Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tutorial 7: From Script to Pencils

From the art table of Martheus Wade

I want to begin this tutorial by saying that there is no set way to translate a script to pencils. These tutorials are always from our personal process and should be used to create your own. With that said, here is how I translate a script into penciled work.

Step 1: Read the Script
I know you may get a laugh out of that. But that is the first step in the creation process. I like to take the script and read it through from beginning to end once. In this first read, I try to collect as much information I can about the characters and story without concern about the visual nature of what I am reading. (Side Note: Every time you read a piece of narrative, you will get visual representations of what you are reading. However, at this stage, I'm not trying to categorize them at all.) If something pops into my head visually that I really like, I make a note of it and move on. I'm really looking for the mood and feeling of the story. This helps me down the line when I'm trying to get a visual style that fits the script. Once the first read through is done, it's on to the next step.

Step 2: Read the Script again
You're starting to see a pattern here? This second read through is for the visuals to flow into my brain. For me, this is where the story actually takes place. Characters start to live and breathe in my head. In some cases, I start to sketch during this second read as well (especially if a deadline is looming). The story becomes visually alive at this point. You will also be more familiar with portions of the story that may give you problems visually. Make a note of those and keep filling your head with the living breathing story.

Step 3: Talk to the Writer
A lot of times, I get a script that I have not written. If that's the case, I make sure that I am talking to the writer because my personal vision could be miles away from what he or she was thinking. At the same time, if I had any questions or concerns through my second read-through, it is good to be able to ask the writer what they envisioned with the story. I love talking to Sean Taylor about scripts that we are working on because he is very visual. If I have any questions, he's good about answering them in a visual way. That is really important between creators.

One thing I want you to take away from this is the amount of prep time is taken before the pencil even hits the paper. The most important asset you bring to any piece of artwork is your mind. No one can think like you. Put it to good use and make your art stand out.

Step 4: Sketch, Sketch, Sketch
The more thought I put into my sketches, the stronger the final piece will be. Sketching can save you a great deal of time and make the performance of your characters more realistic.  I use sketching thumbnails as a way to set the flow of my pages. Each panel is thumbnailed out very quickly. Most of the time, I'm the only one that understands them. However, when I get to the bristol board for my pencils, being able to refer back to the sketch is a huge time saver. In this stage, I try to further push the mood of the book. I also concentrate on camera angles of panels and flow of action. How does a page begin? Does the last panel on the page make you want to turn the page to continue the story? These are all questions that I try to figure out in my thumbnail sketches.

Page from Bad Girls Club: This is me trying to figure out the pacing of the dialog. I'm looking for what's most important to convey on each page as well as what interesting shot will make the reader want to go to the next page. Working with Sean Taylor allowed me to play with the girls a lot more in each panel.

Step 5: Light Pencils (Blue Line)
After I thumbnail the pages, I start my transfer to the standard 11x17 bristol board. This is where final adjustments are made to the artwork. Sometimes, I may blow up a particular sketch that I like from my thumbnails and  and use that as a direct guide. In the light pencils stage, I like to draw with a non-repro blue pencil. These pencils go onto the page very lightly and, no matter how much you sketch on the paper, does not reproduce when scanned. (Certain rules apply with that.) This way, I can still "sketch" to make adjustments before I go to clean pencils. I also pay particular attention to the "3 P's". Perspective, Proportions, Purpose.

Page from Bad Girls Club: The prerequisite for drawing Bad Girls Club was that the girls had to look hot every time you saw them. In this shot, they where turning heads as they got out of a limo and entered a club. There was a lot of things going on in this panel. Nine girls had to exclaim as they approached the club. There had to be a line of people waiting to get into the club. We had to see the limo as well as people noticing the Bad Girls. Wow. Where to begin. lol

Step 6: Perspective, Proportions, Purpose
No matter what your visual style, every panel in a comic book needs to adhere to these three concepts. If one of these are off from the visual style that you have set up, it instantly takes the reader out of the story. These three concepts are most important when making a seemingly uninteresting conversation in a script interesting. Dialog heavy scripts can be broken up by throwing an interesting perspective visually in the panel. Proportions help tell what the character is thinking or doing in any given situation. Purpose gives meaning to the panel that words alone may not be able to convey. All of these are key for a successfully penciled piece.

Step 7: Clean Pencils
Here is the step (finally) that everyone sees. Clean pencils are important to produce for the final piece. If you can produce clean pencils, there is less of a chance that the inker (if you are not handling your own inks) will not be able to follow what you are doing. I know a lot of pencilers who leave a great deal up to the inker to figure out. I'm not like that. I love to make sure that, if I'm supposed to have a finished piece leave my hands, a finished piece is what the inker or editor gets. In this stage, I actually draw over the blue line pencil with my mechanical pencils in order to get a crisp line. I add definition here as well as line weight. (Side Note: Line weight in your pencils help inkers out tremendously. It helps them determine what is most important as well as what is the foreground, middle ground, and background. It also allows them to make solid first time judgment calls on what inking style will best suit the piece. This helps in the consistency of a visual art style for a book.) After the pencils have been laid down, I clean up any stray marks that I can so the the inker (or myself) does not get confused as to what is the true line. One thing that graphic design has helped me understand is that the line is all important. Different line weights can mean different things visually. It's important to make sure that the line you set down is clear enough to mean what you want it to.

Finished pencilled page from Bad Girls Club number 1. Now it's on to the inker and then the colorist.

Every page I draw adheres to these set of rules. It took me a lot of time (and a lot of drawing) to come up with my own process for dealing with the tasks of penciling a good story. And, I'm pretty sure, that it will change over time as I continue to grow as an artist. (It is a process after all. They tend to do that.) I hope this set of rules help you to create your own process on your way down the roads of comic creation!

Feel free to share your personal process on line with us in the comments bellow. As well, join the coversation on our Facebook page and learn other ways to break down a script for penciling.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Free Comic Books and A Change in the Wind

May and June are going to be crazy! There is a change in the wind for us with the way we will be producing comic books as well as hitting a lot of conventions and signings in the next few weeks. And we've already started. This past week, Janet and myself where attending FCBD in Lexington KY, at Collectibles, Etc. Meanwhile, Kevin Williams found himself setting up shop at The Comics Cellar in Memphis, TN! This weeks post is all about Free Comic Book Day and how it went for us. Janet Wade gives you a rundown of the festivities in KY, while Kevin gives you the blow by blow action from TN! Afterwards, I'll be back to let you in on what changes we have coming down the road, why this new step is important to us, and what you guys should expect concerning the publication of our favorite ninja of the Toshigawa Clan!

From the desk of Janet Wade

So aside from May 5th being Cinco De Mayo, it was also what's known in the realm of comic books as FREE COMIC BOOK DAY.  Yes, that magical time of year where comic book fans bumrush their local comic book shops & score free books, maybe meet an artist or 2, & make geeky purchases.  :)  It's almost like Christmas, except there's no pesky wrapping paper to keep you from your stuff.

Mr. Wade & I were invited to Lexington's Collectibles Etc for their fcbd event.  We got to hang out w/ Action Lab Comics' very own Shawn Pryor (always fun) & met with some awesome fans.  Well, here, I'll let the pix do the talking...

the cool kids' table.

princeless!!!  i <3 this series.  :)

free cd w/ 200+ pgs of previews from Action Lab

they had cake!

we had a staring contest.  i won when i ate him.


young & spry cap'n.

tressa bowling & her Jetta chibi sketch.

Aside from downing margaritas, I hope ya'll had a great fcbd!
~~Janet 'Saltygirl' Stone Wade

From behind the stage with Kevin Williams

Free Comic Book Day. Whether you're in Walla Walla, Washington, Cucamonga, California, Lexington, Kentucky, or Memphis, Tennessee, you're bound for a great day. After all, Free fits everyone's budget, and what better things to get for free than comic books?

MAW Productions' crew was found in two locations, and you'll know from Janet's that half the team was in Lexington, and the remainder was in Memphis at the fun and fabulous Comic Cellar! There, we had on hand several Jetta books and more, with a great opportunity to visit with fellow artists, writers, and fans. It is always more than great to meet new people and hear their take on how great it is to have a female lead in an action story, comment on the art and use of actual martial arts moves, and to have people buy full sets of the series.

Attendees were treated to an appearance by Muley the Mule and Turra Shibata who greeted folks at the door, and attendees were able to learn some pointers about the craft of cartoon art from the artists on hand, including Marvin Cheveallier and Charles Ettinger, both of whom have done art for MAW Productions Studios.

As always, it's great to step out from behind the drawing table and meet everyone in person. For those of you who purchased books, we're still hoping to hear from you soon with your 

~~Kevin L. Williams

From the Art Table of Martheus Wade

There is a big Change in the air. Today, May 18th, our first omnibus titled Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa – Beginnings will hit the digital market by storm! Published by Action Lab Entertainment in conjunction with MAW Productions Studio, this book marks the first time Jetta and company has been released entirely in color and specifically for digital release. Jetta: Beginnings is the first book in a series of digital omnibi that will hit periodically over the next two years. At 123 pages of martial arts action, we can’t be happier with the results! For new readers, this is THE jumping on point. For older readers, this book has new information and extra scenes that put a big spin on what you think you know about the Toshigawa Universe. The books will be Available at these digital partners

Why is this important to us?

One of the driving forces behind why I wanted to do a tutorial blog is because I love real talk. Not enough of that is found when talking about indy comics. It's a hard business and, through Janet, Kevin and myself, I felt that we could offer that realism to aspiring comic book hopefuls and fans alike. Part of the thoughts that we wanted to share with you is the business of indy comics. Here is where the move to digital is important to us. 

Comics are a medium with a distribution system that does not allow for new properties to enter the market easily. That has been the one thing that has and continues to hurt the growth of our printed books. Most new readers look for our books in the comic book shop. When they can't find them, they forget to check the website ( to pick up the book they where looking for. We have been very fortunate to earn our own fan base through convention appearances, book signings, podcast interviews and by trying our best to produce quality work. Our readers have and always will come first. Through the digital market, we have the opportunity to make our books more readily available for our fan base. This will help us to more frequently attend to our readers with new stories as we intend them to look, read and entertain. 

We jumped into the industry publishing original graphic novels right at the beginning of the trade paperback boom and it helped us to grow even faster. Now, we feel it's time to do so again. The digital book market is growing fast. New readers jump on with every e-reader or tablet that hits the market. As an indy publisher, it is most important that we be at the front of this new wave of entertainment. By being able to gather new readers, we ensure our longevity in thins tough industry. As well, we make sure that the future of MAW Productions Studios is not left to the wind.

Does this mean we are leaving the printed medium behind?

No. We look at this new way of publishing as an extension of what we are already doing. Our final book in the series, Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa - Omega, is in high production and will be published in both print and digital form in early 2013. After that book hits the shelves and net, we have a few surprises for everyone that I'm sure you will enjoy whether you are a print of digital fan.

So, as you can see, this is a huge deal for us. However, we can't do this without the readers. We invite you to come on this new journey with us. Download a copy of Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa - Beginnings and give it a try. I'm sure you will not be disappointed! 

~~Martheus Wade

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tutorial 6: Coloring for Comics Demonstration

It's Tutorial time again and the subject is a huge one. This week we tackle digital coloring and scratch the surface of photoshop! I, for one, was wracking my brain trying to come up with a way to present the subject of coloring comics. And, you know if we are going to tackle something this huge, we are going to get the best to explain process to you. This weeks tutorial is hosted by Brian Miller, creator, owner and artist of HiFi Colour and Design! Brian's work and technique has been a huge inspiration to me in my coloring and his technique is unsurpassed. I was honored to be a part of his second instructional book HiFi Color for Comics 2 and continue to gain tips to brush up on my own technique. This video is only a small hit of things to come as Brian demonstrates some of the skill he uses in coloring a comic book page. Enjoy the tutorial and look for more on digital coloring and design coming up soon!

Here is a little about HiFi and their work.

Hi-Fi colour design being founded in 1998 by Brian Miller with a mission to provide digital color, illustration, and other creative services to the comic book and entertainment industries.  Since then Hi-Fi has collaborated with every major publisher, syndicate, toy company, and entertainment company worldwide.

With a ‘license to thrill’ Hi-Fi often works in deep cover behind the scenes on major licensed properties.  They could tell you all about it but then they would have to kill you... damned confidentiality agreements make many projects ‘eyes only’ for the Hi-Fi ‘covert-ops’ team.
Publicly Hi-Fi are best known for their work in comic books with a major focus on digital coloring.  The double-’o’ agents over at ComicBookDataBase couldn’t get anyone from Hi-Fi to give-up any info, even under the interrogation lights.  These spies are compiling background checks on thousands of comic books every day and have uncovered the majority of Hi-Fi’s comic book assignments.
For a peak inside the Hi-Fi secret files take a gander at: