Behind the Scenes

Hello all. It has been a bit since we have created some Behind the Scenes information on how we create the comic.

Bob and I will probably update this as we go along with other information and tidbits/tips and tricks. For now, I am going to lay this all out in broad strokes for you.

First Bob Creates a story. He is the writer of the strip and generally writes up a great page or two with dialog and “camera” angles and descriptions of the scene.

Of course, for strip 2, Bob didn’t create a script. It starts on Strip 3. Blame him not me.

Dave is a lying liar.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, “Feeling a little drunk, I turned to my laptop and wrote the script for the first two strips, heavily based on my failed novel but with a slight change in setting, and I sent the script in an IM to Dave.”  When I started writing the rest of the script, I did so on my PC and never actually included the script from the first two pages, and thus, the version of the script we have checked into SVN begins with page 3.  For those of you that care, here is the script for page 2:

Splash Panel: Phinn and several of the aliens are hurtling out over space.  There is an alien cityscape around him.



As you can tell, I modified the text somewhat so that it would read a little better (I think), but it’s more or less what you see on the page. -Bob

So, then he starts drawing. In the case of the reboot, we wanted the strip to look better than in the past. One big difference is that we are working exclusively in the digital realm. All drawing is down on Bob’s Wacom tablet directly into Photoshop onto layers. This saves the steps of scanning, makes for nice clean anti-aliased lines that can be put on top of any background without fringing effects, and makes changing the drawing around very easy.

One of the biggest challenges that we (he really) faced was trying to draw with perspective. Normally you create some vanishing points, use a giant ruler and start drawing with all of your lines in perspective, all vanishing to the same or multiple points depending on your degree of perspective.

Bob asked me how to do this digitally. I said the “old fashioned way.” He told me that I was nuts, and he is probably correct. He figured it out though and created a HUGE canvas with lines and points and started drawing the background of strip 2.

When he was done, we had this:

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Very nice shot of a city.

I opened it up and threw some basic color in for fun and to try to figure out what we would have and came up with this:

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It looked neat. Kind of like Batman: The Animated Series backgrounds.

Bob then started drawing the main characters. Phinn and the two CatPeopleBeasties falling from the previous strip.

While we work with multiple Layer Groups and Multiple Layers inside those groups, when you first open up a strip that is in line form, it can be a bit intimidating trying to make sense of it all.

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Often times, we will set the background to 50% opacity to be able to separate the two in our heads.

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Next I start coloring. Each object in the strip gets its own Layer group, and a Layer inside that Group per color/subobject.

Here is an example of the some of the layers/layer groups for the strip:

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I start selecting areas of a character, one at a time, create a layer, and then fill or brush in the color that I need for that character. When done with one section/layer, I create a new layer, and move on to another part of the character.

Here is an example of the Color Key that I use:

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Here is the strip with some basic flat color added to the main characters:

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Starting to look nifty!

Time to add some color to the background:

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The whole time that we are working together, Bob and I are using Subversion Version Control. We have a repository setup where we can create a file, add it to the repository, make changes, commit those changes, and update from the repo to get the latest changes that the other person has made.

We used to e-mail files and/or upload to the site via FTP these 20-40MB PSD files. This makes it so much better for our work flow.

When Bob grabbed the above version, he saw a lot of “Christmas-ey” Red and Green.

I went with the idea: hee hee

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Yes, let it be known that saying “There’s a lot of red and green in there.  It looks a little Christmassy.” and “That laser looks like Phinn is bathing the cat in warm light.” results in this kind of expert response from Dave.   You’ll notice, if you look closely at the larger image of the laser, that Dave is a funny guy.  - Bob

Anywho, moving on, Bob added in the text, I changed some colors around, and used the Stroke Effect on one of the Building Layers to give the windows a bit more depth.

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After that, we start on Shading and Lighting. This process really gives the comics a finished feel, and the characters and backgrounds some depth.

To shade, I create a layer on TOP of all of the color layers for a specific character or object. I set my color to a very very dark blue. I change the layer to “Multiply” and set the opacity around 40-50%. I can then start painting with a brush on this layer over the other colors. The multiply layer will do some magic things that then make for a nice darkened version of the colors below. By varying the opacity of the brush, I can get different levels of shading.

For the Lighting/Highlights, I create another layer, change it to “Lighten, 40-50% opacity and use a Brush with the color white.

Now that I have a tablet for my computer, it is MUCH easier, but this used to be done all with the mouse. Ugh.

Here the strip starts to come into it’s final look.

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Just when I thought that I was about done with this strip, Bob says “I WANTY THE FLYING CARSSSSSS!!!”

Great. Cars that Fly.

So, the cars, they were drawn on a separate document, they were, and then combined in.

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Then masked in:

Then colored and had tiny lights and glows and I really hate these cars, though they look pretty darn good:

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Bob then decided that the scratches on Phinn’s face were too darn big, so he went back and changed them in this strip, and in any future strip where the scratches might be.

Finally, we combine it all, and we have a new strip:

You may notice that the last several versions of the strip (before this last one) didn’t have glass in them.  This is one of the joys of working digitally.  I realized the oversight pretty late in development of this strip, but was able to easily go in and create two layers: “glass over,” and “glass under.”  The pieces of glass that appear above Phinn and the cat in space are in the ‘over’ layer, and those below them are in the ‘under’ layer, and the layers are actually positioned over and under the Phinn/cat layer.  This allowed me to draw the glass, and move it around, without worrying about massing with any of the other inks.  It also allowed Dave to color the glass transparently so that the other layers could show through.  In the past, adding this glass to an existing drawing with all of the inks on a single layer, would have been a lot more painful. -Bob

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