Pencils, Inks, Colors, Done.

Just a real quickie. Been a little busy to post here, but my promo image for this week’s Untold Tales of Bigfoot page happens to be a snapshot of my basic comic-making process. So I figured this process blog would be a good place to post it. Full page here (where I posted a few more inks).

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Quick Rundown of a Bigfoot Page

Busy, busy, busy. But I thought I’d throw up some quick screenshots of my digital process for a page from my latest Untold Tales of Bigfoot short, Devil In The Details. Nothing too hairy here, just quick shots of my steps.

Step 1: PencilsUToB_DeviInTheDetails_process

Terrible, right? I scribble this stuff on paper and scan it. Sometimes the images are tighter, sometimes looser. It depends on my mood and how difficult a particular pose or scene might be to ink without guidance.

Step 2: Ink

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Inked in Clip Studio Paint. I letter in Clip Studio as well, but leave all that on a separate layer in case I need images of the art without text.

Step 3: Flats

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I’m doing this story arc in a faux-aged black-and-white palette to add to the creepiness. So my colors are muted, but warm. I did the flats on the figures first. Why? No reason. Sometimes I start with the background.

Step 4: More Flats

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This page is a little different than some of the others in the story because that third “panel” is really just the page, acting as a background for the top two panels. Just more warm greys, getting things prepped for the final stage…

Step 5: Modeling and Effects

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The last step is usually the highlights and shadows, modeling the figures and background so they have more dimension. I also leave any sort of lighting or atmospheric effects until the end and place them on their own layer. In the case of this short, I also added a roughed-up, worn paper effect to age the image a little and give it a retro feel.

And that’s that! If you wanna read the story, I think we’re about halfway through and starts right here. Thanks for looking! -v

 

Untold Tales of Bigfoot Nominated for Another NCS Reuben!

UToB_ReubenNom3_DorseHere’s some fun news (for me, anyway). Untold Tales of Bigfoot has been nominated by the National Cartoonists Society for a Silver Reuben in the Online Comics: Long Form division. This is Bigfoot and Scout’s third nomination (they won in 2013).

We’ve been buzzing about this here in the cave for the last few days, feeling very honored and grateful. Congratulations to my fellow nominees, John Allison and Ru Xu. Bigfoot and I consider the nomination itself a win, thrilled to be recognized alongside some other very talented creators. Scout, however, really wants the wall plaque and he won’t shut up about it.

Either way, we’ll be having a great time rubbing elbows with all the other cartooning professionals at the 72nd Annual Reuben Awards, May 25th-27th in the City of Brotherly Love, good ol’ Philadelphia, PA! Whether we go home with the bauble or not, it is always a sincere pleasure to spend the weekend hanging out with some of the funniest, creative people I know. -v

For a complete list of the nominees in all the divisions, CLICK HERE!

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Out and About: Upcoming Shows and Events

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Hey, I’m emerging from the cave for a few upcoming events in the next month or two. Here’s a short list (more to be added):

April 7th & 8th: MoCCA Festival This Weekend in NYC

If you’re in New York this weekend and plan to attend MoCCA (Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon, and animation festival) I will be sitting in at the National Cartoonists Society table on Saturday (3:45 to 7) and Sunday (3:45 to 6). MoCCA is a 2-day event with all kinds of cool stuff, and there will be other cartoonists at the NCS table throughout the weekend. Admission is only $7 a day!

“Held at the luxurious and modern Metropolitan West located on West 46th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, MoCCA’s host venue will encompass two floors of exhibitor tables, a gallery of original art showcasing the work of special guests, and pop-up cafés throughout the space.” CLICK FOR DETAILS!

May 5th: Free Comic Book Day at Phantom of the Attic, Oakland

I’ve done Free Comic Book Day at this amazing comic shop before and had a blast meeting people, selling books, and doing quick commission sketches. It’s a wonderful shop with a great staff and it’s stocked floor to ceiling with fun. I’ll be sharing a table with Jim Rugg (Street Angel, Afrodisiac) so stop by and say hi. PHANTOM FB PAGE

May 19th & 20th: 3 Rivers Comicon in Pittsburgh

I did this con last year, had a great time, and so I’m doing it again this year. Saturday and Sunday, May 19-20, I’ll be at my own table at 3 Rivers Comicon in Pittsburgh. There’s always a great guest list of talented artists at this con. CLICK FOR DETAILS

I’ll add a few more notable events as the details shore up, but this is a good start for now. Hope to see you out there! -v

Chutz-Pow! One Page, From Script To Print

Recently, I was invited to be part of a fantastic, truly worthwhile comic project called Chutz-Pow! Superheroes of the Holocaust. It’s an anthology series put together by local creators Wayne Wise and Marcel Walker in conjunction with Zach Zafris at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh.  The series features a rotating roster of writers and illustrators who recount the tales of holocaust survivors. And in those cases where the survivors are still living, they actively participate in the creative process.

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I’m going to run through the steps of getting a page from script to print, and show what a team effort it can be. And if you know all this stuff already, feel free to skip to the end to find out where you can pick up a copy of Chutz-Pow!

Script

I was asked to illustrate the story of Solange Lebovitz who, as a young girl, hid in plain sight in occupied France, pretending to be a member of a Catholic family. I worked from a script written by Yona Harvey (American poet and assistant professor at University of Pittsburgh), as told to her by Solange. There was a brief period of adjustment for me, getting used to someone else’s storytelling rhythms, but it just took a couple read-throughs to get my bearings and I was good to go.

I’ll show my process here for page three of the story — a good, old-fashioned, nine-panel layout. Yeah, you have to cram a lot of stuff onto one page, but when those nine-panel pages work out, they’re a great storytelling tool. Here’s a shot of the script. Throughout the project, my main focus was to do justice to both Solange’s experiences, and Yona’s literary interpretation of them.

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Pencils

I played it safe with the pencils, doing them digitally in Clip Studio Paint. Easy to rethink and try different ideas on the fly.

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Using the Blue Layout Pencil and various Ruler tools, I was able to pencil all nine panels pretty quickly without worrying about rubbing a hole in Bristol Board with my eraser. But believe me, I erased plenty with the digital eraser.

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Inking

Though I penciled the pages digitally, the vintage time period of this story made me want to go old school and ink it on paper, to have something tangible at the end of the process. It’s something I don’t do too often, and I was a little nervous about fixing mistakes, but I plugged in my lightbox, grabbed the Bristol, and got to work.

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I printed out the blue pencils on 11×17 paper, taped them to the back of my Bristol, and flipped the switch so I could see the pencils through the paper. Now it was ready for inks.

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I used a handful of tools to ink this page. For tech pen work (lines that don’t need too much variation) I use Sakura MICRON Tech Pens and PITT Artist Pens. Both have waterproof ink and lay down a nice, smooth line.

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For lines that need a little finesse, a little more life, I use the Sakura PIGMA Brush Pens. The ink is waterproof, and they make expressive, variable width lines.

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The panel borders took me a little time to figure out. I tried using the Pigma GRAPHIC 1 pen (which has a nice, fat nib point) but it wasn’t quite fat enough. Then I tried the Pigma GRAPHIC 2 pen (which has more of a chisel tip). It was big enough, but running it along the ruler felt weird. In the end I used a combination of the two to draw the outline of the borders and fill them in. So I’m still working on finding my method for this step. If you’ve got a method you prefer for inking those thick panel borders, feel free to leave it in the comments.

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And to fix the errors, I use both Pro-White (opaque white watercolor) and a Sakura Gelly Roll White Gel Pen. Used it liberally, I might add, because there’s no undo function on paper. I’m using the medium point Gelly Roll in the photo here, but I believe they have both bold and fine point options as well, I just haven’t been able to find them locally.

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And the page progressed like that, one panel at a time, — ink, fix errors, next panel — until it was done.

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LETTERING

The lettering on this project was all handled by my friend, Marcel Walker.  He scanned in my original pages, and lettered them in Adobe Illustrator. When I work on my Bigfoot comic, I do everything from script to art to letters. And even knowing exactly what I want, I end up tweaking artwork and nudging lettering up until the time I post it online (sometimes, even after) so I know it could not have been a breeze for Marcel to place the lettering into a finished, static page. Nevertheless, he did a great job.

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Feel free to compare Yona’s original script and my illustrations to see how it all came together with Marcel’s lettering.

IN PRINT

And that’s the finished product. Volume Three of Chutz-Pow! is out now and available at Phantom of the Attic, Oakland and WildCard in Lawrenceville. And I believe the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh will also be selling them on their website within the next week.

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There was a great turnout at the Holocaust Center for the debut of Chutz-Pow! Volume Three. The stack of books dwindled as the afternoon wore on, and few guests had the writers and artists sign their copies. And I got to meet Yona Harvey for the first time! Turns out we were mutually in awe of each other’s work on the story.

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Pages On Display

In case you’re in town and want to see some of the pages, full-size prints of the artwork from the first two volumes are hanging at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh until May 31st. And the original pages from all the artists in Volume Three: The Young Survivors  are hanging at the American Jewish Museum at the Jewish Community Center, and will be there until April 20th.

Stop by either exhibit to see some nice artwork created for a good cause. -v

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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How I Made My First Mini-Comic (Or Failed To, Actually, Because I’m An Idiot And Couldn’t Leave Well Enough Alone)

I Like Mini-Comics

Mini-comics are awesome. Homemade, photocopied, hand-stapled, indie gems that may be lo-fi but are often packed with amazing artwork and stories. Say what you will about big budget movie trailer sneak peaks… I think mini-comics are the heart of comic conventions.

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Recent buys, Detached:Vol 1 by Angela Fullard, Black Dog: Steps & Red Frog by Saramiel Ae.

But, despite drawing during practically every waking minute, I really haven’t put together a proper mini-comic of my own (at least not since I was a kid doodling bootleg Spider-Man adventures). So I decided to do it. Finally. It’d be good practice and would give me another low-price item to offer at cons (most of the ones I’ve picked up range between $4-$6). I’ll take you through my steps, start to finish.

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I began the process by folding eight sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper in half and I started drawing. Eight folded sheets gives you 32 pages (I know you know math, just bear with me). My goal was to come up with a simple story and have a 32-page mini-comic ready to go by the time I tabled at the Baltimore Comic Con this September.

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The thing I really love about mini-comics is that there are no rigid expectations about what they contain. Sometimes it’s light comedy, sometimes dark horror, sometimes artsy allegory, sometimes superheroes,….so many genres and styles. Often they’re limited-run one-shots so the storytelling can be bold and experimental. But just as often, you’ll see standard sequential art and linear storytelling. Mine? I wasn’t planning anything groundbreaking. Just a story about a girl and her cat. I really just wanted to have fun making it.

The Mechanics of Pagination

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So here’s why I folded up the paper before I started drawing. Whether you want to ink traditionally on paper, or scan in each sheet to ink digitally, the end result should be a spread that you can then photocopy and staple into a booklet. And you can see how the not-quite-intuitive page distribution is all taken care of by simply drawing the book as a book before dismantling it to make copies.

Inking

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Because I was under the gun to get it drawn, copied, and stapled before the comic con, I decided I would dismantle the penciled booklet, scan in the sheets, and ink the drawings in Clip Studio. That way, it’s easier to fix mistakes (and experiment with technique if I felt like it).

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Everything was coming along pretty quickly, aided by the fact that the story wasn’t a panel-heavy layout. I wanted a lot of single, solitary images on stark backgrounds (kind of like a kid’s book), eventually building to a more traditional, sequential format, then back to lots of breathing room again. This was another experiment for me, and I wanted to do something stylistically dissimilar to my other books. The inked, ready-to-copy pages were done in a few weeks.

Then, Like An Idiot, I Decided To Color It

Once I finished the inks, I got price quotes from Staples to plan my budget. Everything was rolling along smoothly. Then I thought I’d color one of the images to see how it looked. Good news/Bad news….I kinda’ liked it.

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Soon I started questioning the project, “How will they know it’s a ginger cat if I photocopy it in black and white?” and “Will anyone know the girl has two-toned hair?” So instead of heading to Staples for final copies, I went back to the computer to color a few more pages. You know…just to see how they looked. Then I colored the entire book.

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Coloring in the black line art would’ve taken enough time as is. But the pages for the mini were heavy on high contrast, with big areas of bold blacks, and most of the grey tones were completed. If I was really going to print this thing in color, the greys had to be eliminated, and some of the black inks had to be removed and replaced with color.

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While I was making those changes, I started researching prices for printing the mini in color at Staples. But I also researched what it might cost to do a very limited run of these things as a full-color, regular-sized comic book.

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I researched a couple online print services (Ka-Blam and Comix Wellspring), both of them well-recommended. Turns out, the online comic book printers weren’t that much more, per issue, than hand-folding/stapling a bunch of half-sized color copies. I figured, why not? And it would save me all that folding, collating, and stapling. With a deadline looming, I completed the reformatting in time to have the comics printed by Ka-Blam and delivered just a couple weeks before the convention.

The Finished Project From Ka-Blam

So there it is. Phoebe and Beeswax. Glad to get it in time for the show, but let’s take a closer look to see how the printer performed. minicomic_process_DorseOverall, I’m happy with the book. But I do note that Ka-Blam’s colors are a shade paler than what I expected. Still very nice, but just a touch washed out compared to my test prints at home.minicomic_process_DorseMost of the time, print-houses nail my colors. And Ka-Blam came pretty close. But Ka-Blam’s colors are not quite as intense as I expected. It might be because Ka-Blam prefers their files in RGB, while I work in CMYK (as most printers I use require). Ka-Blam doesn’t provide a proof, so you don’t really know how your colors will look until you crack open the box. The comic looks fine, but if I get anything else printed by Ka-Blam, it’s an issue I’d want to address to see if we could tweak things a bit more to my liking.

minicomic_process_DorseAnother issue I’ve discussed with them is that a number of the books arrived with some corner damage/creasing. It’s not unheard of, of course. I had a few dinged Bigfoot books from PrintNinja, but I’d ordered a lot more of those. With such a limited run of Phoebe & Beeswax, the dinged copies make up an appreciable percentage of the total. I can’t say Ka-Blam didn’t try to pack it well — the books were sealed in plastic, and encased in a pillow of shredded paper. But take a look at the shipping box:minicomic_process_DorseIt took only two days to get to me, by airplane, and it was delivered to my door looking like it had been used as the ball in a Steeler’s pre-season practice game. I know sometimes I can be a little nit-picky. But most times, I think I’m the perfect amount of nit-picky! So I informed Ka-Blam customer service of the issue to see if they’d do anything about it. They asked me to send photos of the damaged product, so I assume they’re considering their options. However, they’re located in Florida and I’m pretty sure that Hurricane Irma is marginally more pressing than my dinged corners. I’ll update this post when I receive an answer.

That’s That

And that’s how I failed to make my first mini-comic. Because I really couldn’t stop tweaking this project, it went from a half-sized, black-and-white mini-comic (that I could price at $5~$6) to a full-sized, full-color comic book on premium paper with a gloss cover (that I’ll probably price at $7~$8). Not much of a price difference, really. And if you like color, this version of the story will satisfy your rods and cones. Personally? I like color, and I like seeing that the orange cat is orange.

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Phoebe & Beeswax Debuts at Baltimore Comic Con

Phoebe & Beeswax: There’s No Beeswax Like Show Beeswax is a sweet little story of a girl who’s not sure what her talent is, but luckily her cat’s there to help her figure it all out. I’ll have it with me at Baltimore Comic Con, September 22 – 24, 2017. If you’re there, stop by table A-233 and say hi.  -v