I’ve finally sorted out the issue of speech bubbles on these comics, so from now on expect things to be a little easier to read (that’s the plan anyhow!). I’ve also begun using a new system for creating the pages in this comic and I think it works very nicely. Instead of creating each panel as a separate A4-sized page and then creating a huge page to lay them all out on once they’re done, I’ve simply created one A4-sized page and arranged a series of boxes on it to decide on panel layout. I work in Photoshop, which I got a copy of while a student five years ago but only really started using when I began doing these comics again, so it’s fairly simple to do all this.
Once that’s done, I’ve created a new layer in Photoshop and sketch each panel onto it. These sketches are always rough but they show me what I need to draw properly in the next stage. Once the sketch is done I make the final adjustments to the layout of the boxes (and re-sketch any panels that need re-sketching) then create a new layer and draw the first panel on it. If it looks good, I merge the box for that panel with the line art and colour directly onto the line work. I then create another new layer and do the next panel, and so on. Once I’m done I can turn the sketch layer invisible (I never delete it, I just make it invisible so I can come back and do a comparison if needs be) and move the panels around a little as needed, so they all fit nicely onto the page in the order I need them in.
I then start adding the speech bubbles, sound effects and so forth. These are all created as individual layers of text that can be moved around and positioned as needed. It takes a while but I generally get them all done inside an hour or so. Once I’m satisfied with them I begin creating the bubbles, boxes and so forth. These require two layers: one for the outline, one for the white centre. It’s annoying that I have to work like that instead of being able to create one coloured image for each bubble but I suppose it gives me the advantage of being able to adjust the outline thickness to suit whatever I’m doing. After I’m satisfied that the bubble is drawn correctly and the text lines up inside it nicely, I merge all the portions of each bubble, with text, into one layer so I can move it around as needed without worrying about getting things out of position.
All in all, I’d estimate this method of comic creation takes me about three hours in total. This might seem a lot (and it is when you consider that I’m doing this in my spare time) but it’s also a lot quicker than the old system, which required almost endless readjustment of the size of each panel as well as all of the above. I like the new style and I think I’ll be using it from now on. 🙂