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Creating A Graphic Novel

Updated on February 1, 2011

Creating a Graphic Novel

I beg to differ when someone tells me that it takes talent to write, and talent to draw, and talent to create. Talent, while it does tend to be easier for some, is only in the eye of the beholder. It is no harder to create a Web Comic or Graphic Novel these days than it is to play a computer game.

It is all where your passion lies, and how many tricks you know. As a guitarist who has self taught myself, all most guitar playing is, is someone else's big bag of tricks, and their passion to play those tricks until they can stitch them all together. Drawing and writing a web comics is no different.

Print comics and animated cartoons have a mysticism about them that I hope to change, because the market is saturated with vampires and superheros. While not a bad thing, how much more can you do with a superhero than has not been done in the past 100 years?

No, my goal is to inspire people who have no clue where to start, but have a unique story in their head, so that we can have more content out here on the web.

Passion is all about being inspired to start, create, then finish a project. I'm going to walk you through the start up of my new comic as it comes online. As of this writing the voting for which of my stories that will be is still up for a vote, but my post-apocalyptic dystopian series called SpeedBreaker is going to be the winner. Which it is probably going to be the best of my novels-to-be to be drawn to a comic.

NEW UPDATE! SpeedBreaker didn't win! By a landslide upset my Nanowrimo '08 entry won! The Neighbor's Basement is about five kids who get swept up into a former scientists dream to awaken the parts of our human mind that we don't use. He succeeds overwhelmingly! Stay tuned for more!

As this project unfolds I will show you just how far behind I am in tech, and what I am doing to make up for it.

thumbnail for page one NeighborsBasement
thumbnail for page one NeighborsBasement

What Am I Doing to Prepare To Start My Graphic Novel?

First I have a home built light table that will be used extensively, because for me to finish this project in any kind of time frame, I will have to create 3D poses of the lifelike characters print them, then sketch them.

You are going to ask me, I know, why bother with the pencil when you have Poser for your human characters?

First, it is Poser 6, without any more than stock characters. So to avoid copyright infringement and make my separate characters different, I am opting to redraw over the posed 3D character. These sketches will then be re-entered into my old version of PhotoShop (yes 5.5 is very old)

From here I am going to play right into the hands of the very popular Jason Brubaker and his worthy collection of tutorials that are being created for our benefit while he creates his Graphic Novel reMIND. Complete with his grunge style of background color, only I need more of a rusty feel to my work for SpeedBreaker.

Bear in mind that all of my talk for SpeedBreaker may change by January 1st, as the vote is still ongoing over at FaceBook. Stage and Neighbor's Basement are tied for second and are only one point behind SpeedBreaker, so this could change very quickly.

On my light table at the moment are about sixty different sketches of the title. I figured the even if SpeedBreaker looses I needed the book cover when I POD publish and start up my ebook/podcast/audio book version of it later this coming year. So I have been trying to come up with a design that pushes the heavy metal music feel, yet has the flair of an old rusty hot rod. Even though SpeedBreaker is only similar to MadMax in that vein. I'll add a synopsis below later, if SpeedBreaker is chosen.

Also taped to my light table, a piece of paper with the preliminary work flow. I will get into the run of the work flow here quickly as the entire process may change when I need to speed up.

I have reinstalled Poser and my old serial cable Wacom Intuos. (yeah it still works)

My computer is an HP Vectra server that I built ten years ago when I had a photo restoration shop. It is a P2 400 running XP, 300 meg memory and about 40 gig of hard drive space. It is still powerful enough to run my MP3's through my PA in my office while I work, though Poser and Photoshop cannot be open at the same time.

Photoshop is run from a USB drive so that I can transport it and my files to my laptop (also an old wuss) for the web work.

The Dell Inspiron 1100 laptop does not have a serial port or I would have just used it for my art work too, as it is soon to have a one gig memory upgrade and is a 2.3 gighz P4 but only has a 6 gig hard drive, for operating system only. Everything else is served from the HP so storage is not an issue either. Besides, the laptop is being used for the website building. Any images that are created on it spend as much time in ImageReady as they do Photoshop. Then I use HTMLkit exclusively to upload content via FTP.

Now with all of that said, let's see about my work flow:

NeighborsBasement Kennedy panel 5
NeighborsBasement Kennedy panel 5

Update January 2011!

As you might be able to tell from the intro image, the vote went unexpectedly to Neighbor's Basement! By almost double the votes in the last day. And in the end every one of my books had at least one vote. Sweet!

Okay, enough of the chatter. I will be making a new page soon to explain how I am creating my images. But, I am going a totally different direction than I had planned for SpeedBreaker. No texturing other than what a simple drawing can produce. But I am totally redrawing the Poser figures but in order to quicken my learning curve on the anatomy as I am going for a realistic look I am posing them in Poser then importing them to Photoshop for final drawing on my Wacom tablet.

In the accompanying picture, Kennedy is simply walking down the hall of Riverdale Middle School. This is one of six plates that have been made for page two. Page one was created all at once. And with all of the extra character colors and the three panels all at once, I was really stretching my poor computer's performance. In fact, touch ups are probably going to be made on my laptop with the faster processor and more memory because I really pushed the poor server. The psd's working size was well over 300 meg. To make a .JPG that is only about 34 meg when finalized. But with nearly 35 layers and all were colors and blended... Poor old thing!

But like I said I will be linking to a new page with my process for the rendering, step by step. As soon as I have page two put together for the fans that are gathering on FaceBook.

Also, Neighbor's Basement will have a website as soon as I can afford to buy the domain. That too will be listed here!

Oh and in case you are wondering I am open for other projects too. Artist for hire if you will.

A New Wacom Tablet Anyone? - Please?

Work Flow For My Graphic Novel

Divided into three sections, my work flow list starts with:

Story -

Outline/Beat Sheet - a detailed outline version of the plot arc, based on the original manuscript, Offer some details so as to be able to draw the work, but not so much that I would have to add a page full of descriptive dialogue.

Work from outline into thumbnails - Or a story board. Personally, I have some old sheets of 11X17 paper from when I had a print shop. I have divided that up into 4x4 squares. Now I have already made the decision that most of my panels are not going to be a square. Some panels are not even going to have a boundary line, especially during action sequences.

Storyboards do not have to be your best work. In fact, stick figures could work very easily. The idea is to get as much of the story flow on paper as you picture it in your head. You probably will not use every panel that you sketch, and you will have better ideas to add later, but this is your spring board to keep moving.


Character Sheets and Turn AroundsAn absolute must if you plan on having your characters look the same the whole way through the novel. Turn arounds are exactly that, draw your character in a bland stance then draw an eighth turn, looking at your character from a diagonal perspective, then a side profile, and finally a rear view. These will prove insanely positive later. Your character sheet should have several poses and facial expressions. And possibly another change of clothing, say you should have a Clark Kent / Superman version in color so that you can refer to this page later as well.

Scenes While not so important, as I tend to build my scenes as I draw in order to keep proper perspective, It would be good to choose colors and sketch techniques for all of your interior / outdoor scenes. I was going to rely on my computer more and use a architectural program to build my interior shots, but mechanical drawing is my strong point, so I have not even opened the program. I may still use it for shots inside of the kid's homes, where elements will need to be repeated regularly.

Panel sketch This is the draft artwork for the actual panel. I usually start my page with a layout of the panels and a quick sketch of the thumbnails from my story board. What I use to sketch on this page isn't too important, but I do use a blue line pencil to solidify my lines before inking. My blue lines are traced on the light table. This is where a printout of my poser character is actually added in. I don't worry about texture or shading at this stage, either.

"ink" over thumbnails- At present, I am debating inking directly into Photoshop. I have been inking the blue lines on the light table, but my scanner is just too cheap to do the detail work that I'm looking for. So I may change back to my original plan of doing the inking directly in digital.

Flat Flatting is one of those mystical things that only comic artists seem to know. There is a plug in for later versions of Photoshop, but not mine. My flat work will have to be performed by hand. Flatting is the process where you create a flat cell of color to grab with a quick select tool, such as the magic wand, so that you do not have to select and reselect constantly when adding color, texture, and shading.

Color,Texture, Shading This should be the simple part. Like the old days of coloring in a coloring book. I am going with a simple standard cel shading style. Future graphic novels from my upcoming manuscripts will not however be so traditional. As I stated earlier, when SpeedBreaker does actually start, it will have heavy textures of rust and look very similar to a water color painting. Maraude, when it starts, will be nearly 100% sketch work with maybe some muted textures. Unbeaten Path and Unshadow are probably going to be traditional Manga style.


Set a weekly goal and stick to it (reMIND has a release of a new spread every Monday)

Release a podcast reading and an Ebook version of the chapter for paid download on Itunes with completion of every chapter.

It is important to come up with a work flow and stick to it, so that it becomes a habit. Once it is a habit, you can figure approximately how much time you will need for your work each week so that you can complete it on schedule, without taking away from your daily life.

I still have to register a domain name. This will not be that hard to do as it is not my first one.

Creating your story may be your hard part. I already had several in line for this opportunity and one had been designed around actually making an animated version. Which I never completed the intro sequences... but another story for another time.

What Can you Expect To Be On This Page Soon?

Some cool places to go for royalty free textures for your back ground, should you opt for that direction.

I will be linking out to new pages that will be created on building your characters, creating your proper outline (beat sheet), the work flow, lettering, scene building, props, "inking", flatting, color, posing in old versions of Poser, using old computers to create new art. I will also be covering how to Podcast your story as you release it, and how to publish a distribution of it as an ebook. I prefer PDF personally. It is more cross platform. I will show you how easy it is to create PDFs from Open Office, which is free. And Open Office can also do your speech bubbles....

Reader Feedback

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      8 years ago

      Interesting insights into creating a graphic novel. Thanks for sharing them.


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