Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Covering My Tracks

The Big Bang Issue One will soon have a new friend, who I've affectionately named The Big Bang Issue Two. To generate some interest for this publication, or remind people of its existence, as the case may be, I decided to document each stage of the creation of the cover. I've been reading a lot of those artists' processes lately over on my two favourite blogs Drawn! and Meathaus so I thought I'd give it a go and maybe trick you all into thinking I'm more pro than I really am. So:

1) Materials!
Paper: 160gsm A3 watercolour card.
Pencils: 0.5 Faber Castell mechanical pencil with blue lead refills.
Pens: 0.1, 0.4 and 0.8 Uni Pin fine liners, with a Copic double-ended brush/chizel pen for bigger blocks of black.
Technology: Mustek A3 scanner, Wacom Tablet, Photoshop CS3 and the blessed iMac.

2) Pencils
In keeping with the first cover, I decided to use no human subjects on this one, and to focus on a tranquil/eerie city scene with lots of tedious architechtural details. Notice also that I employed a poor man's one-point perspective, which is about the only good thing to come from my Design Technology GCSE.

As you can probably tell, this is going to be another wrap-around cover with the vanishing point being the spine of the book. In other words, the right half is the front cover, and the left half is the back cover!

3) Inks
Once I was happy I had reached an almost finished composition I started inking over all the lines. I noticed that the windows on the left-most building were totally NOT straight, so I just fixed it when inking instead of drawing the whole thing over in pencil again. I blacked in all the little x's I'd left for myself in the pencils, which is something I stole from Doug Braithwaite and which is basically pointless in my case. Where Doug Braithwaite would then give his amazing pencils to some incompitent Marvel Monkey to ruin, I'm only drawing for myself, so there's really no need to tell myself which areas are supposed to be black given that I made that decision all on my very own.

4) Scanning
I don't bother to rub out pencil lines any more. It took me a lot of time to ween myself off that Blue Peter/smART technique, but I'm finally there. I scan in inks as 1200dpi RGB .psd files and use Photoshop's Image > Adjustments > Threshold tool to make all the blacks absolute black and all the whites absolute white. I picked that one up from this awesome RePro Guide you can download for free from Jordan Crane's website.

5) Colours
Once I'm happy with the crispiness of my lines, and once I've gotten rid of any specks, mistakes and other incriminating evidence I make sure the image is set to the right paper measurements for print and reduce the resolution to 300dpi so my computer doesn't have a fit. Once it's time to add colour, I go to the Channels tab, make a copy of my Blue layer, Invert it, use the little marching ants tool to select all the black ink lines (which are now white), go back to my Layers tab, create a new Layer and Paint Bucket black (or in this case, a dark blue) into the selected area to make a copy of all the black lines seperated from the white background. Then I can fill the Background layer with white and create an intermediate layer between my white background and my free-standing ink lines where the colours can go. For adding grey to comic pages I usually just need one intermediate layer, but for this cover I had three: one for the sky, one for the clouds and another for the buildings. And here it be:

I'll have the comic printed and up for sale at my usual outlets by the end of this month, so be on the look-out! Thanks for sharing the tedious monotony of comics creation with me. I feel better already.