Create A Comic Book Using Photoshop, Illustrator And Indesign

The process of creating comic books has been revolutionized with the advent of publishing and
graphic design software, and there is a huge range of techniques employed by comic book artists today. What follows is simply one possible procedure among many for creating a photo-realistic illustrated comic book or graphic novel.

Initial digital photographs of live models could be taken using a standard three-point lighting setup in the studio. Location shots may also be utilized later. The photographs are opened up in Adobe Photoshop, which over the last 20 years has become the industry-leading software in image editing. It is very easy to learn this powerful program. For comic books and graphic novels, lighting is very important and is often reminiscent of the chiaroscuro effects of Renaissance art. It is easy to increase the tonal range and contrast of an image in Photoshop. Colour adjustments are simple but probably not necessary for our purposes here. Any flaws can easily be retouched using the program's range of cloning and healing tools. We could also collage several images together using Photoshop's masking functions, mixing and matching heads and bodies for example, or adding a tempestuous sky to a landscape shot.

The resulting enhanced image would then be taken into Adobe Illustrator. Over the last 25 years Illustrator has become the world-leader in illustration programs, used by a huge range of illustration professionals. As a vector-based program its shapes and text are created mathematically instead of being based on pixels, and can therefore be scaled to any size without losing their clarity. Lines are always clean and smooth, and colours are always solid and flat. Illustrator also has libraries of brushes which can be used to add a more calligraphic feel to our line work.

Our Photoshop-adjusted images would then be imported into Illustrator, and drawn over by hand using the vector drawing tools. Professional illustrators will often use a graphics tablet at this stage; there are a huge range on the market, from cheap to very expensive. One company which specializes in the high-end tablets is Wacom, the advantage being that the stylus behaves like real pen and ink; it is pressure-sensitive, giving you a variety of line weight within each stroke. It also simulates the wrist movements of traditional media and feels more natural than drawing with a mouse. The "inking" of solid areas of shadow and tone is also fairly straight-forward in Illustrator. Colour may also be added as a separate layer, with easy adjustments made to the opacity. Test proofs should be printed at this stage keeping in mind that how images look on the screen will differ from how they appear on paper, depending on quality of inks and paper stock.

Finally our graphics need to be compiled into pages, and for this the program of choice would be Adobe Indesign, the industry-leader in page layout programs, specializing in the creation of multi-page documents for printing and web. A template for the publication could be set up including page numbering, a masthead, and text styles for consistency within the document. Special comic book style fonts may be downloaded from the internet and used within Indesign, making the process of lettering a graphic novel much less tedious than it was in the past. The resulting document can now be exported as a PDF, for either sending to a commercial printer, or for uploading onto a website. If a commercial printer is used, it's important to ask them about their file format requirements at the start and do your setup accordingly. The most recent releases of Indesign have also included the capacity to create e-books and applications for iPad and Android, and this is something that future comic book illustrators are sure to take advantage of.

Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign can thus be utilized in the creation of professional standard graphic novels and comic books. Our courses give you the confidence and expertise needed to create such documents as well as adding to your own skill set.

Tom Gillan has been training graphic design software to corporate clients in Sydney for seven years. Visit our website for more information: