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In January, the last page of my first original short comic Last thoughts of a dead man was released. It has taken me several years from writing the script to the actual completion of this comic. Why such a long time? Because of other responsibilities like finishing my BA, working full time, moving to different cities twice and just being afraid to actually commit to such a big project. I think the last one was the biggest hurdle for me to overcome.

Today I’d like to take you behind the scenes of making this 21-page comic. So, grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea, get comfortable and enjoy the read. It’s quite a long one.

How was the comic created?

There are a lot of steps involved when creating a comic of any kind or length. I have been creating a few fan-comics before this one, but they have never been planned out meticulously. It’s been more like an „on the go“ – thing. I haven’t put much thought into it, to be honest. But with my first original comic project, I decided to plan it out completely. I should add that I’ve created Jonathan, the main character, for a contest years before I even thought up a story for him. Which makes the entire process of this comic even longer.

Step 1: the script

Before you can draw anything, it’s good to have a script at hand that lines out the story. My written script was not even one DIN A4 page long. I’ve written the first draft by hand and then typed it up on the computer. Afterwards, I’ve printed it out and divided the text into what would likely become the panels. I also added additional comments.

Step 2: thumbnails

After I was happy with the script and the way it was divided, I started drawing thumbnails. My first intention was to make the comic a scroll comic with animations and such. But with a bit of research, it became clear very soon that this was too ambitious for my web programming skills (even though I’ve studied the subject. But I was never a good programmer, tbh.).

The first thumbnails from 2014

Step 3: page layouts

Next, I reviewed the thumbnails, made some changes and then made rough drafts of the comic pages in their actual size. In hindsight, this is kind of redundant, but it helped me to see if the comic was readable in the final size as well. I had time to correct panels and contents at this stage. Or strike out panels that weren’t needed.

Rough page layout

Step 4: clean drawings

And now it was time for the final drawing of the pages. First I drew the empty panels with their margins before adding in the action. I kept my thumbnails and references close by to be able to check them every once in a while. This was the most time-consuming part of the process and I admit that my motivation was on a low when doing it. It felt like I would never be able to finish it. But in the end, I pushed through.

Step 5: inking and scanning

Once all the pages were drawn out, I started inking right over the clean drawings with a fineliner (black and sepia). Once I was done, I scanned the pages in a 300dpi resolution and prepped them for digital colors. Drawing the final pages on sketch paper and inking it on this paper too, was not the best choice. The ink bled quite a lot. So for the next comic, I’ll use paper of higher quality for inking.

last thoughts of a dead man - scanned page

Inked and scanned page

Step 6: digital colors

I added the colors, or rather the greyscale/sepiascale, by using Photoshop and my Wacom Intuos 4 graphic tablet. It took me quite some time to color the first pages and keep up a consistent color scheme. But the longer I worked on the comic, the quicker I became. I also started working on multiple pages at some point, which sped up my process as well. And with the right music playing in the background, it was even more pleasant to work on it. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish it much quicker than expected.

Step 7: adding the text

The last step of every page was adding the text boxes and texts. I used the font „Comic Book“ for it, which I think is quite appealing. Once everything was complete, I exported the pages as a JPG and reduced the size for the comic platform, where I uploaded it.

Finished page

What I learned and what I’d like to improve upon with the next comic

So, what did I learn while making this comic? The main takeaway for me is that it takes a lot of time and patience to create a comic from scratch. And sometimes it’s good to let it rest for a while and come back later. When I started to layout the comic I found it difficult to pick out what exactly to put into the panels. In my mind, I saw everything as a movie of sorts and now I had to pick still images of this movie. And since art is an always developing thing to me, I had to fight the urge to redraw it every time my style changed ever so slightly. Otherwise, I would never have finished it. It’s something I still have to learn to accept. Then maybe my inner critic will become quieter. And this ever-evolving art style also makes it difficult to keep the look of the comic consistent.

There are a lot of things I’d like to improve on with my next comic project. The main issue is backgrounds and perspective. It’s one of my weaknesses that need to be worked on. I’ve neglected it a lot because it’s not my favourite thing to draw. But in order to tell a convincing story in pictures, you have to give the reader a sense where the story is taking place. So I’m determined to work on my environment skills. And use a goddamn ruler! I was just too lazy to use one and thought I could wing it. But straight lines have never been my forté. I’m sure my writing skills can be improved as well, but that’s for you readers to decide ;). In any case, I’ll work hard to make the next comic even better.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this rather lengthy recap of how my comic came to life. If you’ve enjoyed reading my comic (which you can still do here, if you haven’t), consider donating a virtual coffee at Ko-Fi. Or become one of my patrons on Patreon, if you want to be the first to know about new comic projects and to get early access to the development process. There are also other cool rewards waiting for you if you decide to pledge.

Thanks so much for reading and stay creative,

Meike 😀