Someone asked me recently about my method for creating comics. Until I answered, I didn’t realize how crazy it all is.
Here’s what I do:
- Each chapter is drafted in a program called Scrivener. I draft inconsistently. Sometimes, I say what I want to have happen in each page, then I figure out the text later. Sometimes the words are important, so I write them then figure out how to fit them on the page later. The important thing is bringing a coherent vision to the chapter so that I don’t do a lot of unneeded work.
- Each page is then “storyboarded” in a program called ComicLife Magiq, a program which has unfortunately been discontinued. Regularly, I find I have tried to fit too many words onto the page. Seeing the text and panels together, even without any other art, allows me to imagine how the art will fit (or whether it will). Usually, I wind up cutting out a lot of the text I wrote in step one as I put together step two. One of the challenges of comics: in a novel, you can have characters just talk to each other for 20 pages, but comics have to have motion, action; rarely, do characters chat for more than a page or two… and you still have to fit what they say around the art.
- Each panel is done in Daz Studio. I was using version 3; just recently upgraded to 4.5 Pro. You might be wondering if doing my work in a 3D render program saves me time over drawing. The answer would be no. Still, I prefer the 3D for a number of reasons: a) if a drawing comes out poorly, or if I have to change the framing, I have to redo it from scratch while in 3D, I can just shift a few things around and render again, b) many panels are just camera changes so I can frequently reuse set ups, c) by building my characters in a program, I can ensure that they always look like I designed them, d) the most important: I like the end result better than if I were to have drawn things from scratch.
- The rendered panels are dropped into ComicLife so I can make sure everything looks right before I finalize the artwork. Often, I realize that a transition doesn’t make sense or I’ve tried to fit too much into a panel. Then I can go back and re-render some things before I get to the hard part of the artwork.
- The Daz render is passed through a variety of programs depending on which comic I’m working on. Photoshop is almost always used for color correction and for touching up 3D rendering glitches. The art is processed in either (or both) Postworkshop or FilterForge. Lately, I also export my renders to my iPad and use the device as a kind of light table over which I freehand draw the panels. I use ArtStudio for this. It’s a brilliant program and it’s my favorite way to work. I think if ArtStudio had existed 20 years ago, I would have done a lot more comics. A comic I am working on now is almost all hand drawn in ArtStudio, with Postworkshop used to generate cross hatching. Melandra’s Galaxy is pretty much before I discovered ArtStudio, so there is very little influence of this app on my workflow in the stuff you’ve seen on this site so far.
- The finalized art is brought back into ComicLife and the pages are exported… direct to jpg for the web, but also to Acrobat for delivery on DriveThruComics.
- After it’s all “done,” I sit the project aside for a few days, then I come back and read it all again. Often, I find mistakes or things which just don’t make sense. One of the pleasures of working in an all digital medium is that I can reorganize panels easily, add new things in, etc. Once I think I’ve got it as good as it can be, I send it out to you, the readers.