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Comic Drawing Stoofs

Thu Dec 15, 2005, 8:06 PM
:iconbrokenaoshi: has requested I talk about how I make a comic book.  I will do this now for the little snakes, that they may know what goes into comic-making.  Also I'm too exhausted to do anything else.

First off, I work for TOKYOPOP Inc, a publishing company in California that produces both translated manga graphic novels and original graphic novels that they contract american artists and writers to create.  I both write and draw my own series, Bizenghast, which is currently a four-volume series.  What this means is that I write the story, make it into a script and draw all the artwork plus the cover.  I don't letter my own book, however...all the speech bubbles and inside text are done by my letterer.  My first book was mostly toned (shaded on the computer using ComicStudio) by :iconyuugichan:, but for subsequent volumes I do the toning myself.

Here's how each volume goes down:

I have a piece of computer paper upon which I've drawn 25 small boxes about an inch and a half tall.  I xerox this sheet so I can use it to draw in little tiny pencil pictures of each page I'll draw for my book, called thumbnails.  These let me know what each page will look like before I draw it, so I don't mess up on the bigger versions.  As I draw the pages, I stamp the tiny thumbnail off on my thumbnail sheet with a stamp that says "MARTY!"  That way I can look at the thumbnail sheet and know how many pages I've done so far for that chapter.  I usually like to do between six and seven chapters a book, with about 22-30 pages each.

I draw each page at approximately 15.875 inches by 11 inches, then scan them into the computer and shrink them down to about 7.687 by 5.5.  They have to be a precise size so they'll print correctly in the book.  Then I tone them in ComicStudio, which is a japanese program that puts professional tones onto each page.  It works a lot like photoshop, only instead of colors it has different sizes and patterns of tones.  I prefer not to use patterned tones for the most part...I only use three to five shades of grey.

After all this is done I save the files as TIFFS.  Then I match up each page to the script and make corrections to the script wherever needed.  After that I make a tiny copy of each page and put it onto one big document and, using a pen tablet, draw small red word balloons and text boxes onto the small low-res pages.  This is the balloon guide that the letterer will get so he knows where to put the word balloons.

I send all of these things directly to my editor by using an FTP upload program.  Everything gets sent over a little at a time as my deadlines occur, into a folder on Tokyopop's server just for my book.  I usually average around 20 pages every two weeks.

After all that, my editor goes over the whole story in its entirety, along with a lot of other people at Tokyopop, who make suggestions as to what needs to be changed or clarified. I do a lot of revisions that can take months, depending on what changes need to be made or if some pages look rushed or don't fit with the story.  I usually end up drawing at least twenty or thirty new pages of art and subtracting around ten original pages from the story.  I also draw a lot of extra art for ads, interviews, inserts into the book for title pages, display art for bookstores, etc.  Lots of different stuff.  

The cover is sort of an ongoing thing throughout the book's creation.  For volume two I've gone through three fully painted covers so far.  I work with my editor to determine what's the best color scheme for the cover and which design will work best.  A lot of factors come into play for the front and back covers, such as whether the logo will obscure the art, how the art fits next to the brand bar, where the text can fit over everything, etc.  

People ask me if I get to control 100% of what goes on and in the book, and obviously I have the input of my editor Aaron, his boss and his boss' boss to consider.  A lot of kids going into the business worry they won't have total control over their work. But I'm like, why would you want to have that?  Do you really think you know better than an entire publishing company?  What seems like a fantastic plot to you may be confusing as hell to someone else. And what seems like a great cover idea to you may be obscure, cluttered and ugly to your buyers.  So don't get wrapped up in "controlling" everything.  Because you need other people's input to know whether your story is really as solid as you think and whether your art works as well as you think it does.

However I will say that TOKYOPOP gives me an enormous amount of free reign in my books.  They don't decide who my characters are or what they say.  They don't dictate what happens in the story.  They don't tell me how to draw such-and-such.  They just look at the end product and let me know if parts are confusing or irrelevant to the overall plot, or if some points aren't being brought out as much as they should.  They make the story a lot better, as far as I'm concerned.  And to their benefit, I will say that although none of them really seemed to get Edaniel in the first volume and a few were against his character, they didn't ask me to remove him or change any of his dialogue.  They kept it word for word, which made me very happy.  I think Edaniel presented somewhat of a risk to them of alienating the audience, but so far he's gone over extremely well.  

So that's how we put a book together.  As for materials, I do NOT pay for "special" artists' supplies because I think that's boneheaded.  I go to the craft store and buy a big flippy book of Biggie Sketch children's drawing paper in white, and that's what I draw my pages on.  I ink them with ordinary school pens I get from the drugstore.  Sometimes I use ballpoint pens.  I draw with cheap little mechanical pencils like you'd get at the gas station.  I also have an elementary school geometry set with a ruler and a triangle.  The only non-drugstore gadget I have is a croquill and Speedball ink jar that I got from JoAnn's in order to ink some finer details.

I don't shell out money for special A4 paper from Japan and pigment liners and whatever the kids are into these days.  You don't NEED those things.  Your art is the same no matter what kind of supply you use, and if you think more expensive supplies will make your art better, you're just fooling yourself.  Save your money up for art classes instead of Sakura pens or whatever.  Education is the ONLY tool you really can't go without.

Except for my neato eraser-bit sweeper I got in Japan *squee* it's shaped like a pretty bird wing!  It shoos away the eraser bits!  It's so cute.

Hope that was edifying!


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My Toner:

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VanillaHigh Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
Am i right in thinking that you ARE the authour of Bizenghast?
sadwonderland Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2006
Yes you is! XD
VanillaHigh Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2006  Hobbyist General Artist
OH wow. I really love the manga. The detail is like nothing i have ever seen before. And the characters are just so cute :D
PrincessCordelia Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2005  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
This is a great entry, very informative and money saving too. X) I can't wait to try that toning program though.
Thank you for the information.
DangerPins Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2005  Professional Digital Artist
Haha I'm gonna have to save this entry. It's very informative. I really like that you don't spend an arm and a leg on supplies. I always thought I'd have to get those fancy comic pages with the blue lines on them and soooper special pens or something. I already have a ton of ballpoint pens because that's what I like to sketch with and I have like two sets of microns. But microns always run out of ink so fast for me. Ballpoints last forever. Well at least a real real long time.
deviantDIRGE Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2005
Wow, that's a lot of work, but I've always wondered about the process.

<3 Totally agree on the art supplies. That is so interesting to know what you use.
brokenaoshi Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2005
Hahaaaa I need to be able to fav this so I can read it again more clearly later... I'm so releived that nifty gadgets and supplies aren't necessary to creating professional looking things... Now all I have to worry about is improving my technique and story line! And maybe a few select people may enjoy the bits of stories I put on paper...

Kyaaa I'm in your journal xD * Takes simple pleasures where she finds them... such as seeing her icon in nifty peoples journals... *
GuardianYashu Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2005
that's a LOT of work! But a least it's something you enjoy right ^^?
and about saving money for art classes and not Sakura (which I use but that was cuz I was just looking through Micheals and saw them and decided i needed SOMETHING to ink with besides gel pens which smear), I've taken some classes and they haven't helped <_< and all i've learned from my drawing and painting class at school is how to use carcoal and how to mix paint O_O
rei-0 Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2005  Student General Artist
I feel educated! *professionally adds one more thing to her towering to do list for break*
alluna Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2005
Thanks for posting this before the deadline for hte Rising Stars of Manga competition, among a few other publishing opportunities that are coming up soon. I did the same writing, scripting and thumbnail kind of thing, but in a much less organized way...maybe now that I know this isn't the completely wrong thing to do, I'll run with it and get my act together a little better.

nekonezume Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2005  Hobbyist Writer
That was not only really informative, but very inspiring as well!! I'm glad I'm not the only one who draws with mechanical pencisls ^^. Thanks for sharing that with us; it's really interesting. ^^
CardCaptor87 Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2005   Digital Artist
That was really informative and helpful! And I thought I needed fancy pens and stuff to draw well...darn, was I wrong. xD
Dragon-the-Tribrid Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2005  Hobbyist General Artist
Tokyopop did run their rising stars of manga competition over here in the UK, but I didn't have anyhting to enter. But if they run it again next year I may have come up with something.
lazesummerstone Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2005  Professional Digital Artist
:orange: Hey thanks for the informative fun read! Its alway so interesting to see how other artists go about their work. :dance: I'm so amazed that you just use ordinary school and ballpoint pens! It's astonishing, and I guess I've become a artsupply snob lately >_<. You really use a biggie sketch pad to do your final comicwork? o_0 I guess you measure out your boarders yourself for each page?
Thanks again! I know you're already uber-busy and probably the most productive Original manga artist working for tokyopop at the moment, so i know this journal entry is like gold!
wisdom-of-trees Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2005  Professional Digital Artist
That was educational. Where did you pick up your copy of ComicStudio?
Spookeriffic Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2005  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you for educating the little ones :)
hootinanny Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2005
How positively fascinating. I've always wondered as to how you did it but was too afraid/lazy to ask. I feel enlightened! *chomps on SNOAF*
Loverofpiggies Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2005
SWEET!!! >__< That helps me!!! I'm actully publishing a comic right now, and actully I'm not even going to use any toning because I think alot of americans do too much toning or the toning sucks alltogether. Everything, even the lettering, is being done on computer paper. Its actully going to be self published, but heck, this is something Ive been wanting to do for ages, and considering I cant follow (or be accepted) in a top notch place like tokyopop, I might as well do it all myself. ^w^ Thanks for all the tips! I use kinda expensive pens for inking, but thier good and I like em and have different brush points. So even though I spend more money, I still love to use them because thier smooth and considering Im not the guru on pens these are the only ones I know of. ^^ BUt I love em so.... heh. I went on a little "rantness" thing here.
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December 15, 2005


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