Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

kiandranishan at 1:28PM, Feb. 19, 2008
posts: 234
joined: 3-9-2007
This is just something I've been curious about…thinking maybe I'm overdoing it a bit…

I use PS to color/edit my comics. When coloring I create a layer group for each character and backgrounds and in each group I create anywhere from 3 to 12 layers. I've had some pages that have as many as 80/90 layers >.> Though 40/50 is more of a norm.

How many layers do you use when creating a page?
Is anyone else layer happy like me?
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:15PM
Doplegager at 2:17PM, Feb. 19, 2008
posts: 62
joined: 7-12-2007
For purely practical purposes, most of my work ends up being black and white. For quick, simple colors, I have one layer for each of the following: lineart, flat colors, shades, and tints. For slightly more in-depth, images, I add another two layers for adding gradiations (usually black and white gradiation, set to multiply or dodge), with one or two other layers to give environmental colors (sometimes a few more). So, usually 4 layers, but rarely more than 12.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 12:13PM
BlkKnight at 2:20PM, Feb. 19, 2008
posts: 1,101
joined: 5-28-2007
I am nowhere near as excessive on layers. Considering my comic is a simple one done entirely in PS, I have a dedicated background layer, three layers to cover the rest of the comic, a layer for the bubbles, and one to store my border and sig positions (I don't count any text layers as official layers) for a total of six.
That's “Dr. BlkKnight” to all of you.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:25AM
JustNoPoint at 3:12PM, Feb. 19, 2008
posts: 1,325
joined: 3-16-2007
I am just as excessive.

Though 80-90 is not the norm I have finally come up with ways to do certain things without needing as many layers.

Sometimes I could have 10 or more sketch layers. Backgrounds, characters, especially characters interacting. I'll draw them on separate layers in case I need to tweak sizes or whatever.

Then when I ink I have many layers for fx. 1 ink layer is mostly a silhouette that closes off the different color areas of a character. This makes it easy to do flats. Then all the extra lines in the character go on their own layer.

Same with backgrounds.

In photoshop I make lots of different layers to color as well.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:12PM
Skullbie at 5:00PM, Feb. 19, 2008
posts: 4,749
joined: 12-9-2007
Having more layers isn't excessive, it's practical. 50ish is my norm, this is to make toning a walk in the park, no mistakes are made that can't be fix'd in 2 seconds. Plus it's easy to tweak the page perfectly, just adjust the opacity/layer options and it can make everything all the more sweeter.

Also the more complex the work, the more layers. Simple art doesn't need that. lol!

I have a basic formula-lineart layer, then a bunch of transparent layers on multiply. May duplicate them for added depth and darkness.(I use gimp)
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:45PM
Kohdok at 6:22PM, Feb. 19, 2008
posts: 776
joined: 5-18-2007
I usually do it in about four:

1: Actual lineart

2: Background and straightedge lineart

3: Colors

4: Panel lines (On top)

I do some more for speech bubbles and an additional one for light and shadow if I need it.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:20PM
acadia at 9:01PM, Feb. 19, 2008
posts: 374
joined: 12-18-2006
Once you start hitting above 30 layers, you're REALLY gonna start eating up memory. I usually average around 20 layers. Though I'm trying a new technique that only requires 5. It's actually working really well for me. <3 polygonal lasso tool (with anti-aliasing OFF).



Lines/panel borders



last edited on July 14, 2011 10:45AM
Fenn at 10:06PM, Feb. 19, 2008
posts: 561
joined: 9-28-2007
Being a black and white strip, mine doesn't require as many layers. I've thought about doing separate layers for each character, but I don't really bother. If I want to move someone in the frame, polygonal lasso tool takes care of it.

So I usually work thusly:

Text layer(s)


Frame layer


Sketching layer (turned off in final version, naturally)

tints (usually about 30% transparency)


Background layer(s)

Depending on the scene's complexity and the effects needed, various layers may be duplicated as needed.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:26PM
Frostflowers at 1:16AM, Feb. 20, 2008
posts: 689
joined: 10-8-2006
Let's see….

I've got the inital sketch layer. Then I've got the clean-up sketch layer, where I put in more details. Then I've got one sketch-layer to do corrections on. So that's three sketch-layers all told.

Then I start the lineart - one layer for the character-lineart, one layer for the backgrounds, occasionally one extra lineart layer in case I'm doing something like bricks or detailed pavement. So that's another three, bringing us up to six. Well, seven, because I got a separate layer for outlining the panels.

Then I start colouring. Background colours on one layer, character colours on another. I really should do a separate layer for shadows, but I usually slap all colouring and shadow work on the same layer because I'm lazy like that - also, it helps me be more careful and think things out before I do them, because fixing things when everything is on the same layer is difficult. Another two layers makes nine total.

Then I've got the overlay-layers - which I use to fiddle with the overall lighting of the page, and to separate the foreground from the background. Usually one or two, let's say two - that's eleven layers.

And then you've got the layer to fill in the whites in the panel borders. Twelve.

Usually, I average about four or five speech bubbles per page, which means four/five layers for the text, another four/five layers for each individual speech bubble, and then yet another layer to fill in the whites of the speech bubbles (there's probably a much more efficient way of doing this, even in Painter IX, but this works and I'm too lazy to find out.). So that's twelve plus about ten plus one.

It works out at about twenty three layers per page. I could probably do it in less (I could certainly do with less lineart layers), but I am a really messy person, so it's better to keep things on separate layers or I might end up ruining something with my messiness.
The Continued Misadventures of Bonebird - a poor bird's quest for the ever-elusive and delicious apples.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:31PM
Raccoo at 8:48PM, Feb. 20, 2008
posts: 108
joined: 7-11-2006
I use quite a few layers. 1-3 for the drafts, 1-2 (sometimes more) for inks. When I get inks finished I might save as a new file and then delete the drafts, and merge inks. Add a new layer for each color, add flats. I might make another new file. Then I use the same flats to shade/lighten (I like being able to use the lighten only/darken only feature in the Gimp, so I don't change anything around the flat colors). Usually I use only one layer for the background. One layer for the bubbles. One layer for the panel bars. Multiple layers for the text. And perhaps one last layer for effects/shiny.

Counted 44 layers (counting text and stuff) for the last page I finished.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:57PM
cartoonprofessor at 4:14AM, Feb. 21, 2008
posts: 396
joined: 9-2-2007
I use a 3D program to render my initial panel ‘shot’ then draw all of the lines on another layer in PS.

Generally each panel is at least two or three layers, then text layer, speech bubble layer, ‘effects’ layer (smoke or movement lines, etc).

The 3-panel page I am working on at the moment already has 21 layers, including text layers, with probably another three or four to go yet.

I group each panel's layers to keep the layers window manageable.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:36AM
lba at 9:21AM, Feb. 21, 2008
posts: 2,686
joined: 5-29-2007
I've narrowed it down to using about three layers. One for inks, one for colour underneath the inks and one for text. I don't need all the extra layers other people use for inking and sketching because I prefer to do my inking traditionally so all that is complete by the time I scan it. Even my more complex work I can do with only 4 or 5 layers.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:28PM
fazz33 at 7:43AM, Feb. 23, 2008
posts: 59
joined: 8-15-2006
Wow O_o,I never realized how many layers go into some of these comics. I guess I'm just not that proficient in the use of PS. If I color something it usually ends up being 10-12 layers. But for the comic I'm doing now Usually its only 2-4 layers, because I end up drawing or shading it all on paper then scanning for slight editing.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:25PM
spacehamster at 12:18PM, Feb. 24, 2008
posts: 504
joined: 8-3-2007
I generally try to keep the number of layers minimal. Too many layers get confusing very quickly, and it drives me insane when I have to go clicking through the layers window trying to find something. Plus I actually prefer NOT being able to go back and edit every little thing, it only leads to wasted time. So the setup is generally:

-Text (everything on separate layers to keep it as vector graphics. This is a very stupid way of doing this, but I haven't really had time to learn Illustrator yet.)
-Word balloons and captions
-Sound effects
-Effects (this is usually a screen layer filled with black)
-Color holds (colored lines; this needs to be a separate layer because the lineart layer is set to multiply)
-Flats (flat colors to make selections from with the magic wand)

When I do pinup pieces, I sometimes keep the secondary lighting on a separate layer because I know I have a tendency to screw that up on the first try.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:50PM
Llama_Comic at 1:43AM, Feb. 25, 2008
posts: 32
joined: 6-20-2007
Well, mine is a bit different since we use photos of action figures. Each page has a border layer, then every panel is a smart object inserted as a layer, so one page can have as few as 6 actual layers. The panels could have as few as 2, though a layer with lots of dialog or effects could have a dozen or so. So each page really could have 50-90 layers.

last edited on July 14, 2011 1:38PM
spunkbrat at 7:51PM, Feb. 25, 2008
posts: 14
joined: 12-27-2007
Glad to know I am not that far off from some people here. I work with around 40-50 layers for a page (sometimes more) and am quite anal when it comes to orgainising these layers. Proper labelling helps a lot when it comes to corrections, amendments, colour grading and all. Having lots of RAM does help.

Some professional comic colourist I read somewhere work with only a single layer, impressive!
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:54PM
Eunice P at 8:55PM, Feb. 25, 2008
posts: 792
joined: 2-8-2006
50 to 90 layers?! :o How on earth do you guys manage so many layers? Don't you guys feel that if you want to work on a specific layer, you have to go through a lot of process in clicking / rearranging / searching each layers?

As for me, I find that my comic is easier to work on when I constantly merge layers. I only use 1 lineart layer, 3 colored layers, 1 speech baloon layer and the rest are all text layers. Sometimes, I even reduce it to 1 lineart layer, 1 colored/toned layer and the rest are all text layers.

last edited on July 14, 2011 12:23PM
arteestx at 9:59PM, Feb. 25, 2008
posts: 285
joined: 6-1-2007
This is just something I've been curious about…thinking maybe I'm overdoing it a bit…

I use PS to color/edit my comics. When coloring I create a layer group for each character and backgrounds and in each group I create anywhere from 3 to 12 layers. I've had some pages that have as many as 80/90 layers >.> Though 40/50 is more of a norm.

How many layers do you use when creating a page?
Is anyone else layer happy like me?
Holy crap! I don't think I've ever gotten more than 12. Yeesh!

-original art
-line art
-main flats
-background flats
-background effect/gradients
-special effects (sometimes I'll separate different effects in different layers, but rarely have more than 3-4 separate effect layers)

and then I use Flash for the text, which is only 2-3 extra layers. That is a LOT of memory being used for layers that, to me, seems unnecessary. But hey, do whatever works for you!

Xolta is not intended for anyone under 18 years old.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:02AM
usedbooks at 11:20PM, Feb. 25, 2008
posts: 2,607
joined: 2-24-2007
I draw my stuff by hand, since it was originally just a collection in a notebook, so I like to keep it as close to that as possible after I scan. I usually end up with 3 or 4 layers in the “cleanup” process (text, some vectors to fill in or reshape things, etc.) When I color a page (once every week or so), that's one more layer.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:37PM
kiandranishan at 1:43PM, Feb. 27, 2008
posts: 234
joined: 3-9-2007
(None of these count text)

Since I moved back to using colored pencils for Kenyagi I only use 3 layers for that…and about the same for Beyond the pale since it is a B/W comic. But the most recent Snakes and Apples page had 40 layers.

Background layer - I select the whole image and fill it in black to fill in any inking gaps and darken the lines.

Layer group - Borders - The main border has the background color then another locked/masked layer on top for the patern that I copy and paste for each page for continuity. Then a layer for the goldish panel borders.

Layer Group - BG - The background parts. One for the grass and moss, the large ground leaves, the tree leaves, tree trunks, and rocks. And each of these have another layer above it that is locked to it, using it as a mask for shading.

Layer Group - Characters - Each character has their own layer group. Each group has layers for hair, skin, eyes, and one I call whites but it's for odds and ends…like eye whites, teeth, and tongues. Again each layer has a shading layer on top.

Outline - This layer floats on top of the colored ones and is just the black outlines that I scanned in, I ink everything by hand.

Bubbles - Speach bubbles. I like to keep these seperate. Sometimes I'll come back and move them around. If I have scroll boxes then I have a seperate one for them. One for outline, another for bg color of scroll and then another locked/mask layer for shading.

That is how I end up with so many.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:15PM
Aurora Borealis at 11:53AM, March 7, 2008
posts: 1,289
joined: 3-2-2008
Hmm, I use quite a lot layers but not as many as others… not on my old pc with 512mb memory. 90 layers would make it explode ;D

Anyway, text layers go on top, under that I have two layers for word baloons (for when they overlap during conversations) and another layer for captions (use different line thickness in the Stroke settings in layer styles)… below that go the panel borders, then a layer for filled blacks and whites (blacks for shadows, whites for eyes or other elements that aren't colored at all).

Under that go three layers for colors. The top one has the actual colors and is set to overlay, the one below has the texture (for extra grainy or crumpled paper look) which is set to whatever look right (currently linear burn, as it's a light one) and down below, on the very bottom is the grey layer where all the shading goes. Basically I paint on that layer with custom grainy/jagged/messy brushes and the color is applied with softer ones.

So in short, from top to bottom:

word baloons 1
word baloons 2
panel borders
black&white fill
color with overlay
b&w texture
grey shading/painting

also there could be separate layers added for sound effects (assuming I'm “drawing” them rather than using a font) and up to 20+ text layers.
And another layer, that's used only during the lettering, a semitransparent white-filled layer that allows me to put black fonts on black/dark backgrounds.

last edited on July 14, 2011 11:08AM

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