I've always been involved in creating visual graphics of some sort and have designed a number of really nice logos, t-shirts, photo recreations, flyers and posters but now I've come full circle and find myself, once again, working within the visual story element. There are a number of new projects in the wings and I shall endeavor to use this site to keep everyone appraised of what's going on with these projects.
The process of creating a graphic novel is very similar to the process of creating a comic book, it's just a lot longer. The average comic book has around 32 pages (including a number of pages for advertising) and they tend to be saddle-stitched (stapled in the center). Because of that the number of pages has to be divisible by four. A graphic novel on the other hand usually starts at around 60 pages (for a rather small one) and can blossom up to well over 200 pages or more. Some graphic novels today even run continuing stories through numerous books (Jeff Smith's "Bone" series). They are always perfect bound and they look good on the shelf.
Enough with the little bit of history though . . . let's move on.
I've been working on this new project for a few weeks now and I have the first few pages cleaned up and have started roughing in the next set but it dawned on me that I'd need to eventually ink and color these pages. In the past this would all be done by hand and usually by a number of different people but today just about everything is done digitally and quite often by just one or two people. After researching the best practices for moving into a digital image the general consensus seems to balance between a number of very popular applications. The most common tend to be Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, both of which I'm quite adept with, and another choice was MangaStudio which tries to convince you that they are the #1 application for today's comic creator. Coincidentally I happen to have all three of these applications so I decided I would give them a test.
I scanned a panel of the artwork into the computer and started working it over in Photoshop. For those of you familiar with Photoshop you know that this is basically a photo manipulation software but it is also very useful as a painting application. First you scan in your artwork then create a second layer upon which to lay in your black ink. Once you've done the black you create other layers to add color below the black. The problem I encountered with Photoshop is that I didn't have as fine control over the line work as I felt I really wanted. This is primarily due to the fact that I'm drawing with a mouse instead of a drawing tablet and I may need to look into using one of those in the future but for now I work with what I have.
As you can see in the image below The initial panel is just showing the scanned in artwork, the center panel is showing that panel created in Photoshop, and the bottom panel shows the same panel created in Illustrator. I also tried to do the same in MangaStudio but apparently the learning curve for that application is a little higher than I want at the moment and would tend to delay the work. Perhaps in the future I will take the time to learn it, but not today.
To make a long blog short, what I discovered is that not only was I not happy with the line control in Photoshop but I also felt that the color manipulation was not as easy to control. Again this is due to working without a tablet, but it was just taking too long to get the colors the way I wanted them. Another problem is that when you look at them side by side like this (or print them out) the photoshop image seemed a little muddier. Working in Illustrator was a lot faster (about half the time), gave me complete control over the line work and colors, and was a lot easier to use when it came to laying in the balloons and text.
So, what have I learned here? I've learned that my ability to create in Illustrator is a lot more enjoyable than in either of the other programs. I've also learned that sometimes you just have to admit you can't learn every program available. Sure there may still be a few things I'll miss, and I may need to import files into Photoshop at the end to add any photographic highlights, but I'm okay with that. For now, this is the extent of my learning curve.