A “How To” Guide for 3AZ: How I draw comics

150 150 Matthew O'Day


So I’ve been posting these “How To” type sequence of pics on my Instagram (if you want to see enlarged versions of the pics, plz click on the link to my Instagram on the upper right), but I figured the website is a perfect place to post this kind of thing, with explanations on how things are done.  So if you have any interest in how I do comics here’s how I do it:

I usually set up the size of the panel by storyboarding the page before I begin inking it, and then I rough out the sized up panels on a blank Photoshop document. Originally, I did the line art for my comics on a Wacom tablet but found that it wasn’t quite what I wanted — a regular old Ticonderoga No. 2 is a must for me — and in most of the panels you’ll read in the comic, the main features of the pics are drawn by hand and sent to my computer through a picture I snap with my phone.


That’s Kragen, ready to do some work.  I open up the picture from my phone on my desktop in Sketchbook Pro — I don’t do the line art in Photoshop because I like the intuitive way Sketchbook is set up at this portion of the creative process.  The brushes you choose from feel like brushes, and sometimes Photoshop feels like an engineer is trying to think like an artist, if that makes sense?  Most of my line art is done with a Hard Pencil on Sketchbook Pro that I’ve tweaked for my needs.  Which in this case looks like this:


I needed to add some more background elements into panel so I could finish inking it:

kragen-3 kragen-4kragen-5

And that is pretty much where I leave Sketchbook Pro.  I do all the flatting and shading of the comics in Photoshop.  First I drop in all the flat colors on my characters:


Then I usually drop in the background.  Having it there makes it easier for me to sense where the light should be in the panel, which makes shading easier.


I usually shade from front to back, in this case starting with Kragen, moving to the bars, then to Billy Ray in his cell in the background:


I wanted the lighting in the prison to be very stark — I imagined overhead bulbs hanging in coned metal shades all along Death Row, and the light source is usually what I throw in last, which is maybe counter-intuitive, but I like to add the pop of the light as the last step:


At this point, the panel is complete.  I have a folder on my desktop where I keep the individual completed panels — where they are still fully layered and can be tinkered with if I see something I don’t like after a second look.  But, if all is well, I usually flatten the image at this point, and copy/paste it to the Photoshop document I sized at the very beginning when I did my storyboarding.


The last thing I do is drop in the dialogue bubbles.  When I’m storyboarding I try to leave room for them, but it can get a little tricky as the last step.  Sometimes months and months will have passed since I wrote the dialogue for a scene I’m drawing, so I feel like I get a fresh look at it when I’m dropping it into a scene.  In any event, that’s how I do a page of 3A.Z.  The other two panels on this page were done the exact same way.  There are a million ways to do it, and nobody taught me how, but I basically just kept doing it and screwing it up until it started to look better.

If you have any questions shoot me a line – or if you know anybody who’s trying to do some comics and you think they might dig this kinda thing, I should be posting more in the very near future, so spread the word.  It is much appreciated!




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