Digital Comic Tutorial
Disclaimer: I’m no expert so don’t take my professional word for anything. This is merely the process I use to make my comic, Point of Singularity. I use The Gimp 2.6 and Manga Studio 5 but the entire process is easy to transfer into any program - trust me, I’ve been switching around for years. Remember to save often!
*All the text is blacked out as this page will be published on the 13th.
Step 1 - Layout! I start with a basic A5 layout, something snatched from one of the many comic resources online, such as DeviantArt. I added my logo to the top of the page for consistency, but it’s mostly a blank slate. There are all kinds of different shapes and sizes, so try to have a good idea in mind what you want, if you’re planning on publishing in print, comic site’s size restrictions and so forth. My A5 layout is 1600x2100 px.
I work on this size and scale it down by 50% (800x1050 px) for digital publication. The blue lines you see are bleed lines. Bleed lines are like warnings - if you go over them, it might be cut off in print so keep that in mind. I often go over them for effect, but I never put anything important there. My blue lines are on a layer above my background, so they can be easily removed when I finish.
Step 2 - Refer to Script! The script! I write my script in LibreOffice or Google Docs using Consolas font (if anyone cares). There’s no real “true” way to write your script, do whatever feels right. I based my script template off of various screenplays I’ve seen and went with a few ideas I liked the best. A script is like a map, so feel free to create your own legend as you can see I did.
I’ve mentioned this before, but my scripts go on forever. I rarely set a page number before I’ve drawn the page, because I’m never sure how things will space out aesthetically. For the best impact, I look between my script and my storyboards (I explain more about those here) and decide as I go along. This might not work for you, or you might have better structured ideas than myself. I number the pages as I do them and sometimes a little ahead, but only by a couple or so.
Some of you might be wondering if scripts are really that important - can’t a storyboard cover all of that? It certainly can, and often does for some webcomic artists, but for me, it doesn’t. I like to have more detail, and while we want our results to be subtle, I need to know if Pelor’s looking anxious because of a staring stranger, or worried because he’s afraid he’s going to get caught. This is what the script is for, apart from dialogue.
Step 3 - Sketching! Finally, sketching! I use a very small brush for sketching, but as you can see, I’m messy as hell. Whatever you like to use is fine. Because of the script, I have a vague idea how these images will look. Some panels come easier than others, so don’t worry if you’re not 100% clear on how it will go. I usually try to sketch out borders before I begin, starting with the most prominent or important panels and working roughly around them. Don’t be afraid to experiment with panel shapes and sizes either! I’m a bad example here because I do tend to play it safe, but use your favourite comic artists as examples. Finally, reading comics can count as “research”!
Not pictured: I do set up the text on the page roughly at this point, if only to make sure the text and the pictures aren’t squishing each other. You really, really don’t want that, so plan ahead in the sketching stage.
Step 4 - Colour Blocking! This is an optional step, but since I work in solid blacks, I create a layer below the sketch layer, set it’s opacity to 50-60% and roughly block out where the black should be. We want to make sure there is enough contrast, and that each panel doesn’t look too blank or too dark (unless that’s what you’re intending).
Step 5 - Borders and Inking! At this point, I make the black layer transparent, and lower the opacity on the sketch layer to 30-40% so I can prepare it for inking. On a new layer (creatively named “borders”), with a .30 line (Gimp’s Circle 19 brush, I use it for everything), I use the rectangular selection tool to select the area I want the border around and I simply Stroke each. Then, I save the image as a .psd and port it into Manga Studio 5 for inking.
You can use any program you want for inking - this is just my own preference. For anyone still wanting to use the Gimp, I suggest following my inking tutorial, and remember to read the comments for more program information.
Step 6 - Word Bubbles! First thing’s first! I type out all the dialogue on the page before making the word bubbles, since then I have a rough idea of how it will all fit. Remember again, make sure nothing is squished and feel free to view the image at it’s intended publication size to ensure it’s readable. If anyone’s curious, I use a free comic font called Evil Genius, and yes, I know that is incredibly apt and awesome. As for the bubbles, I have two methods for this as one is very program specific.
Manga Studio 5 - Manga Studio contains a lot of ready-made resources, and it’s very simple to drag, drop and resize your word bubbles onto the page. You can set your own line thickness and their tail tool is very simple and easy to use. WARNING: porting this to the Gimp or another program may corrupt the file - I merge all the word bubbles into one layer when I’m done and that prevents the issue.
The Gimp/Others - Using the selection tool (Elliptical, Rectangular or Freehand) make the shape you’d like around your words. Then, instead of stroking this shape, go to Selection > Selection to Path. Paths are a great deal smoother. Remember to unselect all of your selections then stroke your path with whatever line thickness you want. You can create a layer below your new lines and colour in the background of bubble however you’d like.
Step 7 - Final Colour Blocking! Same as the previous colour blocking step, just finalized and much sharper. Since my line art is black, I use a very dark purple-grey, I lock the lines layer and colour any line art that I don’t want to be hidden by black, such as Pelor’s entire outfit. When I was merely working in black and white, I painted the lines white instead.
Step 8 - Colour! I lay down all the flat colours, and since I mostly cell-shade, I only need maybe 4 layers for this, 2 for background and 2 for foreground. Then, some basic two or three tone cell-shading and I’m done. This step might change depending on what you’re hoping to do, but there are enough colouring tutorials out there anyway. (Hell, I’ve written enough of them myself).
Step 9 - Texture! This is incredibly optional, but I add a final layer on the Overlay setting, at 60% opacity that gives the overall image a papery effect. I just like it. Do whatever you’d like.
Now, I’m not sure if this was too thorough, not thorough enough or just fine, but let me know if you have any questions or comments (or if I was stupid and forgot to mention an important step)! I made a bit of a name for myself back on DeviantArt for being a Gimp Evangelist, so it’s my expertise but most things are easily portable to Photoshop so not too much should be lost in translation. Feel free to ask anything, and reblog and share with others!
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