[Edited 10/30/15 to add]
I am updating this to include it in Mother Daughter Books Giveaway Linky Party, and extending the giveaway deadline to 11/3/15. Please leave a comment to enter the giveaway! And head on over the Mother Daughter Books for more great giveaways.
Today I’m welcoming author/artist Otis Frampton to my blog to talk about his comic book, Oddly Normal.
Otis Frampton is a comic book writer/artist and animator. He is the creator of Oddly Normal, published by Image Comics. He is one of the two artists on the popular animated web series How It Should Have Ended. He is also the creator of ABCDEFGeek, a geek-alphabet cartoon series that can bee seen at otisframpton.com, the How It Should Have Ended YouTube channel and on TeeFury.
If you ask 10 different comic book creators “what is your process for creating a comic book page?” you’ll likely get back 10 different answers. Sometimes you’ll get back 11 or 12 answers, depending on the mental stability of the creator in question.
But the bottom line is this: there is no “right” way to make comics. We all work a little differently to get our stories on the page, using our experience and artistic tastes to guide us. Some of us work entirely digitally, never touching paper in the creative process. Some of us have never used a computer even once to make a comic and never would. And some creators mix it up, using any tool that will help them get the job done.
I’m pretty much in the all digital camp. Sometimes I draw on paper and scan the drawings into the computer to color, but it’s not very often that I touch pen to paper. when it comes to how I like to work, 95% of the time I’m a pixel pusher. And I likes it that way.
So here’s my process for creating comics. It’s not the “right” way to do it (like I said, there isn’t one), it’s just my way. If you’re someone who has an interest in making comics, I hope that you learn few things from reading about my process. And if you don’t, that’s okay. I’m sure you’ll find your own way to do things and I’m certain that it will be awesome. Whatever gets the story on the page, right? Right.
Okay, here’s how I do it…
This is a page from issue #10 of my comic book series “Oddly Normal” (published by Image Comics):
Like I said, I work digitally. Everything I do is hand drawn or painted, but it is done using a stylus and a Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet. I do all of my drawing and coloring in Photoshop CS5. It’s an older version of Photoshop, but it gets the job done.
When I’m laying out (or roughing out) comic pages, the drawings are pretty ugly. It’s just a big mess. But the purpose at this point is to get the ideas down on the page and get a sense of the visual information needed and the panel layouts that will be necessary to tell the story. Scribbles get the job done at this stage, so I scribble.
This page in the story is showing Oddly getting ready for a day at school while trying to deal with her new pet, Oopie. I originally thought that there would only be four panels on this page. But as you can see from the next image, I decided to add a fifth panel to the top of the page, to clarify that Oddly was on her way to getting ready for the day.
Now I start to refine the drawings, working on getting the basic poses and expressions for the characters drawn. It’s still rough, but it’s getting there. It’s all about clarifying character and action at this point. Some artists will work in silhouette for a page like this, so that a character’s body is conveying a sense of intent and purpose even in all black. It’s a great technique for action scenes, but I chose not to employ it here.
I make one more pass at what I call my “digital pencils” before moving on to drawing the final black lines for the page. Some artists play it loose with the penciling, but I like to get it all down before I commit to black lines.
One thing I do that most comic book creators don’t do is that I place all of my lettering (the test, balloons and captions) during the layout and pencilling stage. I do this so that I know that the flow of words and images will work as I intend it to before I commit to the final drawings. Most comic book lettering is placed onto a page after all of the artwork is finished. I think this is a backwards way of doing things. Comic books are a medium of words and pictures and they should work together. The lettering on a comic book page is the element that readers spend the most time looking at (initially, at least). So it shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be as important as the images. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing poorly placed lettering on a comic book page that covers up important visual information or creates a badly composed panel by way of awkward placement. I get around this by doing my own lettering for my comics. It’s a skill well worth learning if you want to write and draw your own comics.
The nest step is to ink the page, creating finished black lines for the artwork.
Again, the inking is done digitally, using a special custom-made Photoshop brush that gives me the kind of line weight I like. I usually draw the character lines and the background lines on separate layers in Photoshop so that when I move on to the coloring phase I can have more leeway in how I work on them.
Next up is my least favorite part of coloring anything in Photoshop: flatting.
Flatting is basically filling in the flat areas of color on everything in each panel. It’s boring. It’s mind-numbing. I hate it. So I pay someone else to do it for me. Most comic colorists have flatters who work for them and they’re angels sent from above to make life easier for us. God bless the flatters.
Now comes the fun part, my favorite part of working on a comic book page: bringing everything to life with color.
I start by doing a few lighting passes on the characters and background. Choose a light source, add shading and then refine. My work is very “cartoony”, so there’s not a lot of fancy rendering done. I try to keep things simple. Oddly Normal’s world is a cartoon fantasy land, and the artwork reflects that.
Next up, I add some subtler shading to the page.
This is also when I would add in effects, like the water and the streaks on the mirror. There isn’t too much that requires fancy effects work on this page, but I usually save that for after the basic shading is done so that I have a base to work from and know where my light sources are coming from.
At this point, the page is basically finished being colored. But it’s not finished having its color enhanced. Once I have all of the base coloring done, I add color overlays and adjustment layers using Photoshops color tools to “plus up” the colors. I add some glows and lighting here and there and try to make the colors pop a bit more. Sometimes I’ll add a very strong color overlay to an entire scene to give an environment a specific feel. Blue for night, warmer colors for daytime. It’s important to me that readers can easily and quickly orient themselves in a new environment while reading the story so that they always have a sense of where and when they are. Color can be an important storytelling tool in that way.
And that’s it! The last thing I do is make the lettering layers visible once again and the page is complete!
I hope you enjoyed reading about my process for creating a page of “Oddly Normal!” You can find the series in any book or comic shop and watch for “Oddly Normal” Book 2, which collects issues 6-10 to hit stores in the next few weeks.
Here’s the complete blog tour, so you can visit them all:
Monday, October 12: Guest post, Log Cabin Library
Tuesday, October 13: Interview and review, Kdub’s Geekspot
Wednesday, October 14: Guest post and giveaway, A Library Mama
Thursday, October 15: Interview, review, and giveaway, The Book Monsters
Friday, October 16: Interview, Outright Geekery
Saturday, October 17: Review and giveaway, Charlotte’s Library
I have one copy available to give away within the US and Canada only! Leave a comment below with your favorite fictional witches by October 31st, 2015, to enter the giveaway.