My Comics Process: Thumbnailing

Today I want to give you a peek into my comic process. Here, I'm going to use the next page of Gods & Undergrads as an example - as I'm updating it, I'll post the steps I go through in order to update that particular comic, page by page.

So, first, I lay out my supplies:

Here I've got my notebook, my pig pencil case (awesome), my phone (for research), iPod (for background), pencils, and lastly, my Gods & Undergrads binder. For all of my comics, I print out all of the pages I've done so far and slide them into a 3-ring binder so I can easily flip through and reference what I've already done.

In the pockets of the binder, I've got some of my storyboarding aids:

I like to visualize the whole book I'm going to create, even if I'm not exactly sure what will go on each and every page. Seeing the whole thing all at once helps me structure what I want to happen, and when. And yes - I tend to wrinkle this storyboard aid and spill coffee on it constantly. I'll scribble out general plot movements or ideas I have on this page.

So I'm on Page 35, and as you can see I haven't really written any notes yet:

I also check my notebook to see if I've scribbled down anything I want to have happen on that page:

(I've blurred out any bits that might give away what I have planned for the future of the story) - no peeking!

Next, I get out one of my templates for planning out the details for each individual page:

Depending on how I feel, I'll use just one or a couple of these boxes to plan out an entire comic book page. For this particular page, I want to work out the dialogue first.

I plot out the basics of the conversation - one character speaks, then the other. There are no details about environment, facial expressions, camera angles, nothing. Pure dialogue. A lot of the time, just getting a version of the dialogue down first and knowing what I want said on a page helps me to visually plan it out.

Next, I plot out the panels of the page and generally (very, very sketchily) what's going to go in them:

I'll include parts of the dialogue, but depending on how much space it's taking up, I'll tend to abbreviate it. I use the panels to break up the text to match with different shots. I've also added in more dialogue to what I wrote below. As well as one, lonely design note: Neil: Peacoat.

Gods & Undergrads has always been a very boxy comic. I don't tend to experiment much with page layout or elaborate backgrounds - it's primarily dialogue-driven. I think it's because back when I started it, I was still terrified of drawing backgrounds, and pretty inexperienced in general, so I relied on box-box-box grid layouts and minimal environments. (Aw, who am I kidding - I'm still terrified of drawing backgrounds!)

Ta daaaa! There you have it, my page 35 is all planned out. Stay tuned for the next installment: pencilling!

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