Support this comic by joining Patreon
Latest News: [Notice] Black Friday and Holiday Sales!



[Tutorials] The Process 2008

1 Ish Good!

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!

Share your thoughts

10 Replies

  • Jasmin

    That's a pretty cool method. I prefer to just to lock the colour layer which does the same thing as a clipping mask.

  • MisoCheif

    So does illustrator cost any money, and also where do you buy it? And one last question I've seen may other web comics with the same style and font as the bubbles, are there other programs to use or is that the only one?


  • kitsy

    Jasmin: Indeed - I also lock my layers, but when using multiple layers, I prefer to use the clipping masks when coloring clothings, features, etc so I don't have to worry about coloring "over the edges" again. ^_^

    MisoCheif: Illustrator does cost money - it's part of the Adobe family with Photoshop and (now) Flash. Again, it's best to buy these programs if you are a student as you can get hefty discounts. :D

    KS might be the better one to talk about lettering - as he's better versed in the craft, so to speak.

  • kimonostereo

    @MisoCheif: Unless you're a student in college, Adobe Illustrator is going to be lots of money. Roughly in the $560+ range. See Amazon for MAC Version or WIN Version.

    To answer your question about the word balloons, you can use just about any graphics application. I tend to use a vector based application like Adobe Illustrator because the tools allow me to create word balloons quickly and because Illustrator is vector based instead of bitmap, it allows me to quickly resize or reposition the balloons. I've seen some folks do it in Adobe Photoshop, but I find that method to be a lot more work for me.

    There are many "free" or Open Source Vector drawing applications out there. There's one called Inkscape which is nice and the best part is that it's open source! Good luck!

  • MisoCheif



    2:Ah very interesting..... thank you very much for the info

    And lastly

    3: How are your feelings on oC (open canvas)?

    Okay thank you guys so much for all the information this will help me allot...

    Wish me luck,

  • kitsy

    MisoCheif: I think oC is a great program for drawing. It's relatively easy to use and the results I see from most users are on par with that of Painter or Photoshop. Unfortunately, I haven't used oC in years since I've switched to Macs, so I can't give you an updated opinion on it.

    Just one note - I'm not sure if oC allows you to do "print-ready" works at higher DPI. (For reference, I work at 1200dpi for B/W images and 600dpi for color, which makes the file sizes HUGE.) Many oC users tend to work smaller and at lower dpi and when those files are printed, they look either very small or pixelated.

  • MisoCheif

    Okay thank you so much that helps allot :)

  • Teresa

    Thank you!!! Every bit of knowledge, tips, and tricks that you give out about how to do webcomics is such a tremendous help! I really appreciate it! I'm really learning a lot! Thanks again!

  • Terra

    I noticed in one of the tutorials (sorry, can't remember which) that you create you bubbles and word after bringing the comic to 72dpi. Can you tell me the reason for that? Or did I misread it?

  • kimonostereo

    Hi Terra,

    I use Adobe Illustrator to do the lettering on nemu*nemu, mostly because it handles vector graphics a lot better than Photoshop does. I find it way easier to do typography, word balloons, arrows and sound effects in Illustrator than in photoshop.

    I also find that it's faster to do changes in Illustrator, but it's mostly because I do the word balloons using the vector tools. I hope that explains it a bit!