Materials

First off, I use a Wacom tablet. You can try to get by without one, but I find it’s incredibly worth the investment. I have an old Intuos 3, the smallest size that they sell (also the least expensive one I could find.) I’ve not used the bamboo, and I was told that it has more limitations than the Intuos, but I really don’t know.

For All the Growing Things, and most of Vagus Street, I use only Photoshop and and the Wacom tablet. I imagine that you could also use the Gimp program.

Settings

In Photoshop, my image size settings are:
Width: 6.875 inches
Height: 10.5 inches
Resolution: 400 pixels/inch

Because I’m not doing any colour, I keep the Image-Mode as grayscale.

I have guides set at .5″ in from the top and sides, and .75″ from the bottom. I do this because I tried to measure the comics that I’ve bought in the past, and they all seem to have borders there. I like to draw past the boarders, but I never let my text go past those guides. The reasoning being that if I print and have to trim the comic (usually trims are about 1/8 of an inch) I won’t lose any text.

On the other hand, the impact of webcomics has changed the formats of many comics, and now it’s possible to go into a comic store, and buy neat trades of webcomics, that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Speaking of books, I found Scott McCloud’s book Making Comics to be pretty useful.

From there, I tend to use at least three layers in photoshop:

  • Inks
  • Pencils
  • Background

They are ordered like this:
layer sample

Then I have two different settings for my inks and for my pencils. The only real difference is the “Other Dynamics” switch. You’ll also notice that on both, I have Control under Size Jitter to “Pen Pressure.”

brush sample

I don’t use any fancy pencils or brushes, just the standard ones when you first open photoshop. I think I prefer the “pencil” option over the “brush” option because it’s hardness is set automatically at 100%, but that’s not difficult to change (I think?) if you’re using a brush either.

Text & Text Boxes

The text that I like to use for all the text inside the comic (as opposed to the title/cover of the comic) is Eager Naturalist. I thought I’d found it at urbanfont.com because that’s where I’ve found most of my awesome fonts from, but I guess they don’t have it anymore (or they never did.)

To use a font, you download and extract it (assuming it came in a zipped format) and then you copy the .ttf file to the Font folder that is inside the Windows folder that is inside the local disk folder.

Local Disk (C:) to Windows to Fonts.

Then open your art program, and it should be there.

A word of warning: while a lot of fonts are free, some have restrictions on how you can use them. Most are free as long as you’re not selling your work commercially, so read those readme files!

You can also make your own fonts, but I’ve tried that, and it’s just not for me.

As for the whiteboxes (see the layer photo above), I use white ink, rather than the black that I draw and sketch with. To help it stand out, I used a layer effect (the little “f” to the right of the layer’s name) to make everything drawn on that layer have a ten point stroke.

I put the white boxes on their own layer above the inks but below the text, so that you can read the text without it getting lost in all the pen lines. Sometimes, like in the Vagus Street project, I’ll lessen the opacity of the layer, so that art sort of ghosts through the text.

If I’m doing something really fancy where I want to write in a LARGE sort of impact filled bit of writing, I’ll copy the whitebox layer, and then write it with the Wacom pen, using white ink. Because it’s a copy of the original whitebox layer, it’ll have the same stroke sized effect on it already. I then place this above the normal whitebox layer just as if it were regular text. When done, it looks like:

whiteboxes

When I get the page where I’m ready to post it, I save the file. I then hide the pencil and any other layers that I don’t want to have show, and then flatten the whole thing down. Without saving, I go to Image size, and shrink the width down to 760 pixels, making sure that the “constrain proportions” box is clicked. Then I “save for web” and then save it as a .jpg. I then close the original file without saving over it, because the only save I want is the one where everything is still large and un-flattened.

Posting to the Web

I use comicpress, which is a theme for wordpress. I would really love to help someone with this, but I don’t know how I got it to work. There are some times when I doubt that it works at all, and that this whole website is just in my imagination.

Comicpress seems to has a great forum that’ll help you get your site up and running better than I can.

Eventually, I’ll get around to writing up how I write the comic, and how I layout the pages. Really, that’s a sort of “chicken and the egg” process though, because I’m not entirely sure how I do it either. That said, I do have a short tutorial on creating a layout from a script. So, there you go, for whatever that’s worth.