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The Making of a Comic [Jan. 26th, 2007|04:13 pm]
[Current Location |northampton]
[mood |well]
[music |the decemberists]

Have you ever wondered what goes into the making of an episode of Teaching Baby Paranoia?

Me neither.

But here we are.

I'm going to go through a step-by-step process of how I do a week's comic along with scans of each of the steps. The first few pages are scans from my travel sketchbook and may be too illegible to read. That's probably for the best.

I begin each comic with a more or less stream-of-consciousness block of text, usually based upon some observation or something I read. (In this case, I drove past Smith College's equestrian fields and started thinking about equestrianism.) I don't edit as I write; instead I let the caffeine guide my hand, praying that it'll turn out more intelligible than the last. Once I've written a few paragraphs (about the maximum capacity of a week's comic,) I go back and start editing and altering the shape of the story to fit whatever needs I might have. (For example, I'd probably edit out any part of a story that required me to draw something difficult. I can't be having that!)

In this case, I changed the setting of the story from the Civil War to the Spanish American War. I wanted to use the Civil War for the reason that the New England Collegiate Equestrian League was founded so pushed back the setting a few decades.

You'll also notice that I crossed out "Steeplechase? No Fucking Way!" Presumably at one point, that was going to be the "punchline" of the comic, spoken by one of the characters. (If you can really call it a punchline.)

Below the text is something I doodled. I'm not sure if it followed or preceded the text...

Once I've written the skeleton of the comic, I start thumbnailing. I've more or less settled on a five-panel structure, with two quick panels stacked on top of each other. Generally those two smaller panels will house the punchline (or in some cases, if it's going to be a visual punchline, set it up). Remarkably, the thumnail for this comic looks very, very similar to the final pencils. Here you can see I've dropped "St. Ruggle's College," swapping it for the more generic multi-college conglomerate: "The New England Collegiate Equestrian League."

Once I've thumbnailed the strip, I start work on the actual artwork. I pencil on regular sheets of printer paper using a non-repro pencil (no real reason for doing so, I just like how they feel on paper) and scan those pencils into the computer. About a year ago, I switched from penciling and inking on one sheet of bristol paper to my current method. I found that when I penciled and inked on the same sheet of paper, the ink (I use Windsor and Newton ink with laquer in it) would bleed considerably. Now I can pencil haphazardly without fear that I'm ruining the paper and scan only the drawings I like. Once I've drawn all the artwork for the panels, I composite them into templates (with built-in lettering guides; I still do all my lettering by hand) I've built in Photoshop, converting them to CMYK images with all the artwork in a pale shade of pure cyan. They look like this:

When I'm more or less happy with how the blue-line artwork looks (one of the nice things about using the computer as an intermediary between penciling and inking is that I can fine tune the artwork until my heart's content,) I print them out on 100# cardstock for lettering and inking. I also print out an extra copy to do my final writing pass. The final writing pass seldomly resembles the first written sketch (generally a couple of days have passed by, during which I've edited and re-edited the text in my head). This is where I make the final adjustments to the script, fitting it to the space available.

Here's what the final writing pass looks like:

From there, I letter and ink the final comic. I use two sizes of disposable pens for the lettering (a Faber-Castell F pen for regular text and a Pigma Graphic 1 pen for bold-faced text) and a single brush for all the artwork (a Raphael 8404 #3 brush). In this case, I also used the Faber-Castell pen for small details (buttons, clouds of smoke...) that would have been slightly more difficult to do with the brush. I'm all about the simplicity.

Here's what the final artwork looks like (note, when I really scan my artwork, I scan it as "Black and White;" the pure cyan pencils and lettering guides aren't picked up by the scanner, saving me the trouble of erasing; for this demonstration, I'm showing you what the actual physical artwork looks like, blue lines and all):

Once the artwork is scanned, I clean up any little mistakes I've made, erase all the superfluous brushmarks (if you look closely, I erase all the little tails when two lines intersect) and add the panel and text-box borders. The final black and white artwork looks like this:

I color the comic using Photoshop paying mind to the mood I'm looking to convey (do I want the comic to feel cold and detached? do I want it to be autumnal? verdant? annoying?). In this comic, I also drew one of the character's word-balloons in color. (Mainly because I forgot to draw it when I inked the comic!) In certain comics, I'll add background details in color. This wasn't one of those.

Once colored, the comic looks like:

From there, usually only moments before I post the comic, I run around doing last minute research to write the footnotes. Hopefully I've chosen a subject that I know a bit about and that research is minimal. Sometimes it requires that I go to the library. Sometimes it requires that I make it all up.

And that, my friends (or enemies; that's cool too) is how I create an episode of Teaching Baby Paranoia. All told, it takes me about 8-10 hours to do a single comic. Just think, as of this writing, I've done 369 episodes of TBP. That's somewhere around 3500 hours I've spent doing this comic. That's nearly one half of an entire year (over the course of seven years)!

Now I'm sad...


[User Picture]From: brianmooredraws
2007-01-26 10:10 pm (UTC)
I love this kind of nuts-and-bolts stuff ... thanks for posting it. Nice brushwork, too.

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[User Picture]From: bryantpaul
2007-01-27 05:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks Brian!

15 years of using a brush, and I'm finally getting the hang of it!
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[User Picture]From: itami_kitsune
2007-01-27 12:46 am (UTC)
You've commited so much time to this comic and it's wonderful. I wish I knew how much time I've commited to mine (probably less because I'm horrible at researching things lol)

I'm glad that you posted this because it was very intereting to read =D
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[User Picture]From: bryantpaul
2007-01-27 06:00 pm (UTC)
I think after a number of years, if you keep up work on your comic, you'll find that you've spent a significant amount of time on it too!

Just don't calculate the amount of time you've spent watching television...
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[User Picture]From: toddandpenguin
2007-01-27 03:26 am (UTC)

Nice to see the sketches

Found the link via Comixpedia. I like your style, particularly the coloring. One question: What brand and kind of pencils are you using? I bought what were supposed to be non-reproducing blue pencils and a lot of it showed on the scan I did in black and white. Are there a specific kind of pencils which don't show or are you adjusting levels or something in the scan or photoshop process?

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[User Picture]From: bryantpaul
2007-01-27 06:11 pm (UTC)

Re: Nice to see the sketches

I'm using Staedtler non-repro pencils (they're more purple than blue really). The real reason that they don't show up in a scan is that I've converted them in the penciling stages to pure cyan.

I scan my pencils into the computer as RGB, convert them to CMYK and delete all but the cyan channel. Then I set the opacity of the linework to 60% and print them out. That's what I ink over, and that's what I'm scanning.

I found that no matter the brand of non-repro pencils I used, they were always picked up by the scanner. (The technology was created for photography and doesn't carry over particularly well to digital.) I've had some luck with scanning, selecting the blue and deleting that, but the results were as good as the process I mentioned above. (It does mean that you're penciling and inking on two different sheets of paper, however.)
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From: pvenables
2007-02-01 01:26 am (UTC)
I always love to see process dealios like this. This, by the by, is a very well-done example.
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[User Picture]From: bryantpaul
2007-02-02 04:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks Peter!

Yeah, I like seeing these types of things too; that's what finally convinced me to do my own!

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From: nickolatos
2007-02-01 04:45 pm (UTC)
Thank ya much!
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[User Picture]From: bryantpaul
2007-02-02 04:25 pm (UTC)
You are welcome!
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[User Picture]From: motes
2007-02-03 04:51 am (UTC)
Oh, this example is really fascinating! I was actually warming up to write something about Teaching Baby Paranoia for a Fleen piece about reading and webcomics and tactile thingness of minicomics (I just got your most recent collection over @ Modern Myths) and ran across this post, which is just the bee's knees! Wow! Thanks for posting it!
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[User Picture]From: bryantpaul
2007-02-05 04:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks Motes!

The tactile thingness of minicomics, eh? There is something intangibly (or rather, I guess, tangibly) satifying about making minicomics. I think it has to do with the long-arm stapler. It makes me sad that I don't have more awkwardly sized things to collate.
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