Like most webcomics on their first year, The Tao of I.T. Al has changed over the months, as the workflow has been changed and refined.
Originally I had followed the current "traditional" comics art route with pencils and inked work done with actual graphite, ink and paper. These were then scanned, cleaned up, and then painted digitally. Now I work entirely digitally using Corel’s Painter for pencils and Adobe Illustrator for inking and coloring. Some backgrounds are hand drawn, but I primarily rely on a growing library of scratch-made resources made in Illustrator. Workflow is important to me because it the more it speeds up the processes, the more time I can spend drawing!
October’s batch of Al is done, and he’s back in action. Much of the recent material has been concentrating on the supporting characters, but Al has reasserted himself recently. It’s good to draw him in full martial arts mode. And it comes out so easily. It’s rather odd that one of my major skills is to draw a large armadillo in a hakama! The hakama, sometimes known as "samurai pants", is a very elegant traditional garment worn by aikido, kendo, kenjitsu, iado, and Japanese archery practitioners. Back when I was practicing aikido, I thought it made my technique look ten times better than it did.
For this weekly comic, I do a months worth of work for each batch. As I speed up, the drawings get more and more sophisticated and I’m able to put more into each panel. This batch I started using in Painter a "blue pencil" which emulates the non-repro blue pencil that is used non-digitally in the comics biz. This aids me inking as the color difference of blue/black in the two layers helps me stay true to my current working layer.
The ink pass is also done digitally in Painter. I ink in a layer on top. The original pencil image gets dimmed to 50%. The blue at this stage really helps in how it’s visually seperate from the ink on top, so I no longer get the blacks of each layer confused. I always feel a sort of loss at this state as the image becomes locked and static. I miss the dynamism of the pencils.
From here I take it into Illustrator, where it becomes converted into a vector graphic via LiveTrace, and it turns into something else entirely. Usually I have to go back in and recover any areas which were lost such as eyeballs or various details. I also have to tweak lines and close gaps for Livepaint which only works in areas encapsulated by lines, rather like a coloring book.
After this point I paint it in using LivePaint with a cel-shading aesthetic. The image will then be placed against a background from my library and cropped to fit the panel.