The Tricky business of figuring out your art process

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Finding the best and most importantly the most funnest way to create art is really quite difficult. It is a continual process that I think never ends. Below is my quite convoluted process that I use to go from an idea in my head to something finished and on the page.

For this example i'll be using the first image I created for my upcoming comic Death of the Commons.

tl;dr: My process is as follows:

  1. Sketch in pencils
  1. Ink in Painter
  2. Base colour Photoshop
  3. Texture and tones acrylics over Inks on paper
  4. Inks layer over the top in photoshop
  5. Beer time.

First comes the sketches. This is the stage to look for references and hunt around for the feel you want to create. I use Pinterest boards for my image collection.

Once you have collected the colour, texture and look you are going for just start scribbling on the page. This might just only make sense to you but that is ok because at this stage we are exploring what our image can look like.

I like to sketch in pen and pencils. Try many different mediums and techniques to find the one you like best. You will constantly change and adapt but that is apart of the process. Each person is different but i tend to find freedom in a blank piece of paper and pen and pencils. I also find that I'm less distracted by alerts, notifications and other things that can eat up your time on the computer.

Once the idea is kind of formed in my head, i set about getting the concept down on paper. Discovering my process over the last year I have found that i like to just go with the flow and see what I come up with as I go as I never have the picture full formed in my head before I start.

I draw my picture on A3. Firstly because it is really cheap and it translates well to the size of a comic book page. Australia isn't blessed with easy access to comic book size paper but A3 is a good substitute. There are other reasons why I use A3 for scaling reasons that I might address in another post.

Now is the time to spend the hours and get the bugger drawn.
Here is my pencils completed after being scanned in and a shadow put over the top.

Once this is done I scan it into photoshop and clean up the lines using a technique of copying a layer with it set to Multiply.

One of the tasks I enjoy the most is inking as you can start to see the image come together. I use Painter X3 with the scratchboard tool. This part took a good few hours with this image. Below is the finished inked stage.

Jumping over to photoshop I lay down the base colours. I find I change this a fair bit as I go but it serves as a good starting point. The hardest part sometimes is just getting started. The second hardest part is not stopping when the voice inside your head says you suck. Keep going you will get there.

The next step is my favourite which is pushing around colour. I print off just the inks layer and then paint over them in acrylics. I still haven't found the best paper to print my inks directly onto yet so any suggestions would be rad.

Oh at this stage I chopped my image in half and printed in on A3 so that I could paint finer detail hence the line in the middle.


The above scans are then merged back into the photoshop image. It can be quite tricky to align the inks from the printed page to the one in photoshop as the paper tends to move around once water and paint has been applied to it.

Once this is done the inks layer is put on top of the acrylics and the opacity of the acrylics layer set to around 50% - 70% depending on what looks good.

Finally the image looks like this.


What do you find works for you? If you don't know yet take short courses and just experiment as not all art needs to be created digitally on a computer. I find something so satisfying from using an actual brush and paper and you might too.