Note: Be sure to check out Part One of this series here.
Welcome to Part Deux of our comic-making process "tutorial".
Again, I stress that this is just how KS and I work - We've found that these materials work best for us through trial and error. However, although we may love these materials, you may think otherwise. So! Find what works best for you! As I always say, it's not the tool that makes the artist - but the artist themself.
As you can see, these are my basic drawing tools. I have 2 bottles of ink. I decanted my Higgins ink into the glass airbrush bottle for fear of tipping over the plastic bottle. The Speedball ink is KS's ink of choice. I usually have a couple erasers handy at all time (in addition to my electric eraser), multiple sharpened blue pencils for final undersketches, my Saji dip pen, and a mechanical pencil for my rough drafts. I also like to use erasable light blue mechanical pencil lead, but it seems to be in short supply everywhere outside of Japan. T_T
On to the process!
Through much trial and tribulation, one thing I have learned about comics and continuity is making certain that everything is plotted out before drawing on the final paper. When KS and I first started nemu*nemu, we sort of drew things as ideas came up. It was good to just get ideas going, but it was not so good for continuity. Because 4-koma can be self-contained within the 4 panels or continue on a larger thought/theme, I got stuck numerous times with ideas that didn't make sense or didn't contribute to the overall story. This meant I would have to go back, fix dialogue, character positioning, or change the whole punchline all together. Backtracking = Not Good.
So to save myself the hassle, I jot down strip ideas in a notebook I carry with me almost always and plot out strips in sets of 12 (= 1 chapter/1 month) in a composition book - as pictured. This allows me to thinking about dialogue, the overall story and flow. Once I'm relatively comfortable with the thumbnails, I work on a larger paper to work out placement of dialogue, characters, and expression. Honestly, it does take more time to do, but the end result is much more satisfying to me. :D
I work on 14x17" Strathmore 2-ply vellum finish Bristol board - 3 strips on one page. One thing many people don't realize is that comics are next to *never* drawn at the size they are printed. Working larger allows me to draw much cleaner with more details (if needed). It also helps KS during the clean-up and toning.
Note: Be sure to read the kind of media the paper can handle! There are so many choices and they are not all the same. Some may cause the ink to bleed or not adhere. KS and I experimented with a different types of bristol board and found this type is the best. The vellum finish 2-ply boards may be a little more expensive, but for archival purposes, it stands the test of time.
I sketch in the panel boxes with a template we made earlier to save me time from measuring and drawing all the boxes. They also don't have to be "perfect" because we do a lot of adjustments on the computer.
So, as you can see, the panels are all drawn with light blue lead so I can later ink over them. If I make noticeable mistakes, I usually redraw the panel or the entire strip. Tedious? Yes. Frustrating? Yes... but sucking it up for a better finished product makes the effort worthwhile! Thankfully, I have a handy-dandy lightbox for fix-up tracing. It has saved me a number of times already within the past month!
Oftentimes we draw our backgrounds (and sometimes effects) on seperate paper/bristol board so we can merge them into the panels via the computer- especially if they are repeated multiple times over or are complex/detailed.
Once done with inking in the characters and have a mock-up of the background, I pass the strips on to KS!