Monday, 9 November 2015

How I Make Comics Part 1: MULP #1 Cover

One of the questions I get asked the most about MULP: Sceptre of the Sun is; How do you colour it? Is it watercolour or acrylic paints? Pencil colours?

The last thing most people expect it to be is digitally coloured, and I've explained my process to loads of intrigued people! So in light of the imminent release of issue #2 I thought I'd give you all an insight into how I created the cover for MULP issue #1!


I always begin my illustration traditionally with a good 'ol pencil. For those who are wondering, I use a Staedtler mechanical pencil with 0.5mm H leads.

The cover goes through a process of thumbnails and roughs before reaching this stage of finished pencils. Matt and I go through extensive discussion over the content and composition, as with the rest of our comic the cover is just as collaborative a process and it is important for it to be striking. All first impressions are borne by the cover and Matt and I wanted it to be a direct representation of the interior art.


Once we're happy with the pencils I ink up the line work, I use dip ink pens and indian ink.
I have three favourite nibs that I use to vary the weight of the line and create focus and depth.

I use the largest nib for the foreground details and central focus of the illustration, in this case Cornelius' car and the characters themselves. The middle nib is then used for the mid-ground and any small details on the foreground objects. And then the smallest nib for the detail in the background and again any tiny details elsewhere.

Ink Wash

Next I lay in a tonal wash with ink. Great thing about Indian ink is that it's permanent, so once fully dry it does not bleed or wash away when the ink wash is applied!

This wash will instantly add some tonal definition for when I take the illustration into Photoshop for colour, I find it helps speed the colouring process up a little in the sense that shadows and gradients are already laid out.

Background Texture

Now the illustration is taken into Photoshop (I'm using CS5 extended version) and background textures are layered underneath the line work.

I have worked out specific palettes for each location and so choose textures from a bank I have pre-selected and saved that best emulate the tone I wish to create. In this case we're in Egypt and so I chose textures with a golden brown and ochre tone, with a dash of blue for the sky.

Below are samples of the textures I used to create the cover. The mottled old paper is the underlaying base texture for the whole illustration, it is set to 80% opacity with a plain white background on another layer behind that. 
Next the sandy coloured handmade paper texture set to 38% opacity on a layer on top of the mottled paper with the 'Multiply' blending mode applied. This texture again spans the entire illustration. 
Lastly the sky is created by using a sample of this lovely blue ink/watercolour wash. It is trimmed and carefully erased to fit the space that the sky fills and set to an opacity of 60% with no blending mode applied.

The line work remains on a separate layer on top of everything, again with the 'Multiply' blending mode applied.

The cover is now ready for the details to be painted in digitally! I'll cover that process in Part 2 of this blog post.

MULP: Sceptre of the Sun issue #2 will be available from supporting UK comic stores on Wednesday 11th November, and will be making it's convention debut at Thought Bubble on the 14th - 15th November.
Issue #1 is already available to purchase from the same stores previously mentioned, however you can check out a free 12 page preview here

If you would like to learn more about the MULP: Sceptre of the Sun series then check out our website where we post the latest news and reviews:

And we're always happy to hear from our readers, you can let us know what you thought of the comic as well as ask any questions via our twitter @MULPcomic

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