I get a lot of questions from people on DA asking how I go about drawing my comics and what planning goes into them. So I figured I'd share a little bit of how I work.
I work a little differently for individual issue comics and for graphic novel volumes. Since most of the people who ask me are manga-style writers I'll use graphic novel volumes for this example since that seems to be the current fashion for the manga audience these days.
Step One- Plotting
The first thing I do is draft up a general overview of the volume.
Putting events in order and little footnotes to any dialogue/scenes I already have written up.
I keep a running document on my laptop that I add to whenever I get an idea for a line of dialogue or a certain scene I want to include in future volumes. That way when I get to that point in the story I can go back to my idea and work it in if it's still applicable.
So a basic flow of events and scenes comes first. This isn’t a detailed dialogue heavy list, it's literally a list of "this happens, then this happens, then this happens." It's basically to give me an idea of what I have to work with and how much I have to fit into my allotted pages for the volume. That way if there's too many scenes to fit into the given page limit I can start trimming back unnecessary scenes now instead of later when a lot more work has been put into them.
Step Two- Scripting and Thumbnailing
The next step is actually two things at the same time.
Working from my plot layout I’ll start scripting out the actual book from page one of the first chapter to the last page of the last chapter. I work from start to finish in order so as to make sure the chapters flow well and the pace of the story works.
Scripting involves writing out both the dialogue for each panel and what’s occurring in each panel visually.
EX: Page 1 Panel 1- wide full bleed panel, angled, Cree leans forward smiling ¾ at the camera
Cree- Of course it is, I mean what I say!
Panel 2- wide outlined panel, angled, shot of Izsak and Cree’s feet on the ground in front of the bench. Cree rolls her feet in towards each other.
etc etc etc...
While I’m writing the script out I keep my sketchbook next to me so I can thumbnail out the pages as I go. I know a lot of artists are really detailed in their thumbnails, I’m obviously not one of them.
I just use thumbnails as a way to get my base idea for the panel layout down and to help me remember what I was talking about in my description of the panels in the script.
Step Three- Penciling
After I’ve finished scripting and thumbnailing out the entire book I start in on penciling pages. Again I work from the first page to the last in concession.
I’m not a slave to my thumbnails tho, so sometimes things will change as I draw them. In this case I changed panel 2 because I ended up cutting the main character’s hair in the previous chapter. Something I hadn’t taken into account when I was thumbnailing out the pages.
Step Four- Inks
Most artists I know pencil out their whole book and then go back and ink it. I prefer to work page by page, so after I’ve penciled out a page I’ll go straight to inking it before I pencil out the next page. It’s really just a personal preference, I just find it easier to work that way.
I tend to do the majority of my BG work and details straight in ink in this step.
Step Five- Tones
I don’t do this step! HOORAH!! I have an assistant, Catarina, who tones my pages for me. So after I have a chapter’s inks done I send them off to her, along with notes on how I want the tones done, for her to add them in.
Step Six- Text
After I get my pages back from Cat I add my word balloons in Illustrator. Again I know the majority of artists draw them by hand. I don’t, once more it’s just a personal preference. After I’ve added the word balloons my finished pages and final script get sent off to my editor who hands the pages off to another assistant who drops in the text since they prefer to handle that in-house.
And that’s that!
Generally I finish about 2 pages penciled and inked a day, some days I manage more if the pages aren’t too complex or if I’m feeling especially art-y that day. I very rarely do less than 2 pages as that’ll throw my whole schedule off and I hate to fall behind.
Comics are fun, but they’re still work yo!