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process contents

section 1: pages
chapter one: planning a page of the spirit
chapter two: drawing a page of the spirit

section 2: covers
chapter three: planning a comicbook cover
chapter four: making the final cover
chapter five: making a comicbook back cover

section 3: computer coloring NEW!
chapter six: the line art scan
chapter seven: the color art
chapter eight: color and design

section one
chapter two
drawing a page of
The Spirit: The New
Adventures 7

putting the pictures on the page

I prep all the final art boards at the same time. I make a stack of Strathmore 500 series five ply smooth board cut to 12.5" x 18," and I rule an image size of 10" x 15" on each. I use a template to notch blue panel gutters, so I'll know where to subdivide my tiers. Then I prepare to pencil. I pencil the entire story, then ink the entire story after all pages are penciled. Then I apply all the whiteout, then all the color. This is fastest for me, and leads to the most consistency.

fig 5

Page 3 of the Spirit story is penciled. thoroughly in blue, based on the layout in fig 4. The close-up of the Spirit's face required redrawing with tracing paper, as discussed in the accompanying text.

Spirit Pencils 

I don't like to decide too many things when inking (fig 5). I want it all figured out. Sometimes getting a panel right requires working out the design on tracing paper, then tracing the image on the reverse side in soft graphite, flipping it over, positioning it on the page, and tracing it once more on the front side to leave a transferred impression on the art page. I would lightbox it but my thick paper is too opaque.

The Spirit was my first time penciling in blue instead of regular graphite. The advantage of graphite is it erases more easily if you need to revise the drawing. Graphite also looks more similar to the printed black image. The advantages of blue are more numerous. Erasing obliterates ink along with pencil. Because cameras don't perceive pale blue, you don't have to erase after you ink over blue. Blue line also leads to fleshier inks. You have more of a feeling of actually "drawing" in ink, since there is no black image. Since you instinctively adjust a page for darkness, black pencil gives you the impression that a page is already darker so as a result you tend to ink lighter. Then you erase the pencils to find your page is too pale ("Bruce Berry Syndrome"). Since blue lines mean the first black you lay down is ink, you tend to improvise the black more and lay it on thicker.

I've tried every kind of blue pencil and I swear by the Staedtler Non-Photo Blue 108-30. It's the only kind that is erasable (with an electric eraser), draws on non-toothy paper (I use "smooth" finish), and doesn't repel india ink. It costs three times as much as the other brands. Someone at Staedtler figured out how to cash in on the rich comic book artists.

I asked my friend Rick Altergott to letter this story because he has nice Wally Wood-style lettering that suits the Spirit perfectly. He did a beautiful job. The lettering takes place after the pencils but before the inks.

I ink with a Windsor-Newton Series 7 #3. I notice they now make a stubbier version to preserve the sable population. I tried one and it was awful. Lately I've been fiddling with a reloadable Kaimei brush pen and I'm thinking about using it to ink except the blue pencil seems to repel the cartridge ink.

Ink is tricky. They just don't make it black anymore in this age of environmental vogue. I guess real india ink is too "toxic." Some kid must have gone and drank a bunch and croaked, ruining it for everybody else. I still use old bottles of Higgins Black Magic, but my supply is running out. People tell me Dr. Martin makes a good black ink, but I tried it and it, too, seemed anemic to me.

fig 6  The inked page

Spirit Inks

Though I pencil the entire story and then ink the entire story, I start with an inside page for both tasks so shaky starts and inconsistencies aren't obvious to the casual observer.

The art is cleaned up in the inking phase, and additional blacks are placed to balance the page. After inking, whiteout is used to further polish the line art.

fig 7 Photoshop colors

Spirit Colors

Lately, I color a page in Photoshop at 300 dpi, a complex process that I'll elaborate on in a future Process chapter.

Referring to a guide book showing printed colors is necessary because colors look completely different on a computer monitor than they look when printed.

It's best to limit your palette. It ties the page together and makes it easier on the eyes.

fig 8 Color and line art are combined

Spirit Inks and Colors 

I submit separate color and black art to the printer so the black prints as a separate plate, usually over a muddy blue-ish copy of the black art that lies under the black line and punches up the blackness. The black art is 1200 dpi, much higher resolution than the 300 dpi color art, because imperfections in black are more obvious.

Fig 8 is how the art looks when color and black are combined on the press.


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