Drawing Caveman Agent

This is a short tutorial on how I make the comics. I'm not a Photoshop expert, and I'm still experimenting with different methods of drawing the comic. This method was originally based on tutorials from  http://www.remindblog.com, which is both an awesome graphic novel and a great resource for information. Over time I've adjusted the process to fit my style. This tutorial is designed for Photoshop, but will work with the GIMP as well.

1. Pencil Drawing

Usually I will take a page of my sketchbook and sketch several variations of the idea that I have for a comic. This allows me to try out several scenarios, and there is less of a chance that I'll get half-way through the drawing and realize there was something I should have added. Using 9"x12" paper, I first lightly sketch the drawing using a non-photo blue colored pencil (see the bottom of the sidebar). The non-photo blue won't show up after scanning, and it helps guide the pencil lines so there is less chance of a mistake. This is especially helpful in ensuring that Caveman Agent's head does not end up looking like an egg.

After the non-photo blue, I draw fairly dark and solid lines using a 5B or 6B pencil. I like Faber-Castell pencils, as they seem to last longer than other brands I have tried. I do not worry too much about mistakes, as I can erase bad lines later in photoshop. It is more important to have confident straight lines than careful but shakey lines. The pencil drawings take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1:30.

I scan and work at 600dpi. It is important to work at a high resolution, 300dpi or greater, in order to have the option to print the comics later.

2. Creating the initial colors

Once I have scanned the comic, I name the file something like '51.TIFF'. I make a copy of the file and name the copy '51_flat.TIFF'. '51.TIFF' will contain the pencil lines, and '51_flat.TIFF' will contain the initial coloring of the comic. These will later be combined to make one image.

So goal for this step is to darken the pencil lines, and also create the initial coloring, as shown below.

For the next step you will need two filters, Multifill and Flatten. First I work with '51_flat.TIFF'. I open the file in Photoshop, then complete the following steps:
  • Blur the image
  • Go to Image->Adjustments and select Levels. Darken the image.
  • Blur the image again
  • Go to Image->Mode and select Grayscale
  • Go to Image->Mode and select Bitmap
  • Go to Image->Mode and select Grayscale
  • Go to Image->Mode and select RGB
The goal is to end up with a very dark and blurry outline of the image. The reason why will become clear later. After blurring and adjusting the levels, the image should look like the following picture, which is zoomed in to see the line texture.

The four steps that change the mode of the image convert the image to a pure black and white (no grays, just black and white pixels), then back to an RGB image. After adjusting the mode to Bitmap and back to RGB, the image should look like:

Now run the plugin 'Multifill', then run the plugin 'Flatten'.

After Multifill:

After Flatten:

If we had not darkened and blurred the image before running the plugins, there would have been many little holes in the lines and the plugins would not work correctly. Now we are finished working with '51_flat.TIFF'. Close this file and open '51.TIFF', which should contain your pencil lines scanned in with no modification. I adjust the levels by going to Image->Adjustments and selecting Levels. I play with them until I have something that looks good.

Now add in '51_flat.TIFF', and put it on a layer beneath '51.TIFF'. Change the mode of the pencil lines (51.TIFF) to 'Multiply'.

Now the pencil lines are aligned over the initial background coloring, and I am ready to begin the next step.

3. Coloring the comic

Now I simply replace each of the colors generated by the 'Multifill' plugin with the desired color using the Paint Bucket tool to fill in each color on the color layer.

My last step is to add some shading. Make a new layer and set the opacity of the layer to a value around 15% to 20%. The opacity will determine how dark the shadow is.

Select the pencil tool:

Go into the brush settings and make sure that 'hardness' is at 0% and 'spacing' is at 1%. This will ensure that the edge of the shadow is smooth and not blurry.

Now it is time to draw a shadow. Use the wand tool to select a region of color, for example the Ox's horns as shown below.

Make sure that the color of the brush is black, and that you are drawing on your shadow layer. You will only be able to draw within the selected region.

This is what this section looks like after I have finished shadowing.

That is everything. Sometimes I have multiple shadow layers, each with a different opacity to create more lighting effects. But I usually never do anything beyond what is covered in this tutorial.


hovvit - January 18, 2012 - Reply to this comment
One big change in my current process: I don't add shadows by burning the color layer. Now I have a separate layer called 'shadows', and I draw in black on this layer, then turn the opacity of the layer down to 10-20%.

This makes it a lot easier to change the shadows or the color layer if needed.

hovvit - March 04, 2012
The tutorial has now been changed to reflect this.

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