but I’m not adept enough at Affinity Photo for a job like this, so off to Photoshop I go.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

There’s a few different ways to flat, but for my purposes, since I’m the one doing the finished colors, I just go in with a hard, round brush, opacity at 100%, pressure sensitivity turned off, and I lay in the base color of the objects.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

If you’re flatting for someone else, you may want to explore the lasso tool/fill method (select your shape with the lasso tool, fill with flat color, repeat), since that’s a pretty reliable workflow. But my approach works fine with this project for my workflow.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

With some techniques, you can drop in any random color during the flatting process, and then change it with a simple fill later. But since I have a color palette set up for my Bigfoot comic, I start with the actual, proper color, saving me a step.

Don’t Get Sloppy

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

Whichever method you end up using, just try to make sure there isn’t any gapping between the colors of your flats. If the ink plates shift even a little during printing, you could end up with some sloppy looking white space peeking out from beneath your linework. So check your flats and clean up any gapping before moving on to the detailing.

Lighting , Shadow, and Texture

This part’s more fun than flatting, but it’s also all over the place with technique and tools. So I’ll just highlight some of the stuff I do to model the forms.  Still in Photoshop, I bounce around between tools to help me achieve the lighting and texture I’m looking for.

Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Heading For A Fall (Process)

Sometimes I’ll use a hard-edged brush at 40-50% opacity to build up things like tree bark or model the foliage, other times I’ll use the hard-edged pencil tool to carve some shadow into rocks. I think I used a custom texture brush on the ground to give it an irregular, dappled look. And in the water, I experimented this time with a combination of hard-edged and soft-edged brushes. I like the way it came out, so I’ll probably mess around with that technique again in the future.

Pencils to Final Color

So here are all the steps, animated in this gif. I approach most of my comic art in a very similar way, sometimes simpler, rarely more elaborate. But I’m always scouring the internet to find new ways to experiment. Anything that’ll help me make my comics better…or faster — optimally, both — I’m willing to try it.

HeadFallProcess_VinceDorse

Hope you got something out of that. Again, if you’re intrigued enough to read through the whole 14-page “Heading For Fall” short (inspired by the nice fall weather we were having at the time), here’s the link to the first page. Have a great holiday! -v

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9 Responses

  1. Very cool. I liked how you demonstrated your process. I have been trying to do everything in CSP. I don’t hardly use my sketchbook anymore. I wonder sometimes if I am limiting myself though. I have had a lot of really great designs start from just a pencil and paper.

    • I still start most of my illustration work on paper (even this page started on paper). It’s just what I’m most comfortable with. So if that’s giving you good results, don’t abandon it. You could do thumbnails in CSP, and they’d be easy to delete or edit, but there’s something about the feel of the pencil on the paper that’s kind of invigorating. But yeah, in a pinch, sitting down with CSP and brainstorming on screen with the pencil tool can be fun too. -v

      • I agree. I bought myself a small sketchbook with the plan of using it as a project book for devoted to one comic…character concepts, breakdowns, storyboards, etc. I am discovering my own style and best workflow practices daily it seems.

      • I’m addicted to sketchbooks. They’ve really helped me generate and refine ideas, and looking back through them I can see the progress I’ve made. -v

      • My biggest shortfall is rushing through my work. I was thinking about it yesterday and maybe dusting off my sketchbook would force me to focus on the design construction more.

        Do you ever think you work too fast? I am my worst critic but I see some lost opportunity in some of my designs.

      • I think sketchbooks (practicing in them daily) afford you the opportunity to work faster, because you’re hammering out all of your weaker/needs work ideas in the sketchbook, and you see what works and doesn’t work. So by the time you’re on a project, you’ve got that experience under your belt and you can move more confidently through the process at the speed you’re accustomed to. That said….I still see missed opportunities when I look at stuff I’ve done, so it’s a constant learning process. Regardless, one of my goals is to move faster. Happy to say I’ve cut hours off my time by the mere act of drawing constantly. Now, if I can manage to not miss those opportunities along the way, I’m set! 🙂 -v

  2. Brilliant Vincedorse. You don’t fancy illustrating my next children’s book do you? Thank for sharing.

    • Glad you like it. I always enjoy looking at other people’s process. You learn something new every day.

      Flattered to be asked to work on your next project, but I’m usually pretty booked up. Still, when you’re ready, feel free to contact me at vincedorse.com with your proposal. I’m always taking commissions and other jobs….it’s how I finance my bigfoot habit. : ) Have a great holiday!

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