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How To Draw SCV
Welcome to where I decribe a bit about how I draw my comic. It's a farly simple process. The hard part is really coming up with the idea I'd like use in the comic strip. For that, I tend to go to the local pub and have a pizza and a pint of guiness and spend a couple of hours brainstorming and writing strips. The strips usually get changed a lot once I get down to the actual drawing. I rework the wording and often change the delivery of the joke. Occasionally I even change the whole strip. But enough of that. This is how to draw SCV, not how to become an embittered alcoholic wreck. Click on any of the images for a bigger view of them.

To start with, I like to work on bristol board. Mmmmmm..... bristol board. When I started out I was drawing the strip on printer paper, which works probably about as well, but is cheaper. The thing that drove me nuts was I would ALWAYS wrinkle it and once even ripped a strip when I was erasing the pencilling from the strip. Bristol board absorbs ink a little more cleanly, it's definately acid free (important if you want your comics to not yellow), and is stiff enough that my heavy handed erasing doesn't cause problems. Since I draw at 12"x4" for my strip, 2 strips fit nicely onto a 14x11 sized bristol board. I like doing strips 2 at a time this way. It's a good way to get a night off periodically if you usually do 2 strips in one sitting.

The first thing I do is draw and ink my panels. Here you see two of my standard sized rows, a 3 panel and 4 panel strip with no sizing differentiation. My strip can be pretty wordy at times, so often I'll stretch one of the panels and shrink others to get the conversational sallies to fit correctly while still allowing enough room to draw a little. Damn me and my verbosity. It'll be the death of me sooner or later. I use a .8 size Pigma Micron pen to ink in the boarders. I've been considering switching to a 1 for thicker lines, but I'll probably stick with .8 cause I like the tip better.

Once I have my nice clean panels to draw in, I start by doing text. Usually lots of text. I used to use a very non-standard sort of text. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, with very few exceptions uses all capitals in the font. When I was starting this, I tried that for one strip and didn't really like the look. And since I was drawing it basically to amuse me and maybe two of my friends (Hi Jamie! You rule!) at the time, I figured to heck with it, I'll write how I want to write. This led to a problem. When you use lower case letters you can't pack your words together as much because the letter height and width is nowhere near as regular. And I use a lot of words. Finally I bit the bullet and changed, and I'm still getting used to the new look. But it was worth it as my dialog balloons are much smaller leaving me with more room to draw. Of course, if you look at my artwork, you could call that a mixed blessing at best. As you can see here, I do all the dialog for both strips including word ballons. Then I draw the characters. Once the characters are done, I put the pointy bit on the word balloons that point to whoever is talking. Simple.

Once the strip is drawn, I move onto inking. I ink all the dialog first. If I can, I tend to tighten up the space used on the dialog at this stage to leave more room for the drawing when I get a particularly wordy panel. I work, as everyone should, from left to right, top to bottom. Not only does this logically follow the flow of the comic (usually) but it keeps me from smearing fresh ink. If I were left handed, I would go insane. Or learn to write in that neat way they do with the paper sideways to avoid smearing. The word ballons are also inked here. Man my penmanship is attrocious! Eeeep! I ink lettering with a .05 Pigma Micron Pen. When I was working in lower-case, I used a .03 Micron and still thought it was "too thick" to keep the writing neat. But you have to use a pretty thick pen for dialog because if the letters get too thin, they don't reduce well. Yet another happy result of me finally moving to caps was thicker lines look darn clean, so now I can ink dialog with a fatter pen, which increases legibility and decreases the area required to write. I could go to a computer font for even tighter dialog, but I VERY much doubt I will. I like having the dialog inked on the final product so I can hold it in my hand and read it.

Now that I have the dialog inked, I go back and do my detail work. I like to ink the details with a .01 Pigma Micron pen. Is this sounding like an advertisement for their pens yet? I like them, but most drafting quality pens are about the same. I'll get into the one thing that I've found with these particular pens that I like so much just a little later. As you see, I tend to ink the eyes, nose, ears, neck, and hands of Tom. Cat and Reese both have bits of their hair inked. Lisa gets her entire hair and a good deal of her cap inked at this point. I tend to fill in mouths completely at this point unless they are really open wide. In Fred's hair, you can see I outlined it and thickened it. It gets filled in a little later. Complex backgrounds often get left until later, but simple backgrounds that don't overlap the characters much will get drawn in in this stage. I like thin lines for details and backgrounds so that the characters and the forground items stand out. I have a .005 micron pen that I use for tiny tiny details. However, you usually can't see them on the web at 72dpi. If you ever see something that LOOKS like it ought to be something but you can't quite make it out, often it's the web reduction that has blurred it out of recognition. I like to put small "aside" jokes in like that. They are usually only funny to me and maybe one other person, so it doesn't matter that reducing them for the web renders them impossible to make out.

Next is one of my favorite bits. I get out my Pigma Brush Pen. Ooooooooh. I love my brush pen. It's great for doing thin to thick lines and vice versa. I'm better at thin to thick, though, so I tend to draw that way. Tom's hair is the biggest example of why I use the brush pen. It's easier than thickening his hair strand by strand with a regular pen by far. I try and thicken exterior lines up a bit to put empahsis on the character. This is a big "standard" in animation it seems like. But my thick lines aren't nearly as thick as you'll see in animation. Some of my favorite artists don't use thicker lines at all on the sihlouette. It's a matter of taste. I do it to add ephasis and depth. It sure beats learning how to really draw. Also, I fill in any big areas of black at this point. It's always a time saver and I'm much less likely to leave a little dot of white "unfilled" area with the brush pen.

Next is the erasing. When I first started out, I liked this the best. It seemed magical as all the crappy pencil lines disappeared and the actual comic appeared out of the morass. I still feel that way about it, but I tend to have a LOT fewer pencil marks on my strips these days. I eventually learned how to draw my strip with a minimum amount of hair tearing and redrawing. When I do a strip with perspective or weird camera angles, though, it's just like the old days. A BILLION pencil marks to erase and perspective guides to remove. Then the comic "appears" like magic. I love that. This is also the step where I check over for lines I forgot to ink or spots in the filled areas that need touch up. I often correct and extend backgrounds at this point to make them fit into the characters a little more. I use a kneaded eraser to erase. If you've never used one, give it a try, even if you don't draw. Just go get one (they are under a buck) and use it to erase stuff. They are WAY cool. Almost as cool as silly putty!

Lastly, I scan the comic in. If this is a Sunday strip, I color it on the computer. I use Adobe Photoshop in this process. There are usually debates as to which software is the best on the web, but I stand by Photoshop because it's the one I learned first so many years ago, so I use it because I've already learned a bit about it. However, there is no real difference between it and Gimp or Paintshop Pro, really. It's just what you're comfortable using. I scan on a Microtek Scanmaker 9600XL (thank you dot com job) at 300 dpi, then reduce it to a 72 dpi image that is 10 inches wide, or 720 pixels. I do that because a good size monitor to aim for is 800 dpi wide. Any wider and people would have to scroll to see the comic. People hate scrolling left to right. Top to bottom doesn't get even a flicker of an eyebrow, but make a web-reader scroll left to right and they will have your head on a stake in seconds. When I do my reduction, I use bicubic resampling because it makes my handwriting the most legible. I reduce to a 16 color palette for daily strips and 256 for Sunday.

That's it! That's all there is to drawing SCV! Now that you know how pathetically easy it is to do, I expect some scathing letters calling me lazy and demanding more out of the strip. Like dancing bears, full animation, and free nacho delivery. But believe me, if I could work out free nacho delivery, it WOULD be there. Dang Nachos are good!

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All comics and artwork on this site Copyright 2000, 2001, 2002 Brandon Sonderegger