Making Mermaid Music

I’ve just posted page 11 of Mermaid Music, my webcomic. It’s my first full-page spread since pages 2 and 3, and I thought it was high time to do another in-progress post, to show how I go about building up the colours on a page. The full page one is easier to show than the ones with panels, because I’m kind of all over the place on those — I usually work on related colours together on the whole page.

First, here’s what it looked like in pencils. I’m a really sloppy penciller, which is why I really should switch to tracing my sketches when I ink, as I did with Spam and the Sasquatch. However, the first chapter of Mermaid Music was already penciled on heavy paper (Strathmore Bristol vellum surface), so I just kept it. I’ll be changing some things for my next chapter. Only 25 more pages to go…

Mermaid pencils 10&11

The pencil image has been contrast-enhanced so the pencil would show up; it was very pale in reality. The shadow at the top is because I scanned the whole double spread at once (that was just for my records, or in case I messed up I could do it over) — the double spread doesn’t quite fit the scanner bed. It was such a relief to get to the inking on this one — I knew what I wanted it to look like, with a nice clean line, but looking at the pencil drove me crazy!

Mermaid ink p11

Ah, much more inviting to colour! The first step I usually take is to get the known colours painted. Since I know the characters’ colouring and clothes, I put in the base colours for those first. I start light and build up colours in a series of progressively darker layers. Note: the colours here are kind of pink because that’s the way my iPad reads my colour-corrected lighting, for some reason. It’s kind of pretty — maybe I should do a pink comic!

I like working in double spreads because I like my facing pages to read as a unified piece of art, if possible. Although I’ve been working this way since Spam and the Sasquatch, I think I may change my ways after I finish this chapter (the spreads are all pencilled). I’d like to work a bit bigger and the paper would be too unwieldy at a larger size, and as I said, the paper doesn’t quite fit on the scanner bed.

Mermaid Music in progress 1

Next came the hard part; deciding how Aunt Root’s houseboat was going to be decorated (I should really call this post “Decorating with Aunt Root”!). I decided she was the sort of person who would buy a case lot of one colour (in this case blue) and do the whole place with it (add a bucket of white to stretch it for the walls). The roof and floor are wood, so that warms it up a bit. I laid in the base colours for most of the room, then went and had some dinner while it dried. (Vanilla yogurt, an ataulfo mango, and cashews; and that’s as close to food blogging as I’m going to get)

Mermaid Music in progress 2

Then it was time to come back and start tightening up the values. I had pretty well visualized where I needed to darken things to make the light colours stand out, so it was just a matter of patiently building up shadows, using purple and indigo. I worked on the background first, so I’d know what I needed to add when it came time to finish the figures.

Mermaid Music in progress 3

Just about there — most of the details are in at this point.

Mermaid Music in progress 4

A few more details, pushing and pulling of the shadows and highlights, and it’s done. Oh and — whoops, forgot to put in the cat’s tail’s shadow! I’m not striving for super realism here; the main consideration for me is that it is clear for the storytelling, and looks nice.  I like fairly bright colours so I exaggerate those a bit.

Mermaid Music in progress 5

Another whoops: I realized this morning, after I had already scheduled my post for 6 AM this morning (and it had gone out, because I do not get up that early if I can help it), that the stove was floating in space! ARRRGGHH! How embarrassing! *blush* So this evening I changed it. For anyone who noticed, good catch! Here’s what it looked like:

Mermaid Music p11

Here’s the amended painting, stove now firmly on the floor.

Mermaid Music p11

When the painting is done, my work is still not over; I scan the painting to Photoshop as a high-resolution TIFF file (for later paper publishing), and do whatever cleanup needs to be done, usually margins and balloons, but since this is a bleed I got to skip the margins (and *grumble* I had to do it twice because of my earlier visual faux-pas). I usually pump up the dark levels a bit, because my scanner seems to bleach them out a bit, and I want the colours to be rich. Then I save it as a jpeg and adjust the size so that it won’t be a huge file and take up all my expensive WordPress storage space. Then I load it up to the Mermaid Music blog (I’m using a WordPress theme called Panels, specially made for comics), choose my tags, put in the chapter and page and a little caption, and it’s done.

People ask how long it takes me to do a page; altogether the thumbnail took about half an hour; penciling took about two and a half hours; inking about two hours; the painting part took me about three hours; another half hour to do the digital work. So that’s an eight and a half hour day, if I had done it straight through; practically speaking, I like to do a bunch of pencils, then the inks, then the colours. The scanning and digital work I usually do as I finish each page.

I hope this makes you want to head right over and check out Mermaid Music!

9 responses to “Making Mermaid Music

  1. Pingback: Making Mermaid Music | Mermaid Music·

  2. Thanks for you process layout. I learn a bunch from reading these type of posts from you. I missed the stove shadow. . 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for posting examples of your process! I’m always curious to see how artists go through creating their finished pages. Yours are beautiful, by the way. You put a lot of work into each page and it shows in how wonderful they look!


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