Author Archives: EricZ

Process Blog #4: How I Draw a Comic Page in Photoshop

by EricZ April 25, 2012
Posted In: Blog

Photoshop - Layers Window


I was originally going to write my thoughts on collaboration as a follow up to Danny’s post from last week, but I figure it’s best to throw some art at this blog cosidering it’s about the process of making comics. This blog post outlines step by step how I put a page together. In the future I’m going to go more in depth by doing a blog post on each of these individual stages of development, but for now I’ll present an overview.

The example I’m using is last Friday’s page. I drew this well over a year ago, so it’s probably not the best example of my current process. I wish I could show a more recently drawn page, but it’s still early in the life of this website so I don’t have that luxury.

The only program I use throughout my process is Adobe Photoshop CS5. When I first started drawing on the Cintiq, I used Manga Studio a little, but I’ve since dropped it because I think using just one program streamlines things.

I’ve included a screen capture of what my layers look like. I have a template file that I start every page with. (I may post it on this blog eventually) As you can see, I start with a beige canvas. I’m not sure why I chose that color, but I find it’s better on the eyes then pure white.


Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Rough 


This is my initial sketch for the page, which is very rough and loose. I sometimes have to do a lot of reworking and playing around with panels until I’m happy with the flow of the  story. Fortunately, I didn’t have too many problems with this page.  I usually draw the initial rough at half the size I draw the final page.

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Lettering 


This is likely uncommon, but I like to do the lettering at this stage in order to get a better idea of how it’ll work with the figures on the page. At this point, I learned that I need to move a couple of the figures around a bit to accommodate for the speech balloons.

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Rough 2 


I turn off the lettering layer group for now and get a little more detailed with drawing the figures and backgrounds, while still keeping it fairly rough. I always end up resizing parts of the figures or moving whole characters around throughout this stage, so it’s very helpful to have everything on separate, organized layers.

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Pencils 


This is what would traditionally be the ‘penciling’ stage, but I’m working digitally so it’s really just me getting more detailed. I used to use the Nagel Series pencil brush at this stage, but I found it was just a novelty and wasn’t necessary. In Panel 1, I used an alternate color to differentiate between the FX and the figures.

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Inks 


This would traditionally be called the ‘Inking’ section. I use a hard brush and just tighten up the drawing, trying to be as clean as possible. I’m very meticulous about keeping separate organized layers for different sections of each figure. I drew the ghost movement in Panel 1 in a separate FX layer.

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - FX Ghosts 


This comic involves a lot of ghosts, so I put the ghostly figures in a separate layer (That I place in the FX layer group) above the regular action so that I can reduce the opacity and have them appear see through overtop the regular backgrounds and figures. This means I have to draw a little more then a regular comic, but it’s the style I chose for this particular book.

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Flats 


The first step in the color process is something called ‘flatting.’ I use the BPelt plugin to help me through this process. I have a routine for using this plugin that I’ll eventually write about here. But basically I need flat color blocks on a separate layer in order to provide base colors and have sections to isolate for the final coloring process later on.

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Flats 


After I create the flat color layer, I place it behind the Ink layer group and clean it up as best I can. (the BPelt plugin doesn’t always create perfect results).

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Colors 


Coloring is definitely my blind spot. I struggle with it the most out of all of these steps and I’m still learning color theory as I go. I divide everything up into color fill layers so that I can play around with the palette quite a bit. This tends to be a ridiculous amount of layers and a big time-suck, but it’s the easiest way for me to play around a lot with different color ideas.

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Color 


I use a couple of multiply grey layers to do shadows and then add some light reflections. I also added some violet light projecting on the figures from the ghost effect in panel 1.

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Flats 


To help the mood of the scene I use various grunge brushes I found online to paint in some effects behind the figures. I also occasionally use photo textures. is a good site for this. I also add some gradients to various parts of the background. These days I try to keep the gradients as subtle as possible because it’s easy to go overboard with them.

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Flats 


Here’s where I add shading to ghosts and reduce the opacity to give the proper ghostly effect and show some of the illustrations under them. I also added some lighting to the Ghost movement in Panel 1.

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Flashback 


Because there’s a lot of flashbacks in this comic, I needed to create a style to differentiate between the past and present. This particular page is a flashback, so I made the gutters completely white, with no panel borders and added a subtle blur to the overall image. (All the scenes that take place in the present have completely black gutters with no bluring.)

Ghost Engine #1 Page 6 - Final 


From here I turn the lettering back on and I’m done. I usually come back to a page later on down the line and alter various things that bug me. It’s good to come back to a page with fresh eyes.

And that’s my process. On average I put about 12-15 hours into each page and I tend to work on several pages at a time at various stages of development. I didn’t talk about how I do backgrounds because I’ll be dedicating a post specifically to that several weeks from now.


Process Blog #2: From Pencil & Ink to Ones & Zeros

by EricZ April 11, 2012
Posted In: Blog

As Danny pointed out last week, he and I will be trading off Wednesdays working on this process blog. I think he did a great job setting the tone. Something I expect you guys will find as more pages come out is that one of Danny’s best qualities as a writer is that he’s always entertaining. I’m not the best writer around, so I just hope I can keep up!

So who am I? I’m Eric Z. Or Eric Zawadzki. I’ve lived my entire life with people spelling and pronouncing my name wrong, so I’m happy to just settle with Eric Z. (Come to think of it, I believe Danny has the same last name problem.) I’ve been drawing since I was a kid and over the years I learned perspective and anatomy from studying books and doing a lot of lifedrawing. I’ve done a handful of comics over the years, many of which will likely never see the light of day (for good reason). Most notably, I did a 100-page graphic novel, The Killers, in 2005. It was a big accomplishment for me even if I’m not too proud of the work. Over the years, I also worked on a couple of projects with my brother and Tim Simmons of Spy6Teen fame. All of these comics were done the traditional way with pencil, ink and paper.

A couple of years ago, I bought a Wacom Cintiq 21ux and made the switch to fully digital art. I originally posted my digital comic drawing process in a series of blog posts on my personal site around that time. That blog outlines a routine I came up with during my first month working with the Cintiq, so naturally it needs a bit of an update. My first project using the Cintiq 21ux was a short story I did for the 2010 Cloudscape anthology. (Speaking of which, those guys are currently trying to raise money for this year’s anthology over at IndyGoGo. They’re a fun and talented crew so please help them out!)

Shortly after that, I started drawing The Ghost Engine (which was about a year after Danny delivered the script to me, for those keeping track of dates). This was my first longform comic done completely digitally, so I went through a lot adjustments in how I create a page. Over the past year-and-a-half while working on this project, I did a lot of reworking and learning through trial and error. On more then one occasion, I had to go back to every page to fix big mistakes like page size or lettering faux pas. Fortunately I was already fairly familiar with Photoshop, though I’m no expert. I had been playing around with the program since my teen years when my parents bought one of the early versions in the mid ’90s and I had actually colored a couple of my pencil and ink comics before getting the Cintiq.

The Ghost Engine is my first longform comic in which I’m responsible for all the art chores, from illustration to colouring and lettering. So my intention for this blog over the next several months is to put my process out there. I’m sure I’ll be changing a lot my approaches in the next couple of years because I’m expecting to get feedback on how crazy some of these routines are.

In the meantime, please enjoy this comic which was done by a couple of rookies who hope to one day make the big leagues.



by EricZ April 9, 2012
Posted In: Blog




Chapter 1Chapter 1Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Page 7Page 8Page 9Page 10Page 11Page 12Page 13Page 14Page 15Page 16Page 17Page 18Page 19Page 20Page 21Page 22Page 23Page 24Page 25Page 26Page 27Page 26



Chapter 2Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Page 7Page 8Page 9Page 10Page 11Page 12Page 13Page 14Page 15Page 16Page 17Page 18Page 19Page 20Page 21Page 22Page 23



Chapter 3Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Page 7Page 8Page 9Page 10Page 11Page 12Page 13Page 14Page 15Page 16Page 17Page 18Page 19Page 20Page 21Page 22Page 23Page 24



Chapter 3Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Page 7Page 8Page 9Page 10Page 11Page 12Page 13Page 14Page 15Page 16Page 17Page 18Page 19Page 20Page 21Page 22Page 23Page 24Page 25

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