Ugh. I almost didn’t get this week’s cartoon up today, and not because I didn’t have it drawn. I did have it drawn! I drew it on my iPad while I was in DC over Easter weekend visiting Hubster’s family, so this was finished on Sunday. All I needed to do was bring it over to my desktop, add the titles and credits, and then post it. Problem was, ever since we got back yesterday afternoon, I’ve not been able to get a damn thing done. Hubster and both kids are home all week long and they’re completely disrupting my work schedule and driving me CRAZY!
Anyway, last week a friend of mine mentioned he’d love to see a cartoon about gardening while drinking wine, so I came up with this. Note – I do not normally take requests! It’s all I can do to get a cartoon out every week as it is. However, the moment Mark mentioned the idea to me, I knew exactly what to draw.
The greatest hazard of drinking and gardening is not watering the plants with the wine, however. It’s having little helpful hands accidentally dumping compost into my drink when I’m not looking. Take it from me, merlot and manure do not mix well. And no, I do not plan on drawing that. I’m doing my damnedest to bury that particular memory.
A few notes about how I produced this week’s cartoon and last week’s, since some folks have asked. I started both cartoons by outlining the script and panels very quickly in Notes Plus, a productivity/note taking app on my iPad. I can type, hand write, and draw (very roughly, but I can draw) in Notes Plus. I can also keep my notes arranged in various notebooks and label the pages in each notebook to make things easier to find. I’ve started one notebook just for cartoon ideas and I label the ideas by date and/or subject, depending on how quickly I plan to use the ideas.
Once I’ve outlined the ideas, I then hop into SketchBook Pro and start drawing. I sketch each panel with one of the pencil brushes, and export the pencil sketches to my iPad’s photo album as I go. If need be, I can then import the previous panel into the panel I’m working on to check placement, size, etc., of various drawing elements. Once the panels are sketched, I then go back and reopen each panel’s drawing, start a new layer, and begin inking.
Unlike other graphics programs I’ve used to ink my cartoons, Sketchbook Pro does not have a smoothing option, which makes the lines nice and smooth no matter how unsteady my hand is. However, I’ve discovered I don’t really need the smoothing option. I just need to draw fast and trust my hand. Sketchbook Pro responds very quickly, allowing for very fluid strokes, and the pen brush works very nicely. It doesn’t give me as thick a line as the brush pens I use when I draw with real paper and pen, but I still get a nice dark line.
After I ink each panel, I then start a new layer in the first panel (remember, each panel is it’s own file on the iPad) and I paint quick color swatches for each of the elements in the panels. Then I save a copy of the file, open that copy, and delete all the layers except the color swatches layer. With just the color swatches layer in place, I send the image to my iPad photo album. Then I can import that image into each panel to make sure I use the same colors for each element in all the panels.
Once coloring is done, I go back and add text and word balloons. Right now, I’m using Sketchbook Pro’s text tool, but that’s a pretty primitive solution, given that Sketchbook Pro won’t even allow me to create multiple lines of text. So I’m seriously considering leaving the lettering of the cartoon until the very end and doing it in Strip Designer. Which brings us to the next step after lettering anyway – exporting each finished panel to the iPad photo album. Once all 4 finished panels are in the photo album, I open up Strip Designer, select a 4-panel comic template, and bring the panels in one by one. Then I email the final strip from Strip Designer, selecting “high quality PNG” for the export option, and voila! It shows up in my email. From there, it’s a simple matter of downloading it and opening it in Photoshop to add the final elements of title and credits.
All this may seem like the long way around to do things. It is and it isn’t. When I draw by hand, I draw all 4 panels on one page, using a red pencil, and then inking with a brush pen. Lettering is done by hand, and I have to add the lettering lines using a lettering guide (a nifty little tool that lets me draw evenly spaced straight lines across the comic strip). Then from there, I scan in the cartoon, which has to be done in two scans since e the paper is too big to fit into my scanner in one scan, and then I have to reassemble the comic, do some basic clean up, get rid of the red lines, pull everything into the final template, and post it to the web.
Both methods take time. Both methods have multiple steps. Both methods have their pluses and minuses. The pluses for the iPad method are that it’s very easy for me to cartoon now no matter where I am. I can pick up the cartoon and work on it at any time, any place. I don’t have to worry about carting around a bulky drawing pad, set of pens, erasers, t-square, etc. And I can color the cartoon, knowing the color will look the same on the computer screen as it does on the iPad. Coloring the cartoon on paper before scanning it in doesn’t work well at all, because it never really scans in right and I still have the issue of having to remove the red pencil lines.
The minuses of the iPad method? Each panel has to be its own separate drawing. The final cartoon is only half the size of the scanned cartoon (I always scanned the artwork in at a large size in case I ever wanted to print the comics). And it actually takes me more time to do the cartoons now because I’m taking time to color each panel.
It’s not a perfect solution. However, I am working on finding a perfect solution, one that will let me continue to cartoon on the iPad, because it is so danged convenient to just grab that slim little device and go! I’m hopeful that some of the other drawing apps I’m looking at turn out to provide some further options for me, because one way or the other, I think the iPad cartoons are here to stay.