All right, let’s do this.
I do the writing in my head. Either it’s done in spare moments in the day, during the process of drawing the strip itself, or a mixture of both. I’ve chosen a recent strip as an example because it’s one of the few times I can pinpoint the genesis of a strip to an exact idea.
I was getting ready for bed once and was trying to decide which of the pillows in teal pillowcases was mine and which was my wife’s. It was important to me for some reason, and I tried to figure out why. I imagine she wouldn’t care. But I have two younger siblings and my wife is an only child. I closely guard my stuff because it’s my stuff. My wife is way less territorial. I thought that mapped onto Joyce and Sarah pretty well. (And Joyce is the youngest sister to three older brothers, so her reaction will be even stronger.) I had a comic.
First I wait until my wife leaves for work, so I can use her Cintiq. (big monitor you can draw on) I do everything in Photoshop.
This is the penciling stage! Even though I draw everything entirely digitally, I still draw the pencils in blues like I did when I penciled on real paper. I’ll draw one panel at a time until I get to the end.
The last panel is a copy/paste of the third panel. I usually ink them separately, but keeping the pencils identical ensures the composition will remain consistent. I’m terrible at drawing the same thing twice consistently. (A weird weakness for a cartoonist.)
Inks! I draw the panel borders first on a separate layer, and then start inking on yet another layer. Often I start with the panels with closeups first, since I like those the best and I can whip them out quickly and get them out of the way. Then I draw the more zoomed-out stuff.
Whoops! Drawing all those things in the basket consistently twice makes me feel really bored and frustrated just thinking about it, so I decide to go the more copy-pastey route in the last two panels versus inking everything twice. I change the things that matter.
I lay down flat colors. I have model sheets for both Joyce and Sarah from which I grab their colors. Their piles of clothes I color based on the general color themes I’d previously assigned to them. Joyce wears a lot of orange and pinks and blues. Sarah wears a lot of greens and purples.
Sometimes I get lucky and don’t have to draw a new background! This is one of those times. This Sarah/Joyce closet background is actually the first thing I ever drew for Dumbing of Age. I also have a “bare” version which I’ve used to build the closets of other dorm rooms. But sometimes I do have to do a new background. I try to compose my shots without consideration of whether I’ll have to draw a new background, just so I don’t slave my compositions to what backgrounds I have available. If a three quarters overhead shot works best for a scene, then sucks to be me! I’d have to draw a new background for that panel probably. But as I said, here I lucked out. I drop the background … into the background. I may have edited it slightly to look more like it’s being seen from an angle, I forget. Y’know, add a side to the closet door.
Here comes shading. I keep this pretty simple. I put a 30% transparent layer between the inks and the flat colors and I color either black or white.
Dialog happens last. I have ideas and bits of pieces of it floating around in my head, but I don’t commit to them until this stage. I know generally what folks are going to say, but it’s here that I chisel it out for real. Occasionally, I’ll completely rewrite a punchline if I think the one I had floating in my head kind of sucked in practice, or if I’m inspired a different direction by the art itself. This one pretty much worked out the way I expected it to. Joyce was always going to say “MIINNNNE” in a black word bubble, so my writing was constructed to build up to that moment. The exact wording of Sarah’s line in the last panel was played around with a bunch, if I recall correctly, because I kept on phrasing what I wanted her to say awkwardly, but eventually I found something I thought worked.
I hope that was fun and educational.
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