After Kitsy finishes inking the main characters in the strip she hands the finished artwork over to me for scanning. In the first half of chapter one, we played with various sizes and resolutions before we came up with the system we have today. Trying to be forward thinking, we decided to scan all artwork at 600 dpi to ensure that the artwork would be ready for printing if we ever decide to make a book. Working at this high resolution leads to huge file sizes in the end, so if you're reading this and attempting to do your own comic strip, be warned this is just how we do it and not necessarily what's right for you. If you plan on doing a web only comic, 150-200 dpi should be fine for original scans and then down size them to 72 dpi for your final.
If there are backgrounds to fill in, I do my best to do it directly on Kitsy's original artwork since it's just easier that way but there are sometimes that it may be difficult to draw directly on the artwork or reasons that I'd prefer not to. For instance in strip 0009 where Anise and Kana visit the little shop I realized early on that the shop would be in each panel and there was no way around it. I decided to draw the shop at a larger scale, scan it in and then layer it into the comic strip. This way I could keep all the little details of the shop in place while not worrying about redrawing the background in each panel again and again. Below you will see an example of what Kitsy's original art looked like before and after the backgrounds are dropped in.
"blue blasting" and Threshold is added.
Scanning takes place in two steps per strip since the scan bed is only 8.5" x 11". Once I scan the top half, I flip the artwork around and scan the other half. Later I'll use photoshop to layer the two sides, flip the bottom half and blend them to make one strip per image file. My Epson scanner is pretty old but still fairly sharp. I'll scan the image in full RGB 24 bit color at 600 dpi. The first thing you'll notice about the initial scans is that you can still see the blue lines of Kitsy's original sketches under her inks. Luckily I learned a little trick from Kazu over at BoltCity that blasts the blue pencils out by doing the simple command Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation, then select the Cyan and Blue levels and take the lightness all the way to +100 on each, to get rid of any traces of blue. After this stage 99% of the blue is gone but I'll do one more thing to change the image to pure black and white (not anti-aliasing) by doing Image>Adjustment>Threshold and adjust the threshold till I'm happy. The final size of the strip is usually around 3064 x 8400 or so at 600 dpi.
Note: If you have a new Intel Mac and want to use any type of Windows software, you'll want to also pick up a copy of Parallels Mac Desktop which allows you to run practically any OS within a virtualization layer on Mac OSX. So what this means is I can run Windows XP without rebooting or leaving my comfy Mac OSX since ComicWorks is the only thing I'll probably ever need Windows for. Yes, yes I realize I could just install Apple's BootCamp beta to dual boot into Windows, but using Parallels there is no need to REBOOT to use Windows!
The biggest plus for using ComicWorks is the variety of tones available and the flexibility the application gives you in using them. You can lay down tones at any angle and at any frequency you'd like. The other benefit of using ComicWorks is that it treats all line layers as a single entity. Anyone who has used the magic wand tool in Photoshop to select things for fills knows what a pain it is when there are small pixels that are open. With ComicWorks I can create a new layer and just fill in those sections that are missing and then use the wand tool to select the now enclosed area on the entire original line art!
To aid in toning, I have a sheet of paper I created as my tone guide with small swatches of each tone that I use. I also keep notes on what tones I've used for different objects/backgrounds in each strip just in case we go back to it later on!
Now it's time for lettering. It took us a bit of trial and error to find a typeface that was clean and easy to read and we definitely didn't want to use ComicSans. Eventually we decided on a font from BlamBot called AlterEgo which I modified just a little bit to get better looking punctuation. All lettering and balloons are done in Macromedia Freehand. Why don't I do it all in Photoshop? I just find it easier to manipulate vectors in Freehand rather than in Photoshop. I can easily create balloons and layout the text in Freehand... and it's a lot faster!
Using Kitsy's rough layouts as a guide, the text is done over an imported flattened low-res .jpg version of the actual comic strip in Freehand. I type the dialog of the comic first and create the balloons after, frequently moving them here and there until everything looks like it fits. At this point I'll usually print out a draft so Kitsy and I can take a look at how the strip flows. This usually leads to text edits and at worst whole panel edits but mostly just simple text edits. The text and balloons as well as the strip title and copyright notices are all copied and pasted right into the original .psd file.
Lastly, I clean up the borders and save the original strip and then flatten and convert the file to 72 dpi for the web version. The finished strip is uploaded to the web server and then YOU come to the website and see it!
For the geeks in the house:
MacBook Pro 15 inch, 2.0 Ghz Intel Core Duo, 2 gigs RAM, 100 gig HD
Dell 2405 24 inch wide aspect LCD display
Epson Perfection 1240 scanner
(2) 250 gig Acomdata Firewire Hard drives
Wacom Intuos 2
Software: Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator CS, Macromedia Freehand and Fireworks MX, Deleter ComicWorks, Parallels Desktop, Mac OSX 10.4.6
Whew! We hope you had fun reading about how we do things. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, always feel free to comment below! We'd love to hear from you!