Art of Comics: Drawing a Cartoon Page

Art of Comics: Drawing a Cartoon Page


By Karl Dixon

Pic me-1Karl Dixon has been drawing cartoons professionally for over 15 years. He has worked for Dandy, the world’s longest running comic, and is the co-creator of Dandy’s leading comic character Ollie Fliptrik. Dixon is the author of two cartoon book collections, in addition to the three graphic novels series,  Brabbles and Boggit – tales about a ridiculously over confident yellow mouse and a doom-and-gloom curmudgeon of a caterpillar for the European children’s market. On his site he offers many tutorials including this one about how to draw a cartoon page:

1: First I look at the script and cut it up into boxes. This may sound fairly self-explanatory, but often enough I’ve received a script with too many panels to fit on the page, and have had to rethink the script and start doubling up and lowering the panel count:
2: I then I tear off a sheet of A3 smooth Cartridge paper and lay out the panels in pencil. I usually give a 25mm cut in from the top and run the image area to 390mm deep giving 15mm on either side:
3: Now comes the contentious part: Some cartoonists insist that the pencilling should only serve as a rough guideline, and that the real work should be executed with a brush or a pen. There are others who like to fit in as much detail as possible using pencil, to later finish with a pen. I myself subscribe to both schools of thought, depending on whichever method suits the piece of art I’m working on that day:
4: Once all the pencilling is complete, I take a few moments to check the script against my panels, to make sure I haven’t made any glaring mistakes such as excluding an entire panel (Oh believe me, it’s possible and I’ve done it):

5: I then begin inking in the panels. There are many ways to do this. Some artists use a dip pen, some are purists and prefer a brush, while the modern brood of professionals prefer to work with Sharpies.

If I have the luxury of working comics pages on smooth cartridge paper, I like to work largely in dip pen. I leave the bold close-up work for the brush. I use a sable No. 1 for the brush work,  a Gelliot nib 303 for the pen, and Rotering Ink:
6: Once the page has been inked, I find a nice, neat spot and sign the page. Charles Schulz used to recommend an inconspicuous spot, but I prefer an area that isn’t going to wind up covered in word balloons and dialogue boxes later; I like people to know who I am so it’s easier to know who to commission for their projects.
7: Then I rub out all the pencil lines, and it’s ready to be photo copied and scanned into Photoshop. Once the artwork has been scanned  at 300dpi, I spend a great deal of time cleaning up all the dots and scratches. I then maximize the levels of both black and white; transform it to a greyscale and printer-ready CMYK; color the whole page and place the word balloons, lettering them in Lafayette Pro.
And the finished page is shown below:
Upcoming: Karl’s special series on creating comic characters

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