process

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.


Here’s a thumbnail of the specific page I’m inking in these photos. It was a revision drawn after most of the book was done.

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.

Here’s the inked page with temp lettering…

…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!

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60 Responses to process

  1. Aerin says:

    I love seeing how other people do their comics- tools, process, etc. Thanks for posting this. I’d enjoy seeing more of your process stuff :)

  2. Great, great, great post. It’s always interesting for me to see the process other artists use. Thanks for all the detail and photos.

  3. Nate Beaty says:

    I eat up photos of desks in action, thumbnail sketches, explanation of writing processes and seeing the tools used. Great post! I can’t believe you ink on vellum, then again my choice of inking on original pencils might explain my hives.

  4. Wow, it’s amazing to see how you work! I wish I could make comics but no talent for that! :D Got to buy a copy of Anya’s Ghost soon!

  5. Very nice to see your process of making comics. Each artist has his own way to do it. I love when they show it! ;)

  6. Noel Arthur says:

    This is a really great process post! I’d never thought of using vellum like that. Also glad I’m not the only one who goes straight to thumbnails without scripting…I’ve never been able to do that. Very informative, thanks!

  7. Samanta Flôor says:

    this is amazing! thank you so much.

  8. mike says:

    my writing process is the same way. i think writing with thumbnails just comes naturally for comics. the simultaneous relationship between pictures and dialog is essential to the medium.

    anyhow- thanks for sharing. looking forward to diving into the book. :)

  9. Louise says:

    nice to see the process, I’m really looking forward to getting the book :)

  10. acrylicana says:

    Love seeing process :) Especially seeing supplies all laid out (such a dork for it!).
    posts like this make me want to purchase your book all the more. Oh, so soon!

  11. Wow! Thank you so very much for sharing! I am in the beginning stages of my first “serious” attempt at a finished, profesional level comic. This was very helpful and inpiring! I’m pretty sure now that this is the way I will have to write my story, it seems the perfect fit. Thanks again for sharing and always putting up such awesome stuff online!

  12. adam connor says:

    Great stuff Vera! Thank you for writing such a thorough outline of your process. Seeing how people work can be as much fun (sometimes even more fun) as seeing the finished piece.

    If it’s OK with you I’d love to post about and link to your writeup on Creative Progress (http://creativeprogress.posterous.com)

  13. giorgio says:

    Oi! I loved your post, and your work! Really nice composition and storytelling!
    Cheers!! If you want to check some of my process, visit my blog! It will be sweet to see what you think of it. Tchau!

  14. Pat Race says:

    It’s so great seeing how other people work, always gives me ideas for improvements to my own methods.

    There are definitely some things here I want to try but I could never replicate your process, my hands get too sweaty, I’d turn that vellum into inky porridge.

  15. Thanks for sharing this Vera. Really cool seeing your work process, even if it’s not that efficient like you say, we can learn from it and take some elements to improve our work.

    The book looks terrific btw, hope I can buy it soon.

  16. This is great, I really enjoy seeing how other folks work!
    Can’t wait to read your work.

  17. Carl V. says:

    This is great! I am forever fascinated by the process artists use to create art and it is wonderful to see it, and read about it, in this kind of detail. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

  18. Nick Perkins says:

    Vera, I bought your book this week and was not disappointed. I’m so glad to have found your site also. The insight into your process is icing on the cake! Thanks for Anya’s Ghost; I hope you continue to create.

  19. Ellie says:

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing! I love seeing works in progress and your work is pretty incredible.

  20. Allan Lorde says:

    Thanks a bunch for sharing your process with us, Vera! I also couldn’t help but notice your custom photo viewer with the sketchy navigation arrows and the closing “x”. Love it!

  21. Rosey says:

    Wonderful post, i especially loved the diagrams/pics of exactly what brushes and paper and noteboook you use :) I have been a fan of your work since discovering your snow bo animation and then coming across a couple of your Coraline storyboard pics (but I’m a bit random at following blogs). Now I must get a copy of your gorgeous book! peace out x

  22. Sam says:

    Brilliant! What a treat of a post. Such cool work and a really interesting process. I am looking forward to getting my copy of Anya’s Ghost.

  23. Philip says:

    Hey Vera! First of all, big fan! Your work has been a constant source of inspiration, and I’m thankful that you put all this great stuff out there!

    I have a question about your method, specifically the inking. If you’re inking over translucent vellum, does any of that ever get transferred over to paper? I’m assuming the ink doesn’t seep through to paper and stays on the vellum. In that case, the inking is handled purely for publication and not for sale, right? Just curious since I figured some artists prefer the lightbox method so that they could get the original on paper for sale, but I’m wondering now if that’s more for practicality rather than profit.

    Anyways, I hope the question isn’t too much trouble to answer. Again, great stuff! I’m looking forward to your next significant body of work :)

    • verabee says:

      Nope, the ink doesn’t seep through at all. The vellum’s reasonably thick, it’s not like tracing paper. I use this method with an eye towards publication rather than selling originals but I don’t see why vellum originals couldn’t be sold – they’d just need to be mounted on white to be seen more clearly.

  24. Awesome post! Bought the novel today and its going down a treat! Would love to get my hands on some of those vellum originals. Keep on rocking V.

  25. Stephanie says:

    What brand of white gel pen is that? I’ve been using white gouache lately, maybe this would be more cost effective.

    • verabee says:

      Nah, the gel pen sucks. Half the time it doesn’t even write. White acrylic is definitely more cost effective.

  26. Carolina says:

    Hi Vera. Your process is so enlightening! I’d never thought of using vellum to ink, I’ll have to try it soon. Also, using both digital and traditional media the way you do has so many possibilities. Thank you for sharing your process, I’d love to see more.
    I finished reading Anya’s Ghost last night and I’m only sad it had to end. All your characters are so interesting. I wish I could sit down and talk with them. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read Anya’s Ghost, but I thought the ending was totally unexpected! It made the story even cooler than I thought it would be.
    Would it be okay with you if I drew fan art of Anya’s Ghost? Strictly for personal enjoyment, of course.

  27. Annabel says:

    I -LOVE- seeing how you work! Great post! And I got in my “draw that dress” postcards! Thanks so much! I’ll be ordering my copy of Anya’s Ghost soon!

  28. roby-boh says:

    That’s so interesting! Thanks for sharing :)

  29. Adam says:

    “Anya’s Ghost” is one of the best graphic novels I’ve seen in stores (normally I have a difficult time finding a graphic novel that grabs my interest).

    I’ve been working on my own graphic novel, but sometimes I get discouraged and feel like the project will never be completed. However, reading about your process (I also thumbnail/dialogue simultaneously) has inspired me to get back on top of things and continue working at it. Thank you, Vera!

  30. Lambda says:

    Great! It´s fantastic to share your work-process. Thanks a ton from a would-be comic inker :D. Gotta read your graph-novel, too.

    Thankies!

  31. Lucy says:

    This is so lovely to read about. I can’t get over how satisfying that vellum process is. I’ll have to try that soon. And the pages look gorgeous, of course.

  32. Vanessa Lynn says:

    Thanks so much for posting process work! I love seeing how people create comics because I think pretty much every artist has their own method. I’d been tracing my pencils onto large sheets of watercolor paper (I drybrush a lot) and it’s a PAIN and takes twice as long. I was already planning on making my pencils digital with my cintiq, but vellum! That’s a great idea! I definitely want to try that!

  33. Ivan says:

    Very nice post!

    You’ve just openened my eyes for one step 2 much that I was doing while creating comic pages. Thank you big time, it will save me a lot of time! :) Cheers!

  34. Elise says:

    Really cool book! I’m looking forwars to your next projects.

    I have a Cintiq too, and I just love to draw on it. Why don’t you use it for inking as well?

  35. Elise says:

    Wow! That’s a high-quality print. Good reason ; )

  36. Katai says:

    I just finished Anya’s ghost in about an hour or so. I couldn’t put it down!! Awesome AWESOME book. I actually had no idea you did Return to Sender as well. Please do more!!

  37. Sally says:

    Beautiful book! Thank you for sharing your process.

  38. Lauren says:

    i love this… i havent met anyone who works like i do, from rough thumbnails straight to pages and dialogue in my head coming out as i draw. so in that regard its really huge to see an artist i admire doing it that way!! thank you for sharing this : )

  39. chrishaley says:

    Loved this walk-through of your process!
    What kind of “brush” do you use for your digital “pencils” stage?

  40. TeeRoy says:

    That was super cool! I just waltz’d onto your blog looking for “inspiration imagery” for an assignment and this post knocked my socks off.

  41. Jen says:

    thanks for sharing these:) these are amazing!

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  43. asertijo says:

    muchas gracias por compartir tu proceso…
    your works are really really great!
    congrats!
    eres una referencia para mi ahora ;)
    saludos =)

  44. Arefti says:

    Thanks for going over this is such detail. It’s fascinating.

  45. Pingback: Frequently Asked Questions | Verabee

  46. Like everyone else, I’m so glad you went to the trouble of sharing all this info. It’s always interesting to see how a thing you love came to be, and of course it’s just damn informative and helpful too. Really great. Thanks for sharing it!

  47. Pingback: From the Desk: February 17th, 2012 | Little Wolf

  48. damun says:

    I wonder how do you do to have pitch black inks on the page for print, I mean, when you (or anybody) ink; the brush traces can be seen and in some spots the ink is lighter than that on the general page, but in the final page everyhting is BLACK AND WHITE, How do you do that?, in Photoshop?, just curious… Anyway, great work. Good luck

  49. I found your book by accident while looking for comics to study for my quick sketch class. I’m going to Ai for 2D Animation. I got an assignment that required “copying” other artists to learn the technique and grow as an artist. My teacher encourages it because he firmly believes it helps new artists grow in their skills. Your book was among a very tiny collection of graphic novels in my very tiny library (safeway bought the bigger place and kicked out the library); it has inspired me to go back to ink. I love your simple style. The class is all about conveying the story/character without loading it down with tons of detail. The shape has to support the message on its own before adding detail. Thanks for the inspiration. I liked how it dealt with characters from eastern Europe too, since my family is from Poland and Hungry.

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  51. Peh says:

    I just got Anya’s Ghost and devoured it in one sitting. I love it so much. You are so inspirational; thank you for this awesome book! Please do more! :)

  52. Pingback: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol | Grant Buist

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