The conversation in another thread got me thinking...what tools do you all use when creating your comics?

I always think I'm set in my ways UNTIL someone comes along and says "oh I'm using 'xx'software or 'xx' paper", etc.

We should share our tips, tricks and tools of the trade. You never know, we might just be helping the next Denys Cowan or Aaron Macgruder get to the big time.

Anyway, I make comics either traditionally or with 3D.


Draw on smooth Bristol board with blue pencil, then go over it with 2B. If I'm going to ink it I'll stop here.

If I'm not going to ink it I'll put in some shading with a 6H pencil and then hit those darks with a 6B pencil.


I scan in with a Mustek Scan Express A3 1200 Pro USB scanner:

This is the ONLY affordable tabloid (11"x17") scanner out there. Trust me, I've looked under every rock. If you can spare the cash, get an Epson, but otherwise pick this one up.

Be warned, it sucks for anything but linework. Your color stuff and photos will look like garbage when scanned with this thing.

Anyway, if I'm scanning in inked artwork, I'll scan in linework mode at at least 1200dpi, otherwise if it's my pencil-shaded work I'll scan in 24bit color (48bit is overkill for what I do) at 300dpi so I can capture the nuance of the pencil.


After this I color it in Photoshop. There's some issues to deal with depending on which method I'm using.

Pros & Cons of the inking method:

PRO: Making selections in Photoshop is extremely easy since you have sharp lines and white background.

CON: You're on the hook for most of the shading (unless you're good enough with the ink to pull that off -I'm not)

Pros & Cons of the pencil method:

PRO: Most of the shading work is done. I can drop color right on top of the art and it looks modeled already.

CON: Making selections in Photoshop becomes very difficult since you can't just magic wand or color range. You'll have to manually make those selections and boy does it get tedious.


After the coloring is done I'll save it out as a flat tiff and bring that into Adobe Illustrator to place the text.

I've used InDesign before because it's good for long documents, I can have master pages and Character/Graphic styles setup to make things easier.

The only problem is that InDesign doesn't control the text as good as Illustrator does, so it got frustrating. Also making the balloons and other vector objects became a hassle. Eventually I just went all the way into Illustrator.

In Illustrator you have very fine control over the text but now you don't have master pages or multiple pages.

Yeah you can try dealing with the multiple artboard feature in Illustrator but your file size will balloon so much it won't be worth it.

Oh yeah, Character Styles and Graphic Styles won't travel across documents so you'll have to set them up once in one document and then load the character styles for every new document. For graphic styles you'll need to copy and paste one of the graphics in and then recreate the style. What a pain...

I'm using Illustrator and Photoshop CS4, by the way.


When finished with the text/logos and other vector stuff, I export from Illustrator as a 300dpi tiff file, then bring that back into Photoshop.

I actually could export to web right out of Illustrator, but I can always crunch the file better if I bring it into Photoshop. You'd think you would get similar results out of the Adobe programs but Illustrator is usually treated as the red-headed stepchild of Adobe so it rarely gets the fine-tuning that other programs get.

Anyway that's my process for doing the traditional-style comics. Next post I'll get into how I do the 3D stuff.

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