Great Scott, Ted! I know you say you're "not an inker" but I'd be willing to argue that statement!
PS Isn't flickr awesome?
Ok Gang, I finally got a Flickr account so I thought I'd test out posting images as well as give a little preview of my work process post I am currently working on ..
This image is a pencil rough my friend Edward emailed me from his current project and I thought I would practice my digital inking in Sketchbook, especially since Edward is going to do the pencils for an upcoming Sunday size strip of The High Frontier, and I am doing the inks ... so I thought what a good way to practice.
Next is my inks that are straight from his pencil ROUGHS ... the point here for those of you doing a project solo is that with Sketchbook I have found it very easy to go straight from roughs to finished digital inks, thereby skipping the finished pencils stage. And what i like about doing it digital inks versus physical inks is that hitting the undo button is infinitely easier for me than using white-out. The way I did this was to open the image in Sketch book and create a inks layer above it, then fade the background down to about 10% - 20% and start inking with the pencil tool in the inks layer. Mind you people --- I AM NOT AN INKER --- ... and yet I think it came out "ok" , so those of you with real talent should be able to excel.
Next is my colors
and lastly my lettering
let me just conclude by stating that if what I do can look as good as it does with a Tablet Pc and SketchBook pro, you people with real and natural talent ought to give it a whirl ....
Great Scott, Ted! I know you say you're "not an inker" but I'd be willing to argue that statement!
PS Isn't flickr awesome?
Billzilla dot info:Need to know something about Billzilla? Heck yes you do!
How I Created My Traditional Work Process
How the Tablet Pc with SketchBook Pro
I am a hobby cartoonist, in the never-ending process of creating and producing my own comic strip, The High Frontier. This journey began over 3 years ago when, with NO technical skill, NO developed artistic talent and VERY LITTLE art creation software knowledge, I set a goal of making a comic strip with all the guidelines and limitations of a daily newspaper strip. My original goal also included making 3 months worth of Dailies in black&white and Sundays in color.
As of this writing I have yet to reach that original goal, but I have also changed my goals for the strip so that it looks as though the original vision will never realized. But that is not a bad thing, not at all. I say this for all of you out there who are having a challenging time with your own creations not going the way you intended … it happens to all of us. The main thing is you have to be able to know when to rein it back in and when to follow your new course. And on that topic, all I can say is follow your instinct and my prayers are with you.
Now you may say “This guy hasn’t even cranked out 3 months worth of stuff and he thinks he can write an article on work process?”…. well actually YES … that is because this article is not targeted primarily for professionals, but rather for all those HOBBY or ASPIRING creators struggling with FINDING a work process that can be streamlined and made as efficient as possible. However, I think it will be useful for those longtime artist (pro or hobby) who are working in the physical medium and are thinking of partially or completely going digital and/or Tablet Pc.
I am like many of you hobbyist who have a fulltime job or fulltime academic undertaking, as well as commitments to family, friends and some part-time commitments that leave PRECIOUS LITTLE TIME for development and production time. Of the last three years, most of my hobby time has been spent in development, which runs the gambit from figuring what size to create originals, to what tools to use, to what format does the finished product need to be, to the whole point of the strip including location, plots, the cast of characters and their looks and roles, to learning how to work computer programs and art tools with no formal instruction, how to make borders, how best to letter and balloon … etc, so forth and so on. There are two quotes that come to mind “God is in the Details” and “the Devil is in the Details” … I guess it just depended on what kinda day those people where having, which view they would take … MY view is “Everything is in the Details” and that is why it has taken three years of hobby time to get to a process that finally works for me. And in hopes of saving alot of you some of your precious hobby development time, I am going to give an indepth insight into where my process started, where it went and where it has ended up. And who knows, maybe some of you longtime creators might find a trick or two to make your work a little more efficient also. And I beg all of you , professionals and hobbyist, to add your own insights to this thread here at TabletPcBuzz.com … it is YOU that makes this site what it is, and if you contribute, whether a little or a lot, TabletPcBuzz and all the readers will only be better for it.
Why did I choose right now to take time away from my strip to spend time writing about work process? Well in my case, the recent incorporation of the Tablet Pc and SketchBook Pro has had a truly Revolutionary effect on my work process, and it also changed the direction I am going to take the presentation of my strip. And I could not be more excited! But as always, I have committed to share insights here at TabletPcBuzz when I can. And to that end, I wanted to meet that commitment now, so that I can get back in full force to the strip, and the next stage.
That next stage being just as imposing as Work Process, which is the venue presentation of the material for public consumption. As it turns out, I have abandoned most the Newspaper parameters and any hope of seeing my strip in any format of print and have decided to go with full color, mainly Daily style strips and self-publish on a personal website. But Before I get to far off the work process topic … let me say that you have got to keep in mind how you might want to ultimately present your work while developing your work process, otherwise you will spend a buncha time on a project and then have no venue for it. And that my friends, just plain sucks ….
My Original Work Process Development
Before I can explain how the Tablet Pc and SketchBook Pro changed my work process, and how it might be able to help you as well, I am going to explain my original process first for the comparison. To most non-Tablet Pc Artist, and non-digital artist, this stage will probably remind you of your own current style, as it is deeply rooted in the ‘traditional’ physical tools and physical mediums creation techniques of graphic art such as are employed in comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, and graphic illustrations.
To start with, any project you have got to have a concept that is so ‘important’ to you that it is something you will be passionate about thru all the trials, tribulations and (hopefully) victories along the way. For me, I decided that there was no better concept than one that would combine my family and friends with sci-fi action and adventure fun in a serial format. I didn’t want to do anything that was in the far future or too distantly removed from today’s society, nor did I want it on a big spaceship … big spaceships are cool and I love them but there are already plenty of good stories already based on a big spaceship. So it just sorta hit me to set my story on a big base on the moon’s surface, Moonbase III to be exact. And since I am not in the military (however, God bless all that are though!), I decide to make story about my family being the result of a presidential PR move to have a civilian family be the first inhabitants of the first officially recognized moonbase.
Ok, with the story concept decided, I then had to decide on the FORMAT for the story, and for me the choice was simple. I instinctively went with a daily comic strip format. It is serial format that allows for continuity of arcs but does not require it each and every time. This gives a creator some freedom to play around a bit when desired. Also, with a strip format I feel more of a sense of accomplishment as each single strip gets done since they have the ability to be a stand-alone piece independent of the strips before and after if desired. And lastly, I found a sense comfort in knowing that a strip has a certain finite canvas space upon to work.
The only other option for me would have been the traditional comic book format but I found that to be far too daunting a task with my limited time available to work on it. First, it would require that page 1 has a relationship to page 2, and page 12 and the last page. Also, I would have decided the theme I would be working on for the entirety of the project. And lastly, the canvas of the comic page is just to frightening for me to consider …. The panel counts, sizes, shapes, flow and layout compositions would leave me paralyzed with indecision. So for those of you who do work in this format, my hat is off to you, for you are far braver than I!!
Once the format was set, I went to the task of deciding what size to draw the original material. I found the best thing to do for the Sunday style strip was look in the Calvin & Hobbes Sunday collection, the one with original art work on the left page and the colored published version of the strip on the right, where Watterson had made dimension markings in the margins of one of the Sunday strips. And for the dailies, I went to measured actual newsprint strips to get the size and then I increased the size by 150%. (Note: do not use reprints of Peanuts as they are now non-typical sized… they are from a day and age when strips where just different enough in dimension that you would be remiss to use it as a current template ... I recommend Garfield, Hagar, BC or Shoe as your reference) The 150% was derived from the basic increase in size from printed comic book pages to the actual original art page size of 11 x 17 inches. After some sizing up and then down I ultimately went with an original image size of 4 inches high by 13 inches wide for my hand drawn daily strips as this was the biggest size I could work with on a piece of 11 x 14 Bristol board. A big tip here for you beginners wishing to print your finished strips at newsprint size, do a test strip or two and print it out at home on your own printer and make sure your fonts and line work details don’t become so miniscule when reduced to a mere 1.75 inches in height. As I said earlier, you have got to have an idea of your finished product’s venue while working on your strip., otherwise you will invest you time and heart and soul into an effort that, at the very last stage when all the ‘real’ work has been done , kicks you in the @$$ ….
Now that I had a format and original size to work on, the next thing was Pencil, Pen, Ink and Paper …. And this is a whole lot more complicated than I ever could have imagined! From trips down to the Jolly Roger Studio over the years and chatting it up with Tony Harris and Ray Snyder, as well as the many, many years of DAILY education from own private art mentor Edward Whatley, I found out that there are different textures and qualities of paper available to use, as well as many pen tools to use, and even different pencils options (Ink is such a precarious issue, I don’t even like to think about it). At this point I began thinking in the back recesses of my little pea brain … wouldn’t be great to have just one tool instead of having to use a pencil and a pen … much less using multiple pencils and pens for different purposes.
My first and main advice to anyone starting out, get every different piece of paper, pencil, pen tool and ink brand and try them out for yourself …. Everybody is different so what works for you may be something that doesn’t work for most. Just as you yourself are unique, so will be your exact working progress. That said...
My Second and equally main advice is that one thing to keep in mind is that you are working toward an end product and that product's appearance. So you will need to know that getting to that end appearance will be by way of a series of twist and turns and, in most cases, COMPROMISES. One such example of Compromise you may encounter is that you find a pencil and paper Combination that you just LOVE... but you have a problem once you try to ink it. So if you want to work 100% physical on a single sheet of paper you have to use a pencil & paper Combo you don't like as much, but the inking ends up a bazillion percent better ... so you compromise the earlier stages for a better end product.
Now let’s talk about pencils. There are 3 general types I have found. First the traditional #2 pencil you probably have around the house. Second is my preferred option, the mechanical pencil such as the Quicker Clicker. And third is the lead holder type of pencil. Among these are pluses and minuses. The regular pencil and lead holder require sharpening, but the mechanical does not. That said, the regular pencil and lead holder allow for more variation of line width in a single tool when compared to the narrow tip-width variation of the mechanical pencil. One thing to keep in mind about pencils, regardless of type, is the lead. Softer lead is darker but smudges whereas harder lead doesn't smudge but is much lighter. Finding the right balance for you will take time.
Next comes Paper. My paper of choice is Bristol Board 300 or 400 series smooth 11x17 or 11x14 which can be found at many stores from office supply chains, to hobby & art supply chains, to specialty art stores like the Awesome **** Blick. Many of these have internet sites as well, but if you ever have a chance to visit a big **** Blick store in person, you need to go there at least once ... trust me! … Back to paper, I chose smooth surface, but you may like a rougher, or toothier, surface. If a surface is too smooth the ink will just sit on top of the page and take forever to dry, but a rougher texture may lead to too much ink bleeding away from your intended line stroke. And some people may do just fine with typical computer printer grade paper. To each his own, but try them all. Another type of paper is Vellum, a higher quality of semi- transparent "tracing" paper. It is rarely used as the primary paper, but relegated to secondary work such as Correction of inks or test inking of a penciled page. The problem with Vellum is that as it gets worked it looses its flat evenness and becomes wrinkled and crinkled easy, and it also takes forever for ink to dry on it. Thankfully with advancements in copier and computer technology, most uses of Vellum can be done relatively easily on your Normal sheet of art paper of choice. Now … more on that later.
Once you have a grasp on pencils and paper, you then have to tackle pens. There are many types of pens but the main choices are Crow quill, technical, felt marker, ballpoint, gel and Brush (yes I know the Brush really isn’t a pen, but for sake of discussion this is where I am discussing it). To those of you who can master the Brush of Choice - Winsor & Newton Series 7 Sable hair brushes, my hat is off to you... but for the rest of us mere mortals, the other pen devices are much more suitable. If you can master the brush, or in some cases a Crow Quill, , you will be able to make a beautiful line that varies in width and length in a nice artful single fell swoop , whereas the other devices tend to have to build up the line as you go with multiple Strokes for a single line, much like a pencil. But the Brush and Crow Quill require dipping into a bottle of ink after almost every stroke, as well as making test strokes on a separate surface with each "refill" of ink. Inherently they have an increased risk of ink splatter and ink spills that can ruin a days worth of work in a single unattentive moment. The other Pen devices have none of these dangers. So even though a technical pen or a felt marker may require more strokes to create an ink line, they seem to be less delicate and more predictable hence their popularity. And as far as using a ballpoint pen or gel pen... well if that works for you so be it... I just wouldn't tell anyone.
Lastly for this section is Ink. You may think ink is ink, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you need bottled ink for a brush or Crow Quill, then you can easily drive yourself insane finding the right kind. Here is the best tip I have learned, most any large bottle of black ink is ok, so long as you know going in to it that you will need to tweak it to your liking and needs. How do you tweak ink? Simple, if it is too thick and doesn't flow well, just add water until you get the viscosity you want. If it is too thin, just leave the cap off the bottle until enough water evaporates and thickens it up enough. I have heard that some artist actually boil thin ink but I think that would lead to a whole host of other problems. Just leave the cap off the bottle. Oh and don’t worry about the water thinning the ink and making it less black. Many times ink on original paper looks washed out, but when it is scanned or copied it turns 100% black. Once I saw an Original that my friend Edward inked using a brush and a technical pen and it was clear which tool inked which part since the brush ink was light and varied in the degree of lightness, but the tech pen ink was jet black and consistent, however both the copy of it and the scan of it showed only a dark consistent black for all the line work making it nearly impossible to distinguish what parts had been done by which tool or which ink. This is another great example of always keeping in mind the finished product while working thru all stages of development and creation of a project.
The Next big hurdle for me came with lettering. Not that many comic book Creators still hand letter on the original page any more, but since it is still prevalent in Comic strips, I felt the desire to learn the "old fashioned" way of doing it. The first thing to know is that if you are hand lettering on the original page is that you should letter and balloon after your finished level of pencils but before inks! Other wise you may ink penciled line work where your words go. As Recent as the mid 90's DC Comics actually had the art pages go from the penciller to the letterer and then to the inker. I think this was an attempt to save time in the inking process since often times word balloons and text boxes can take up to 1/4 of the actual page and with it now covered with text there was no need for the inker to ink the penciled image underneath. And this was even if the letterer wasn't lettering directly on the paper page, but rather making balloons, boxes and words on a special film that they then paste on the page. Anyway back to my personal experience, the balloons and text boxes were easily enough done with shape templates but what really got me was the actual letters. Trying to make a consistent unique series of letters, numbers and punctuation (Collectively referred to as Fonts) became more daunting than trying to tame the ink brush. For those of you daring enough, there is actually a tool for using in making the right spacing parameters called a lettering tool, but even with that I was ineffective at best. And I don't think I am alone in this feeling because most Comics are done using Computer lettering, since for all but the truly gifted, it is the easiest thing to compromise on when being a solo creator. Sure, there is nothing like an original page with hand lettering, but for me, even before I started using a computer at all, I realized that it would be the single unique skill I could quit trying to tame. And I am thankful I made that decision, especially now that I know lettering is the hardest physical skill to achieve to an acceptable level, yet it is the easiest of digital skills to use to an acceptable level. My biggest tip on lettering is to always figure out your dialogue and text in the roughs, otherwise you may find yourself trying to shoehorn your balloons and captions rather ineffectively after the art is done.
The next thing that I had to learn about was the physical way of Coloring. For this I found a several options such as watercolors, other paints, markers, prisma color pencils and zip-a-tone. Water Colors look great as anyone can see on the wonderful Calvin and Hobbes pieces done in this style. Also, Alex Ross' gauche paints are stunning. Other Paint techniques have been highlighted by Tony Harris on his Starman Covers and other work of the same period. Markers were best done by George Perez in the 1980's on certain covers and his poster Masterpiece of the Teen Titans in 1984. Prisma Color pencils are also a good choice especially for beginners since they don't obscure the black ink work very much and they are far easier to work with than the others. Last comes Zip-a-tone , you know its that look that is achieved by a cut-and-paste clear film with dots on it that is used in most daily comic strips and also popular in Manga now. Zip-a-tone is where grey tones are inferred by a series different size black dots spaced out by uniform or varying distances. Since I was going for a daily comic strip look in black and white, I pursued Zip-a-tone only to find it scarce and expensive. Since then though, because of Manga’s popularity, the film is now readily available again. But Zip-atone and the other ways to physically color or tone ultimately seemed too much for one person to do in a timely manner, so that become the second stage that I relegated to the computer.
Lastly for this part, if you have never used a light box, you really should try it at least once. A light box allows for layering in the creation of images for your project. For example, I laid my pencil roughs down and secured the sheet with tabs of clear tape, laying the Bristol on top. Using my Roughs as a guide, I lightly drew all the useful line work again, leaving out all the clutter and Noisy lines from my roughs. The use of the light-box gives you a relatively clean Bristol to polish up in pencils and then ink. Without the layering available with the light box, you can have a very cluttered and messy Bristol to ink and this can lead to wear issues which may make ink bleed in unpredictable spots, and it can make erasing the pencil graphite, after the ink dries, very difficult. The cleaner the Bristol is before inking the better. Also using a harder and lighter pencil at this stage is help full as the graphite being lighter contrast nicely with ink so you know exactly where you have and have not inked. Also hard/light lead erases far easier. Special Note, get a putty type eraser as it does little to No damage to the Bristol and wont remove any ink line work, only the graphite from your pencil marks. Many artists use Blue pencils at this stage instead of Graphite because these special Non- Repo blues can save the stage of erasing since when copied correctly, or scanned properly, the Blue lines don't reproduce. The Blue lines also Contrast even more with ink for easier Viewing of what has been inked. Other artist who choose to avoid layering with a light box use one Bristol and do roughs in Blues then do tight pencils in graphite and ink all together, then just erase the graphite. For a far better example of using a light box, go look in the back section of some Starman trade backs by my pal Tony Harris. He uses non-traditional methods to create most of his pages. By light boxing he is able to use photo reference, photo models , 3 D modeling and plain old "pulled out of your @$$ "creativity, all then 'Cut and paste' together to make his rough layouts layer and then pulls them all together in a single style to Create the world his characters inhabit. It really is fun to watch him at work. (Special Note: Artist like Tony do not use light boxes as crutches but rather tools to get a job done. I know this firsthand since I walked in on him one day and he was drawing finished pencils on a clean sheet of Bristol with No roughs and no light box. He just skipped layout and roughs and the first marks he made on the page were Finished Pencils. Not many people are capable of that. )
Oh, here is a great tip for all of you out there. When you get your pencils done to where you are ready to ink, take your original pencils and at least 2 clean sheets of Bristol for every penciled page and go to a copier or print shop place. Ask them print your pencils on the fresh Bristol but turn the pencils to a Non-repo blue image. This will allow you to ink on virtually "virgin" Bristol, as the inkjets that lay down the blues do no damage at all to the paper surface. Also this is helpful incase of an ink mishap , or just inking practice in general as it leaves the pencil original left as is. Also, a penciller can scan his finished original and email it across town, or the globe, to someone else instantly for them to ink. This practice in the Comics business is speeding up production delays and allowing for two originals, one page pencils and one page inks, in the marketplace for collectors.
My Developed Physical Method:
Finally after months of trial and error I developed a physical work process that I used to create my first batch of comic strips. I did full size roughs on legal size regular paper since it was far cheaper per sheet than Bristol, and it was large enough to draw the daily strip at full size. (FYI- full size original for me was 4" X 13"' more than twice as big as Newsprint production size of 1.75" x 5''.) Next I laid out my needed Borders on the Bristol in pencil (why not draw Borders straight to ink? I don't know since it would have saved a lot of time … sometimes you just gotta live and learn). Then I broke out my handy dandy light box. I used a hard/light pencil to put down the essential line work. Next I finished the penciling and polished it up a level from roughs. Then I broke out the technical pens, which were the disposable Micron brand for me. By this point I was done physically and so it was time to go to Kinko’s and make reduced Copies that I then am able to fit on my Computer scanner at home. For those of you with the resources getting a scanner and printer that can accommodate 11" x 17" pages at your own home is a Major Bonus. But for those of us with out them, Kinko’s is an invaluable Resource. Once I had done all my physical work, the only things left were letting and coloring on the computer. This would turn out to be my first steps into the world of Digital production.
Going to the Digital Domain to Augment and Finish out my strips:
The first thing I found about going digital with physical work is that it required a scanner and imaging software. The prevailing software is Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite, unfortunately it is rather expensive so I use its lesser know rival Corel Draw X3 suite. In Corel there are programs Comparable to Adobe's programs, however if you use Corel you have alot less online resources available. Using Adobe gives you the ability to read other's steps and copy them as is. With Corel, you can figure what you are capable of, but you have to get the exact steps on your own. And that certainly qualifies as a character building experience to say the least. I, like most of you out there, have had No formal imaging software education, so it is all OJT -on the job training. If you can spend the money on Adobe, I highly recommend it, Corel is good but helpful resources are Non-existent. Also, if you can get you software via student discount, take advantage of it, Corel is under $200 and Adobe is under $700.
For the purpose of this write-up, I will use the term Photo to describe what I do in Corel Photo Paint, but is equally doable in Adobe Photo Shop.
The hardest thing to figure out first digitally was at which resolution should I scan my image in at. After months of trial and error, I went with 300 dpi. I arrived at this setting because web publishing is at 72 dpi and print is at 300 dpi. By scanning my original at larger than published size strip with 300 dpi, it allows me to have a high resolution image to start working from. It is always better to reduce a high quality dpi image down to published size, and it is always bad to try and upscale a low dpi image up to achieve your publishing size. Also, I find a higher resolution image looks better when you zoom in to do your detail work digitally.
Next I needed an input device for my interaction with the Computer software. You can use a mouse but I found a tablet accessory alot easier to work with. My tablet device of choice was the Graphire 4x6 model from Wacom. I highly recommend going to this website and see what all products they offer as my tablet was the lowest level device they have, but for me it did the job.... for awhile. The BIGGEST problem I have with this type of tablet input device, is that you are looking at the screen for results of the actions that your hand’s stylus is producing on the pad. This disassociation of where the action is input and where the results appear was disjointing for me. Many artists have no problem with this after a while of use, but for me it was always a little unnatural.
The first digital work I did was Coloring. I began using Photo and to achieve my coloring I used the mask function to protect my black inks, then I Colored away. My first strips were all done in black and white grayscales, and also a version of each strip was done in a blue-tone coloring to contrast with the black line work that looked kinda cool too. I found a neat tip from an artist at a Convention recently on how to get that zip-a-tone look. He said, use layers and do all your Zip-atone coloring as gray tones in a single layer then convert just that layer part to what is called Bitmap and presto! Depending on how you do your Bitmap settings you can have free zip-atone shading. It is a little more complicated than it sounds, and you may need to save the gray tones as a separate image, convert that new image to Bitmap, then copy and paste it back in as a new layer under your inks in your original image, and deleting the first grey tone layer. But once you figure it out, it is an easy way to get that old school Comic strip or the currently popular Manga look.
After I got used to coloring, I realized my strips needed something I just couldn't put my finger on. Finally after a couple of weeks, I realized my hand drawn borders just lacked the look I wanted. So borders became the next thing I learned to do digitally. To my amazement, the computer borders made the single biggest difference in making my strips look professional. So for any of you using a computer in conjunction with physically produced images, I encourage you to experiment with computer borders. And it turns out they are easy to do once you research it further. At this point I began to suspect going digital could make my entire product look better AND save time . . . . Because making borders by hand takes alot more time than I ever could have imagined.
Next came Lettering. For this I used another top layer to type my text in using the Normal Comic Sans font. Then I made a layer below the letters, or fonts as they are commonly called, that used shape tools to make ovals or text boxes to contain the Fonts. Then if needed, I freehanded dialogue balloon tails and then filled in the completed shapes with white usually, or another color if desired. And then, Finally! ... I had made a strip comparable to the ones in real newspapers.
But alas, I desired more.
More what though? I wasn't sure since what I had achieved was very satisfying, but there was a quiet little voice in the back of my head that started to whisper "it can better". But again, what was "it"? The first thing I thought was the fonts. They were the only thing in the finished product that was not created by my own hands. So I began researching Fonts. Eventually I found Font Creator and very easily created an entire set of symbols and letters that were all my own. This was so simple that I recommend it to all of you. Don't settle for someone else’s font in your work, make your own. Also, with Font Creator you can create endless sets in any style you desire. Heck, you can even create a different font for each character if you wish. Also alien and spooky fonts are a breeze too. Once I was satisfied with my general purpose font, I went back and re-fronted every strip again. Now I was satisfied to the point of being thrilled.
But again that voice was whispering "it can be better''
Confused, thinking that I had solved "it" with my own font, I began to search again for what "it" was.
Then one day I realized that the "it" was my work process.
At this point in the game, I was using at least 3 sheets of paper, a pencil, pen, stylus, trip to Kinko’s for Copies, a scanner, desktop , laptop, light-box, two kinds of erasers, an art pad, rulers, templates , external tablet device and a carrying case (and probably other stuff I am forgetting) just to get one strip done.
Some how I knew that by 2007, there had to be a better way for me.
That is where my journey to the Tablet PC really took off. And for those of you unfamiliar with a TabletPC it is an all in one computer that allows for direct stylus interaction on the screen. And except for the most diehard or specially tasked people, I recommend the Convertible with keyboard over the keyboardless style slate that I own and use. As cool as the slate is, MOST of ya’ll need a keyboard for text and data entry, email … a keyboard and mouse are very fast, accurate and easy to use, handwriting convert to text is awesome, but sometimes the precision just isn’t there yet. For example, I wrote this entire article’s rough draft on my tablet using the TIPS interface, but I really needed my desktop with keyboard for editing and polishing purposes. In my case, I have a very specific reason to have a slate, and it serves that purpose very well, but were it not for that one (huge) reason, I would probably already have gotten an convertible and handed my slate down to my young daughter for her to do her digitally artwork on (currently we share the slate). And if the TabletPC is to be your primary and only computer, which it is far more than capable to be, get a convertible.
(my write up is too large for one posting so it is continued below)
Last edited by TedRx; 07-19-2008 at 11:25 AM.
(continued from above ...)
My Tablet Pc Work Process:
This last January 2008, after a long journey (as posted here http://www.tabletpcbuzz.com/showthread.php?t=35072 ) , I found my better way (as posted here http://www.tabletpcbuzz.com/showthread.php?t=35319 ).
I short, I gave up all my many tools and devices for what easily fits in my legal pad sized portfolio case and a tag along power Cord. It is a Motion Computing M1400 Salt Tablet Pc (with shape templates in the portfolio pocket).
At first the stylus was not what I expected … but then I realized that it (like my pencils, pens and brushes) was another tool that I would have to adapt to, because even though it was computer driven it would not adapt to me. Now this may sound bad, but if I could adapt to this one style of input and interaction, I could abandon all my others. One tool to rule them all. No more pencil lead to sharpen or replenish or erase, No more ink at all, No more lightboxes or trips to Kinko’s ... Nothing but my stylus and tablet Pc to have to deal with... at all. And, unlike the truly awesome Cintiq, I can take it any where I go. Now some of you long-time artist may not remember what it was like with your original learning curves for your papers and tools, so I ask of you to be patient and it will be worth it. The two major Compromises I see with the Tablet is "no original artwork" to sell, and a small canvas to work on. For some of you the lack of an original is enough to keep you off the Tablet, and for others the 10" to 14" diagonal size screen is prohibitive as well. But if you are a creator who does solo projects, the ability to get more work done quicker may out weigh everything else.... and since this is My sole motivating objective and I have been very satisfied.
Thanks to TabletPcBuzz.com, I discovered Alias Sketchbook Pro. The best way to compare Sketchbook to Photo is to point out what Will Eisner once told Frank Miller that for years comic creators have been working to make comics using tools and devices and software that was designed to actually do something else. For example PhotoShop and Photo Paint are photo manipulation programs but they are the main digital tools for comic creation. But finally, with Sketchbook Pro, we have a tool that was designed SPECIFICALLY for drawing and coloring. The interface is so freakin sweet!!! Unfortunately Sketchbook can’t match Photo's versatility, so until Sketchbook adds cut-n-paste of masks, and text entry, and shape tools, I will have to stay with both to get my work done. Still better than just using Photo to create from scratch.
On to my Tablet Pc process... (Many of the individual steps are able to be accomplished by regular accessory tablet or Cintiq)
To save time on Border creation, I used Photo to create 14 of the most used Border templates for a Daily Newspaper style comic strip ... This alone saves a ton of time when attempting a daily style strip. Anyone wishing for a copy of them just email me thru my TabletPcBuzz.Com membership profile. These are done at a size of 9"x 27" panel size and DPI of 100. I put a white space border around them making the total size 15x33. To save file space, I have them saved as Bitmaps (Black and white only). This image size may seem large but it produces a small enough flattened Jpeg to email and is suitable to print at 300dpi Newsprint size, and it is also ok to web publish at 72 dpi, at 200% size of newsprint comics. Remember, it is always best to work at a higher resolution than your end product will be viewed at.
Once I decide which template to use for a given strip, I open it with Sketch Book pro... and I immediately rename the file so as to not corrupt the original template (also, always make Backups of all templates and stock Backgrounds in another file for safety sake... preferably stored on another computer as well).
(please click on the bar above the images to see them at full size)
Next I create 3 new layers above the Template background. The layer just above the template is my "Blues" layer. In this layer I create my blue line roughs. Typically I do roughs of the entire strip , but with working all digital I don't have to, if I wish I can actually workup one panel to inker and colored completion. Also it is handy to work up your dialog and text in this stage as well, and when I do that I use the color red to designate that work.
After I do my blue line roughs, I change the opacity of that layer to about 20-35%. And frequently I bypass the limited Canvas size issue by zooming in on my image to the point I can make comfortable sized stylus strokes on the area I am working on for that layer
Then I travel up 2 more layers to the top layer and begin my inks equivalent layer. This is where I save the most time. For most artists, they go from roughs to polished/ finished pencils then to inks. But with my digital process and sketchbook, I can take the finished pencils and inks stages and consolidate them into a single stage, thereby cutting out 1/2 of my drawing time. This is thanks to the fact that I can create ink equivalent linework with the correctability and erasability of Penciling.
After I am done inking, I turn off the "Blues" layer and then zoom out to view the entire strip.
Also it is easy to adjust elements at this stage. Notice that one character, Freddie Bear, in panel #1 of the Blues layer , didn't make the "cut" into final inks. Now that the "inks" are done, I go down to My Colors layer below my line work and start coloring away. Unfortunately I have not found Gradient fills in Sketchbook yet, so any of that I leave off till I get back to Photo.
Oddly enough, I have found it very useful to use multiple layers for coloring. I find it is easier for me to color the main foreground initially, then to make another layer underneath to easily Color the background with out damaging my foreground color work. I envision it like the many layers and elements of an animation cell. Also by layering it allows for easier Cut-n-pasting of stock backgrounds like my 'space' image that serves as the futherest background element in Panel #1.
Also, if I want to use the same background in 2 or more panels, I can easier manage that with layers. For example the background in the middle panel is a cut-n-paste , as well as zoom-in , of the background in panel #1. Also, I found it easy to create the effect of glass by Coloring it in its own layer using a light solid blue then changing the opacity of just that layer down to about 5-10% to get a transparency effect.
Next I save my image as its native TIFF setting preserving all the various layer elements making it easy to retrieve or redo any of the isolated elements. Then I save a 'flattened' JPEG version that is essentially just the image as it appears. I do this because I found out the hard way that if I try to open a TIFF saved in Sketchbook with another program such as Photo, the image loses its layers and becomes flattened and all the layer elements are lost. You would think TIFF layers would be the same everywhere but not so, so when moving to another program just take the JPEG and leave the TIFF (properly labeled) for Sketchbook.
Now, unfortunately, I have to leave my sketchbook Pro program to move forward.
Because I have yet found away to reestablish my borders above the Inks & Color layers, nor have I found out how to balloon and letter with my custom font in Sketchbook Pro. It any of you can follow my Next steps and know how I can do them in Sketchbook LET ME KNOW !
It's not that Photo is a bad program, it is just that I really dislike the pixilated look of my images while working in Photo. For those of you who don't know what I mean , take an image of black and white inks only and open it in Photo and zoom in on it. Then minimize that window. Next go back to you ink image file and right click on it and open image with Windows Image and Fax Viewer and then zoom in on the same section. In Comparison the Windows Image and Fax Viewer gives you a much Smoother image, and Photo is very pixilated in contrast. Working in Sketchbook Pro gives you smooth line work at high zoom like the Windows Image and Fax Viewer. With Sketchbook, I am working more so in a "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) styled environment.
Zoomed Image in Sketchbook Pro:
Zoomed Image in Photo:
ALSO, Zooming in and out with Sketchbook is a piece of cake, whereas in Photo it is cumbersome and not an 'on the fly' kinda function. Essentially, what Sketchbook can do, it does much better than Photo, from the interface to speed of tools, to layering, to line image quality, ETC ... if only someone could take the ability of PHOTO and combine it with the practical functionality and interface of Sketchbook, then we would have one single KILLER apt to work in.
Now onto Photo .... where I open my flattened JPEG image and use it as my bottom layer, the background.
The first thing I do after I open my JPEG image is to re-establish the border. I do this by Opening my border template in Photo and using the Mask function, I mask the white leaving the Black line work only to be copied on the clipboard. Then I go back to the JPEG and paste the border in a layer (called 'object' in PhotoPaint, but it is actually an object in another Layer) above the JPEG image. Then in that new upper layer I mask the black line work and use the fill bucket tool add white to the outside of the template to cover any of the color in the lower layer that went originally beyond the borders. This gives you a nicely colored and bordered image that is really shaping up to look like a real comic strip. If you have standard credits and trademark info, placing that on your daily border templates can save time and be easily added to the image each time at this stage.
Once the Border is re-established, I jump into the phase of computer lettering. Typically I type out my text and Photo puts each separate block of text in it's own layer which actually is nice as it allows me to move them around independent of each other. Once I have my text done, I use the shape tool to create either boxes or ovals to encompass the text as its box or word/thought balloon. These shapes are all automatically given their own layers as well. Next I make sure that the shape is in a layer UNDER the text (simple to move layer up and down like animation cell stacks thankfully) and then I use the mask again to cover the black and the use the fill bucket tool to color inside the shape white for balloons and yellow for text boxes. At this point the text boxes are done, the balloons though still have an important step to go .... creation of tails. To create a balloon tail, I go into the layer with the shape and using the pen tool I draw the tail accordingly. Sure I could have done the tail before the fill of white but for this strip I just didn’t. Next I erased the portion of the oval between the two tail contact points and the mask the black again and use the pen tool to white out the rest of the balloon. For this strip I also used hand draw lettering and balloon borders to give the worms a different voice. I just really with the text input function of Photo had spell check … cause I can’t spell worth a #@^*#!!!
At this point I cannot stress enough that you really should make your own computer fonts. After all, do you really want some else's fonts on a strip that is otherwise 100% your own creation? No I didn't think so. And hey, it only takes about 2 days of work. I recommend MyFontCreator or “My font Tool.” A free WinXP: Tablet Edition powertoy available from Microsoft’s website.
At this point I thought I was done ... but then the strip didn't look done. So I decided to go back and put Emilee's bear Freddie back in the strip. I took a JPEG of my image and opened it in Sketchbook. There I made the Jpeg my background and then created my usual layers above it. Next I faded the background down to about 10% visibility and went drawing in the Blues layer.
Next I did the inks and colors layers, and made the blues invisible.
Then I readjusted the background back to 100% then saved a TIFF and JPEG, and opened the JPEG in Photo give Freddie text and then I filled out the strip with text boxes to establish location and time flow.
Now the strip looked complete, alot better than my first attempt at a finished strip ... the added elements of Freddie and the Text boxes really rounded it out nicely. Then I saved a TIFF and JPEG in a folder I call my Working files, and then put a JPEG copy in my Finished Strips File.
And finally the strip is done!!!
Now I realize that this is a lengthy post, but in reality it is a very abbreviated overview as there easily could be a couple of books made to cover in detail what was done, and how you can do it differently to suite your needs and desires. So please please please, if you have any questions, or wish to have more indepth details about any stage, just let me know ... I will be glad to address them to your satisfaction. I have had alot of people help me and I am more than willing to help you if I can, even if it is just a sounding board or words of encouragement. ..... I know how passionate and solitary a solo project can be.
Good Luck and God Speed my Friends.
Last edited by TedRx; 07-19-2008 at 11:37 AM.
Thank you - this is great. It will take me awhile to get through it all again. I really appreciate the effort and the information.
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Sorry, that's pretty much all I've got to say. Amazing works!
Last edited by TadakoXIII; 09-27-2009 at 09:47 PM.
Ahh, I finally got to 15 posts and can post links to my artwork now! :D
Since this thread is about the process of making art ... well, conveniently so, i *just* recorded my latest art doodle and posted it on youtube. This was drawn for my anniversary with my boyfriend~ so i HAD to draw something. :D
This is my finished work:
As for the PROCESS of making this drawing... well, THIS is how I roll~~
thanks for the POST!
I thought I would add some of my project,
work process is straight forward,
I start with a sketch layer, then a 2nd layer for working out the details, and the final layer for the inking (the project is meant to be in B&W), a 4th layer would be reserved for text/balloons.