Truth be told, comic art can be drawn on just about any surface imaginable so long as it is able to be reproduced. With today’s digital technology a lot of comics are drawn using a digital tablet and a stylus.
The images exist only on a computer screen and may never see the surface of paper until it is printed.
There are still plenty of comic artists however that prefer the relationship of lead to paper.
The key thing to remember when choosing your paper how the final image will be inked if it will at all. Some comics, like Raine Szramski’s HEAVEN And The DEAD CITY that can be found here at CO2 Comics, are painted and may require a different type of surface.
The most popular paper used for comic art is multi-ply Bristol board. There are a number of brands available all of different quality. In general though, there are two types of surfaces. Smooth, which can often be called hot press, machined, or plate finished and Rough which may be considered as cold press or vellum.
The smoother surface is great for inking but has little tooth to the surface which makes it not too fun to pencil on. Vellum surfaces are much easier to pencil on but it is important to find a brand that has a finer tooth and is dense enough that ink will not bleed on the page.
Most original comic art created since the Silver Age has used a 10″ x 15″ image area. 11″ x 17″ paper is a good size to work on and can easily be purchased in pads at a local drug store or art store. Some artists save money by bying larger pads and cutting the pages in half with a ruler and x-acto knife.
Many publishers provide paper with preprinted guides to their artists which makes it very easy to rule panel borders. Pre printed paper can also be bought online. One great source is Bluelinepro.com.
Work with your printer or editor to determine your exact bleed areas and image areas and be sure that the image size you are working with is proportioned exactly to these measurements. This means that when your art is reduced it is the exact size it needs to be to fit the printed page. Comic art generally gets reduced to 60% of the original size for reproduction.
Using rough layouts as a guide panel borders should be ruled in using a pencil. Some artists like to use non-repro blue lead at this point to avoid erasing unnecessary stray lines. If your page is preprinted you can just use a ruler and draw lines using the guide markers on the page much like connecting the dots.
If your page is not preprinted you will will have to line up the paper yourself using a t-square and a triangle on your drawing board which should have a smooth strait edge on the side opposite your drawing hand.
Your t-square should be long enough to line up the entire width of your page in the center of your workspace. Line up the bottom of the page with your t-square and tape it to the surface using small pieces of masking tape. Use tape with a light adhesive so it does not ruin your paper surface when it is removed. Cheap tape usually has very sticky adhesive so be careful to find a brand you like.
Measure your paper from the center of the page. A centering ruler is a great tool for this and will become your best friend. Avoid measuring in from the edge of the paper. Paper is often not cut exactly square or exactly to measurement and you will discover inaccuracies every time you open a new pad of paper.
Use your t-square to rule all of the horizontal lines on the page following your measured marks as guides. Vertical lines will be ruled by using a triangle sliding along your t-square. You can use a either 45 or
60 degree triangle because it is the 90 degree side that is needed to guide your pencil The bigger the triangle the better. I recommend at least a 12″ height.
Go back and rule in all the panel borders. Generally the gutter space is about 1/4″ wide but should at least remain consistent throughout except when a different spacing may be required to emphasize a visual as part of the story.
Once your page and panels are ruled be sure to label the title of the project and the page number. Now you can begin penciling in your final art. Remove the tape from the board so you can work freely.
If you are using a light box to transfer pencil roughs, line up the roughs on the back of the paper, tape them down loosely then turn the page over and trace up the images.
Next week I will go over pencils and erasers and other tools that can help you complete a penciled comic page that is suitable for sending to lettering and inking.
Making Comics Because I Want To