(1) Original sketch

Panel borders are drawn directly in pen as the first step, so I have to have a fairly solid idea of the page’s action before starting. The scenes themselves get sketched, with almost every line laid down in mechanical pencil before being inked.

Some details don’t get added until after the inking starts (like the backgrounds where Poe is looking in the window); others will vanish from the sketch (like the pocket on the back of the seat in front of Miranda). Also set to vanish: the lines involved in figuring out the shapes of the bodies, most notably the heads.

(2) Inked lineart

Sakura Microns are my favorite brand of pen. They’re getting harder to find in some stores these days, though. Woe.

Keeping the fluidity and vitality of the sketch is always a challenge while inking. I think Miranda’s expression in the lower left panel was more dynamic in the sketch, for instance.

Reference pictures were used for the position of the parked car, the scenery of the parking lot, and Miranda’s jacket, shoes, and crossed-legs pose. Polyvore is a great source for clothing references; it’s where I found those sandals.

(3) Cleaned-up lineart

First the whole image gets reduced to B&W, the area around the panels filled in, and the panel borders and positions straightened out. Then the white gets replaced with a medium grey (Miranda’s and Bianca’s skin tone). All the variations in color and shade get built outward from there.

The cleanup stage involves most of the tweaking and fixing errors in the inking. Flipping the lineart right-to-left is a quick way to spot flaws that your eyes gloss over otherwise. Here, in the middle panel, one of Poe’s eyes was drawn higher than the other; it gets moved downward. Other issues, like outlines that aren’t fully closed, will show themselves when you start adding color.

I usually start with the whites of the eyes and other white areas, then fill in areas of blackness that would have been black already if I’d bothered to ink them (such as Poe’s eyebrows and Miranda’s glasses frames). Then get into the characters’ image colors, because those areas are quick and easy to pick out.

(4) Pretty colors

Colors, shading, and patterns! Shading is normally restricted to white areas and skin/hair, but here I also added a gradient to the car upholstery because it looked too flat otherwise.

A more conscientious artist would change the base colors to reflect the lighting. Me, I’m taking refuge in cartooniness. Sometimes a really dim scene will have a gradient applied on top, but other than that, darkness is mostly implied by the shaded areas having more shading.

That’s it for the artwork, although it will still get touch-ups right up to the point when the page is finished. Here you can see the underside of Miranda’s ring in the last panel was accidentally skin-colored, and the car in the first panel will get some highlights for an extra touch of realism.

(5) Text!

Added on a separate layer, to make it easier to move around. I type up the text in WordPad, copy it to Paint Shop Pro, and draw the speech bubbles with simple shapes and curved lines.

For some pages, there’s a layer between the image and the text, featuring the Beings’ sigils and other light effects.

While the general flow of dialogue on a page is part of the plan from the very beginning, the exact words usually don’t come together until this stage. This also tends to be the point when I work out the punch lines. On this page, “Poe points out a flaw in the plan and Miranda is irritated by it” resolved into those last couple of panels. When Miranda’s line in the second-last panel turned out to be more worried than irritated, her eyebrows got changed subtly to match.

(not shown) Final version!

Minor errors are fixed (e.g. the tail added to Poe’s fourth-panel dialogue bubble). The page is resized to display size — 25% of the width and height of its working size (which is also the print size) — and the copyright information and website URL pasted in. And voila, the page is ready to go live!