These double-ended Sharpie CD markers are great for rough sketches and things.
I did these as a speculative submission for the comic 2000 AD - they have a bunch of sample scripts you can download on their website here, and ask that prospective artists do one of those to show what they’ve got (If you’re interested, this is my version of the script titled “Holed Up”). It’s a lot of work for no money, but it’s 2000 AD, so I’m doing it anyway.
I really enjoyed doing all the shiny metal. And the Kirby Krackle. My only regret is that there aren’t more actual human beings in it, as I would have liked to have shown off my figure drawing a bit more.
Wish me luck.
As my last step-by-step how-I-do-comics post went down rather well, I thought I’d do another one in more detail.
1. Rough layout, ballpoint in sketchbook. Here I’m working out how to break down the action and dialogue across the page. I also use this to check with the writer that it’s more-or-less what he imagined when he wrote the script.
2. Sketchy pencils. Working in a hard (2H) pencil on Bristol board, I loosely sketch out the artwork. This isn’t the time to worry about details, but it’s where to get the large-scale stuff right such as perspective and the general size and relative placement of characters and scenery.
3. Tighter, less sketchy pencils. This is one of the most difficult and time-consuming stages. Here I’m adding detail, erasing and re-drawing where it’s too scribbly. I’m also pencilling in the dialogue and speech bubbles.
4. Inked-in lettering, speech bubbles and panel frames. Here I’ve used a sharpie marker pen for the lettering and speech bubbles (with an isometric ellipse template) and a ruling pen for the panel frames.
5. Inking-in everything else. I think the inking is my favourite stage. Here I’ve used a flexible-nibbed dip-pen and india ink. If I had any large areas of black or thicker lines I’d use a brush.
This completes the artwork on paper - then I scan in what I’ve got and carry on in Photoshop:
6. Flat colours. On a separate layer, with the blending mode set to “multiply”. Here I’m adding the basic colours without worrying too much about the effects of ambient light. It’s worth doing a bit of research at this stage if you want things to look realistic - a quick Google Image Search for “eighties bedroom” did the trick here.
7. Shadows. On another layer, this time set to “linear burn” I add shadows in a purple-grey colour. This can help add a sense of three-dimensionality to things but you don’t want to overdo it.
8. Ambient shade / gloom. Another “linear burn” layer. Here in each frame I’ve overlaid a radial gradient graduating from transparent in the middle to a dirty brown colour round the edges. This help creates the right general atmosphere, in terms of the lighting of the setting (a bedroom at night) and the emotional tone of the narrative (a failing marriage in the 1980s).
9. Working back into the “Ambient gloom” layer with an eraser. This helps attract the eye to the important parts of each panel and makes the characters stand out from their surroundings, as though they were spotlit. It can look a little artificial and you could skip this stage if you wanted to go for a super-gloomy feel, but I do think it creates more contrast and makes the action easier to read at a glance.
10. Light sources and highlights. A final layer on top, this time set on “Screen” blending mode. It’s easy to overdo this and make it all look really tacky. Less is more here unless you’re going for some sort of special effects.
Oscar Sharp, Director.
An example of the process of doing the artwork for a comic book, from rough layout, through to inked black-and-white artwork, to the finished product in full colour. This is taken from Warning: Cape Does Not Enable Wearer to Fly, a work in progress by me and Simon Scott (who is writing the script). In this scene, Jimmy, our hero, has to deal with some bullies while his feckless mother gets up to something shady with an unsavoury-looking fellow in her kitchen.
I find that roughing things out like this enables me to try different solutions the problem of laying out a page, and helps me identify things that need more work before i’ve invested too much time in them.
For example, look at the last frame on the second page - in the rough layout it’s all flattened out like it’s in Ancient Egypt or the Bash Street Kids or something, whereas the finished version looks more like it’s an actual thing happening in actual 3-dimensional space.
Colouring this in, I’ve used a few Photoshop tricks, for example to create the ambient glow around the light sources. I’m generally wary of using too many of these special effects, but we wanted to create an atmosphere of realism here to contrast with the more fantastical elements elsewhere in the comic.
As always, clicking on the pictures should bring up a version that’s big enough to read.
Another example of storyboarding, this time for the “historical reconstruction” segments of a documentary about the Battle of Saragahi directed by John Macdonald for MBM Productions.
This job involved a bit of research for costumes and things, but I still (just about) managed to get the whole job (18 shots total) done in a day’s work, because that’s what the budget allowed for.
This is an experiment, using a log of an online chat as a “ready-made” script (I’m Donald, and my friend and collaborator Simon Scott is unwittingly playing the role of Mickey). If you click on the picture above, it should get big enough for you to read the dialogue.
I’ve used chat logs in this way before, but I think that this is one of the more successful attempts. The black-and-white line art and lettering was done the old-fashioned way, then colour was added in Photoshop - I kept the Cyan, Magenta and Yellow on different layers to mimic the pre-digital, manual colour-separation process. Because I am a massive nerd.
Storyboards for the upcoming short film “the Kármán Line”. These are working storyboards, produced by sitting down with the director (Oscar Sharp), a large pot of tea and a lot of pencils. This sequence shows the mother in the kitchen, spying on her teenage daughter talking to her friend in the street. When I did this, the film hadn’t been cast yet, otherwise the mum would look like Olivia Coleman.