How a comic page is done

Or in this case rather "How a comic page was done". All old pages of the old version of Seekers were made with this techniques. Perhaps it's irrelevant to show this now but maybe someone will find it useful or interesting and perhaps it can help another webcomic artist to develop new ideas for his/her own work schedule.

My rules for mangas I took from various books, especially from Toriyama's (Dragonball) "Manga Drawing Course" and from various "How to Draw Manga" tutorial books.



The first step of the project is always the doodle book (on top of the picture). In this I create the rough layout of a whole chapter. Each page contains sketches for four comic pages while taking note of left and right sites correctly for a later print. In the doodle book all texts are written down and the panels are sketched down too. If I happen to run into a problem later on, e.g. by noticing that I squeezed too much text onto a page, I do make spontaneous changes though. In an emergency I add two pages.

(It is correct that mangas traditionally come with a fixed number of pages - either 16 or 32 - but since it's a webcomic and I only think in collector's volumes anyway I don't adhere to this rule anymore these days.)

With the right page from the doodle book in front of me I prepare the page. The inner line is up to where I may draw usually, the outer line is the outermost border which may only be reached for important panels and breaks in the flow of reading.

To make this step easier for me I have a stencil. This is put on a small stack of fresh paper and I copy the corner points to all sheets by using a pinboard needle.


As a next step I draw all lines for the panels, using bigger vertical spaces than horizontal ones. I use 3 and 5mm.

After the panels comes the text and then the speech bubbles.

When that is done I draw the actual characters. Usually I start with the first panel and work my way down, unless something happens that will break panel borders. E.g. Giselda standing prominently on the page and the other panels have to "duck away" or when a hand reaches out of its panel.

In this here case I simply had no good idea for the first panel yet, so I did the rest first and then flipped through horse photos later.


Actually inking should be done last but since I don't have any assistants who will do this work for me I allow myself some tolerance. Especially in summer when it can happen that I smear the bottom penciled panels while inking the upper ones I often start at the bottom. The books say to ink the biggest parts first, actually.

In this case it made sense to ink in two steps. First of, the upper panel was still missing and it wasn't unlikely that I would have to erase it several times later. In that case it's good when I can't ruin the other panels by mistake. Also, for the brush I was sure that nothing would be in front of it later and so I was able to draw Giselda to my leisure and then to finish Akshi while the brush was safe.

When there's complex buildings to draw I always ink the characters after having laid out the rough layout and angles. I always have to draw buildings several times until they fit.

For inking I use ink felt pens, namely PITT artist pens by Faber-Castell, ever since Rotring doesn't produce Rapidoliners anymore. I did try several other brands but most of them either spat ink stains or were too scratchy. For some time now Copic pens are sold in more and more stores here. I did buy some of them but didn't have a chance to try them yet.


Here is the finished ink drawing.

Actually I don't like inking with pens much since they only produce a line with very round end and a fixed line width. Artwork that's done with brushes or quills looks much more vibrant. I'm terribly bad with both though.
So I'm only left with the pen and I artifically add some thickness to certain lines.

One big mistake I commited all the way through Seekers is using only one pen, namely size "S".
In fact backgrounds should have thinner lines than the characters and the character's outlines should be considerably thicker than their details. This also makes artwork much more "alive" and adds depth and from now on I'll keep it in mind.

When inking I don't draw in the panel lines but only mark their corners with some dots.



As a first step after scanning I run a filter that darkens midtones and shadows and lightens light colours. Of course I could scan as linart which only knows black and white but I prefer having around 16 shades of gray in the end. This way the lines aren't that hard.

After running the filters I reduce the palette to 16 and make last modifications by hand.

By the way, the comic page has a resolution of 300dpi which is just barely enough for print. My program can't handle bigger files. I work with Paint Shop Pro 6 from 1999.


Once the colours are right I enlarge the palette to 16 million and add a new layer on which I use the box tool to draw in the panel lines. I don't use black right away to have a better overview on where speech bubbles or body parts break the lines.


Once the panels are done I switch back to the lower layer and remove everything that doesn't belong there. Scan fragments on the borders (happens always), the markers for the panels, writing in the speech bubbles and all lines that poke out of the panels.

Afterwards I return to the pink layer and remove the lines where they reach into speech bubbles and similar objects.


This is also the last chance to make adjustments if something looks bad. In this case I moved Giselda a bit to the bottom left since the panel was unbalanced. Once again I remove everything that pokes out.


The pink outlines are switched to black with the bucket tool. Then I merge the layers and save the picture with a new name before going on. With the bucket tool I floodfill all black areas. Although they're manga quality ink pens they don't scan flawless so I prefer to do the black areas digitally right away instead of fixing all marks and light stains.


Time to go over the whole page with a fine comb. This process is the most time-consuming part of each page and may take several hours. With a high zoom and a 2x2 pixel brush I work my way all around the page, paint over the uneven borders of floodfilled areas, fix wobbly lines, remove the last scan fragments, erase errors and add details I forgot.

Once that is done I duplicate the layer and call one lineart and the other one background. The lineart layer stays untouched and serves as a backup in case I mess up horridly. The background layer gets a slight brightening (about 20% so the lines turn light gray). The lineart is set to multiply. All screentones get added on the background layer. I have the most important patterns in a folder, each labelled after what they are, e.g. "Gisiwings" or "darkgray". With the bucket tool I fill in all areas that need patterns.

When an area isn't fully closed off, like Akshi's "hair", I use a bright green pen to draw a temporary line, then use the bucket tool on the enclosed area first and then on the green line itself.
If I do shadows (lately I don't) I add another fresh layer afterwards and draw all shades in light green, then fill it all with the bucket tool and the "gray" pattern and set it to multiply.

(Of course the colours green and pink are selected randomly.)

After saving I switch over to Paint Shop Pro 8. That one has the actual plugin for the How to Draw Manga Screentones tool. (It also has a terrible zoom and an equally terribly text tool though so I don't use it for my comics in other ways.)

I add all large background patterns and gradients here, e.g. gradients for the backgrounds, since with the plugin it's much easier to rotate the screentones without losing quality, to resize them and to choose a fitting part of the tone. Usually I put the patterns on separate layers after selecting the correct areas on the lineart layer. When required I make last fixes with the lasso and eraser, especially when I have areas that aren't fully closed off.

Back in PSP6 as a last step I add the text. German comes first, then I duplicate the text layer, switch German to invisible and make the translations.
Afterwards the pic gets saved (as a psp file to keep all layers intact).
Then it's just a matter of minutes to flatten the image, resize it, reduce the grayscales to 160 and save it. Then start PSP6 anew because it always crashes at this point (and half a dozen times before that, preferably when adding the last text box), make the other language visible and do the same. Then I make the thumbnail and update the little update info gif with a snippet from the page.

Upload and enjoy.


Here is another example for a page. These pictures don't show anything substantially new but I had prepared them a long time ago for a similar article I never wrote and the advantage is that in this case I always made a scan instead of a photo. The digital postwork is not completely shown here though.

 Seekers howtoSeekers howtoSeekers howtoSeekers howtoSeekers howtoSeekers howtoSeekers howtoSeekers howto



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#2 Eph 2015-04-08 07:51
After I deleted the Itunes spam link from the above comment it *almost* sounds genuine, lol. I leave it in for amusement, since I almost never get English comments and I often wonder if translating the website is even worth the effort.

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