Above is the layout pencils for page 9 of Border Crossings. I thought I'd make this into a whole start-to-finish series of posts, so hopefully somebody gleans something from all this.
My process back in college was pretty varied, and fluctuated as often as the tide does. Early on, I used to do thumbnails, followed by roughs (on 6 X 9), followed by blown up roughs that I would tighten (11 X 17 at this point!), followed by lightboxing the whole page to clean it up.
I hated it, to say the least.
It took too long, and involved too much running around (popping out to Kinko's to make copies is never a good step to have...it just seems to slow down everything.) Once I got to drawing the actual page, I hated the page, and felt like I had drawn the damn thing several times over (which I did, more or less.)
So I switched it up in my Junior year. Two big things changed in my process that I kept with for a while: I penciled entirely in blueline (used to do tight blueline, then clean it up even further with a dark graphite pencil,) and I dropped doing the 6 X 9 roughs.
I was happy with it, it gave my work some much needed life in it, and kept the whole process fun for me, which was important.
There was a drawback though, which was the fact that lacking those roughs meant that I jumped straight from 2 inch high thumbnails to 11 X 17 comic board. Yikes.
Needless to say, I often erased and redrew stuff a lot. And I had some occasional problems with perspective.
Anyway, moving on. When I first started penciling Border Crossings, I kept it entirely digital, which was great! It brought back the rough pass on my pencils, which meant I could refine stuff without getting too detailed on everything. I blew up my thumbnails in photoshop, then started to refine right on top of them. My compositions were in place, I had rough perspective lines in (so I could lay down perspective that was right according to my original camera angle,) and all that other good stuff.
Unfortunately, after doing a few pages entirely digitally, it was tough. The pen felt really slippery against the tablet surface, so I didn't feel like I had too much control, which meant there were times of "Eh, it looks alright. It's not great, but it might work."
So, here we are. To be honest, this is the first time I'm doing this new step, but it worked out fine, and I think it's a good blend of all the pros of the old techniques:
I took the thumbnail of page 9 and scaled it up to 11 x 17 (remember how the thumbnails were already accurately proportioned? This is why.) From there, I ruled out the panel borders, and loosely defined the staging a bit better. If you notice in the second panel (it might be really hard to see, I think the opacity was turned down a bit too low,) there's some perspective lines gridded in there. These were done using the paths tab and the line tool to make sets of perspective lines for the left, right, and top/bottom VP. This allows me to accurately get perspective lines in there quick and painless, and to start to lay in some basic environment ideas. I actually have a digital template saved that has all these lines ready to be used, so I don't have to spend time recreating them for each page. I just select the right workpath, and set it in place.
You might notice the bottom right panel is different from the thumbs. This is another great part about the layout stage, I can change around some stuff and still keep it loose, and see if it'll work. In this case, the original idea in the thumbnail didn't seem to stage the reveal too well, so I altered it to bring us down near Venetia's viewpoint.
I should note this whole stage is done digitally. The point of it isn't to refine, but define some areas that were a little iffy in the thumbnails, and get things locked down that I know will be vital, like perspective lines.
From here, I flatten the whole image, and to make it easier to pencil over, switch it to grayscale mode, then to duotone mode. In Duotone mode, I set it to monochromatic, then give it 25% cyan only. This gives it a really light blue color that I can still see, but when I pencil, won't show up much in the finished pencils.
From there, I sit down at the drawing table and get started on actually drawing...