My Motto: Think'em, Draw'em, & Send'em!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Gag Cartoon; From Start to Finish

I thought you might enjoy seeing the steps I use to take a funny thought and bring it completely around 360 degrees to a completed gag cartoon ready for sale. From the design and pencil sketch to the inked and computerized completion. And so, without delay, here they are:

First I have to come up with a funny idea. In most cases, that's the hardest part. Once I have the (funny) idea, I work on how the gag line should read. I toss around in my mind various ways the line could read and decide on the one that seems to work best. Although, many times that still ends up changing by the time the cartoon is finished. Then I begin the sketching of the gag.

When I have completed the sketch to my liking, I bring it over to my light board to trace it in ink. I don't have a standard store bought light board. I built my light board myself with instructions from a very old "how to" book called "Animation by Preston Blair". I have seen newer versions of this book still floating around in print. Mr. Blair animated in a number of Disney movies such as Pinocchio, Bambi and Fantasia as well as the MGM cartoon "Red Hot Riding Hood". (Sorry, not to get side tracked.) I then tape the pencil drawing to the light board and place a clean sheet of 24lb., 96 brightness paper over the sketch and tape that in place too.

I do most of my inking with either a Micron Pigma pen or a Staedtler pigment liner of various sizes ranging from 0.3 to 0.7. In the past I had done the majority of my cartoons with a 0.5 tip, however, lately I have started working more with a 0.7 tip. It seems to give a better line after being shrunk down for print as with all magazines . The odd looking glove you see me wearing is to allow my hand to slide on the paper and glass without sticking to them.

Once I have finished inking the cartoon I then scan it in to my computer. I use a basic Visioneer OneTouch 7100 USB scanner. It was extremely cheap but does a really nice job. I scan my inked cartoons in at a resolution of 600 dpi and they are saved as bit maps.

Once scanned in, I open the cartoon with Photo Shop 7. ( I know that's an old version of Photo Shop, but for my use, I really don't need anything more sophisticated.) I then change it to grey scale and adjust the threshold to about 128. This changes the lines to a nice solid black. I then use the Unsharpen Mask function (twice) to smooth out some of the jitter in my lines.

Then I simply work on it a bit and clean up any lines I feel could be better. I use a drawing tablet monitor called a VisBoard. It is similar to a Wacom Cintique monitor but without all the bells and whistles that the Cintique has. However, it was about one fifth the cost of a Cintique. It does a pretty good job for the price.
As you can see I blow it up very large so I can see and correct all the imperfections before you can see them in the final cartoon. This usually consists of erasing some small mistakes and\or adding some extensions to a few of the lines. I may fill in some area that I want solid black like the inside of an open mouth or the shoes on the lady here. Actually, while doing this I forgot to fill those areas in with black and had to do them with one of my pens later. However, I really don't do to much here. Once the picture is as I like, I then add the text by using a layer of text. My final step is to save it as a JPG.
I then print out a couple of copies in preparation of mailing one off to a prospective editor\publisher for their review.
And, there you have it! A gag cartoon from start to finish!
I hope you enjoyed my little walk though.
Until next time!

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