It just might be the natural progression of an artist to change their mind when it comes to techniques and shortcuts. Since my last set of tutorials regarding my work process, things have changed quite a bit. Most noticeably, I switched to a horizontal format to allow freedom of panel breakdown and usage. This allows me to be much more creative with how I layout all my strips!
I still start with my trusty composition notebook of ideas. Everything and anything related to my comic goes in there. It's often messy and my thoughts are disconnected, but it allows me to come back to them at a later time and piece them into future story lines.
For example, Kana and Nemu's Hawaiian Ai adventures were something KS and I had envisioned months back in notes. I really wanted to share some of the "not-so-obvious" things about Hawaii through their eyes. I took a lot of notes of places we frequent or pass by often, jotted some things I've observed over time, and mulled over them to create my chapter.
So I'll use "Omiyage" as my example.
I print out templates of my comic in blue ink. (For more info on templates, refer to my previous post!) This allows me to keep track of my strip borders and dimensions. I guestimate my gutters (the space between my panels) and roughly sketch in my characters with blue or red pencils. I also draft in my general dialogue so I make certain there is space for it later.
Very important: Word bubbles, text, and sound effects are just as important as the characters and background! If you don't reserve enough space for the text, things can look crowded or may look awkwardly placed. Avoid this by writing in your text FIRST or laying it out in your drafts.
Once I'm more or less happy with my draft, I scan my rough draft into Photoshop. From this point on, I work digitally. If you are not comfortable digital inking, I highly recommend doing as much of your work the "old-fashioned way" with ink on paper. It can be difficult to keep perspective and proportion when using Photoshop, especially when files are zoomed in to 100% at 600dpi or more.
In Photoshop, there is a feature called "Layers". For those not familiar with the program, think of it like transparencies or tracing paper sheets over your original drawing. You can alter these layers in many ways - shifting it around, drawing over and erasing, to even altering the properties of the layers so it does some nifty effects. I use multiple layers to do my work.
Above, I have a slightly tighter sketch of my original draft, but in red. I also have my panels drawn in, compete with gutters. Using my scanned drawing, I sketched over it on a separate layer. You can see the similarities and differences.
I then create another layer over my red sketch and start inking. Working over the red allows me to see where I have inked and where I haven't. I work at 100% to make sure my lines are smooth and clean.
When my inks are done, I start my colors. I block everything in according to character and background. I choose colors that will stand out so I can see where I am coloring, making sure that I do not go over my lines.
When I'm done, I create a new layer and use a layer function called "Create Clipping Mask". This allows me to color as I like without worrying about coloring over my previously blocked colors. I color in all my details like hair, eyes, mouth, clothes, etc.
I create new layers to do my shadows and highlights and miscellaneous details like the chocolate box and ukulele designs, glasses, shirts, etc.
Then I return to the background and do something simple to help the flow from one panel to the next with colors and vague shapes. Depending on my strip and purpose of the background, I may work on the background in detail first and then work on my characters to make sure the colors harmonize.
I then pass the file to KS who does the lettering!
As mentioned previously, I made sure I had space set aside for him to enter the text and any sound effects. He works in a program called "Illustrator", which allows him to resize objects like words or pictures (like the word bubbles) without any distortion or pixelation. He also adds in our copyright information, title, and site URL.
Then we are ready to go live with our strip!