This post should have gone out last week, but I decided to write about the importance of a reducing the number of newsletter subscriptions vying for your time and attention. It seemed like a great idea at the moment, but I said I would be sharing the process of making this webcomic mini issue and came to the conclusion I need to stick to it.
Coming from a graphic design background, drawing thumbnails is a familiar activity whether I’m drawing thumbnails for logos, print layouts and posters, or packaging designs. So making the transition to comic book thumbnails was relatively easy. When I’m working on comic thumbnails my goal is to focus on the overall shape of objects and space in each comic panel. A better way of explaining it might be, I don’t draw tiny details, only the foundations (like perspective, silhouettes, and overall compositional balance).
I try to only draw as much as I need to communicate what's going on and understand a sense of dimension and action. That being said, sometimes I find myself wanting to go into detail too quickly. One remedy for that is to make sure you draw your thumbnails no larger than a couple inches (2x1 inches or 1x2 inches). When you draw that small you can’t fit heavy details in easily. I also try not to spend more than a minute on each panel sketch and to draw several different options of each panel because chances are, one layout will be more effective than the rest. And what makes an effective layout?
In my opinion an effective layout:
- Visually captures its part of the story (providing Context, presenting the Goal and the Conflict, and the Resolution of the Conflict).
- Creates a dynamic sense of dimension (characters, action, foreground, middle ground, and background).
- Leaves breathing room for the characters and objects in the environment to not feel cluttered when word balloons are added.
I also believe that any one of the “rules” I listed can be broken if it serves to enhance the purpose of the panel. For example, if you want to create a sense of claustrophobia in a panel you would leave little to no breathing room in the panel. You could even squish the shapes of your word balloons to make the composition feel even more congested.
Now, let's say you have all your thumbnails done. What do you do next? I prefer to scan them to my computer as high-resolution TIFF files, then save a copy as a JPEG (I’m going to assume that you already have your own file storing and naming process and skip to the next step). After scanning and saving copies of my thumbnails, I open the JPEG’s in Adobe Illustrator document where I lay them out on a page. If you are familiar with Adobe Software, you’re probably wondering why I would do that. You think I would be doing layout in Indesign or better yet Photoshop since I’m eventually going to be drawing over and under the thumbnails. The reason I don’t use Indesign is because it feels too “final draft-like”. Also, what if I want to do some light drawing? The reason I use Illustrator versus Photoshop is I want to keep the file size low by linking the images to the document, which you can also do in Indesign. In the future, I may switch to Indesign for this stage, for now, Illustrator works. I also have a document template that I keep underneath my artwork while I’m laying out the page. Once the page is laid out I lower the opacity of the artwork and save a PDF and JPEG copy. Then I print the PDF copy on bristol paper to do tight pencils and ink. I often do some additional drawing and inking digitally. I’m working towards doing everything digitally in the future. However, the process I outlined is how I get my best results at this point in time. If it would help I can record a screencast of myself going through this process. I recently started recording screencast to help document my process and see where I can make improvements or cut down on something that I'm doing too much of. I recommend you do the same. I use QuickTime to record mind. In the past I've used ScreenFlow and it worked well.
Here are the thumbnails for the mini-issue and a couple page layout options I'm working on.
Earlier on, I recommended doing thumbnails smaller and doing several for each panel, however, I didn't follow suit during this mini-issue. As a result, I actually ended up going back and doing more thumbnails sketches after drawing pencils and inks :\ It's not a huge deal for a one-page comic, but it's better to explore every angle up front, especially when you're doing something larger like a ten-page comic . It will save you from having to go back and redo earlier steps of your process. Take as long as you need, but also set a deadline and stick to it or you'll never get anything done.
Remember, Finished Not Perfect.
Anyone in the process of making their first comic have any questions or comment? If so share them below.