Step 1: Sammi Writes the Script

Step 2: Thumbnails

Once I receive the script I print it out and scribble rough thumbnails (about 5cm tall) at the bottom of each page. They’re basically just a visual indication of how I interpret the script. Details aren’t important; I just need a reference for the layout. Some of them I could probably look at six months down the track and be completely baffled by my own scribble.

Step 3: Rough pencils

I loosely pencil in the basic shapes. The reason I don’t bother going into too much detail in this step is that the watercolour tends to wash out the pencils somewhat. By adding the detail over the paint I’m assured of crisp, clear pencils. In some areas I’ll add a little more detail just so I know exactly where the paint needs to go (and sometimes I just get carried away with the drawing). I use a clutch pencil with an H lead for this stage.

This page is exactly as I scanned it. I haven’t darkened anything, so you can see just how faint the initial pencilling is.

Often I’ll also add parts of the lettering at this stage if I know the contents of a particular panel will be a tight fit, or if the lettering needs to be placed top left. My spacial reasoning is lousy, so working this way helps me avoid having to waste time editing panels once they’re drawn. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through lettering a panel and realising that you’ll never fit it all in.

Step 4: Colour wash

Pretty much self explanatory. I hit the key locations with their respective colours; mostly brown, as you all know. I try to keep the paint fairly diluted, because once I adjust the contrast in Photoshop those areas will all get stronger.

Step 5: Detailed Pencils
This is obviously where I do the bulk of the drawing and lettering. I add some more detail with the H lead, then switch to HB, so everything is a little darker. The trick is trying not to repeat too much. If I was going to redraw everything I might as well just ink it. So I try to just get the basic forms in with the H, then finish it off with the HB.

Step 6: Black wash

The black wash is mostly confined to the background, or areas with little detail, so unlike the colour washes I don’t feel the need to add them before I finish the drawing. This stage is kinda tricky, because altering the contrast in Photoshop (using ‘Levels’) has a dramatic effect on these areas of black wash. It might look like a reasonably even tone on the page, but once I start messing with the levels all the darkest areas get darker, and the lighter areas get lighter, so it all ends up looking a lot more uneven.

For the areas I want darker I use a higher concentration of paint. For the lighter areas I dilute it. Obviously accounting for those level adjustments becomes extra challenging once I start adding gradations.

Step 7: Photoshop edits

Once the page is scanned I start altering it in Photoshop. I use ‘Levels’ to darken the pencils and lighten the whites. Sometimes the colour ends up looking a little out of whack, so I use ‘Hue/Saturation’ to bring them back in line with the existing pages.

I think for every single page of chapter 3 I’ve also added extra tones on a layer underneath the illustration to enhance the effect of dark settings. I change the illustration’s layer setting to ‘Multiply’, then add various greys underneath it to enhance all the dark areas.

The white lettering is a bit of a hassle. I letter it all as usual, and once I have it in Photoshop I copy it and paste it on a layer above the illustration. I add a black box on a layer between the two. Returning to the top layer with the lettering I use the magic wand to select the letters, then fill the selection with white on another layer above. Delete the layer with the original copy of the lettering, and voila! – white letting in a black box. Why not simply paint a black box on the page and letter in white? Because I’d have to use ink for that, which is less accommodating if I need to edit anything (remember that lousy spacial reasoning I mentioned before?).

After all that we arrive at the finished page. 🙂
(Which I will inevitably tweak further before it goes to print.)

Hope you all enjoyed this! (Apologies if all the technical jargon was a little too much for anyone; I just know the artists out there like to know all that stuff. 🙂 )

(And yeah, I know the layout of this blog is pretty shitty, but that’s the best WordPress will let me do without adding extra coding or plugins or any of that other stuff I really can’t be bothered to learn right now.)