When I started drawing nemu*nemu back in 2005, the very first thing I needed to address is the size and orientation of the comic. This is important if you intend to print/publish your work.
There are many options to choose from - we have used the services of both Ka-Blam and Lulu. Most will have templates/size specifications for you to work with that detail page sizes and just how much you will need to allot for page bleed and cropping. I'll save the publishing aspects for a later tutorial, but keep them in mind for your own layout later down the road.
I based our vertical 4-panel comic template off of Azumanga Daioh strips. We originally cut out an actual template using thicker bristol board because I was drawing (and inking) the strips on large illustration boards, as demonstrated on the picture to the left. The drawing board 18x24" while the paper is 14x17" - which at the time fit 3 strips per page. (This photo was taken back in 2005.)
This method is pretty useful if you plan to work on larger papers with traditional materials.Working LARGE has two functions:
- You can do a lot of detail work without needing a super-fine tipped pen or magnifying glass - saving yourself from eye-strain and hand cramps!
- When finished, minor errors seemingly disappear when reduced in size
Syndicated comic artists like Charles Schulz have done this for years, often drawing their strips 200-300% the size of their final newspaper versions. With the advent of computers, minor mistakes can always be fixed - so there's even less reason to worry!
I create my templates in Photoshop at 600dpi for hi-resolution print purposes. I do not suggest working any smaller than 300dpi for good results when printing. Anything less will appear pixelated any you will experience problems should you try and size the image larger. As a rule of thumb, it's much easier to scale down from a large file by adjusting the dpi or resolution.
For those interested: This is my 4 frames template in a zipped file to show size, resolution, and dpi. I also have an updated horizontal template that I am now using - starting from our April 2008 East Oahu Sun strip!
Back to the topic at hand!
Around the time I completed my 200th strip, I realized that the sheer amount of bristol board was piling up around the studio for a tri-weekly comic. Aside from being somewhat costly and bulky, it was also occasionally problematic to scan on an 8.5x11" scanner bed. Since I do most of my work in Photoshop, I decided to streamline my methods. Since we have a large-format color inkjet printer (Canon Pixma 9000 Pro, to be exact!) I print my templates directly to legal (8.5x14") sized printer paper in bluescale:
Make sure your template is in greyscale before you start.
I convert my file to duotone. (In Photoshop: Image > Mode > Duotone) Make the image type Monotone and click on the 1st box. Adjust the CMYK colors to C30% M0% Y0% K0%). All black lines become cyan. I adjust my printer settings to make sure it is set to plain, legal (8.5x14") and prints in draft mode to use less ink.
You can also use this tip to prepare pages for inking. Instead of drawing directly on bristol board which will inevitably leave pressure indentations and weaken the paper surface, scan your drafts and fix/adjust/clean them up in Photoshop. Convert from greyscale to bluescale and print your lines directly to bristol. This way you will retain a fresh inking surface and you have a means of backing up if you ever make a mistake! (We used this technique to create our Sugary Serials pages!)
To save me time, I don't always ink my strips - I do one of two things: pencil "inking" or digital inking in Photoshop/Painter:
I use light blue Col-Erase pencils to lightly draft my characters, composition, perspective lines, and general dialog placement. I usually write my text to the right so KS can easily read it when lettering my strips in Illustrator.
I go over my under-sketch with 2B lead pencils. I try to keep my points as sharp as possible to get the cleanest lines. This saves me a lot of time in the digital clean up stages. Although I personally prefer wooden pencils for doodling in my sketchbook, I like to use lead holders and mechanical pencils for pencil "inking" as they use only lead and minimize dust and rubbish.
The blues will be removed in Photoshop digitally - which I will cover in a later tutorial.
So this covers the basics of templates! Using printed templates help to save me time in the long run so I am always ready to draft strips or jot down specific strip ideas directly to paper!