This week on the MADSOFT Blog, we thought we’d take the time to examine the process of creating a page from our fantasy webcomic Aikonia. There are currently three members of the Aikonia team and each has an important part to play in the creation of a page. Behind the helm resides Andrew-David, editor and creative mind behind the world of Aikonia. He is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the overall story and has the final word on any given page. Timothy Hely takes up the position of writer, and the position of illustrator is filled by Ira, who breathes life into Aikonia’s characters and world.
From the initial script to the completed page, there are a multitude of elements that must come together. As the comic is published once a week, each page must bring something new and interesting for readers. Chapters are planned well in advance with the central story arc and character development charted before even a single page is written. The chapter is then split up into acts, which are then further divided into pages. After the pacing and minor plot points have been agreed upon by Tim and Andrew-David, the writing can begin.
Pages are scripted by breaking up the action and the dialogue into panels. After Tim has finished writing a page, Andrew-David is given a chance to review the work, editing and trimming where necessary, before Ira begins sketching.
The vast majority of a page’s work goes into the illustration. As such, we asked Ira to take us through the process of illustrating a page, so as to give you some insight into how much work a single page requires. Take it away, Ira!
“First, I give the script a read. At this stage, I may need to try a few simple sketches to make sure the script translates well into comic format, or I may know right away that I’d want to change some things, for example splitting a dense script into two pages of comic. In that case, it’s time to talk to Andrew-David and Tim about any ideas or suggestions I have. I’m almost always doing minor things like moving an action/reaction from one panel to another or distributing speech bubbles a little differently than in the script. My goal is always to get across the essential parts of the story and characters as best as I can using the tools available to comics. Sometimes what works with words doesn’t work as well visually, or works differently, and I see it as my job to offer the best translation I can.
Once the script is good to go, or once we’ve worked out whatever we needed to, I start putting together the sketch. I am a messy, messy sketcher — I’m always in awe of those artists whose sketches look like poetry! That’s not me at all. I start with thumbnails to block in roughly how much happens in each panel, what shape they are, where speech bubbles go, and the general layout inside each panel. Once I get a good idea of where everything goes, it’s time to wrangle the mess into something Andrew-David and Tim can identify as, allegedly, the characters they asked for.
In the sketch phase, I try to get across what action is taking place, what emotions and body language the characters are expressing — stuff like that. Everyone still looks a bit wonky at this stage, but for me it’s not about getting it perfect; it’s about making sure everything works and Andrew-David and Tim being able to see how the script translates. I show the sketch for approval, and then move on to inks.
This is my favourite part, where I polish away the mess and get down the expressions and details on the characters. Depending on the page, I may work out the background in detail here, or wait until the colouring phase. The inks are pretty straightforward after the sketch, since everything is already laid out, though I’ve been known to make adjustments to perspective, positioning, etc. at this point. The best part for me is when I’ve done basic inks on the entire page, then take a step back and go over it again with more details, corrections, and a general polish. A lot of little changes can really add up to make a page look better!
Once the inks are shown for approval, it’s time to colour. This is the phase that can look like a horror show at first: I block out the areas of colour and I use really obnoxious colours that are easily visible. Once I have everything blocked out, I lock the colours areas, so I can scribble on them all I want and never colour over the lines. This part can just look downright freaky: often everyone is bright blue or green with pink clothes and orange foliage. It makes it really easy to see any place colours are leaking where they shouldn’t though.
After that, it’s really easy to just switch everything over to the appropriate base colours, and now the page is ready for shading.
If there’s a lot of background work to do, I usually stop here to get it done, especially as it influences the lighting on the characters and foreground. Once everything is coloured and shaded, I add any special effects, or do things like washes, atmospheric effects, and overall colour tweaks. At this point, the page is ready to be submitted! Sometimes there are revisions, but submitting sketch, inks, and colour helps make sure the page is a success.”
Most pages are completed before the week they are intended to be published. The exact page buffer varies depending on team members’ schedules. The final page has the website address added by Andrew-David before being uploaded on Monday morning.
We hope you enjoyed this brief overview of the creation of a page of Aikonia. If you have questions for any of the team members about their creative process, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us an ask on tumblr, and we’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as we can.
See you around, fellow Aikonians!
Look, look, that’s me! That is the comic I illustrate! They are super awesome over there and let me ramble about the process. You can see how horribly messy my sketches are! But more importantly you should totally read the comic =D