As I work on my first graphic novel, I thought I’d share the process I go through to create each page from start to finish.
I’ve chosen to create traditional ink drawings and have them stay black and white because I feel it will tell the story better. Everyone has a different way of doing things depending on the project, time frame, materials available, and personal preference.
I’m using 9×12 smooth Bristol. It works well with inks and is sturdy. I believe that if you’re going to put in a lot of time and effort into your artwork, use a paper that lasts. A rule of thumb is to create artwork that is larger than it will appear in the book.
I like regular HB pencils, but I’ve seen some artists use non-photo blue pencils, which are supposed to disappear on the artwork when scanned.
You can use anything under the sun. My favorites are papermate flair pens and Microns.
Camera or Scanner
I find a sketchbook extremely useful, even if I have a good idea of what a page is going to look like. You can test out pens and different drawing techniques in a no-pressure way. It also doesn’t have to be a sketchbook. Any piece of paper will do.
A Good Mood 🙂
Going through this process, I find this especially useful. Sometimes I’ll try to draw pages while stressed-out or worried and it ends up looking forced. I’ll often get really frustrated with drawing a certain thing (like water) and have to remember to take a break.
Step 1: Thumbnail Sketch
I first make a rough sketch (or five) of the page layout in a sketchbook or random piece of paper. It helps to think about how the two pages will look side-by-side.
Step 2: Pencil Drawing
Then I make a more refined drawing on the actual page. I usually don’t include all of the details that will go into the finished artwork. The level of detail I put into this stage depends on how developed the idea of the page is, and how difficult it will be to ink. Although it looks more finished than the thumbnail sketch, there is still time for changes to be made.
Here’s a tip: don’t press too hard with the pencil if you’re going to be inking over it, because the lines will be too dark and won’t erase well.
Step 3: Inking
This page went through some changes even after I started inking.
For this page I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted it to look like, so the penciling was limited.
Step 4: Scanning
This step is necessary for publishing and commercial printing. Also, I’m going to add text bubbles on some pages using a computer program.
This is what the pages look like right after scanning them. As you can see, the darkness of the inks got a little washed out. Also, the border is not aligned.
Tip: If you’re going to print your graphics in black and white, scan them at a high dpi so that they stay crisp.
Step 5: Editing
I crop the images until just before the edge of the panels.
Then I open up each picture in a photo-editing program. Using high contrast makes the ink darker and page brighter. I try to get the white of the image as light as possible so that it practically disappears.
Tadaa! This is the final product.
Step 6: Formatting
If you are self-publishing, there will be a specific page format for you to use in order to print your book. I’m using Lulu, which prefers PDF files, so I format the pages with Microsoft Publisher and then convert the file to PDF. I’ll share more on formatting and self-publishing later.
That’s it. I hope this gives a little insight into my process without being too straightforward. I don’t have much experience with illustration in general, but I’m learning as I go along and it’s been so much fun so far. 🙂