How MOTB is made…

Hi all!

I had mentioned before about wanting to do more regular blog posts, so I thought I’d share my process for bringing MOTB to life! Sounds like a good, easy subject to cover in a blog post, right? Keep in mind, I’m sharing all of this as a peek into how I work. I’m not in any way saying THIS is how you should do it, or my way is the best way. Everybody has different ways of working – whatever gets the job done correctly and on time.

So — here we go!

First thing’s first – you gotta have a script! I like to keep my script out on the cloud where I can work on it whenever and wherever I can. Google Docs is great for that! I have a Google Drive set up with my scripts in a Google Text format, accessible from my phone, tablet and my desktop computer. I also use a Google Docs spreadsheet to keep track of my episodes, titles, post dates, etc. Google Drive’s last function is as the cloud backup for all of my work-in-progress files. I CANNOT stress this enough — BACKUP YOUR WORK. Burn discs, save to an external hard drive, make use of any of the cloud backup services. I suggest doing all three. Redundancy is KEY. You WILL experience data loss at some point in your computing life — corrupt file that no longer opens, accidental deletion or overwriting of a file, computer dies…the list goes on. It’s not a matter of if, but WHEN. Back your stuff up. Please.

Now then — With my comic script open on screen, I start off drawing rough thumbnails of the pages.

Thumbnails of comic book pages...

Thumbnails of comic book pages…

My workflow is completely digital, doing all the drawing on my Wacom Cintiq and a couple of different apps. For the page thumbnails, I use Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. I like Sketchbook Pro for the thumbnail process because of it’s simplicity. There’s not a lot of windows, settings, menus or extra stuff the high end graphic apps tend to have. Just some basic, solid drawing tools allowing me to focus on the page layout without hassle.

When I’m satisfied with the page thumbnail, I copy/paste it onto the bottom layer of the comic page in MangaStudio EX5 (Now known as Clip Studio Paint). This is where the rest of the art happens. Lettering happens elsewhere; more on that later. I resize the thumbnail to fit the page, name the layer THUMBNAIL and lock the layer so it can’t move or be edited. I make a new layer over the thumbnail layer named PENCILS — timeout for another PSA: NAME. YOUR. LAYERS. When you work in any graphics app, it usually works with some kind of layering system. If you’re anything like me, you might have 30 or 40 layers by the time you’re done with your design. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to find which layer a text box or image is sitting on when they’re all still named the default: Layer 1, Layer 2, Layer 3, etc.

Lotsa layers...

Lotsa layers…

Okay — MangaStudi..Errr..CLIP STUDIO PAINT (stupid name) is the bee’s knees for digital comic book production. WAAAY too much to describe about the app, and they’re not paying me to do so, but trust me, if you’re wanting to make comics the 21st century way, go download the free trial version and take it for a spin.

As you can see from the screenshot of the layer list, I have quite a few. Boiling the process down for you, each step of the drawing process gets a new layer — I do tight, finished pencils on the PENCILS layer. Inks on the INKS layer, and so on. Coloring takes up a few layers, effects, etc.

Now — let’s go back to the thumbnails for a sec. In addition to bringing them into MangaStudio, I also import a copy into Adobe Illustrator where I layout all of the lettering (Lettering COULD be done in M.S., but I like Illustrator’s controls better). I think this is a very important part of the process and one of the things that separates the professional looking comic from all the amateurs out there. It’s easy to tell when lettering has been added AFTER all the art has been finished. The eye flow is wonky and confusing, characters or important parts of the art are covered by the word balloons or sound effects, it may not be clear who is exactly speaking because the balloons and tails don’t line up to the correct speaker. These things are easily avoided if you figure out the eye flow and lettering position FIRST. The thumbnailed page is not gospel — it usually changes after I get the text in place and see the layout would be better with a few adjustments.

With the lettering finished, I’ll bring a copy of it into M.S. on it’s own layer so I can reference the text position when I draw the tight, clean pencils. PSA #3! If you do lettering digitally, invest in some quality fonts made SPECIFICALLY for lettering comic books. NO Comic Sans. NO Papyrus. NO to anything that came preinstalled on your PC. No, no, no. Looks like amateur garbage. You could have the most amazing comic art on the planet and absolutely destroy it by lettering it with stock fonts that came with MS Office. Just don’t. Nate Piekos’ Blambot site has quality, affordable (some even FREE) comic book fonts for all aspects of lettering. Same with Comicraft, although pricier, Comicraft are the founders of digital comic book lettering, having their work grace the Big Boy publishers’ comics for decades. I HIGHLY recommend Comicraft’s ‘how-to’ book, ‘Comic Book Lettering: The Comicraft Way’ and their other website, BalloonTales.com. If you want your book to look professionally lettered, how it do it is ALL right there.

So let’s fast-forward and say we’ve got our finished art completed; it’s looking TOTALLY KILLER (no filler). I export it out as a flattened TIF image and bring it into the Illustrator file, marrying up the finished lettering with the finished art. From there I export out the completed page as a high resolution Photoshop file. I’m pretty much done at this point. All that’s left to do is make all the different sized versions for the various webspots that host MOTB and upload accordingly.

There you have it! When life doesn’t get in the way, I turn out a completed page a week on top of working a full time day job. I may make some in-depth blog posts, each focusing in on a step in more detail. Questions? Comments? Critiques? Let me know what you think!

G.

Visual step-by-step...

Visual step-by-step…

 


Discussion¬

  1. Anne Welborn says:

    I’m no artist and I never will be, but I still found your explanation an interesting read.

Comment¬

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