Can you learn me to draw “Manga” was actually used a number of times by someone who wanted me to teach them how to do a comic. What I mean is draw a comic, the process and mindset involved that makes the process “read” better. It is understood that I draw the word balloons myself and put the drawings in there, no script, no layout, no working out. As if I simple slam my face into the page and there it is.
Well in this blog I am going to go through the process of create a comic that will not bake your brain but will hopefully enlighten you and help to make it fun.
First comes the script, yes I know, words and stuff. But believe me it does involve reading a script and I always create one myself if I am the writer of the comic. Here is the start of the script where Chris Young has kindly allowed me the use of one of his scripts…
So let me break this down for a few of you again. Usually I would do a series of character sketches and a rough layout of the action. Taking into mind that the size and shape of the panels dictates how fast a reader gets through each panel. A lot of text and a large panel will take longer to absorb than a small panel with no text at all. Read more about this in Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner and How to Draw and Sell…Comic Strips by Alan McKenzie. There are a number of books like this, one of which by Scott McCloud but since I have still to read it I can’t say much about it. The other two though are a good way of breaking down the mindset before putting pencils down on paper.
So here is the first stage, make your mark simple and keep all the figures rough, stick men if you will, then you can see straight away if the flow of the comic will work with all the dialogue. Here is an example for you based on the same page of script. I have intentionally added the text for the right page size to make sure things fit. Once that is worked out, the rest is focussing on the pencilling
Now that you have learned all about proportions of the body, worked the dynamics of the pose into your layout and can really see how it all comes together you can then, and only then, work on the actual drawing. The point of this is that your poses are done. The dynamics of the action are already worked out and any drawing you do on top of this will be easier to concentrate on. There is no need to understand all the things going on in the rest of the image if you have already worked it out in the simple poses and by doing so you will find other things occur to you. Things happen while you get into the actual meat of the illustration and you can change what you are doing, how you are doing it and think purely on the actual drawing, the proportions, the lighting and costume.
Now that you have the pencilled pages worked out, the balloons fit where you want them, they follow a left and right process that is easy to the eye and ensures the flow of the story. Which is how best to do a comic. Keep it simple and try not to clutter with so much detail that you lose track of the story. Then once you have all these elements in place, and only then, can you start inking. In the sample below my first concern was to ensure that the pencil lines would not show up with the inking. In the earlier years of my comic work I discovered that many pencils were printed in blue onto card. Now with today’s technology we can do the same. I tracked down a printer that would print A3 bristol board and used photoshop to change my regular pencils into blue. This made my life a lot easier since I was able to scribble, correct, embellish and alter along the way using an animation light box. A simple light box would still do the trick when pencilling but I preferred to get one that would allow the turning of the whole page while simultaneously having many pages overlaid with one on top of the other. A ream or 500 pages of normal 80gsm paper costs just over £10 and a damn site cheaper than the 20 pages of 280gsm bristol board for doing the inking.
As I pencilled I refined and altered the artwork until I was happy with it. Don’t worry, the more of this sort of stuff you do, the better you get at it. I am going to cover that side of things later on.
So you have your artwork pencilled, you have altered the line colour to blue or cyan and now you can print on Bristol Board ready to ink. By using a Rigger you get a better change in the line thickness. By altering the line thickness at key points, like the curve of an arm or suggest perspective changes in the direction of the shape you can suggest more with this line change. Some artists have suggested the change in line is the implied shadow of the shape. Other’s have suggested it is the direction of the perspective. A thicker line suggesting that the shape is closer. I tend to use both depending on the amount of change I want in the shape. Whether it is closer to the viewer or not, whether it is moving or still. Play around with this and find how best you can also make this change to the line. Once that is done you can move on to the colour. One you get your scanned art, 300dpi is a good printing size, you can then create a copy of that layer in photoshop. Alter the layer to multiply. Most of the free colouring programs have this option too and I will get some screen shops to show you.