Anya’s Ghost is my first book. Consequently everything I did was a bit trial and error. Maybe wasn’t the most efficient way to get the job done, but it worked for me.
I didn’t work from a script. When I write the art and the dialogue come at the same time and one suggests the other; it’s really hard for me just to come up with dialogue onto a blank computer page. I try to show more than tell with my comics and that seems to work best starting with thumbnails rather than attempting to get it across in a script. I did work up an outline for the entire story and plotted it out very carefully, but I let each scene form itself in thumbnails with the dialogue being written as I drew. I’ll run you through a process of some sample pages from writing to drawing to final color.
Here’s all my stuff laid out and ready to go. The only thing missing is a jam jar of water. I got that later, I promise.
My thumbnails are pretty impenetrable. I drew them two per page in a moleskine. They’re pretty tiny and as you can see I don’t have the world’s best handwriting. I tried to thumbnail a chunk of ten or twenty pages at a time and then translate them to bigger clearer rough drawings while I could still make out what the heck I was thinking.
I roughed out the drawing on my Wacom Cintiq and printed it out at the exact size of my scanner bed (I hate scanning things in pieces).
Here’s the stuff I use.
These are my pens and brushes. I’m reeeally picky about those series 7 brushes – I order a bunch at a time online and maybe one of them will feel right. The rest are delegated to filling-in-blacks duty.
I don’t like lightboxes so I ink on Canson translucent vellum. It’s great – super smooth and just opaque enough to see through. The only downside is if you get a drop of water onto it it warps and is basically ruined. So try not to do that. I know some people print out faint blue lines onto bristol board and ink over that, but this way you can just lift the page to see what the clean inks look like without trying to make it out through blue sketch lines. And it’s way better than inking over original pencils, which would probably give me hives.
The first thing I do is get panel borders and word balloons inked. I use a multi-liner pen for the borders and ink the balloons with a brush. Lettering is added digitally later.
All inked! Time to spot (fill in) the blacks on the hair and eyes…
I use one of my rejected series 7 brushes for this. They hold a ton of ink.
Correction time. I use white acrylic, or sometimes a white gel pen if I’m lazy. Removing the white paper underneath you can see where I fixed things up. This won’t be visible when I scan it (I scan as a bitmap).
Here’s the inked and corrected page all ready to scan.
Here’s a different pair of pages to demonstrate my computer process. You can see the thumbnail version of these two back up at the start. This is my first “pencil” pass, just getting the gestures down and making sure it’s clear. I sketch everything digitally on my Cintiq – it’s perfect for rough work because it’s so easy to move things around, change the size of something, stuff that would take forever on paper. It’s my #1 favorite drawing tool. I got through this rough-drawing part as quickly as possible to get the whole book in rough form to show my editor (since I sure can’t expect anyone to read those thumbnails).
After the editor signed off on the book I went back through the whole thing and tightened the roughs up just enough so that I could ink them. The expressions are generally untouched but I tried to fill in more information about the backgrounds and other details so I wouldn’t be stuck improvising too much while inking.
…and the colored page with the final lettering in place. I had a custom font made by John Martz. I did all the colors in Adobe Photoshop in different values of purpley-blue for no other reason than I like purpley-blue and I think it feels right for the story. Anya’s uniform is blue, her hair is black, and her skin is pale. You don’t really need anything else.
So there you go! My time-consuming and probably not-so-efficient process. I might attempt writing a script for my next book but probably not – thumbnail-writing just comes easiest to me. I figure as long as you wind up with a book at the end it’s all good!