Make Comics Forever!!

Make Comics Forever is a forum for cartoonists dedicated to improving their productivity. This is not a forum for wimps! This is not a forum for flakes! We are here to share tips and techniques on how to produce more work and better work. Become a comic-making machine! Join the discussion now! To become a member, email a request to robyn @

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Back on Track!

Like Robyn said, let's get this blog back to its original purpose: tips on COMICS PRODUCTIVITY!!!

I just finished another issue of my comic book Phase 7 and it only took me five months to do it (as opposed to the issue before this one, which took a year and a half, or the issue before that, which took a year). I did 48 finished pages in 131 days, averaging a page every 2.7 days (and YES, I was IN SCHOOL for 3 months of that). What caused this jump in productivity? Well, I approached this issue in an entirely different way, so I thought I'd share some of my ideas, since I think they might be helpful to others:

1) One of the main things I focused on was LOOSENING UP (and/or SPEEDING up) my penciling. I mean really, let's face it, they are PENCILS. They are NEVER going to be seen by the reader! After it's inked, they are gone! So they do NOT need to be that tight or crisp or detailed. The information needs to be there, so you know what to ink, but if you already know how to ink something and it's in the background or something (the leaves on a tree, books on a bookshelf, etc) save some time and just don't pencil it. I penciled my entire issue on the subway train, riding to and from school and that looseness didn't hurt at all. In fact it probably HELPED!

2) I know this will make some of you cringe, but I decided to NOT rule out all of my lettering. Sure, it does not look as clean and "professional" but my handwriting is extremely legible, pretty straight and I can not even tell you how much time this saved me. And actually, after doing a few pages, I decided to do the ENTIRE ISSUE without using any rulers whatsoever. (It's a MINICOMIC, you know?? Does it NEED to look "professional"???) All of my lettering on the cover and in the endpapers, etc. were all just hand-pulled lines, which makes the whole book seem more organic and less cold and robotic. I really think people should try this out. If you can still write your speech bubbles and captions LEGIBLY without ruled lines, it will save you SO much time.

3) My Mantra for this issue was, "No one is going to look at that, keep moving." I think I have a tendancy with my comics to obsess over the smallest details. And granted, in some work that is really important and endearing. I like having at least one project going where I am doing my most absolute precise work (for me, "Basewood") but for this comic, it was just supposed to be a fun, quick read. So I consciously tried to speed up my drawing. Thoughts like, "Well, that's not exactly what that room looked like, I had another bookshelf over here" were shut down. Instead I thought, "The reader is going to look at this panel for a fraction of a second, so don't get overly involved in it. Give just enough information to get across the setting and the characters and the action." I got it to a point where I could pencil a page in 2 hours (1.5 of that was on the train) and then ink it in 3 hours. This down from 10-70 hours pec page for Basewood (!?!)

4) I also tried to take out as much cross hatching as I could. This is especially hard for me, because I love cross hatching. But it takes a lot of time and energy, and frankly, doesn't make the images that much stronger. Instead I tried to use more areas of pure black (STRONGER! FASTER!)

5) Rapidographs! I used three Rapidographs for my A) Panel borders B) Word ballons and C) Lettering and that also really seemed to help speed things up. It's a lot faster that dip nibs which you have to dip and clean constantly. Faster! Faster!

Anyways, I was really happy with how the issue turned out AND that I was able to turn it out quickly. In Comics, (as with any other story-telling format) THE STORY is the most important thing. And I don't think my story suffered any from this quicker art approach. If anything, it probably benefitted from it! (Not... so... stiff...) You can see my progress chart and a brief blog entry about the issue over on my site, as well as samples from the issue.

Now get out there and DRAW!!!!


At 12:55 AM, Blogger Liz (Baillie) said...

I have not ruled out my lettering since I was a sophomore in college and I will never go back! I've been told that the slightly askew quality fits my drawing style, so that's either a compliment or an insult! Either way, I can't imagine going back to ruling my letters.

This week I've been drawing a potentially daunting and terrifying cafeteria scene. TONS of tables, TONS of kids, etc. I had to constantly remind myself not to sweat the details because no one will remember that the kids in the table behind them were wearing hats in one panel and no hats three panels later. Continuity is important to me, but sometimes you really just have to let stuff slide to keep moving.

I'm still trying to find ways around crosshatching (though I love it, it is incredibly time consuming, as you know) and I do use a lot of black, and I think everyone needs to know how to use black properly. My problem is using TOO MUCH black. I don't like to use computer tones or those plastic tone sheets either, so I'm still working on figuring out a non-black, non-hatching solution to shading that is also time-effective.

I like Rapidographs but find that they are too annoying to clean, so I use Faber-Castell PITT pens and brush pens. They are a step above Microns but not as fancy as the Rapidos.

I'm about to finish the next issue of my book as well (21 pages in roughtly 2.5 months, including writing and thumbnailing) so maybe I'll write up a little tips & tricks post of my own!

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Colin Tedford said...

1)Loose Pencils: YES! Although I am moving toward tightening mine a smidge, I do loose pencils and plenty of bits only appear during inking. Not that my drawings are anything to write home about, but the point is that pencilling every last thing wouldn't improve them. I get more intense with the pencilling if I'm drawing something especially tricky. Mainly, though, it's proportions, shapes, relations.

2)I've mostly dropped the letter-ruling, too. If you focus, you can keep the wobble down to a level that humanizes without being sloppy. You can work precisely without rulers if you focus. I still rule a lot of my panel borders, but often only while pencilling.

I had a look at those samples, and it definitely looks more lively and less stiff, without losing anything. Congrats, Alec!

I'm still using a variety of disposable tech pens; I definitely like those PITTs (though I wish they had one more smaller size). I may wander back to the Microns at some point for the teeny lines, but I'm switching it up for now. Got a nice brush-pen that I'm grooving on, too.

I'm ready to lay out my next mini of sketchbook comics, proving the value of (near-) daily work, but I need to apply the same ethic to my other comics b/c I still have a lot to do on my other mini!


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