Scan and Polish

You drew a bunch of art! It's time to make it look professional.

Bill Cosby said it best. It's all in the presentation. You could make the best comic in the world, but if you serve it up on a garbage can lid, no one will be interested.

Fortunately, the opposite is also true! Take a look at XKCD and Hyperbole and a Half. Both feature incredibly simple art but both take care to ensure everything is clean and consistent. The result is a comic that's fun to read, regardless of the drawing skill!

This guide will walk you through scanning and laying out your comic in Adobe Photoshop.

Q. Adobe is expensive! What do I do if I don't have Photoshop?

A. This is a valid concern! Folks are called starving artists for a reason. There are lots of options out there. I know my Adobe tools best, so I'm going to write these guides using them as an example. I don't know how to use the alternatives very well, but my friends do. Once I get the Adobe guides up, I'll see if I can bribe my friends into writing guides for the less expensive tools.

Scan Your Art

When you're working with traditional media, getting a good clean scan is essential. The object is to get your blacks black, your whites white and your grays properly varied. Graphite and charcoal comics will want to really capture all those beautifully blended mid-tones, while inked comics should promote their deep contrast.

You have two opportunities establish your gray tones, once when you scan and again in Photoshop. Adjusting you scan capture will give you a better starting image, while adjusting in Photoshop gives you more control.

Every scan driver handles gray tone capture differently, but the principle is fairly consistent. You may have to be brave and poke at your own software to find the controls, but we can look at one example so you'll know what you're searching for.

Slideshow: Scan Settings

Play with the settings to get your scan gray tones close. At this stage, you'll want to get the whites, blacks and grays close, but not perfect, not yet. You're more interested in capturing information for Photoshop to work with later. Once you start scanning, don't change the settings! You want all your artwork scanned consistently.

Always scan at 300dpi. You drew your artwork larger than you'll print it, so scaling it down later will make the details look all the more impressive.

Create Your Photoshop Document

Consistency is very important here. We're going to be making 30 documents and we want them to have the same settings later to keep the artwork looking clean and consistent.

Slideshow: Document Setup

Touch Up Your Art

While professionalism is important, touch ups can consume your soul. Focus on touch ups that you can perform quickly and consistently. Use Photoshop's levels or curves to clean up most of the pencil work and smudges. Use masks or the rubber stamp and heal tools to make spot fixes. Don't get carried away! Remember, there will always be imperfections you see that readers won't. It's important to let go and move on.

Letter Your Comic

Those of us with immaculate handwriting and the confidence to print their spelling mistakes can skip this step, but the rest of us are going to want to letter our comics digitally. I tend to be insane, hand-letter my comics only to erase the lettering to do it digitally on top! This is a crazy amount of extra work, but it does ensure I know where the speech bubbles will go and that there's plenty of space for them around the principle artwork.

I'll give you a technical walkthrough for making good lettering in Photoshop. For advice on proper speech bubble placement and font usage, I strongly, emphatically encourage you to check out the guides on Blambot. While you're there, you'll want to look at Blambot's collection of dialogue fonts, many of which are for free if you use them for a comic book. You'll want to chose one of those for your lettering.

Do not use comic-sans or papyrus. Don't do it. Just trust me on this one. Do not go down the path of ruin. Choose one of the free Blambot fonts instead.

Slideshow: Lettering

There are a lot of steps to good cleanup, but it goes quick once you get the process down. Before you know it, you've done it thirty times and you've got a stack of print-ready pages! You're getting pretty far along, it's time to see about funding this shindig.

Next Step: Kickstarter home

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