I try not to talk too much about how I make the comics. I figure most people will be bored. But then, whenever I go to some site where there's any sort of drawing tutorial, I consume it voraciously. So here's what I do:

DRAWING

I drew this whole thing with ball-point pen, which is out of the ordinary for me. Typically it's all roughed out with pencil. The ball-point required me to make decisions early on, and saved me back-tracking. I would only do this when I knew I was only going to be drawing Bowen and Hal, since everyone else's appearance is experimental.

 

 
  Then I scan the rough linework into Photoshop 7 and create a screen layer above it in pure CMYK blue.  This way the printer only uses one color to print the image, which is important later.  I usually enlarge the image so it juuuuust fits on a piece of printer paper, since that makes it easier to ink.  I save these blue lines on the computer for later.  
  INKING

  I ink over the blue lines with a couple of Uniball pens.  I was watching a Disney movie with my nephew, and there was a preview for some special edition 101 Dalmatians that showed a Disney artist drawing a picture of a bunch of the puppies. He used the same pen for most of the lines and proceeded with a sketching style, only he made sure all the lines came together to form a solid line, thicker in some spots.  So I copied.  I am still getting the hang of when to make the line thick and thin, but it helps make the thing smoother-looking overall.
Then I scan the inked page in 1-bit Black-and-White, with the BW threshold set to blue. The scanner ignores the blue lines. You have to scan at a high resolution to avoid garish aliasing of the line: the first panel of Bowen in the
Poker strip was done at 200 ppi, and even that looks off to me. I go with 300 ppi, since any bigger and my computer won't be able to handle the coloring process.
I clean up the linework while it's still in B&W, and then use the wand tool to select the black lines. I copy them onto a new layer in the document that has the blue lines, since I don't ink the eyes or the background or lettering. It's a pain to line stuff up, since I usually change some compositional elements while I'm inking, but it's better than nothing.  I copy the inked lines layer and keep one above all the other layers so the lines don't get messed up in the shading/lighting process.

 

 
 


COLORING

Then I make with the coloring on the lower inked lines layer.  This is just paint bucket work.  I have lots of colors that appear over and over saved in my Photoshop palette, because otherwise I spend upwards of a minute picking each one.  "bowen's hair" "my skin" "wood" "copper" "killer pants" No, really.
The Wacom tablet is good for free-handy stuff like discolored skin.
Usually when I finish the flat coloring, I think the whole thing looks like junk, since the... uh, something... that was there in the rough work is now completely gone. I add the eyes on a separate layer, and that helps.  "Oh yes, the eyes.  They need eyes."

 

 
 
SHADING

The next step in making me not hate what I'm looking at is the shading, which you see I sometimes do in the inking stages, which is fun and I tend to like the look of it.  If I left it off because it looks "good enough without it," this is the stage where I really hate the look of the panel, and go overboard with the shadowing.  I make a new layer for the cel shadow, and do a dark blue shadow with the pencil and paint bucket, then I use a big black brush on the deepest parts of the shadow, and set the whole thing to about 30% transparent [which is technically 30% visible], and change the blending option of the layer to "Multiply."

 

 
  LIGHTING

I start a new layer and select only the positive space on the color layer [ctrl + click on the layer menu], and come through with a huge yellow brush lightly on the parts of the person closest to the light source.  Change the transparency to 30%, and the blending to "Color Dodge."

 
  SIZE COMPARISON

The backgrounds are usually either lazily gradiented in, or I spend far too much time on them considering the visibility they will have once the panel is shrunk by 800% to go in the comic and speech bubbles are added.  You can see how it's necessary to work so big to make a smooth-looking finished product.

 

 
  WRAPPING UP

  The whole thing goes on the template and I add drop-shadows to the panels.
  I throw on the speech text, and then all the bubbles go on the same layer with the Rounded Rectangle tool.  I make a layer behind the bubbles and select the positive space, and Select>Expand, Fill with black for the outlines.  Then I use the pen tool to make paths for the sticks for the bubbles, and use the Fill Path button [on the Paths tab in the Layer window], and fill the sticks in black.  Then I use the Select Path button and Select>Contract, Fill with white.  I used to Fill Path with white, then Expand, Fill with black, but it gave the sticks rounded points instead of pointy ones.
  Once the speech bubbles are finished, it's ready to post. 

 
  BAD HABITS

I sometimes skip the blue lines and just ink over the pencil lines and then erase real good, thinking that I will save time with the scanning and printing. Really, it takes the same amount of time, and then I end up with a lot of stray pencil marks and eraser crumbs on my scanned linework that take extra time and mental energy to clean up.
  I also sometimes just import the roughs and throw the blue screen on and do the "inking" on my Wacom tablet&stylus. This is no good for me, though, because the amount of control I have with the Wacom is pretty much the equivalent of the amount of control I have with an Etch-a-Sketch. Figuring out where the cursor is going to be and then making it do what I want is often more trouble than doing all the steps above. Plus, it takes a lot of computing power to use the tablet, I don't know if it's RAM or CPU cycles or what, but what this usually means is working at a lower resolution with an anti-aliased Brush tool instead of the Pencil tool, and that makes coloring a hassle, though not impossible.   I use the tablet for a lot of the other stuff, like shading/lighting and the backgrounds.  It's a good tool to have.
  It is possible to turn out decent-looking panels using all of these methods, and sometimes I have more patience for a certain kind of drudgery, like sitting at the computer, than I do for another, like erasing meticulously. I used all these methods on the Soul Rea
ver comic, which is a fan favorite and a favorite of mine. I found it easier to do the effects on the sword [the Reaver] by doing that whole thing on the tablet. The last panel was done on paper with pen, though, as was most of the first panel.
Composing the whole comic on the Wacom without ever going to paper is not a very good idea.  It's possible, but not good for my mental health, and it looks slightly worse for considerably more effort.
  I've made a lot of changes to the way I make the comic to make it easier.  It's not always as amazing or epic as it sometimes was, but sometimes it still is, and now I don't hate doing it when I'm done.

OTHER TUTORIALS

I keep learning new stuff, like I said. I stole most of my technique from Ian McConville, and you can find most of what I have here over in his tutorial. Here's one I read a while back that you might enjoy. Specifically, the Layers tutorial.  Hawk has good tutorials up when his site is working.  Mike Greenholt has a great site, and I thought this process guide was great.  Much better than mine.

STYLE

I draw in a style that I like to think is my own, but I have influences.  Let me think.  I steal liberally from Scud the Disposable Assassin and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.  I draw some manga-type elements due to laziness. I'm fascinated by some methods of graffiti [think West Coast].  I love automotive detailing.  I have a big box of X-Men comics from the late 90s.  I like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' pilot episodes.  I watch Samurai Jack for the visuals, even though the writing is just dumb.  I am not a snob.  I read the funnies.  I like lots of webcomics.  Go find some.

BE THE NEXT HAL

Don't make your own web comic unless you can't resist.  Trust me.  It's a lot of work, and people will always say maybe you can make a real job out of it, but you probably won't unless your name is Krahulik or Holkins.  It is a good way to get your drawing noticed, and it's a good hobby.  But hiking is a good hobby, too, and when you eat Cheetos all weekend instead of hiking, people don't go, "Hey, where the hell is the hike this week!  Did you die?"  But if you do start making one, tell me so I can go see and I promise I'll tell all my friends.
 

 
         



 

 

characters and content Przybysz & Cassidy