Archive for Cartooning process
Hello from sunny Portland! I just arrived yesterday for the first leg of my USA trip (REMINDER: I’m having meet-ups in Portland and San Francisco on the 11th and 16th July, and will be signing at San Diego Comic-Con) and wanted to post some new content before the shenanigans begin. I’m having a semi-vacation/business trip, but i’ll hopefully find time to update the site with a new comic or two. It might take longer than usual so thanks in advance for your patience. In the meantime, I thought I’d do another behind-the-scenes post, this time showing you how a particular panel is created. It’s one of my personal favourite drawings, Maya Angelou dancing up a storm from the Phenomenal Woman comic.
Even though I’m away for a couple of weeks and there won’t be a new comic, I still wanted to update the site with some juicy content. And since I got some great feedback from my last little behind-the scenes post, I thought I would show you the breakdown of an entire comic and not just one panel. I found it amusing that some readers were surprised by the amount of work that went into one panel and thought I drew polished drawings from the start, just like magic. Man, I wish that were the case! Nah, I don’t have any magic powers. As you’ll see, I slowly and painfully extract the comic out of my head and hands over the course of an exhausting but satisfying week. For this example, I’m using the recent Tim Minchin comic. Also, I got some complaints that the Marc Maron panel I used last time was not appropriate for the classroom so I’ve got rid of the naughty words in this comic so teachers can share it with their students.
Here’s a quick look at my comic creation process. For this example, I’m using a panel from my recent Marc Maron The Social Media Generation comic. The panel calls for one man to walk into a toilet cubicle only to find it’s occupied with a drug addict who’s getting high.
Once I have the idea for a comic I will usually lay out all the panels as ‘thumbnails’ in a notepad. As you can see, it’s extremely rough and barely legible.
From there, I use the computer to layout all the panels and print it out on A4 paper. I quickly sketch in what’s going on in the panels. Still very rough.
Ok, I know what’s going on in the panel. If needed, I find reference photos before I start a more polished drawing. I usually use Google Images or a stock photo website such as Getty Images. But since this was a very specific shot, I needed to take the photos myself so I got my wife to take some pics of yours truly in the required poses.
Using the photos as reference, I do a very loose drawing.
I scan in that loose drawing into Photoshop, add the perspective lines, enlarge it and then print it out in very light blue ink onto A3 board that I use for the final artwork.
Now that I have that light blue rough drawing as a guide, I do a much tighter drawing over the top.
Inks – I use mainly Pigma Micron pens and various brush pens. All the hard work (idea, story, pacing, pencils) is done and I consider inking to be the fun and relaxing part. You’ll notice I changed the addict’s right arm to have it injecting the needle instead of hanging down by his side.
Colouring – The inks are scanned and I use Photoshop to do the colouring. Flat colour is added – since this is mainly a black and white comic it makes things a bit easier to figure out.
Special effects and finishing touches are added such as the halftone dots, phone glow and texture. It’s done!
For all you budding cartoonists out there, I plan to write a much more detailed account of exactly HOW I add colours, special effects, what resolution my document is and all the other nitty gritty details in the future. I’ve been saying that for over a year … I’ll get around to it one day!
PS: I’m hard at work on the new comic, look for it next week.
I’m thrilled to have some of my illustrations in the new best-selling book by writer and blogger extraordinaire Tim Ferriss! This is Ferriss’ third book after his hugely successful The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body. The 4-Hour Chef is not only a how-to guide on cooking for beginners, it’s also a manual for learning anything you want using an efficient and no-nonsense system.
Below is the main illustration I did. There are other smaller drawings of mine used also. This image is used in the molecular gastronomy chapter hence the science-related equipment and props.
There’s a pretty cool story about how I got this opportunity. Tim didn’t see a Zen Pencils comic while browsing the internet and say to himself “My God, who is the talented young man that drew this? I must have his work in my book!” No, we actually met in 2011 before I had even launched Zen Pencils. I had become a fan of Tim’s after reading his first book The 4-Hour Workweek – it helped me with the decision to change my career and start my own thing. Tim posted on his blog that he was asking for submissions for recipes and ideas for his new cooking book. So I sent in a few sketches and suggested he use some illustrations.
To my surprise Tim was keen on the idea and even took me out for dinner a few months later when he was in Melbourne. We discussed his new book and I told him about a new cartoon website I was starting. He couldn’t have been nicer, especially considering he had just arrived from the States after a long flight and was tired as hell.
That was in October 2011 and now, over a year later his book is out and is on the New York Times bestseller list … and my drawings are in it! How cool is that?!
*Note: The cover illustration is not mine. Just wanted to show you what the book looks like.
I thought I would show you what my current ‘studio’ set-up looks like. It’s not really a studio, just a room with a desk in it.
I’ve mentally compartmentalised creating comics into two distinct stages. There’s stage 1 which is DRAWING and stage 2 which is COMPUTER STUFF.
Stage 1 is everything done at the drawing table. This involves sketching the initial idea, penciling the comic and then ‘inking’ the comic (I’m inking in the above pic). Inking is just when I ‘trace’ over my pencil drawings with a black pen or brush. As you can see, I don’t have a big, hardcore drafting table – it’s a smaller A2 size table that you can place on any desk which is a lot easier to move around. I draw on A3 paper so I don’t really need a huge table.
Stage 2 includes scanning the inked drawings, colouring and then lettering the comic on the computer. I scan using a Brother MFC-6490CW multi-function centre which is probably the best piece of hardware I’ve ever bought. It’s great because it allows large-format A3 scanning and printing. A3 scanners used to be super expensive but this MFC was only $350 and probably even cheaper these days. Sure, it’s massive and hideous but I love it even more than my Mac. Speaking of which, I’ve got a iMac which is about 3 years old. It’s got 8GB RAM and I use Adobe Photoshop and InDesign CS5. I also use a Wacom Bamboo tablet, which is the cheapest model and works fine for me.
So this is where I spend most of my time these days. I occasionally venture downstairs to stuff food in my face and sometimes even go outside to check whether it’s day or night.