Here is a preview of one of my pages for the next issue of Rol Hirst’s Too Much Sex & Violence; I get to draw Vampire DJ Gary Gore and his sister Julia - click on any of the images to expand. These are the various stages I go through to finish a page of comics. It takes me about a year. (No, I jest! It’s a bit less than a year.)
1 - Rough layouts. Depending on who you ask, very rough. Professionals like Dave Gibbons will advise adding black areas here to show your page flow, but I find that only confuses what is already a mass of random squiggles that only mean anything to me, and that less day by day. Draw in your speech balloons, kids - your writer and/or letterer will thank you.
2 - Pencils. I use a blue pencil that won’t show up when I scan it; this saves me a lot of rubbing out, which ruins the inking more often than not. Here I have omitted the seated character you probably couldn’t make out to the right edge of panel one, and adjusted the depth and angle to the penultimate panel.
3 - Inks (or ‘tracing’). I prevaricate here mightily, mostly because I’ve somehow convinced myself that the pencilling doesn’t entirely embarrass me and I’m scared to ruin it with ink, which is so much more permanent. Also, yes, I still draw with pen, paper and ink; none of that Undo safety net here (also, I can’t work computers). For this page, I’ve decided that the ornate bed and the wicker heart were too fiddly, so I’ve completely redrawn them. Where I’m sure I want solid shadows, I ink them in.
4 - Tones. I do this quite primitively (note: your definition of ‘primitive’ may vary - other artists’ reactions to my description of how I tone comics range from quietly impressed to “You’re an idiot.”). As you can see, at this stage I’ve also added some last-minute black shadows to the page.
5 - Texture. This is infinitely simpler than the toning. I just pick through a bunch of paper textures I have collected and lay them over the art. If you’re lucky, one will look good simply by using it as an Overlay (which won’t cover up the white areas like the vampire character’s skin and the panel gutters); if not, then find one you like and crop the white areas back out.
And there you have it. Too Much Sex & Violence 3 will be published soon.