Oliver Harud: How does a comic artist create a page of work?

Illustrator and graphic novelist Oliver Harud talks us through the process of illustrating Dan and Sam.

How does a comic artist create a page of work? I can of course only speak for myself but every artist will go through similar stages when they take the story from the written word to the final art you see on the page.

21/10/2015
4 minutes to read

Illustrator and graphic novelist Oliver Harud talks us through the process of illustrating Dan and Sam.

How does a comic artist create a page of work? I can of course only speak for myself but every artist will go through similar stages when they take the story from the written word to the final art you see on the page. In this case, I did the whole artwork, in more mainstream comics you might find the process split between many artists, a different person responsible for the pencils, the inks, the colours and then the speech balloons.

First is the story. It is the writer’s vision that we are communicating, then the artist takes up the script and directs, films and acts out the story. With Dan and Sam, Mark Watson gave me a pretty free range with how the final book was going to look, as you can see in the sample of script, the stage directions were minimal, giving me as much room as possible to tell the story in any way I wanted. 

After reading through what Mark sends over I sketch out a simple thumb-nail of the page. I draw this at A5 as it lets me really scribble / doodle and work into it, but because of the small size I’m not limited by thinking about any detail at all at this point, all I am concentrating on is how it tells the story, how the broad action in the panels works and how the page as a whole holds together.


First sketch of comic book page - Dan and Sam


Once this stage is complete, I then blow up the rough A5 to A3 and draw the finished pencil version. With the action locked in I’m now concentrating on finer detail and a sense of place, but with the added scale I might also move the action around in the panel if I think I need more room for the dialogue. While I draw I can’t help but pull the faces and expressions that the characters are doing, even if I’m not looking in the mirror for visual reference, it just seems to help!


Sketch of comic page - Dan and Sam


Now it is looking much more like a comic page, but still far from something that can go to print. It needs to be inked up. I have a slightly unusual technique of using the innately transparent nature of the 70 gsm paper and slipping the pencil page under a fresh sheet and using this as a guide to the inking. I photocopy the pencil page as dark as possible to help see it through the fresh layer of paper. It is far more traditional to draw with blue pencil onto much thicker Bristol board and then ink straight over the pencil.


Black and white ink drawn page from Dan and Sam


Colour. I scan my work in and use Photoshop for my colouring, on an iMac and with a Wacom tablet. I make a top layer of the inked line work and paint the comic under that. I try and limit the palette and use textures that I have made from photos I have taken to break up the machine feel of working on a computer.


Colour sketch from Dan and Sam comic


Then comes the dialogue. I have bought some specific comic typefaces from one of the many specialist sites that are out there and am always trying to see how other artists do their speech bubbles. It is a fascinating stage in the process and you can add a lot of tone and feeling with how and where you place to speech balloons.


Dan and Sam comic book page


 There you have it, a proper comics page in all its glory!


Dan and Sam

by Mark Watson

Book cover for 9781447276371

Dan and Sam are a golden couple: happily married, owners of a popular London restaurant and looking forward to spending the rest of their lives together - until a tragedy changes everything. When Sam dies in his arms after an accident, Dan cannot imagine life without her. But love, it seems, is stronger than death and Dan is granted a reprieve - Sam can return to him for one night of the year, every year, until he falls in love again. And though Dan knows that no one could ever take Sam's place in his heart, he soon faces an impossible choice...