How to create a comic page

My favourite part of working on a comic book is thinking through the script in my mind and possible alternate versions. In this tutorial, I'll explain how I use Clip Studio Paint to develop a page for a book or web comic, from start to finish. 

I'll use an example from my current project: a Torchwood book that follows Captains Jack and John adventuring on a techno-jungle planet. It's a strong action page that shows a variety of shots and some good texture rendering.

In this walkthrough I'll take you through how I go from initial thumbnails, reference and my technique when working on a page (and all the mistakes I make). I work on a Cintiq Companion 2 to create the prelims, and then for the actual page I'll use a 27-inch Cintiq hooked up to a 21-inch iMac with 4GB RAM.

Every page is always challenging and hard work, but thoroughly rewarding, so always try to push yourself and above all have fun with it.

Download a set of custom brushes for this tutorial.

01. Read the script

Work through the script, marking up key moments

Once the panic attack from the scary white page has subsided, it's time to read the script. I identify moments that stand out in the text for each panel, looking for dynamic and clear storytelling events to move the story forward effectively. I make thumbnails as I read, and jot down any references that I might need.

02. Produce prelims

Rough out your prelim and then work over it [click the icon in the top right to enlarge the image]

At this stage it's vital not to be precious over what you put down, because nothing's set in stone. I initially rough out the prelim very quickly, ignoring anatomy and rendering, then work over it – bearing in mind where the speech bubbles are going to be placed. I usually work the prelim stage up on the Cintiq Companion 2.

03. Bring together references

Pencil up your references early on [click the icon in the top right to enlarge the image]

The script calls for lots of vegetation, so I start researching vines, jungles, mushrooms and fungi. I usually pencil up some references during this early stage, to give me an understanding of how to make the environments fit and feel right within the page. I've now moved on to working on my big 27-inch Cintiq.

04. Block in your characters

Use the Frame tool to draw borders before blocking in characters [click the icon in the top right to enlarge the image]

With the prelims approved and some storytelling elements refined, it's time to start on the under-concept drawings. I draw the panel borders with the Frame tool, and then block the figures in as silhouettes using the default basic Darker Pencil brush. This gives me the correct mass of the characters to work with.

05. Add detail to the under-drawing

Add a new layer and then start roughing elements [click the icon in the top right to enlarge the image]

Once I'm happy with the placement of the figure, I create a new layer and knock back the silhouette, working on fixing my centre lines and anatomy. I'm using the basic Darker Pencil brush again. After all the elements are roughed in, I can start refining them.

06. Develop the line art

With everything in place, it's time to start the real drawing [click the icon in the top right to enlarge the image]

I'm happy with the proportions and placement of elements on the page, so it's time to create a new layer and work on the proper drawing. I start by using my custom Ink Pencil line brush and put down the line work that I want to eventually work over. During this stage I think it's important to work lightly, but include some basic rendering and lighting wherever possible.

07. Identify errors

Flip the page to see if any mistakes stand out out [click the icon in the top right to enlarge the image]

Once I've wrapped up the line art I cast my eye over the page, looking for elements that need amending. I flip the page to see what mistakes jump out and take a couple of notes before correcting them. Remember that even at this stage, nothing is set in stone.

08. Add weight to the lines

Use Neil's custom Ink Pencil brush to increase the line weight [click the icon in the top right to enlarge the image]

The next stage is to increase the line weight and introduce flow to the drawing using my custom Ink Pencil brush (I really should come up with a better name!). The line should define the light source and weight of the character, so be careful that the linework doesn't end up looking flat and characterless.

Next page: How to refine your design and add texture and density