The Making of a Windborn Page – Part 1

11/04/2020

Hello again, readers! With Verse 4 wrapped up and the comic taking a brief pause, I figured this would be a good time to give you all a little extra, in the form of a two-part “behind the scenes” featurette! You’ll get to see a step-by-step progress of a page straight from the comic accompanied by some commentary explaining my process. I hope you find it interesting!

I’d like to note to all learning artists out there that this is NOT a proper “how-to” tutorial for drawing comics. This is merely a display of my own personal process for doing comics out of the many different ones that exist out there. For better learning on how to make comics, I suggest you look for the plethora of formal teaching material that is readily available online!

Like I said above, this is going to be a two-part featurette. This is because I categorize the pages of Windborn in two ways: “Background Focused” and “Character Focused”. The process in both pages is mostly the same, with some key differences pertaining to the background’s relevance in the page.

In part 1 I will be covering a “Background Focused” page, which is the most common type of page in the comic, from start to finish. Part 2, which will cover a “Character Foucsed” page, will be posted on a later date.

Without further ado, The Making of A Windborn Page!

For this example I’ll be using Page 8 of Verse 4 – “Past”.

 

1.- GUT ‘ER UP

We begin by drawing the gutter, of course. This is where I mess around with the arrangement of the panels to see what works best. However, the number of panels is nearly always the same as indicated in my written script of the comic. If I can convey the scene with less panels, I go ahead and do that to save myself some time. I avoid adding additional panels as much as I can, only doing so when I realize that the panels in the script won’t be enough to convey the scene properly.

 

2.- SOME SKETCHY BACKGROUNDS

This step is what sets appart Background Focused pages from Character Focused ones. I sketch backgrounds first in pages where the characters are either interacting with the scenery in some way, are depicted from distance, in larger groups or a combination of such. Also when the pages has “setting shots”. It’s much easier to draw the scenery first and then draw the characters accordingly than vice-versa.

 

3.- SEEING SPOTS

Before drawing the characters proper, it’s important to establish what their location will be within the frame in order to have a good composition. To help me visualize, I draw “blots” that represent where the characters will be. In the past I would label these blots to tell which one represents what character, but over time I’ve been able to figure that mentally.

 

4.- STICKS AND STONES

Next, it’s time to finally draw the characters proper, starting with the “skeletons”, that is simple figures of lines and circles (and ribcage and pelvis-like shapes). This step is important to define the posture, action and body language of the characters. Occasionally I may use this step to sketch “foreground” elements that aren’t technically part of the background, since drawing them separately makes them easier to stand out.

 

5.- AU NATURALE

This is where the characters really come to life! Using the lines and circles from the previous step, I draw their body mass, their tail feathers and, most importantly, their heads and faces. Of course, I draw them completely undressed in this step. This is practical for a variety of reasons – not only it makes defining their poses easier, but also makes re-drawing faster than it would be if they had clothing already on them.

 

6.- PLAYING DRESS UP

Of course, we can’t leave them naked forever! With their poses set, it makes drawing their clothes on top much easier and organic. In this step I also add props and accessories, though I may sometimes add certain props in previous step if a particular pose is heavily dependent on a prop’s positioning. In this step, I also draw elements in a different color than black for better visualization, usually reds and oranges.

 

7.- A LINEAR WORLD

With all the sketching finished, the next step is adding the final linework, or “Inking” if you prefer! For backgrounds, I normally use a thinner line weight than I use for characters to make the former “pop” easier. Of course, elements closer to the “viewer” are drawn in slightly thicker lines than the ones further away.

 

8.- BACKGROUND “COLORING”

Because I technically work in monochrome, “coloring” is of course a bit of a misnomer here. What I do here is fill the different elements of the background in different shades of gray to make them stand apart. You will notice that I also draw elements in the background that were in the rough sketch but not in the lineart. This is often the case for elements that are much further way, as they don’t need to be as well defined as the closer ones.

 

9.-FIFTY SHADES OF GREYSCALE

This step is crucial as it will define the lighting of the whole page. When it’s turn for the characters to be shaded, they must respect the way the background is shaded to give them uniformity. Important to note that I don’t add the character shadows to the background until the characters are nearly fully drawn first.

 

10.- A WORLD IN BLOOM

Adding some bloom to give the background a little more depth and softness. We aren’t done adding bloom to the page just yet though!

11.- STAYING IN LINE

Now it’s the characters’ turn to be finalized! Believe it or not, this is nearly always the most time-consuming step in the entire process. This is because, unlike the sketches that can be a bit loose, the linework has to be precise in order for the characters to be readable. A particular detail to note here: in characters, lines are thinner in the direction the main source of light comes from; likewise, lines are thicker where their main shadows would be!

 

12.- CHARACTER COLORING

No quotation marks this time because there’s actual color involved in this step! Most of the time is only in the eyes, but other details (such as Primma’s crest and tail feathers here) are also given color. I also add things like symbols and writings, such as Amara’s mark, that are meant to be shaded and thus not drawn as lineart. Unlike backgrounds, characters are strictly filled with two shades: stark white for their bodies and medium to dark grey for their clothes.

13.- REALLY SHADY PEOPLE

Not much to say about this one, except that it’s obviously another important step! Characters are given volume and sometimes texture here, as is the case with props and other foreground elements (such as the chains on panel 1). Note also that I’ve added their shadows to the background at this point.

 

14.- LATE BLOOMERS

This second layer of bloom is made to make characters and background blend a together and prevent the former to feel disconnected from their environment. The bloom is also a big aid in defining a character’s distance from the view – the further the character is, the lighter and more faded it looks.

 

15.- FIFTY SHADES OF A DIFFERENT COLOR

A very simple, yet incredibly important step. A solid color overlay is added to the whole page, making the comic go from complete gray scale into having a more visually interesting appearance! On a few occasions, separate panels may have different colors for narrative purposes.  I also add a very subtle, translucent layer of white under the overlay so even the darkest shades of grey have some color in them. Additionally, this ensures that neither the linework nor the darkest areas in the panels ever blend with the gutter, which is completely black.

 

16.- SPEAK NOW OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE

For the final step, we now let the characters speak their mind! Because I never use “thought bubbles” in Windborn, this step only occurs when the page has any written dialogue in it (even if it’s off-panel). Otherwise, step 15 becomes the real final step. The dialogue is often pre-written in the script, but very often I will change and modify it to better suit the story, the mood of the scene and the character’s emotions, among other things. Also, if I can re-write the script dialogue using less words, I go for it. In comic dialogue, the less the merrier!

It is VERY important that through the entire process I leave enough negative space to fill whatever dialogue I want to write. As you can see here, I made an oversight in panel 4 that left little space for Yalin’s dialogue. So unfortunately, I had to make some…by squashing Primma a bit, just enough to fit the speech globe (and make Primma not look completely deformed). I do NOT recommend doing this and suggest you attempt to re-draw if you can afford it. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was unable to pull that off and had to use this as a last recourse.

After this, all that’s left is I adding the corner labels on every page afterwards through a pre-made template. Each page is saved in two formats: a “raw” .png file with no dialogue or labels and a “final” .jpg file with them. The former is in the event that I need to correct small mistakes or details without worrying about loss of image quality (which I then save as a new final version). You can see the finalized, full-res version of the page in the comic HERE.

And there you go! I hope you enjoyed this little peek at how I create the comic. Part 2, which will cover the making of a “Character Focused” page will be posted on a later date and will also explain some additional steps and details that weren’t brought up in this one, so expect all sorts of new information that didn’t appear here. That said, if you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them below.

Thanks for reading and until next time!

~Dan