"A Redtail's Dream" comic drawing walkthrough, part 1 of 2


Go to part 2, the coloring


So, you dear readers wish to know what kind of materials I use and what steps I take in the process of drawing the pages of aRTD? Well you've got it, with this two-part walkthrough of a special little page that I've drawn for this very purpose alone. It's half the size of the regular aRTD pages to make it easier to present in walkthrough form, but features the exact same process as my usual pages! Without further ado, let's dive into part one: sketching and inking.  



Oh yes, I use a very broad and slightly random arsenal of markers of different brands, types and thicknesses. Each pen usually dies on me within the span of a half a dozen pages, so they're in constant rotation. Right now I've got a whole bunch of new markers of the Micron brand (The light browninsh ones, which I really like), and last month most of them were Pilots and Eddings. Those are all fineliners, but I also always have a bunch thicker felt tipped markers for really heavy lines and to fill in medium sized black areas.

Occasionally I also fluid ink and a dipping pen (the yellow thing) to ink the pages instead of markers. In fact, during chapters 4 and 5 most of the linework is drawn with the dipping pen, and I only used markers for delicate stuff like faces and hands. Right now I'm back to using markers almost exclusively, because I found myself gripping to hard and straining my hand with the dipping pen. Constantly worrying about drops and leaks was a bit stressful too. The pages still look pretty much the same, and I can't even figure out where I started to phase out using the dipping pen.Other than the hand stuff the dipping pen was a great tool, and I fully recommend anyone interested to try one out. I've heard that the G-type nib is the best for drawing comics, and it's the one I personally prefer too.

Other tools: mechanical 0,7mm pencil for sketching, an eraser, ruler for borders and panels and a thin paint brush to fill in large black areas. Now let's begin:


...with a frame. Got to have some kind of margins defined on the paper, drawing right out to the edges is just a pain.

Ah, the paper! Most comic artists use the kind called Bristol board, but I've yet to try it out. I haven't come across it in any of the art supply stores around here and the blocks I've found in various online stores are kind of...super expensive, especially with international shipping included. Far too expensive for a mere practice comic. What I use is really cheap, smooth watercolor paper, I've found a few different usable brands in different art and office supply stores that cost something like 10 for a pad of 20 sheets, and the paper is so cheap because it's absolutely useless for actual watercolors. But the sheets are comfortably thick and the smooth surface results in some excellent inking paper!

The size I use for my regular pages is the ISO standard A3, which everyone else except north Americans probably know the dimensions of already, but that's 42x29,7 cm. (Aaand because folks in the US also don't use the metric system: that's 16.5 x 11.7 inches.) Oh, and the weight is 140 g/m,which I have no idea how to convert into Yankee speech. For this walkthrough I've chopped one of those sheets in half, so this thing we have here is drawn on an A4.


Now for some actual drawing: loose sketches to map out where everything in each panel go before I make heavy lines that are difficult to erase. Now some might wonder if I just start doodling the layout of each page right away without the aid of thumbnail sketches, and the answer is: sometimes yeah, but other times no. In this case no. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the page and each panel to look like before I started drawing, but I also wanted to show what my thumbnail sketches usually look like when I draw them, so here you go:


The small, simpler kind is what I use when I just want to quickly map out a large chunk of the story, sch as a whole scene or even a chapter, and don't want to spend hours on end doodling thumbnails. The quick, simple thumbnails are enough for me to check how much of the story I can fit into each page and therefore see how long one scene will be and if I need to adjust it somehow. The larger, more detailed thumbnail is the kind that I draw for the pages where I just can't seem to imagine it in my head, epsecially if it's a page that I really want to look special somehow. In really tricky situations I might even make several versions to pick from, like one really should do in order to end up making the best possible call on the composition.


Onward to a tighter sketch, which I just draw right on top of the looser, lighter one. And now the panels have inked borders too! You can see in this and the previous image that I've made little pencil marks where I want the borders to go, measured with my regular, plastic, see-through ruler. The upper left corner of the first panel got a bit messed up, but it won't matter due to what happens next.


Oh yes, caution to the wind and lots of ink on the page right away! I do believe that inking the lineart first and then filling in any large black areas would result in a far cleaner finish, but I like to do things this way around beacuse of motivation-related issues. You see, inking the page is by far my least favourite part of the whole process of drawing comics. It takes several hours,  I'm constantly terrified of making mistakes I can't erase anymore and my hand will probably ache at the end of it. Grabbing that paint brush and quickly filling in the areas that I know will be black makes the page seem like it's halfway inked already, and if I ace the paint job the page will already start looking pretty good. My mind will be more at ease by the time I have to start the real inking.

As a side note, this kind of filling in of major dark areas to achieve compositional balance is referred to as "spotting the blacks", and is often done already in the thumbnail stage to make sure the balance will be right. If you go look at any pages of aRTD before the latter half of chapter 3, you'll be able to note that I never really used large black areas for shadows or as compositional elements. It's one of those simple, useful comic things I wasn't really aware of when I started drawing this comic. But then I read a book called "How to draw noir comics" by Shawn Martinbrough and was massively inspired by the play between black and white in the noir comic genre. (I really recommend that book by the way, it's a very comfortable and informative read with alot of neat how-to stuff.)

First step of drawing the actual lineart: just draw the darn lineart! Now that I use markers rather than the dipping pen, I don't have the advantage of getting line variations by simply pressing harder, so I need to go through one more inking stage after I've erased all my pencil lines:


In this final step I go through the whole page again and add some variance to the weight of the lines with my differently sized markers. And since the underlying sketch has been removed, there's always a few parts of the lines that I didn't even finish properly in the previous step, such as the top of Hannu's head in the third panel. Here I also added a good chunk of more black to that panel, because I felt like the black vs. white balance of the whole page was still a bit off. And now the lineart...is done! All ready for digital adjustments and coloring, which will be the second installment of this walkthrough. Coming very soon!Here's a final close-up of the page to give a better idea of what size the original is drawn in:



And if you guys have got any questions, further advice to each other or myself, or just have some general thoughts...*points to the comment section below.*