Tuesday, May 23, 2017

NATTO- National Art & Trade Tuition Opportunity Scholarship

In keeping with our goal to provide egalitarian art education, we're pleased to announce the National Art & Trade Tuition Opportunity scholarship.

NATTO is designed to give one aspiring art student—high school, college graduate looking for further education, or returning college—additional funds to help pay for tuition, materials, or books.  This scholarship is applicable to both in-person and online art education.

The funds for this scholarship were kindly donated by Joseph Coco, who also handled the arrangements with Going Merry. Promotion, portfolio, and essay assessment will be handled primarily by me, Becca Hillburn.

"I set up a small scholarship fund (on behalf of +Becca Hillburn) called the National Art & Trade Tuition Opportunity. It's for any artist interested in sequential art (comics, animation, storyboards) who wants to study art in college (undergrad or grad). You can apply if you have an online portfolio before July 1st, and should expect to hear back sometime in July. You don't need to be the best to win, so if you're on the fence about submitting, please do and help spread the word if you have any artists in your life. College is too expensive, so here's hoping I can help an artist not go into too much debt."


What is Going Merry? GoingMerry is a new company which hopes to not only simplify and aggregate the process of applying for scholarships, but also to allow individuals and corporations to easily create scholarships. Its founders are courteous people who were fed up with the existing hunt-and-peck system of applying for scholarships and saddened by the number of students required to reject college acceptance letters due to financial concerns.

Who can apply? Anyone looking to return to school or resume education with a strong interest in sequential art—comics, children's books, animation, storyboarding.

What schools are eligible?  Any school with an art program, including online art courses such as Schoolism.

However, this is not for one off, inexpensive online education services like Skillshare. As an example of eligible schools, check this list. Applicable MoMa classes and SVA classes, as well as Watts Atelier would also be acceptable, as well as local community college classes.

What we're looking for:

A portfolio of work (hosted through a website, do not send us images) with up to 12 pieces of art.  Portfolio should include examples of sequential work, but this is not necessary for submission. Some example free portfolio sites include: DA Portfolio; Webflow; Tumblr.

A short essay on the type of sequential art you hope to make or to continue making in the future. Please mind spelling and grammatical errors when submitting through GoingMerry.

Deadline: June 30th, 2017

How to apply:
  1. Go to https://www.goingmerry.com/browse/national-art-and-trade-tuition-opportunity-scholarship/flights/summer-2017
  2. Click "Apply Now", enter your e-mail address and click "Notify Me"
  3. You will receive an e-mail shortly after from our host site, Going Merry. Please click on the invitation link in the e-mail.
  4. This will take you to a sign up page. Complete the information on there and click "Sign Up"
  5. Go to "Qualified Awards" and select the National Art and Trade Tuition Opportunity Scholarship.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Guest Post: Ally Rom Colthoff of Chirault and Prepping for Print

Hello! My name is Ally Rom Colthoff and for the last 10 years I’ve been working on a webcomic called Chirault-- a high fantasy adventure story with lots of magic and monster battles. I’m currently in the process of bringing the third collected volume of the story in the print (there’s a Kickstarter running here for anyone interested), and it’s been an interesting path making sure the pages are ready.

At the time I started, I had no notion of eventually printing it; the story was meant to be a fast practice run for ‘something bigger’ (lol), but it quickly took on a life of its own as I became attached to the characters and world. Seven years after first launching it, after some interest from my readers and the arrival of Kickstarter as a fundraising tool, I decided to try taking it to print… but those early pages desperately needed to be updated.

(for several reasons)

There are four major issues that tend to hit webcomic artists bringing their work to print; this article will cover the ones that affected me in particular, and how I dealt with them.

◾Page layout


◾Colour conversion


I will disclaim that for the processes I outline below, I use Adobe Photoshop CS5. The steps may be replicable in other software such as Clip Studio, but for this article I’ll be sticking to my own approach, which is admittedly idiosyncratic. This article is also dealing with how to retro-fit an existing body of work for print, rather than how to make it compatible from the outset-- really, on my next project I’m going to do my best to make sure I compensate for these things BEFORE I start work on my pages, which will save me a lot of work going forward. There are almost certainly more efficient ways to streamline the process that I haven’t discovered yet, so I welcome input on it! I hope that by writing about the issues I faced, I can help others who may end up dealing with similar ones.

My comic is monochromatic and mostly neutral earth-tones, which are easy to convert, so that wasn’t an aspect that gave me trouble. The conversion process is a concern for most digital artists, so I’ll link to a couple of articles: here’s one by Print Ninja outlining the basics of colour conversion and giving some tips, and here’s another by Christianne Goudreau with some more advanced advice on optimizing digital artwork for print.

I also managed to dodge problems with resolution (that is, the pixels per inch and size of the files), in large part because as my comic is illustrated traditionally and then scanned in; my pages were already at 300DPI. Saving pages at low-res is an unfortunately common issue for a lot of digital web-cartoonists working on their first comic; for this reason, even for artists who have no intention of bringing their story to print, I strongly encourage everyone to draw their pages at 300DPI. If you change your mind later, you won’t want to yell at your past self!

...Well, that’s a lie, I still wanted to yell at my past self sometimes too for the potholes I DID step into. Here’s what I faced:


photo of open sketchbook with bleed page, beside a PS screencap with guides

I made a very basic error when drawing my early pages: I didn’t keep my page margins (the amount of white space between the edge of my panels and the edge of the page) consistent from page to page. Not only that, but the shape the panels took up slowly morphed over time; initially I had wide white margins on both sides, but as I drew them in an 8x11 sketchbook the panel borders slowly expanded until by page 400 I was using more horizontal space.

two pages side by side, and then overlaid at 50% opacity

I did not want to redraw all of the pages (as there are over 1000 pages total in the story that would be a monumental task), but I did have to find a way to balance the pages so that they were consistent. So the first step was to choose the dimensions that the physical book would be printed at.

I ended up going with 6”x8”; a nonstandard (but roughly manga-sized) book that could accommodate both my narrowest and my widest pages without looking too unbalanced. With that in mind, knowing the exact pixel dimensions my files needed to be saved at (2550x3500 pixels, to be precise), I created an Action in Photoshop so that I could reproduce the same steps on every single page.

Here are the steps in my Action:

◾Converting the file to CMYK. As my colours are very neutral and monochromatic, and my scans are a single layer, this was generally the only colour-related step I needed to take. For digitally-coloured artwork, it’s a good idea to flatten the layers before converting-- CMYK will change the way layer blend modes work, particularly Multiply and Overlay layers.

◾Set Background Colour. In this case, it was making sure my background colour was set to white.

◾Canvas Size. I didn’t use Image Size because that will resize the entire image (possibly distorting it vertically or horizontally if the aspect ratio was not already the same as the new dimensions); instead I used Canvas Size, which will extend the edges of the page or crop into it in the event that the new size is smaller. In every case I was adding to the pages, because I hadn’t accounted for Bleed in my working files-- more on that later. The Photoshop Action will remember the exact numbers you plug into the dialogue box, so they’ll all be the same.

◾Make. The 4 ‘Make’ commands refer to creating guides (the blue lines visible in the screencap below)-- these help me make sure my panels are staying a consistent distance from the edge of the page. The area within the guides is known as the Safe Zone-- most comic page printing templates will include some notation on this, and Making Comics has a breakdown of it here.

screencap of page with guides

With all of these steps done, I can start to identify problem cases. Pages whose panels extend too far outside of the guides may need to be shrunk slightly; pages whose panels are too far inside may need to be expanded so that the margins aren’t noticeably different if two such cases were to be laid side by side.

This is also where I can address bleed. That’s the term for the buffer of space allotted to the very edge of the page, outside of the trim line (where the page will be cut, the final size of the book). Whenever there’s artwork that expands all the way to the very edge of the page it’s important to add about 1/8th of an inch (0.125”) to the edges of the page and continue the artwork into this zone. This is because of the way books are created: the art is printed, and then cut down to size, and then assembled. If the artwork ends at the point that the page is cut, the machinery may leave a thin white line at the very edge of the page, which will not look very good.

For pages where all the panels are nearly contained and the margins are all left empty, Bleed isn’t a worry; however, I did have a number of sequences with art extending to the edge of the page, and I had to address it there.

[insert picture 008]- a shot of that one page with the branches in v3 (yes that one)-- showing white edges

My strategy, after the page had been resized with bleed added, was to use the regular brush tool to supplement the lineart or any structure that was needed, and then to fill in the rest with the Clone Brush. Because the art is all traditional, matching the texture and tonality was very important-- so I’d use the Clone Brush on a section close to the blank space and try to match it as seamlessly as possible, to give the impression that it was a continuation of the same art.

Where there was detailed lineart, I created a layer over top and sketched in the extensions of the lineart, as it’s very finnicky trying to continue precise angles or curves with the Clone Brush.

closeup of one of the edges, screencap including the layer structure

It’s a time-consuming and finnicky process to repeat these steps for every page that needs it, but it pays off once the book is in print; inconsistent formatting can be distracting.


When I started my comic, I didn’t know very much about lettering, and I used Comic Sans for all of the text. A year or two later, I started hanging out more with other webcomic artists, and learned that Comic Sans is terrible, so I found another font and switched to it. Then, I found out how to make a font of my own handwriting, and started using that. And THEN I decided (I thought it was faster, or something) to try to actually really hand-letter right on the page itself-- after 100 pages or so, with decreasing legibility, I switched back to the font based on my handwriting, and that is what stuck.

I wanted the print volume to be as consistent as possible, so of course addressing the inconsistent lettering was one of my first priorities when I started work on Volume 1. I had saved all my original files as flattened JPEGs (do not do this), so updating the lettering required me to access every single page, erase the text, and re-type it in full with the new font. To ensure it was a consistent size across every page, it was important to do this AFTER I had done all the layout steps above, so that the text wouldn’t be scaled in any way.

I had an additional concern with the text: because I had chosen to print with a 4-colour (offset) process instead of a digital process (here is an article explaining the differences between them), I had to ensure that the black colour of my type was True Black rather than Rich Black. This means, if you pull up the colour swatch in the Colour Picker, the CMYK value will be expressed as 0, 0, 0, 100. In other words, it only uses black ink, rather than being built up from all 4 inks.

On the screen true black tends to look a little greyish and can have a reddish tint, but it will print using black ink in the 4-colour process, and so will come out fine on the page. I should note that for people who intend to use a digital printer this step is less important-- thanks to the way the equipment works, the issues that using true black is intended to prevent (notably, a ‘halo’ or fog of ink around text or fine lineart) don’t tend to appear in digital prints. Most artists doing a short run of books (less than 500 copies) will be using a Print-On-Demand service, and those tend to be digital only.

There are other steps to take in printing a book-- using InDesign for layout, adding page numbering, or design basics like creating a cover. But I wanted to cover these two parts of the process, as I haven’t seen many other tutorials talking about these steps.

That’s all for now, thanks for your time! If you’re interested in checking out my books, Chirault’s Volume 3 Kickstarter is live until the 24th of May, and you can buy one or two or all three of the books, as well as a short full-colour minicomic set in the same universe.

You can also find me on Twitter, Tumblr, or via the Chirault webcomic main page

Friday, May 19, 2017

Tabling at Your First FCBD

Read the comic online now!

This was my second Free Comic Book Day as a tabling artist, you can read about my first experience with FBCD here.

What is Free Comic Book Day:

For Retailers:

On Free Comic Book Day, participating comic book store retailers give away specially printed copies of free comic books, and some offer special deals and creator signings to those visiting their establishments.[9] However, retailers do not receive the issues for free; they pay 12–50 cents per copy for the comics they give away during the event.[10][11] In addition to comic books, some stores also give away other merchandise, such as mini posters and other movie tie-in memorabilia.[

For Artists:

Free Comic Book Day is an opportunity to table at your local comic shop, and sell comics, commissions, and originals.  Many comic shops offer this space free of charge, so this is a great opportunity for your first table experience.  Most Free Comic Book Day events tend to be low key with an initial rush early in the day that peters off.

This is primarily aimed at local comic creators, but your local shop may also be interested in your work if you have novels, children's books, a video game to demo, board games, or other geeky media for sale.

My Setup:

For a recap of Free Comic Book Day 2017, and a look at what I had for sale, check out this video:

My local store:

This year, my local comic shop, Rick's Comic City, rented out the large empty storefront next door for FBCD.  This seemed like a great change- there is plenty of room to grow, and I know there are many Nashville-area artists who are interested in tabling at local events.

The people in the back are digging through the stacks- 50cent issues of old Marvel, DC, Vertigo titles.

Tabling at Free Comic Book Day

Ok, so you've decided you want to give Free Comic Book Day a shot.  Here's what you'll need to do:

Before the show:
  • Check the Free Comic Book Day site to see if stores in your area are participating
  • Call or email your local store to request a table approx 2 weeks ahead of time
  • Decide what you want to bring and what you'll need to prepare
  • Promote your appearance on your favorite social networks- Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, even YouTube- make sure you tag Free Comic Book Day, FBCD, and your city to help people find you!
Check out this post on my top asked questions about tabling at conventions for a primer on what you'll need to get started.

At the show:
  • Show up on time
  • Be prepared to engage the crowd
  • Design an engaging setup.  You can check out How to be a Con Artist for advice!
Keep in mind:

  • Your venue may not have bathroom facilities- we had to leave the premises and drive over to a McDonald's to use the bathroom.
  • Your venue may have terrible lighting- if this is something you're sensitive to, make sure to take frequent breaks to rest your eyes.
  • There's a huge rush initially to grab the best 'free' comics, this tapers off as the day goes on if the shop doesn't have events planned to keep people around.
  • If FCBD is new to your area, people may not realize artists are selling their wares there, and may not bring money.
  • Retailers have to pay for their Free Comic Book Day samples, so try to purchase something from the store, and make sure you thank the owner for hosting.

Things that sell well at Free Comic Book Day:

  • Perfect bound, professionally printed comics
  • Mini comics
  • Small things for kids- charms, stickers, mini prints
  • Original art
If you're a comic artist, and you can't participate at a physical store location, there are still ways you can celebrate Free Comic Book Day

  • Use Free Comic Book Day to promote your webcomic on Twitter and Instagram!  Make sure you use the hashtag #freecomicbookday and #fcbd when plugging your comic- and don't forget to include a link and a visual
  • Consider putting your mini comics up on Gumroad or Itch.io for Pay What You Want.  You can then promote this using the #FreeComicBookDay and #fcbd tags.

More about Free Comic Book Day

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Running a Patreon (Artist Edition)

Lately I've been getting a string of artists asking me how to run a Patreon.  While I'm not sure why they picked me (my numbers are under $100 a month- I am not what you'd call a shining success on Patreon), I'll do my best to answer honestly, in hopes that it can help some of you.

The number one question I'm asked, and usually the ONLY question I'm asked is:

How do you do it?

Just. Do. It.

Just do the thing.

I launched my Patreon after YEARS of trying to court sponsorships with online shops that had a similar niche interest, and years of getting belittled and shot down.  Given my blog audience at the time (zombies), I figured the Patreon would crash and burn as well- I even asked my partner, Joseph, to pitch in $15 a month just so I could release the ArtSnacks Vs SketchBox videos and not appear a failure.  Fortunately, a couple friends helped me hit that mark quickly (thank you so much, Candace!), and I never had to actually recruit my boyfriend as a backer, but I really launched my Patreon on a whim and a prayer.

If you're interested in the history of my Patreon, and more behind the scenes info, check out this vlog:

So brainstorming off that, I've come up with some other relevant questions that should help you get started on your Patreon:

Note:  Some things have changed drastically since March, when that video was recorded:
1. I have lost several Patrons, I'm at 23 Patrons, and $83 a month
2. My Youtube ad revenue has gone down significantly due to Youtube sitewide changes, so at most I now make $17 a month

So now would be a great time for you to consider financially supporting my content.  And if you plan on committing to creating a Patreon, please use my referral code!

What do I need to start?

An existing product that has value, that is worth supporting.  This can be a webcomic, a resource of some type, or even just a popular commission option.

It helps to also have a mission statement, an outline of how your work benefits others, and how the Patreon money is spent. 

An idea of the sort of tiers you want to offer (you can edit these to suit your audience at any time)

Do your research!  Check out Patreons by creators you respect, whose work is similar to yours- NOT just the popular Patreons.  There's a follow option that sends you notifications without charging you, so if you're interested in a Patreon, but don't yet have the funds, that's a great way to stay on top of things.

Why Launch a Patreon?

This is really up to you.  If you don't think you need to launch one- don't.  It's not an easy money tree, but it is a way for people who enjoy your content to help you make more of it, and to gain access to things you might not otherwise make available.

Examples of such exclusive content:
  • Monthly digital sketchbooks (I would release one, but we haven't hit $125 a month yet)
  • Backer only tutorials
  • Backer only process posts
  • Backer only Q&A sessions
  • Backer only bonus comics

When do I start to make lots of money?

When you're super popular, and your fanbase is willing to throw money at you for what you have to offer.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't launch, it just means don't expect to make big bucks in the first month- that's just not reaslistic.

All of the mega Patreons you see have been YEARS in the building.  That creator has spent years building an audience- on DeviantArt, on their webcomic, on their Youtube channel, on Twitter or Tumblr, and they have a longterm audience willing to back them.

You can be super popular, or at least, have the pageviews, and still not make a decent amount per project or per month.  That isn't an indication of your quality, just an indication of what your audience is willing to spend for your content.   You may have to find sneakier ways to monetize (ads) but even that's an uphill battle, as the majority of Western internet users feel all ads are evil, and adblockers should be used at all times.

Types of Patreon campaigns (for artists)


Per Project:  Backers are charged per project released.  This can be per Patreon post, per blog post, per video, per comic page, ect. 

Monthly:  Backers are charged a once monthly pledge amount. 

Types of Campaigns:
  • To fund an art education resource that is already free to readers- Nattosoup Studio Art and Process Blog
  • To fund a webcomic that is already free to readers- Questionable Content
  • To fund web resources that are already free for use- Shooting-Stars
  • To fund web assets that benefit other artists, that is free to consume- Paper Cat Press
  • To sell commissions- Kelly Leigh Miller
  • To sell fanart- Sakimichan (note: Sakimichan is the outlier for most Patreons- do not expect this result)
  • To sell art tips behind a paywall
  • To sell comic pages behind a paywall (generally used by creators of adult only content, furry artists)

Types of rewards:

  • The good feels- the knowledge that your pledge enables an artist to continue to offer their work free of charge
  • The good feels- the knowledge that your pledge keeps a roof over someone's head, and cat food in some cat's mouth
  • Physical- post cards, mini prints, sketches, charms, commissions
  • Access to information- Backer only tutorials, backer exclusive content, early access content
  • Voting rights- backer rights to decide on the content the creator focuses on
  • Backer exclusive Livestreams
  • Backer exclusive Q&A's

What My (Nattosoup) Patreon is for:
To fund this blog, to fund the Youtube channel, to offset HTBACA time costs

So think of my Patreon like a PBS fundraising drive- my work is only made possible thanks to support of readers (and viewers) like you.

What My Patreon is NOT for:
To sell art
To put education behind a paywall
To sell comics
To sell charms and other small merch
To fund 7" Kara (I would launch a separate Patreon campaign for that)

These are all viable options for funding your work, but not the way I wanted to run my own Patreon campaign, as I felt they greatly detracted from the fact that I'm already providing something of great quality, free of charge.

How do you entice Patrons?

The answer will vary greatly based on what you have to offer.  I've noticed a couple things about my Patrons, which led me to shift my tiers to try and best serve them:

1. My Patrons are almost all artists or artsy minded
2. Many of my Patrons have webcomics

So I changed my $15 a month tier to a sponsorship tier, where I would promote their projects on the YouTube channel or the blog, to help get more eyes on their work.

How do you promote your Patreon:

Here on the blog
Sometimes on HTBACA (it's not always appropriate, so I don't mention it every ask, but it is on the about page)
In most YouTube videos as a verbal request
In most YouTube videos as an endcard
Linked on my Twitter
Linked on my Instagram

When I post my weekly link roundups (which are helpful, and well worth at least following my Patreon for), I cross post to Facebook, and remind them that this is made possible due to the generosity of my Patrons.

Why Won't Anyone Back My Patreon?  It's just a buck!

First off, take a moment to check out how many Patreons YOU back, and what sort.   Think about why you back those Patreons, and what you feel they have to offer vs what they actually offer.

People tend to be impulsive, visual creatures.  That's why the impulse items are at the checkout line- you're standing around, sorta bored, waiting to check out, getting hungry- and there are all the chocolate bars.  You have a long time to think about those chocolate bars in front of you- how good they'd taste, how hungry you are, how it's only a buck.  You are a captive audience.

Now think about the internet.  You aren't captive ANYWHERE.  Even loading screens on games are becoming a thing of the past- everything is immediate for you.  No one is forcing you to spend a moment to think about what you value, or what helps you achieve your goals.  No one is forcing you to think about repaying those artists who helped you, or tipping a couple bucks a month for a webcomic you enjoy.  And even if you did have to think about those things, going to Patreon is a separate step away from the product you're already consuming.  Once the chain is broken, its that much harder to get someone to commit, even if it's only a dollar.
People also assume that support is someone else's job- someone else is doing it.  Systems like Patreon really work best when everyone contributes a little bit- all those $1 and $2 add up when its done en masse.  Unfortunately ALL of those people assume its someone else's job to contribute- someone else has you covered.  Or they're busy.  Or they're broke.  Or they forget.  There's loads of reasons why someone might enjoy your work, but not be able to support it financially.

I believe that once Patreon has better in-site integration, we'll solve one half of this problem, but until then, you're really going to have to fight for those bucks.  It would also help if there were a unified system of tipping and payment apps that could all pull from the same source- once you make an account, you never have to add your info again. 

Other tips:

  • Be persistent in promotion- it takes people around 7 views to even click on a link, much less commit
  • Believe in yourself and your work- people will naysay it
  • Strive to produce work WORTH backing
  • Try to remain confident, or at least, appear confident online

If you're already providing a product for free, don't remove it's presence due to lack of Patreon support.  I know it's super tempting, but it also appears childish.  If you must, give your readers a chance- explain that this is a financial situation, and that you cannot afford to run it without support on their end.

Patreon isn't a get rich quick scheme, and literally every other artist online thinks they're ready to have a Patreon.  There is a LOT of competition, especially among webcomic and commission based Patreons.  Try to find something worthwhile that makes yours worth backing, and try to find an audience outside of the fished out barrel of webcomics.

The Verdict:

Keep in mind that while it may seem like my Patreon is a success, it's funding three art education endeavors that require the same amount of work as a full time job.  My Patreon funds this blog, my YouTube channel, and my efforts on How to be a Con Artist, which also includes convention outreach and sales lost due to answering convention questions.  How to be a Con Artist hit it's fourth birthday last week, this blog will hit its eighth birthday around September, and my YouTube channel will hit it's eighth birthday soon as well (and it's third birthday in November for frequent updates).  None of these endeavors have achieved the level of recognition or reward that I had hoped, and the Patreon is an attempt to recoup some of those losses.  Although you may not have heard of me or my work before, I am not new to the comics and art education scene, and my Patreon is by no means an overnight success.  I have only hit the number I've hit due to the generosity of my friends.

Ready to make that Patreon page?  Start with this helpful referral code!

Other Patreons to Check Out
Shooting-Stars (Photoshop brushes, digital resources)
Paper Cat Press (webcomic news, comic opportunities, artist interviews)
Alakotila (creator of Spider Silk webcomic)
Loom (sketchbook exclusives, tutorials)
Lean Into Art (art education, podcasts, comic educations)
Respheal (Galebound webcomic)
StArt Faire (webcomic magazine)
TriaElf9 (webcomics)
Dojo G webcomics)
Riko (City of Blank webcomic)
Kate Slinger (creator of West webcomic)
Keii4ii (creator of Heart of Keol webcomic)
Phenylketonurics (creator of  There's No Such Thing as Jason- I.T)
SareSai (creator of FireWire webcomic)
Neila (creator of Magic Remains)
The Diva Lea (various comics and webcomics)
Cosmic Fish (creator of the webcomic, Cosmic Fish)

Speaking of bucks, let me remind you that if you're reading this post, if you benefitted from the information shared here, you can show that appreciation by joining my artnerd community on Patreon.  Why yes, I have one too!  And yes, I surely would love your contribution, the same as you'd probably love mine.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Guest Post: Laurissa Hughes: Page Process for Tess and Jack

Hello! My name is Laurissa Hughes and I make a webcomic called Tess and Jack. It’s about a cowgirl named Tess and her robot partner Jack who live in a futuristic Old West. They take odd (very odd) jobs to keep themselves afloat. It’s a serial comic, so each issue can be read independently of the others and each covers a different job.

              This whole thing started as an experiment in 2014: I wanted to try and repaint a digital painting I’d done in 2011 and decided to do it in a comic because I enjoy narrative art, I wanted to see how well I could hold to an update schedule, I wanted to experiment with different techniques for making comics so I’d be ready to make a longer story that I’ve wanted to tell for a long time. Due to the experimental nature of the whole thing, the process I go through to create each page has changed in every issue.

Painting from 2011, and the frame from the comic in 2014.

Issue 1: Work for Hire

              I had literally no idea what I was doing when I started this, but I went for it anyway. I feel like there’s no “right” way to make comics and everyone should find their own techniques that make them comfortable. My process has changed several times throughout the issues because I’m still experimenting with the ways I most enjoy making comics and that get me the best end product!

             I start out my whole process with a rough outline (mostly in my head), and I draw the thumbnails. I do most of my detailed writing and solid dialogue while I thumbnail, seeing the flow of the page helps me think of how actions will play out in more detail. The thumbnails are also pretty scribbly because I’m trying to get ideas out quickly. I want to spend the majority of my time on the finished pages. My process for this part has stayed pretty much the same over the years, except now I thumbnail with page layouts in mind.

There’s some organization on the page, but I would just draw where I had space, sometimes on random sheets of extra paper lying about.

Still pretty scribbly and kind of messy, but things are laid out as if they were spreads in books. I also started to draw in a spiral notebook with lined paper because it’s cheaper!

              I then take the thumbnails and draw the final page at size. I draw at 7” x 10.5”, which is a pretty standard size for American comics. It’s usually a good idea to draw at 1.5 times or 2 times the size of the final page, because when they’re shrunk down for print, all of the lines look really sharp and nice. I’ve been drawing at size for all the issues, so I keep doing it for consistency throughout. If I’m drawing for a publication I usually draw and ink at 2 times the size.

              Whether or not I draw a really detailed vs. rough sketch depends on my mood or how much time I have to complete a page. Sometimes I’ll deviate pretty far from my sketch when I ink.

              In “Work for Hire”, I drew each page with a regular lead pencil and then erased it after inking and before scanning everything into Photoshop because I hate trying to remove pencil lines or blue pencil in Photoshop.

No pencil lines!

              To color Tess and Jack, I start with flat colors. I used to use Photoshop for the pages, but switched to Clip Studio in Issue Two. The flatting process has stayed pretty much the same in every issue, but became more streamlined after I got Clip Studio. More on that later.

              Flatting is a process where only the solid base color is laid down on the page. After this, all the fancy painting and effects are added on. I usually start out with flats when I do a full digital painting as well!

              For “Work for Hire”, after the flat stage, I would add two shading layers set to the “Multiply” blend mode. I would then take these two layers and “blend” them together where they met using the Pen Tool in Photoshop with the Opacity set to pen pressure. I never really liked the way this looked, and it always felt like a needlessly time-consuming process, but I kept it throughout the first issue for the sake of consistency.

The above image is an example of where I did experiment a little bit with coloring and shading at the end of “Work for Hire”. I did some different combinations of blend modes and shading on the waterfall which was fun, and gave me some ideas for the coloring in the next issue.

Issue 2: “Lost and Found”

              In the second issue of Tess and Jack, I really wanted to focus on making the colors really nice and lush, and experiment with that.

              Once again, I started with my scribbly thumbnails, and then moved on to the sketching stage. I got Clip Studio pretty early on in making the second issue, and I really like the program for making comics and other illustrations. It’s nice, because it has a lot of tools specific to making comics, so it makes parts of the process more streamlined. Also, drawing digitally in Clip Studio feels much closer to drawing traditionally for me than a lot of other programs I’ve found. So that’s exactly what I did for Issue 2; I drew everything digitally, and then printed it out to ink it traditionally.

              After I finished inking, I scanned everything in and removed the colored lines digitally. This was much easier that erasing all of the pencil after inking every page, plus there wasn’t as much risk of smearing the ink. I also like the look of the sketch under the ink, it’s fun to look back at and see where I’ve come from in terms of drawing improvement.

Here is the page with the blue lines still there.

In Clip Studio, I go to Edit → Tonal Correction → Binarization

This opens the Binarization menu. I go with the default settings that open up in the window as, you can see here, it does a good job of getting rid of the blue lines.

Then, in the Layer Properties window, I toggle the Expression Color to Monochrome. This makes the page channels black and white, which helps with the next step.

In the Layer Properties window, I toggle the Monochrome to just Black. It gets rid of the white background and makes it transparent.

I then create a new layer and combine them.

Here is the final combined layer.

              The reason I combine the layers to make the default layer is because it changes the Expression Color back to Color. If it were to remain Monochrome, then any color it interprets as white presents as transparent, and any color it interprets as black is black instead of the color selected.

The Fill Tool is filling in transparent instead of a color!

Now that the layers are combined and the Expression Mode is back to Color, it’s filling in with green instead of transparent.

              This also helps me do flat colors, because I can make the Ink layer a Reference Layer using a handy little toggle in the upper part of the Layer menu. This makes all of the black lines solid barriers, so when I fill in solid colors it won’t bleed past the black ink lines!

The handle little toggle in question.

              Now I’m ready to flat everything, just like in the first issue. I started out just shading with Multiply layers on top of the flats and not blending them together, but then I started out experimenting with gradients. I don’t usually like to use a lot of gradients because I think they can look really jarring, but I liked how they looked using them on the Multiply layer and then breaking them up with the Pen Tool.

              I started to heavily use this effect on the base color layers underneath the Multiply layer instead. I thought it worked especially well with the bushes and trees in the alternate world in the second issue. I would lay down gradients and then take the Pen Tool and draw pen strokes on top to break it up and create foliage, bark, or other effects.

A few more examples of the broken up gradients from another page.

              I kept using the solid Multiply layers on top, but I tried switching the colors to fit the mood of the scenes, and I liked using different shades of the colors to create more depth in the drawings.

Issue 3: Tess of All Trades (Currently Updating)

              With this issue I decided to do the pages entirely digitally because it’s less time-consuming, and I wanted to get better at inking digitally. I was worried about inking digitally because I prefer inking traditionally so much, and I think my digital inks can turn out looking stiff. There were definitely a few bumps, but I have a tablet monitor, which I think helps a lot because it feels a lot more natural. Just like any tool, it takes practice to get used to using it.

              For the coloring, I didn’t really have any goals in mind for experiments, so I started out just using the same gradient technique from the previous issue. I decided after a few pages to try and use the Brush Tool instead of the Pen Tool to break up the gradients and make the backgrounds look a little more painterly. I also occasionally end up painting a little bit on the multiply layer to add a little more depth. The characters are just a flat color underneath the Multiply layers.

A detail with the “Multiply” blend mode toggled off and on to show the painterly look more clearly.

              My goal with this issue right now is to figure out how to cut production time down a little bit, especially on the coloring. It’s all an ever evolving process.

              One of my favorite things about webcomics is how they tend to evolve as they go. I like to see people’s art as it advances and gets better and better! It’s also one of my favorite things about making a webcomic, I enjoy the process and it makes me feel a little more free to experiment and grow as an artist and storyteller!

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This post was sponsored by my Patrons on Patreon.  Guest posts are paid $30 per post and Laurissa REALLY knocked it out of the park with this one.  Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, Laurissa!

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