This is part 4 of a peek into my process for creating a page from my online graphic novel, Nathan Sorry. Warning: I am not an accomplished comic book artist so my way of doing things may not be something you should model your own process from.
So, once the inking is complete, I scan the page (in two passes, usually cutting the page at the panel gutters - I actually avoid full page images so that I don’t have to worry about all the work it takes to stitch together the scans within the image) at 600dpi, grayscale. I then convert it to Bitmap to get rid of all the page shadows, pencil smudges, etc. And then convert back to grayscale for cleaning up. Once it’s scanned in there’s a lot to clean up. Sometimes little speckles from the scan itself. Sometimes you see the image on screen and realize how wonky some of your “straight” lines look. Sometimes there are just mistakes, stray lines, rough borders, etc that need to be cleaned up.
In the case of this page, I cleaned up panel borders and tried to fix some ugly bit of inking on the ceiling of panel 3 and in some areas of panel 1 (some of this gets covered up by narration boxes anyway so I try not to worry too much about how much I hate it). Sometimes, it can actually take a lot longer to fix things like this in Photoshop so it’s better to try to get it right the first time or maybe fix it with some white paint or whiteout. I also decided that the last panel needed more blacks so I filled in the background area. This of course is easy to do in Photoshop so whenever I’m in doubt during inking of whether I should fill an area or not I usually wait til the Photoshop stage.
Once, I’m done with the corrections I convert the file to bitmap which makes it a purely black and white file rather than grayscale and makes for crisp printing. On screen it can look a little rough and since I scaled it down and saved it as a gif to show here it actually looks even rougher than normal but I think you can tell the difference in crispness from the original scan.
Next, I save a new version of this file and change the resolution to 300dpi and convert the color to CMYK. In the Channels palette I duplicate the black channel and rename it “Line”. I then delete the image on the background layer and create a new layer that I fill with black from the selection of the Line channel (technically I have to invert the selection before I fill it). Now I have my lines on a transparent layer that I can paint underneath.
I create a new layer below the line layer where I’ll put my “colors”. In my case I only use one color in this book for simplicity sake, so that I can potentially print it someday in black and white if needed, and because it creates the proper mood that I’m going for. I select the contents of the line layer and contract the selection by 1 pixel. Then, on the layer below I fill that selection with my blue-green color. The 1-pixel contraction ensures that the black lines will always overlap the color and not leave any white gaps. Now I can start filling in areas with the blue-green and paint in shadows with the paintbrush til I have something like this:
If I’m smart during the inking stage, I keep in mind that some shadows and lighting effects can best be represented with the color rather than hatching. I think there’s always places though where I go too far with the inking so I need to learn to keep it simple.
Now, this color by itself is nice but I decided in the beginning that I wanted an old comic-booky texture in here. So, I duplicate the colors layer and fill the bottom of those two layers with a halftone pattern that I have saved in my pattern library. I set the top color layer to 50% and the bottom to 70% so they blend nicely and sit back from the lines without overpowering them.
Here’s the final:
I won’t get into it here but the next step is importing the artwork into my InDesign file and doing the lettering and word balloons there. Lots of times a little re-writing of the dialogue will occur as I see how things fit and how things read in the final layout.
You can see the final, lettered page here at nathansorry.com.