Hi everyone, it’s Kay here. Just recently, I took on a submission for an anthology comic, and I wanted to share the experience I had from it, and the lessons I learnt from doing everything from the illustration to final editing.
About a month ago, a comic creator friend of mine put a call out for comic submissions to an anthology he was putting together. He has done this a number of times, and I always like what he produces, so I put my hand up to illustrate one of his stories.
He sent me a short story which was going to be four pages long – with the storyboard all set out for me, and the description of what was going on in each panel and what was to be said.
Running MCA Studios means that a lot of my time is spent promoting and supporting creators, as well as looking after the store and other admin activities, and while I have done a 24 hour comic, I really wanted to go through the entire process to refresh my memory of exactly what the comic creator goes through from start to finish.
Boy, was it an eye opener! I did the entire four pages within four days, from illustrating to editing, and all the steps in between. It was a whirlwind of activity, and I admit that there were a few moments where I wanted nothing more than to go outside or watch a movie. But I stuck with it.
I started writing this article on the third night when I felt sleep deprived and full of fast food, procrastinating just so I could do something a little different. I started writing this as a bit of a laugh of my situation, so I hope it gives you a bit of a laugh, but that it also helps you with your comic creating journey.
So here is the process I took, it’s probably a round-a-bout way, so if you have any advice, I’d love to hear it for next time:
- Rough pencils on copy paper.
- Inks on copy paper.
- Use lightbox to transfer inks from rough to good quality paper.
- Start to ink on good paper.
- Remember you forgot to add the text to every panel.
- Find out if you pencil it in now, you’ll still make it look decent.
- Pencil in lettering.
- Ink lettering.
- Ink the rest of the pages.
- Rub everything out (make sure that you have tested the eraser on the type of ink you are using so you don’t fade it out).
- Do a swatch of colours you are going to use for the shading/colouring.
- I started with the lightest and went through all the pages before moving to the next shade and repeating the process.
- Realise you’re nearly running out of one particular colour and skip an entire panel because there are no art stores open this time of night.
- Decide that you want to add three different colours to highlight the hero’s situation in each part of the story.
- Go to Officeworks right before they close and ask them to scan it for you.
- Go home and upload it to your computer, open Photoshop.
- Rotate and crop because that’s what you do.
- Send it to the editor because you’re all done.
- As you’re falling asleep, remember ALL the mistakes you made, parts you forgot to shade, the fact that you didn’t highlight anything with your white gel pen, pray that you didn’t make any tpyo’s, start to fall asleep, and wake up again because you forgot to do something else on the comic.
- The next morning, you haven’t heard back from the editor, so you assume everything went well, and know that when the comic comes out, yours will be the only one from that issue that you will read.
- Compare it to every other comic story you’ve ever read and decide not to do this again.
- Do it again.
So after this simple 23 step process I worked my way through, I have come up with some “lessons” I think you may want to read through of things I will do differently next time.
DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE the amount of time it will take to complete all steps of the comic illustration process. There will be interruptions like dinner, running errands, bathroom breaks and sleep – this is not ideal for the comic creation process in the final days leading up to the deadline.
I found myself at the end of the pencil process on my good copy just walking outside and soaking up the fresh air as something to break the monotony of sitting down for what seemed like hours on end. I would go and find my cat just to pat him and try and make him purr. Schedule in those important moment breaks.
During your rough pencil process, make sure that you are leaving room for your words…don’t do what I did and forget. I didn’t remember about the lettering until AFTER the pencils were done on my good copy – which took more time away from the looming deadline. It doesn’t matter if the lettering is not perfect or too big on your rough – as long as you have left space for it.
Once you have finished the inking on your good copy, go to Officeworks and scan them on some more of your good paper. This is so you can have a draft for your colouring or shading so if you make a mistake, you don’t have to do the good copy from scratch.
If you are working with an author or editor, keep in regular contact to make sure you’re on the right track for the deadline and details you have put into your work – preferably before you start inking on your rough copy.
Before embarking on such a project, if you know the deadline is coming up, consider meal-prepping before you begin – the last thing you want to do is have to cook or make fast food runs in the middle of finishing the project for a deadline. While delivery of Pizza, McDonalds and Red Rooster is convenient, fast food will make you sluggish and tired.
It’s better to have some healthy meals prepared in your fridge that you can just heat up. Also, drink water – bathroom breaks aren’t all that bad when a deadline is looming – it will keep you hydrated and aware, unlike soft drink or alcohol (and save you money)
Some of my favourite meals to pre-prepare are:
Butter chicken and rice
Meatloaf/burger patties and sweet potato
Curried sausages and rice
Lamb/beef and vegetable soup
And consider baking some muffins, biscuits or pancakes . Have fruit, nuts, cheese, bread and sandwich meat on hand also.
Okay, enough with the cooking lesson, on to the next lesson I learnt.
Leave enough time for editing on the computer. Once you’ve scanned your finished pages, chances are every single stroke you made with your choice of colours or shading will show up – Officeworks scanners aren’t very friendly in that regard (If you have found a way to combat this, please let me know). You will want to rotate, crop and add bleed to each of your pages, size them down to a manageable file size, and save them according to your printer’s instructions.
Make sure, as with healthy food, you are getting enough sleep. Burning the midnight oil will only tire you faster and may lead to naps or unscheduled “moments” (like going outside and falling asleep in the sun).
Reward yourself when you are done. Take yourself out for lunch, or go on a long walk. Or reward yourself at the end of every page completed if you’d rather. Just make sure you have an incentive to finish the project in a timely fashion.
That’s all the lessons I have learnt, now I am off to reward myself for a job well done.
Take care until next time