The Graphic Novel making processThe workflow
I do all my comics work digitally, even though I intend to print these in paper form in future. I use all free open source software for paneling and thumbnailing, drawing and inking (GIMP), lettering (Inkscape) and publishing (Scribus). I use my PC/Laptop with a Wacom Intuos 4 Medium tablet.The workflow is as follows:Scripting (Tool – Wordpad)
It’s assumed that the script is complete before I even touch illustrations. The script is written in a consistent format with all the panels neatly planned, dialogues, captions and actions written in vivid details, though I may improvise on the go.Page 1I typically write the script in a Word document. The script is written in a format consistent with the guidelines given on Dark Horse comics website. Since I started my experimentation in comics with a script provided by Dark Horse comics for aspiring artists, my script writing style is inspired by them.Here is the experimental comic page I did with the Dark Horse comic script.
Thumbnailing (Tool – GIMP)This is a very important step in visualizing the content, even though it’s written in the script.I have been doing thumbnailing in GIMP so far, but it may change. The thumbnails are very rough sketches useful for reference when I actually illustrate the comic pages.Even though the pictures look like they are drawn by a two year old, they are invaluable reference. They provide references for the camera angles, spaces for speech balloons and captions, and overall panels positioning.So when I am actually illustrating the page, these things become less taxing on mind, and I can concentrate on illustration quality.


Page SizeFor the first story, the page size is 3300 pixels (W) X 4400 pixels (H) at 1,200 PPI. These pages are designed to be printed on A4 size / US Letter sized paper. The files are converted to Grayscale mode (Menu Item – Image->Mode->Grayscale) to make sure no other color accidently seeps in.
Paneling (Tool – GIMP) I rename the default layer with white background as ‘Panels’. Then I use the brush tool for drawing panels, with pressure sensitivity off, as shown in the following screenshot.Some comic artists prefer their panels to be above the illustrations, I prefer them below. It’s a matter of choice, and no approach is right or wrong.I keep a template page (shown above) with a set size of a single big panel encompassing the maximum area covered by all illustrations on the page.I use this template for all pages within the story. This ensures that illustrations on all pages remain within the same area.


Once the paneled page is ready, I add a transparent layer on top of it, and name it ‘pencils’. I use the GIMP pencil tool for drawing the rough sketch.There’s no set rule on how much detailing I do in the pencil sketch. Sometimes it’s hardly a doodle, not so different from the thumbnail page, sometimes, it’s very detailed.pencils
InkingI create another transparent layer called ‘inks’ on top of the pencil layer, select ‘Ink’ tool from GIMP toolbox, and start inking.One big disadvantage of using a tablet over paper is that one cannot rotate the virtual ‘canvas’ like paper. One can rotate the paper to convenient angles as suitable for ink strokes. So drawing perfect ink strokes requires some practice. Of course, this disadvantage pales in comparison to all advantages of working digitally (primary of which is cryptically called Ctrl-Z).In the current comic stories, I have used perfect black and white shades only, and refrained from using gray shades. But this is very much possible by using the brush tool, as evident from my earlier work below.


While doing inking, it’s a very good idea to periodically make the ‘pencils’ layer invisible, and have a long, hard, critical look at the inking work (which is going to be the final artwork). Sometimes, it’s easy to miss out certain strokes because the pencil work is showing through.If there are complex overlapping elements, I create separate transparent ink layers above the basic ‘inks’ layer. This helps in making changes easier afterwards, as there’s no loss of data involved.After the inking is done to my satisfaction, I make the ‘pencils’ layer invisible. This eliminates all the rough work from the final drawing in one stroke. Beats erasing bits from paper hands down, doesn’t it?

Coloring (If applicable)
The reason Coloring is optional is because so far I have illustrated my stories in grayscale only, although I have done the cover page in full colors.Here’s a snapshot of the temporary cover page I created for my test copy. Note that this cover image is designed to be printed. So the front cover is on the right side, and back cover is on left side.Both original Grayscale and colored versions are shown below.


Workflow employed for the making of my first comics and technical details. Create panels, pencil sketches, inks and initial speech balloons/captions in GIMP. Graphic size – 3300 X 4400 pixels, 1200 PPI.When creating a new file, click ‘+’ sign next to the ‘Advanced Options’ and enter values as following:


Leave a Comment