As with most comic book artists, I always start with the dreaded thumbnail. I say dreaded because I have never been a fan, much to my former instructor, Joko Budiono’s chagrin. Though I see the value in them as a laying out and plotting device, I generally have the picture in my head and I tend to want to just jump right to it.
The next step is where I really start the layout process. This takes place largely in Photoshop, where I can do layer upon layer of line work, what comic book artist Freddie E. Williams refers to as “wireframes.” Slowly but surely tightening up the line work as I go. Though these are essentially glorified thumbnails, I find that working digitally in Photoshop at this stage, using a Wacom tablet, affords me the opportunity to make decisions about structure, design, flow, and atmosphere. It also allows me to try out big ideas and experiment on a temporary layer without having to commit to it, unless I find that it really was the effect that I was looking for. If not, I just delete it and try something else.
Once I’ve achieved what I wanted with the pencils, I blue line the image in Photoshop and print it out on comic book illustration board. Then comes my favorite part, the inking. I tend to keep my pencils loose and do the majority of the tightening up of the image with the inks. How I ink is determined by the style I’m looking for. If I want it to be very graphic, I use a Winsor & Newton sable brush, Series 7 #3, and FW ink. When I first started inking I used the standard Higgans ink, but my inking instructor, Mick Gray, turned me onto FW because of its versatility and utter blackness. If I want the pages to be more organic, I found Montana Empty Markers. I can fill them with FW, and they have a great organic brush-like quality. Not to mention the fact that they cut my inking time in half.
When I finish with the inks, I scan the page back into Photoshop. Then I do minor touch ups, add borders, text, and prepare the page for the printer. Then I move on to the next page.