If you enjoy learning about artistic process, or if you’re looking for tips on how to make your own comic, here’s How To Make a Watercolor Comic. This page is all about how I create Lolly Poppet, and the habits that have worked for me over 70-some pages.

I draw and paint the comic two pages at a time on 9 x 12″ blocks of watercolor paper. Each sheet can fit two 5.5 x 8.5″ pages. The reason I’m working so small is that for the first 60 pages or so, I only had a cheap, crummy 8.5 x 11″ scanner. I needed my pages to fit on that thing, because it is a huge drag to scan individual panels and stitch them together in Photoshop. Working small also lets me save money on paper and paint.

I use a light blue watercolor pencil to mark the edges of the panels and loosely sketch the characters and scenery. If I feel I need to tighten up the underdrawing before I ink, I might use a regular HB pencil to draw more precise lines right over the blue ones. At this point I’m working very lightly. I don’t want to make any marks that will make grooves in the paper or be difficult to erase. Here’s my pencil drawing:

pencils

The sketching/penciling phase

Hard to see, isn’t it? Here’s a close-up:

Detail of blue and gray pencilling

Barely there!

The next step for me is to do the lettering. Tools are a matter of personal preference, and there’s more than one right way to do just about anything. Some people prefer to use a quill, or a Micron, or leave the word balloons blank and add a computer font later. When I work on paper, I like to do hand lettering with a Rapidograph, because it gives me a very consistent, solid, dark black line. I also use the Rapidograph to dot the pupils in everyone’s eyes, and to fill in some of those open mouths.

lettering

For the block letters inside Lolly’s mouth, I outline them with the Rapidograph and fill the negative space with pen or brush.

Next I use a round sable brush to line the word balloons and panel borders. I may decide to leave some of the panels partially or completely border-free, depending on the page layout and the content of the panels.

word balloons

Sometimes part of a character overlaps a word balloon a little, so I leave a gap in the balloon outline.

Now, I’m recovering from a hand injury. So when it comes to some of these tiny details with skinny little lines, sometimes it’s easier to use a Carbon pen than a brush.

carbon pen

Like the eyes on those little background characters.

I use the brush again for pretty much everything else. I don’t do much hatching or shading with the ink, since I’ll be painting the pages. I use spot blacks for certain things, and that works well with the watercolor. But hatching, feathering or stippling this kind of work can easily end up looking messy, so it’s important not to over-ink.

inking

All inked!

When I finish inking, I walk away from the pages for a while, to give the ink time to dry completely. I go wash my brush, dump out my nasty ink water, check email, write… after a while, I go back and erase my pencil lines with a soft, gentle gum eraser. I don’t need to do much with the eraser, since I did most of my sketching with the blue watercolor pencil. Right now I’m just checking to make sure none of the gray pencil lines are showing through.

eraser

Soft gum eraser is easy on the paper

Now I get some clean water and use my big brush to wet the paper all over. Since the watercolor pencil I used for sketching is water-soluble, this gets rid of any of those stray blue sketch lines. If I want to use a light watercolor wash as a base color, I can do that during this step.

wide brush

“Erasing” with water

Next I start laying in base colors for characters and backgrounds. My go-to brush for nearly everything is a round one from Silver Brush’s Black Velvet line. It’s a mix of squirrel hair and synthetic fiber, and the tip comes to a point so I can use it for small lines or broad strokes.

paint

Painting – early stages

I gradually build up layers of colors, using the paint to add texture and depth.

paint2

Still painting

Once I’ve finished coloring and shading with the paint, I may add some finishing touches. For example, I decided to add some blue drips in the background of that last panel in the corner. Then I give the pages a little time to dry before I scan them.

done

Aw, that’s the end?

The finished pagers are here:

Page 71

and here:

Page 73