Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quick Process Overview

Hey everyone.  I want to first apologize for erratic posting schedule-- its been a, well, erratic time for me, but things are leveling out, so I'm going to try and work on a more regular posting schedule.  Hopefully it will include some regular features, etc.

Anyhow, one of the reasons why I started this blog was because when I started to get serious about creating comics, I was shocked at how hard it was to find answers to my questions.  To get where I'm at now (which, I would still describe as the beginning of a long journey) has involved a lot of trial and error, and also a lot help from people more wiser than I (you'll find that the comics community, by and large, is filled with lots of friendly helpful folks), which I'd sought out on forums and elsewhere.  So in turn, I'd like to try and share what I've learned, and what I continue to learn everyday.  Partially to help other people learn, and partially to get peoples opinion on what I'm doing and ways to refine/improve upon it.

Before I delve to deep into the particulars of my process, let's to a quick overview of how I work.  First off, unless I'm just drawing for kicks (which is not as often as I'd like), pretty much all of my day to day artwork is 100% digital.  I currently do all of my drawing in Manga Studio (I started in Photoshop, but have found Manga Studio far superior for drawing comics) on a tablet PC (Wacom Penabled, of course).  So, what you're going to see here is work pretty much all done in Manga Studio.

The piece in question is a chapter lead in page for the upcoming Mastorism collection. Its a little atypical of my normal page approach. Unfortunately, this means we'll be skipping panel layouts, and all that fun stuff, but it should also simplify things.  Each of the lead ins are going to feature a profile of a prominent character.  The one we're looking at features the Dark Mastor.

Here we go!

Reference Material

Some people like to use reference, others don't.  I was educated quasi-traditionally and spent a lot of time drawing from live models, so I tend to gravitate toward the using reference school of thought.  I can really go either way, but when I really want to get stuff right, I like to look at what I'm drawing (they don't make you do contours for days in drawing class for nothing).  I pull reference from all sorts of places that I can find.  Lately I've been doing a lot of 3D modeling myself to have more control over my reference vs. trying to find "just the right photo."  Here, though, I fell on an old favorite:  Hopefully they aren't upset at me posting their image.  If you haven't checked out their site yet, do so, they have a ton of 3d posed models that you can do turn arounds on to get fairly customized reference.  Fantastic site.  Anyway, that's where I nabbed this ref.


Be sure to click on all of these to see a bigger view.  Might be worth it.  Anyhow, its not real penciling of course-- but same concept, I do a rough-ish drawing to prepare myself for the final inks.  I kinda go mid-way on the tightness.  I used to pencil really sloppily, since I figure, I'm the inker too, I can tighten everything up during the inks.  Over time, though I discovered that my inks come out better if I try and get the pencils somewhat tight as well.  Less thinking/interpreting/experimenting.  The penciling stage is the experimentation stage, so now I try and resolve everything there.  That said, I don't worry about it being super tight, since I trust the inker... me.  As you can see, the image is letter boxed, so I do that on a separate layer and then have at the pencils.  I turned off that layer once in a while because it helped me with over all proportions to draw (at least loosely) the full head.  I should gotten a shot of that-- apologies.

Here's a close up of the pencil work.  Please feel free to click on these to see the larger image.  I tried to get the biggest images possible, but since my monitor is also a tablet, its kinda small, so I can only capture so much at a decent size.


Far and away my favorite part of the process.  I'm an inker at heart, I love doing line work. Sigh.  Anyhow, straight forward enough, I just go over the pencils with "ink" on a separate layer.  Manga Studio has a number of fantastic tools for this, I happen to favor the G pen right now.  Its pressure sensitive, of course, which is how I mimic real brushed ink work.

My goal is to make my stuff look very much like something drawn traditionally.  By the number of folks who think I do work traditionally, I'm guessing I'm on the right track (pat on the back for myself).  I think the secret is simply approaching it the same way, really.  I am a fan of old school Silver Age-y line work, so that's what comes out when I draw.  If you want another good example of this, check out Endstone by my (internet) pal Anthony Theisen.  Good stuff, and fantastic artwork.

So here's the same image with the pencil layer turned off.  Again, its probably beneficial to click on it to see the full sized version.

Final Piece

And here's the piece completed.  You'll notice I added toning to the background for some flavor.  Nothing fancy, I just added a simple dot tone (might be able to see in the full size version) on yet another layer.

So there's a basic run-down of how the digital process goes.  Like I said, in future posts I'll likely delve further into the nitty gritty of how to do this or that, but this ought to give you an idea of the basics.  Fundamentally its not all that different from working traditionally.

If there any subjects that anyone would like me to expand on specifically, please feel free to let me know and I will see what I can do (I'm always looking for blog topic fodder, as you may have noticed).


  1. Interesting seeing how you work, Matt. We work very similarly actually. I like to use reference too. Lately I've been using myself as a model, just to get the shoulder shift and hands to look natural, especially on close and medium shots. Far shots I just draw from memory, mostly.

    Oh, and thanks for the plug. :)

  2. Shows how frequently I keep up with the blog. I just saw your comment, Tony!

    I grab refs from all sorts of spots. Lately I've been using a lot of 3d posing programs because it allows me full control over angle/pose/lighting etc, it took me quite a while to get natural looking poses out of it (and I'm still not always happy), but once I did, I felt like it really freed me up.

    I've used myself from time to time, as well as some mannequins-- my only gripe with that would be that I have less control over the lighting, which lately has become more important to me than it used to.

    I'd love to see inside your process, especially because we do work so similarly.

    Can't wait till you heal and are back at endstone!