Comic Art Tools

Some months back I collaborated with writer Trevor Ainsworth to produce this 5 page short piece for a Sci-Fi anthology entitled “Gateways to Beyond”. It was designed to in a small format (Manga-sized) and I did this project mostly digital in Manga Studio. Although, I still prefer working on paper, for this project finishing (inking/drafting) it digitally saved a lot of time in the process. I worked on this last year and I don’t have too many work-in-progress images to show, but I did have a few to share.

comic artist patrick wong working on a cintiq and manga studio

The above photo is myself working on my Cintiq and Manga studio sketching page 2 of Ardor’s Rage. Working in the panels for Manga studio is super effective when drawing. If you see the red zone above, that is where the image area actually extends to and the rest is masked off with a borderline. A great feature in the program.

comic script sample from ardor's rage by trevor ainsworth and patrick wong

Trevor the writer, worked his magic and provided a proper comic script showing all the information the artist would need. Formatting the script properly like this really made the whole process though much smoother.

Rough sketches for Ardor's Rgae short comic

In the above image you’ll notice that my printer had been partially clogged as I printed rough layouts onto a sheet of Bristol board. I do my tighter sketches on top of those magenta and cyan lines, and then re-scanned them back into Manga studio for inking.

Final artwork for Ardor’s Rage by Trevor Ainsworth and Patrick Wong.

ardors rage short comic by patrick wong

ardors rage page 2 patrick wong

comic short fiction by patrick wong

ardors rage page 4

ardors rage page 4

ardors rage page 5 by freelance comic artist patrick wong

With the rise of tablet devices for reading and entertainment, I’ve been seriously thinking about working on a project specifically for iPad release. After doing some digging I found that there has been 67 million of them sold and from all accounts, people seem to like reading comics on iPads.

With Apple announcing its iBooks Author free app it seems like a more viable option to produce something that will find its way into the iBook store relatively easily. Applications like Comixology and also provide an avenue for creators to distribute their work. In many cases artists are using taller formats that are in line with the American comic size of 6.625×10.187″ and of course its a different aspect ratio.

If you ever considered authoring a project that wasn’t a repurposed print comic, here is a template to fit an iPad perfectly. I had some time today and wanted to share a iPad comic art template you can print on your own Bristol board.

a diagram with iPad and comic art template at 150%

Using the standard 150% original art size as rule I drafted a set of guides for the template. What I wanted to do was standardize that 150% so as I could always use the same size lettering, gutters, etc. and know when it was reduced 67% that across the board everything with the predictable and legible.

an overlay in red comic art template of the over an iPad

Here in red is the template reduced at 67% and how it fits on the 9.7 diagonal iPad screen. What it has is a 3/8″ margin for a live art area and a bit of the bleed for you to draw out to for safety.

a low resolution proof of the PDF comic art template for iPad

This is a screen grab of the PDF I have included below of the iPad template on an 11×17 sheet of paper. Alternatively, you can print this on 11×14 Bristol board from a pad if you have it. I have set a line on the top and the bottom so that you can trim the 11×17 down to 11×14 not only to save a bit of white space on your art board, but also for storage 11×14 is much more common to find portfolios and sleeves.

You can download the PDF here IPAD_COMIC_ART_TEMPLATE

Having just learned the basics of Sketchup, I haven’t had a chance to utilize it in any comic book art pages. As an alternative I wanted to share a quick and clean way of drafting out perspective with long vanishing points without using pencil rulers. This panel was a sort of establishing shot for my character alone on the swings.

photo reference of apartment building used for comic art

I traveled to a bit of a rundown neighborhood in my city (by which I mean no disrespect) and photographed this city housing project which I thought would be the perfect location to set my story.

in-progress comic art drafting perspective in illustrator over thumbnail sketch

I sketched on paper a very basic 2 point perspective layout of how I wanted the panel to look and then brought it into Adobe Illustrator. I set a horizon line and 2 vanishing points and proceeded to construct the shapes as I would on paper with one major advantage: no rulers.

final line art perspective image made in Adobe Illustrator for comic panel

After a few minutes of this type of drafting, I erased some of the overlapping construction lines and got the line art ready for placement on the art board.

completed comic book art pencils over Adobe Illustrator architecture

Using my printer from my previous post  I printed out blue lines which I then pencils over to ensure a traditional aesthetic. Sometimes computer-based art in illustrator or Photoshop looks a tad too perfect or digital, so I really wanted to keep things hand drawn by drawing over this drafted framework.

final comic book art panel after inking over Adobe Illustrator drafted perspective

This is the final panel after it had been inked and lettered. I used Pitt artist pens for the majority of straight edges and for the tree and character on the swings I used a brush and Hunt 102 dip pen.

adobe illustrator vector design for laser cut CNC plastic template

A few weeks ago in my comic art production class I’m taking we had tutorial on lettering, both traditional and digital methods. Like a lot of people I’m sure, I spend a lot of time in the digital world either on my phone, my tablet, or my computer -  so I was drawn to working more on paper for these exercises then on a computer. After doing the hand lettering exercise, I found the most difficult part of working this way was to create the word balloons freehand. I spent the evening that night searching for a manufacturer of a proper word balloon plastic template for comic artists and was a little surprised that I couldn’t find anything on the market.

From this I decided to design my own and have it laser cut from Ponoko, a company that makes various products via laser, router, and 3-D print. About 2 weeks after I ordered the custom laser cut, which was produced out of 1 mm clear PETG, it arrived in the mail. It cost about $14 before shipping and came in one piece so I had to punch out the holes.

My instructor Steve, would free hand these word balloons in about 2-4 strokes and unfortunately I wasn’t able to make some very clean that way. My hands are far too shaky, so this tool has come in handy. To make it I enlarged a DC comic 150% to get to standard comic book art size. I did several reductions and scale drawings to make sure that it was the right scale and proportion. As you can see in the picture of the word balloon template the laser produced burn marks on the clear plastic.

This is the completed pencils for page 4 where I began placing some word balloons into the artwork.

Over the years I’ve been buying and trying different dip pens for inking. I received in the mail today a Deleter trial set which included a pen holder and 3 different nibs popular for Manga. Still not 100% comfortable with the scratchiness that these pens create and I wanted to do some tests before working on my final 4 pages for my comic art class. I couldn’t find a lot of information on the web about these specific dip pens, so I wanted to describe some of my initial thoughts here on my blog.

photo of various dip pens and pen holders use for inking tests with close-up

The 1st one is the Hunt 102 which I’ve been practicing with quite a bit and seems to be a pretty standard in American comics. The 3 Deleter pens I haven’t used before today, but have come across the names many times in blogs and books in the past.

photo of watercolor brushes used in comic book inking

I am not big into brushes and likely to thicken certain areas after all the pen work is done, but at some point I did go and spend $30 on a Rafael Kolinsky Sable no. 2 watercolor brush. I also have a few cheaper brushes shown here using a material called “sabelite” in size 0 and 1 which work wonderfully which only cost $5 each. Not shown is an economy brush I bought from Bluelinepro that I was going to use for my Higgins White Ink, but that brush won’t even come to a point -  I wouldn’t recommend buying them.

a bottle of black magic ink by Higgins

This is the Ink I used for the inking tests, Higgins Black Magic waterproof ink that I originally bought at Bluelinepro, but is widely available. The paper I’m using today is Strathmore 300 series smooth Bristol board.

Different strokes with various dip pens and brushes for comic book art inking including g-pen, deleter maru and saji, hunt 102, gillott 107

Here’s some thick and thin samples of the pens and brushes. You’ll notice some bleeding which happens when you draw very slowly on good quality Bristol board – on bad art boards the bleeding is completely not usable, try it on copy paper for example.

1. Deleter Maru-Pen
A thin mapping pen which is almost like a micron. Very stiff and in appearance looks like a Hunt 102. The maximum thickness was just shy of 1 mm and I wasn’t crazy about the overall feel of the pen.

2. Deleter G-Pen
This one is super popular among Manga artists and with good reason. It’s a medium firmness dip pen with good control and thick lines with less pressure than the Hunt 102. I could see myself getting comfortable with the G-Pen, but right now it’s not my favorite from the group.

3. Deleter Saji-Pen
This pen was firmer then the G-Pen and overall gave very smooth lines. The sample inking I did below looks pretty good and felt pretty good doing it.

4. Gillott 170
I read somewhere that this was a good pen for cartoonists and decided to buy a few from Jetpens a while back. From the group this one is the softest and most delicate. It was super responsive and gave amazing character to the line. The only drawback is with the softness of the nib, it’s easier to make mistakes and not render your pencils just right.

7. Hunt 102
I bought a small box from Bluelinepro and have been working one in for a few months. It’s a great dip pen with a firmness slightly higher than the G-Pen and maybe not quite as thick. It’s a good all-around pen and right now I am on the fence to use the Gillott 170 or this one for my 4 pages.

another inking test with original panel pencil drawing of a young girl with ghost father disappearing done with a hunt 102

I pulled the panel out from page 4 and printed blue lines on a small piece of bristol board as seen above. The 1st ink test was using the Hunt 102 with backup lines using the synthetic size 0 brush.

comic book arts inking test I made for a graphic novel panel with deleter maru dip pen, deleter g-pen, and Rafael kolinsky sable brush

These 2 as you can see is done with combinations of Maru-Pen and synthetic size 0 as well as G-Pen and Rafael Sable size 2.

graphic novel panel inking test of art work with dip pens and brushes

These 2 were done with combinations of Saji-Pen and synthetic size 0 as well as Gillott 107 and  synthetic size 1.

I wanted to see which combination of pens and brushes works best for me and my hand pressure. It’s great to try out some new tools and experiment a bit. I hope you find this post helpful if you’re trying new pens for inking like I am.

model of a small house beginner google sketchup drawing for comics

I was describing my graphic novel project to a few art friends and I told them in order to speed up production I wanted to use/learn Google Sketchup and build sets for the majority of my locations.   I 1st read about using Sketchup in comics in The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics by Freddie Williams. I’ve tried to learn 3-D programs in the past with terrible results always quitting before getting anywhere. I had the day off and decided to run through Sketchup tutorials and was pleased with my tutorial results. The videos showed me how to make a basic house and make an array for the fencing which is going to be super useful for windows and such objects.

sketchup subway platform with figures perspective drawing for comics

After completing the tutorials I wanted to try my hand at a set that I might use for graphic novel – such as a subway platform. Even with my rudimentary skills in Sketchup I was able to draft a decent platform complete with signs, posters, beams, etc. and what was most important was being able to turn the camera and get that shot just right.

sketchup comic perspective art of subway platform with people as line art

I really think backgrounds do a lot for comic art to pass for believability and over the last few pages I’ve been practicing on,  I have found them to be very time-consuming drawing the structure by hand. I think this is really going to speed up workflow and save time on that end, allowing me to trace over the basic structure, add my characters, and render the whole thing by hand. Even using their 2-D stand-in figures gives you a basic relationship in height to relate your drawings on top of. Google Sketchup is great and free for the basic version that I’m using here – check it out if you haven’t already!

I’ve had my eye on one of these for a while now, a multi-function printer/scanner that could do 11×17. Today I finally when out and got one to help finish a few pages I’m currently working on for a short fiction. There’s a few out on the market, made by Epson, Lexmark, HP, among others – I went for the Brother MFC-J6510DW and so far it’s working terrific! In the rear of the printer is a bypass tray which accepts the thick bristol board without any trouble.

photo of 11x17 tabloid or ledger size scanner printer for comic art

I wanted the printer for a few uses in the comic making workflow:

1. I wanted to enlarge and print my breakdowns right on the final artboards along with guides, live area, bleeds, and other marks to save time drafting them out. I have a good lightbox, but I figured it would speed up the process if I didn’t need to trace all this information again.

2. I wanted to scan full size without stitching multiple parts together, so having this unit obviously does the trick. I had put this off for a while because over at the art school I take classes at in my spare time have several A3 scanners and I have figured if I really needed to use it I would go down there to scan. Having that luxury at home is a huge plus.

3. I wanted to scan and print out the final pencils in blueline over a fresh artboard to ink on, so I didn’t destroy the pencilled art… This was important for me and I didn’t even realize it until a classmate of mine mention how he was going to hate inking directly over his pencils after slaving away on them for hours.

blueline printouts on comic art bristol boards

Here’s a picture of two printouts I made with the 11×17 printer. The first one is a set of breakdowns printed directly inside the live area of a sheet of Canson Fanboy Manga artboard. All the markings and rules are imprinted on the paper pad and my printer did the light blue drawings in the center live area. The right image was made on a blank sheet of bristol and I printed my own guides based on my working dimensions from my comic art class I’m taking which calls for a live area of 9 x 14 1/4″.

a blueline printout of a graphic novel layout from 11x17 printer

I know it’s a bit difficult to see, I had to adjust the levels for this to even be visible. This is a detail of the left image, the one printed with my enlarge thumbnails ready for tight pencils. As you can see I would have had to lightbox all of this art in order to get it to this stage, so the printer has already saved me a lot of work.

Blackpool Seaside Sketchers

On Location Sketching in Blackpool

G. E. Gallas

Screenwriter & Graphic Novelist (Writer/Illustrator)

The Poet and the Flea

by G. E. Gallas


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