It sure would be nice if the act of drawing a comic page was as simple as sitting down to a sheet of blank paper and letting the images just spill out. Having watched many a professional do seemingly just this I always have to remind myself of the years of training and experience it took for them to make it look that easy.
Preparation is the key ingredient when penciling comics or any of the other disciplines involved in creating a comic page.
Different artists may have different approaches to how they prepare. I am going to describe my personal very anal approach that you can simplify as you wish.
It is important to begin with some type of script or plot and an expectation of exactly how many pages the completed story is intended to be.
I always liked to make thumbnails of each page keeping in mind the pagination of the final publication which will dictate right and left hand pages and two page spreads. Using the thumbnails as a guide I determine what should roughly happen on each page. This helps with the development of the pacing and the visual storytelling.
Once the page thumbnails are determined I would make roughs of each page deciding how they should be laid out. These roughs are smaller in size than the original art will be and are merely intended to prepare for the final work. It is important at this point to be conscious of where text will be placed in each panel.
From the layouts I can now determine any reference that I may need to acquire. In the past Illustrators generally built a file referred to as a morgue where they clipped and saved images to be used as reference. The internet is a vast supply of reference images that has made the use of the traditional morgue somewhat obsolete but reference material no matter how you get it is always of value. many pencilers use models and take photos to get exact reference.
It is important to note that the idea of using reference material is to insure that the information you are building into your images is accurate. Reference material is not meant to be traced or copied, especially if the reference material is derived from another artist’s work.
The next step for many pencilers is to rough in the pencils at the actual size of the original art. Some artists will do this right on the page either lightly or with non-repro blue pencil. I like to build my roughs on tracing paper developing them into a tighter image. The reason for this is that I do not want to damage the surface of the paper that will be used in the final image by repeatedly erasing pencils that I wish to correct.
After I am happy with my roughs I will use a light box to transfer the final clean pencils to the paper that the original will be completed on.
If you are working with an editor it would be a good idea to run these early stages by them to avoid complicated changes in the project after a lot of the work has been completed.
Once you have tightened up your pencils the work is off to the letterer!
In the next installment I will write about paper choices, squaring up a page and ruling panel borders.
Making Comics Because I Want To