There’s going to be a lot of information here so let’s just get right into the meat of it. This is how I’m making comics these days.
You can even buy my Manga Studio 5 brush pack that I use here (NOTE: These are ONLY compatible with Manga Studio 5).
1. I have a 600 dpi file set up in Manga Studio to 9.25 x 6.25, Register Marks 8.25 x 5.25 and a Basic Frame of 7.75 x 4.75. It’s sort of an arbitrary dimension that is roughly based on fitting two strips (stacked on top of one another) on a standard 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper if I ever decided to get some of these printed. It also fits a monitor well with its horizontal orientation.
2. Half the time when I get started on a new strip I only have a rough idea or a feeling that I’d like to capture. Sometimes I don’t even have that. Often I find the best way to draw a comic is to think/write WHILE I’m drawing. Sitting on the couch and trying to imagine a comic is far more difficult than just doodling until something feels right.
3. I have a simple frame layer that evenly divides the working area into 2 rows of 3 panels each. I drop the opacity to about 5% and leave it there when I start to make my panels. This give me an idea of how much real estate I’m going to be using for each of my panels.
4. Next I start to sketch the comic. This is the stage where I make the most changes as, like I mentioned above, I often don’t really have an idea fleshed out until I start making marks on the page. This is the writing stage for me. It’s where I really invest in the world I’m creating and try to tell a bit of story. I prefer to do this stage in silence. I’ll turn down the music and try to get wrapped up in the world and the story I’m telling.
5. It’s hard to explain exactly what goes on in this stage since it’s by far the most important one. I just keep trying until I make something that feels right.
6. Now that I’ve got a sketch I like, I go ahead and use MS5′s panel tools to create clean frames where I’ve made my divisions. I faded out the sketch a bit so you can see what I mean. Use the Figure tool (U) to stretch a rectangle frame over the whole comic and then Correct Line (Y)/Cut Frame Border to divide that into panels. After I’m done with those I merge them together into one flat layer because I don’t need to save them as masked panels (you’ll see why in the next step).
7. After this I do my inking. At this stage I turn on some tunes and just try to have fun with it. Doing lines for me is just bringing to life what I’ve already got planned so it’s a lot lower stress than you might imagine. However, I do like to spend my time and really flesh things out since this stage is going to be what really brings the whole comic together. Note that I’m also not doing my “shading” and hatching at the same time. I’ll occasionally toss in little shadows here and there but for the most part I’m just worried about drawing the shapes at this point.
8. Now that the inking is done, I do my final panel lines. I lower the opacity of the “clean” panels until the point where I can barely see them and trace over them in a separate layer by hand. This gives me an even but not TOO even panel line that I’ve been favoring lately.
9. Next, I go in and do my hatching. At this stage I try to concentrate on building interesting shapes with lines, emphasizing volume in places and creating texture with scratchy lines. If I’ve done my main inks well, this step is easy and fun. If my main inks are a little weak, this step becomes a lot about “fixing” the drawing and becomes more of a chore. After I’m done here, I merge the two into a final “INK” layer, but keep the panels separate for help with coloring.
10. Since the panels are on a separate layer, I can always select them all with a right click on the layer to quickly fill my panels (and later to trim off excess when I color outside the lines). The step of filling in the flat colors is always one of the most labor intensive for me. I’ll do magic wand selections and paint bucket fills where I can, but a LOT of it ends up being done “by hand” meaning that I simple scribble in the color on a lower layer. Color selection is as accurate as I can make it, but I always leave some wiggle room knowing that I can adjust later.
11. Next I drop in shadows. Depending on the color temp, I’ll drop in a complementary tone or something that just “feels right.” Usually it’s a dark, muddy purple, blue or red. But I’ve used greens for shadows on occasion as well. I do this on a layer above the colors but below the lines (I just like to make sure the lines stay 100% black, plus if I color them, etc.). I set the shadow later to Multiply and drop the opacity (I think this one was around 38%).
12. Finally, I do some color adjustments. My go to adjustments are Color Balance, Hue/Saturation and Photo Filter. I’m more careful not to overdo Photo Filters these days because they can easily become a crutch and leave all your colors looking rather monotone and boring. Color Balance is used on almost every piece of art I do though and I will often play with the settings for a long time before I’m happy. Sometimes I end up adjusting a lot and sometimes very little. In this case it didn’t take too much as I was pretty happy with my initial color selection.
13. And that’s it! Crop it, upload it to the web and I’m done!