In-DIY-Between The Lines is back this time with Webcomics and Cartoonist of "On The Grind" Geo Gant! Witness as one of Hound Comic's very own, Geo shows us his process for making one of his strips, step by step, pixel by pixel. A treat not to be missed!
Hi, my name’s Geo, and I’m the creator of the service industry satire webcomic, On the Grind. I’m currently drawing for Hound Comics, and I just finished a book for Hound, called Ghosts of Chone, which will be available soon.
I’ve been working on On the Grind for nearly five years now, with the fifth anniversary coming up soon. The comic originated sometime between 2006 and 2007 while working for Caribou Coffee. Prior to this, I had also worked for Starbucks for a couple of years. While working at Caribou, I noticed that the customers had quirks that would make for a wonderful comic strip. At the time, I was already working on a webcomic, a gaming comic called The Reset Button. Because of this, I didn’t put a lot of effort into OTG until a couple of years later, when I found myself working in yet another coffee shop.
During this time, I started putting things into place, as far as the characters and the setting.
The official strip debuted on October 28, 2008, and was originally hosted on Drunk Duck. About a year ago, I was contacted by Brimstone, CEO of Hound Comics, to publish the strips on Hound’s site, along with publishing books based on the comic. The first book, The Worst Day Ever! The First Ever On the Grind Treasury was released earlier this year, and I’m currently planning book #2, tentatively titled, On the Grind Vol. 2: Electric Brewgaloo.
I update the comic three times a week, and each comic takes between 3-4 hours start to finish, unless a particular strip requires more detail, then it usually takes about 5-6 hours. The comics were originally drawn and inked traditionally, with color added digitally
Currently, the comic is only penciled traditionally, and everything done digitally, using three different programs. In fact, I’ve included the basic steps that I personally use to create my comic strips below.
For the pencil work, I use Canson Fanboy Comic strip paper (which is great, since it is already cut, along with guides to help you create your panels) to draw on, and a standard 2H or HB mechanical pencil. Once I’ve drawn the comic on the sheet, I scan it in, and then transfer it to Adobe Photoshop, when I create the panels. I also lighten the pencil work, to make things easier to see when inking. Once that’s done, I’ll open Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 6, which I use exclusively for inking my comics. Inking usually takes anywhere between 30 mins-1 hour, depending on the detail required for the comic.
For the next step, I turn my comic into a bitmap. I do this to easily remove the pencil lines and make the comic easier for me to color. I use Corel Photo-Paint to do so. If you’re trying this out on your own, and you’re looking for a free alternative to Photoshop/Corel Photo-Paint, check out GIMP. It’s a great image editor, and it doesn’t cost a dime. This process literally takes 2 minutes.
Finally, I’ll color, and add in the text. Because I turned my file into a bitmap in Corel Photo-Paint, and back to a RGB file, I won’t have to worry about the white area that surrounds lines in Photoshop. I usually start with copying my panel, since I usually tuck my text bubbles underneath. Then I use the Paint Tool, in Photoshop to fill in the appropriate colors. As far as the backgrounds…at least as far as this webcomic is concerned, is that I created a static background separately, and placed it underneath the main layer, then removed the sections of the main layer that I wanted the background to show up in. It’s very important to pay attention to your layers in Photoshop; you don’t want to mistakenly color/delete the wrong item.
Once my flat colors are in place, I add in shading and highlights. In Photoshop, I create a new layer, and set the layer to HARD LIGHT. I change my main color to gray (usually around 60-65% works best), and activate a large soft round brush for the shading. I will then create a new layer, setting it to OVERLAY, and the main color to white. I’ll switch over to the default brush, and go over the edges of the characters for highlights.
You can use the clipping mask command to help avoid coloring over the background, as long as it’s directly above the layer that holds the things you want to highlight. Once that’s all done I hide my “panels” layer, and then merge the rest of the visible ones.
I’ve been adding noise effects as of late. It’s as simple as going to Filter>Noise>Add Noise in Photoshop. I like to choose between 6-8% to give the comic a children’s book-like quality, as far as textures are concerned. I apply this effect to my main layer, and then I proceed to adding the text. It’s as simple as using the Text command in Photoshop, and placing it where you want it to go. The text bubbles are another story. I create mine by using the ellipse tool, filling my ellipses with white, then using the Polygonal lasso tool to draw the points at the end. I will explain this process in greater detail, hopefully at a later time.
Once the text and the text bubbles are added, I shrink the comic down to an acceptable size for the web. My personal preference is a width of 980 pixels with a resolution of 72dpi. I’ll save it as a web-friendly JPEG file, and then upload it to my site, along with sending it to my publisher. I make sure to draw at least three of these a week.
These are the major steps that I take when it comes to creating my comics. There are more, smaller steps, and like the text bubbles, I’d like to explain in greater detail, given the opportunity. I have included a couple of recent comic strips, and there are new comics updated on the main website every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at http://www.onthegrindcomic.com, along with http://houndcomics.com, Facebook, and Twitter. If you’re looking to creating your own webcomic, I hope this helps and inspires you, and if you simply enjoy webcomics, I hope you enjoy reading this one.