I love Muscles McQuack! Totally jelly over the style. So cartoony, so crisp and rich. Could you share a little bit on how it’s made? The software you use? How you come up with color palettes? The whole friggin’ process maybe? :D Keeping an eye out for more!
Thanks for the question! Comics are by no means my speciality, but I did learn a lot making BALCONY BOY and I’m happy to share some of that with you.
WRITING Every new comic starts with a new idea. In the case of BALCONY BOY I’d been working on the upcoming Muscles animated short so I had been thinking a lot about the character. I couldn’t sleep one night so I decided to harness the sleepless energy and put it into creating a new story.
The premise was simple: Muscles gets locked out on the balcony. I thought it would be a good way to really get inside Muscles’ head and I’ve always liked stories set in one location where the catalyst is either waiting or getting trapped (think Seinfeld’s “The Chinese Restuarant” or Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”).
I wrote out the entire plot in dot point on my phone in notes in one sitting. I try to do this in one go so that I don’t second guess the narrative decisions too much later. Too much self doubt is crippling and counter to productivity! And sometimes you just have to be in the zone to generate a coherent story.
Next I designed the layout of the locations. In this case it’s Muscles’ apartment, his balcony, the neighbours apartment and a bit of the street. I find it useful to sketch a floorplan or top down view of the spaces. That way I can easily imagine where to place the “camera” and what details would be in the shot. I’m not saying you have to be this literal, but for this story I wanted the space to feel fairly grounded and realistic.
After I have my story and my sets it’s time to start roughing out every frame. I deliberately drew the comic in 1920x1080 widescreen, fixed frame size, so that it could be animated later if I wanted to. I wanted to squeeze in a lot of acting so I tried to write only one line of dialogue per frame.
I drew directly into Flash using the brush tool in a template that I made originally for storyboarding. I roughed my backgrounds using light blue and I sketched my character
on a layer above. I often hold on a background for multiple frames while the character gesticulates so it’s useful keep the character and backgrounds separate.
I use perspective guide lines to help keep things feeling dimensional. It also helps if I want to move the “camera” for dramatic purposes (see above) as the perspective is already built into the scene.
Then I clean up using the pencil tool, once again in Flash. The pencil tool lets me keep it really clean and the lines uniform in thickness. To get a kind of hand drawn look I always turn smoothing off and make sure the Preferences/Drawing/ settings look like this:
Choosing colours can be tricky. I don’t think I’m an expert on this, but I like to try and re-use colours where possible and work within a palette theme. I’d already designed the characters so most of my work was already done here. One thing I tried to do in this one is use more blacks more confidently.
Well, that’s kind of all I have to say about making my comic. I hope it was useful. Please let me know if you want me to do more process posts!