I’ve made some significant strides through producing APNF over the past two years; both creatively and technically. The workflow from sketch to screen has definitely evolved at a rapid, digital pace since the beginning of 2012.
In the old days (2010), it would take 3-4 hours to bring one episode to life. When you’ve committed yourself to drop two episodes per week, those 6-8 hours can be hard to find amidst producing a music podcast, recording music and updating blogs. And all those endeavors take a backseat to my being a husband, father, making a living as a marketing exec and taking on a handful of freelance projects.
But enough about me, this is about APNF.
When I started this webcomic, I watched several hours of YouTube videos and listened to various (mostly boring) podcasts on webcomic creation. I also hopped on a couple of online forums to gather perspective and gain some guidance.
One thing that intimidated me was the use of a digital tablet to draw onto the screen. I had mastered the art of pencil and paper so moving to a digital platform in pre-production seems a little redundant. After 18 months of perfecting my line art with expensive sketch pencils, manga markers and bristol paper – I bought a Wacom Bamboo tablet. This changed everything.
My line art improved almost overnight. Inking APNF with the Wacom tablet meant one less analog step in my workflow. I didn’t have to buy those expensive markers anymore! This helped the look of the webcomic, but it only shaved 30-45 minutes off my 3 hour/episode production time.
I went back to self-imposed webcomic school – searching for the best in webcomic tutorials, best practices and even Twitter streams. Webcomics (and comics, in general) may be a male-centric atmosphere but I found a wealth of information, encouragement and insight from three (3) fantastic young ladies who are phenomenal artists:
Onezumi Hartstein is deeply entrenched in the webcomic world with her horror-inspired webcomic and creation of Intervention. She has been a terrific resource on coloring, formatting and overall navigation of the webcomic scene in the US.
Dani Jones continues to be my personal game changer. It was through her blog that I learned how to ink in Illustrator (resulting in crazy clean line art in record time) and color more efficiently in Photoshop. This knowledge literally reduced my production time by 75% – allowing me to crank out APNF episodes faster and even update my Fave Doodles site more frequently.
Thanks to them, and several other great resources on the web, APNF production became 90% digital in less than three months. My webcomic looked better, more vibrant and responsive…to the point I had to redesign some of the pages of my upcoming PUG PLEASE! book.
Then I got an iPad.
This new addition to my ongoing collection of Apple products prompted me to research how I could use it to sketch ideas for APNF instead of using pencil and pads exclusively. I bought a pack of styluses off eBay (the verdict is still out on which is the best one) and downloaded some free apps I heard about online. Despite the digital progress, I was still sketching on 8.5″ x 11″ paper with a 2HB pencil and scanning to my Macbook as a first step. This isn’t the best process when you’re on the train or inspiration strikes at my local Starbucks. I wanted to have a viable, mobile option and I believed the iPad was the answer…and it was.
After trying out different apps, I landed on Sketchbook Pro, which seemed to be the best for me. It works well with my styluses and the palm rest feature is one of the smartest elements I’ve seen in a long time. If there was a way I could take my Sketchbook Pro sketches and transfer them into Adobe Illustrator, my 100% digital aspirations would be met.
Thanks to a brief, Twitter exchange with Thomas Clemmons and Darrel Troxel, I figured out how to save my sketches to iCloud and export them as PSDs and/or PNGs to my Dropbox (wow, that whole sentence was full of meekness…lol). In other words, I can do what I need to do to make my APNF workflow 100% digital and my sketch to screen time is 2 hours per episode at the longest.
I will be trying out this process on this week’s episodes, so stay tuned.