No one is safe.

For anyone interested, I though I’d do a post about my process today. I’ve done enough now that I have a pretty solid routine going, though I’m always experimenting with new things.

First, I start by opening one of my custom templates in Manga Studio. I have separate template files for single panel, 3-4 panel, and 6-8 panel strips. Originally I just downloaded a Penny-Arcade strip and reverse engineered it to the right size and dimensions. I’ve since tweaked it for my own needs and now it looks like this.


Screenshot 2014-07-29 11.49.34

My template in Manga Studio


In the top right, you can see my layers. These are arranged so that 99% of what I need for each strip is ready to go. I can just start drawing.


Screenshot 2014-07-29 11.49.50

So many folders…


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Info and frame folders


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Art layers


With my template loaded and ready to go, I find the script for that day’s strip. When I’m writing a script to draw myself, I tend to write in little scratchy notes. When I’m writing something with Phillip,  it tends to look more like the script format below.

I cleaned this one up just for you.


Screenshot 2014-07-29 12.07.02

Evernote script


After wasting many hours inking, coloring, and pouring over details for stuff that ends up behind speech bubbles, I learned to start with the text first.


Screenshot 2014-07-29 12.19.01

Blank page with speech bubbles


I try to thumbnail as much as I can. I’ve heard many great cartoonists and animators say that this is absolutely the key to nailing down the best possible version of your piece. I usually get caught up in sketching/adding details and then 45 minutes have gone by and I haven’t even started another thumbnail. I’m a creative tinkerer.


Screenshot 2014-07-29 12.29.47


Once I have a suitable thumbnail in place, I keeping sketching until it looks the way it’s going to look. The next step is inking so it’s gotta be right here or else I’m going to have to keep bouncing back and forth between sketching and inking which gets old really fast.
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Once the sketch is finished, it’s time to move on to inks. I started by lowering the opacity of my sketch layer so that it’s easier to see my black ink once I start throwing down.
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Here are the first few inked lines. The sketch layer is still visible but the inked lines are clear and obvious.


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Finished inks with sketch underneath.
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Finished inks by their lonesome.
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I forgot to mention that I use as much reference as I can, especially during the sketch phase. I just google whatever I need; “Orchestra Conductor Tux”, “Miles Davis 90s”, “Miles Davis Long Hair”, etc.
Screenshot 2014-07-29 23.56.48


Here are the finished inks for the whole strip with the sketch layer still visible.
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And here are the inks by themselves. If this were a B&W strip I’d be done!

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I throw a background color underneath everything before I start coloring because it’s hard to color over white. It’s a lot easier to miss stuff.
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One of Manga Studio’s big advantages over Photoshop is its easy-to-use fill tool (paint bucket). Photoshop’s is… well, it just… ugh. I can’t.
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I colored the background folks in Miles’ frame on a separate layer so that I could manipulate them without touching Miles. Here’s the plan…

First, I colored them in however I wanted.


Screenshot 2014-07-30 19.54.10


Then, I put an empty layer above them and filled it with this crimson color.
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I lowered the opacity on that layer to allow the original colors to show through and BAM, they are instantly pushed further back in terms of depth AND it looks like I had some unified crimson theater theme in my color selection.

I did not.
Screenshot 2014-07-30 19.54.42


Throw in a little black vignette…
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Add some speed lines and BAM, Miles is the focus and those other schmucks are just there to make him look more badass.
Screenshot 2014-07-30 19.57.04


Miles Davis was famous for many things. If there’s anything he was infamous for, it was his fashion choices later in life. Maybe it was just the times…

Either way, leaving him with a plain blue blazer wasn’t going to work so I grabbed a fancy looking fabric texture from the webs and through it on.
Screenshot 2014-07-30 19.57.15


Next, I used the wand tool to select the area where I wanted to apply the texture…
Screenshot 2014-07-30 19.57.31


And deleted everything else.
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Set the fabric layer to overlay (or color dodge, I can’t remember now) and viola!

Kinda blue jacket…


Screenshot 2014-07-30 19.58.29


I did something new for the first frame and used some water color brushes to give the whole scene a looser messier feel.
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Not bad, but by simply adding some room shadows with a big soft brush, the room starts to take shape.
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This was also new for me… I made a layer above everything else, made a big triangular selection, and used a bright yellow brush with the layer set to add (glow) and it made a nice looking spotlight.
Screenshot 2014-07-30 20.11.50


Add a few more white glowies (first seen in my A Zombie Story days) and this frame is DONE.
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I wish I could stop at the inked & colored phase, but once I’ve seen it with shadows, I can’t go back.


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It just adds a lot more volume and shape to the 2D image.

Plus it’s good practice.


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Just have a few last minute changes and details to add…


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And this one’s in the bag.
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This is all saved as a .lip (Manga Studio) file but I need a 72dpi JPEG for use on the internet.

So, I merge all of my layers…
Screenshot 2014-07-30 22.47.46


So I’m left with just one…
Screenshot 2014-07-30 22.47.57


Which gets saved as a 72dpi JPEG.
Screenshot 2014-07-30 22.48.13


And then I start the whole process over for the next one!

Hope this helps/is interesting/entertained you on your break.

See you next week.