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I was asked yesterday how I make my comics. Apparently the answer “Time, effort and squid love” wasn’t specific enough, so allow me to elaborate.

I put together my comics using a much shorter process than most professional comics. While I’d like to say this is because I’m a master at what I do and don’t need all those fancy smancy steps, I’d just be ridiculously kidding myself. The truth is that I don’t have enough time to complete ALL of the steps before a comic is due, especially doing all of the work myself.

So! Here is Heather’s Handy Dandy Life with Squid Process:

Step One:

Come up with a rough idea. Obsess about whether or not it’s funny. Write out a shorthand script. For an example, here’s the full script to comic #10 “Lost Squid”:

H. and J. can’t find S. Call for him. J. picks up Squeezy. Squeak. S. descends from ceiling. Hrrk.

Pass it around to Boyfriend and family. Upon approval, obsess some more about humor potential. Rewrite several times before deciding you had it right the first time. Obsess some more, then go and nom something.

Step Two:

Sketch out a rough idea of what the comic will look like. This usually takes up about a fourth of a normal-sized sketchbook page and is then covered in notes with intended changes. Then erase half of the notes after redrawing something and finding them to be redundant.

More notes.

Erase some of the obvious notes realizing that this sketch is just for you and you aren’t actually explaining the comic to anyone else. Feel dumb.

Obsess over whether or not to start from scratch. Realize you’re on a deadline and decide that it’s good enough for now. Take a break before innate perfectionism makes you start messing with it again.

Step Three:

Print out a template of a comic page and rough out where the panels will be. Consult your sketch, furiously decide that you can do it better, and after twenty minutes of frustration decide that you’re probably just making it worse.

Rough in some stick figures and basic shapes to show where everything will be placed on the page. This is important so that you don’t spend four hours drawing an arm and then step back to find that it’s nowhere near where it’s supposed to be.

Start adding background details, laying in perspective grids (which were designed by some demon with a fantastic sense of humor) and building up the setting. Painstakingly fixate on every line so that it is perfectly where it needs to be to create a beautiful setting with the illusion of depth.

Erase half of what you just did so that you can add characters into your environment.

Spend hours upon hours drawing and redrawing your characters. Adjust their positions, exaggerate their facial expressions, make sure they don’t awkwardly collide with furniture. Draw an arm for four hours. Realize it’s nowhere near where it’s supposed to be.

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Ponder the subconscious masochism which drives the compulsion to add so many intricate details to a webcomic. Boldly claim that you’ll never do it again. Grimly accept that you’re lying to yourself.

Finally finish up your detailed pencil work and scan it into the computer.

Step Four:

Using Photoshop, turn the whole image blue and make it significantly bigger. Print it out on a piece of bristol board.

Desperately wish that everything was as easy as step four.

Step Five:

Over the blue lines, carefully apply ink lines. Try to keep your hands as steady as possible and freak out over every misstep. Wonder why you ever thought you were confident enough to attempt such a daunting task.

Spend three minutes wondering how you got ink on your elbow. Stop wondering when you find more on your neck.

After hours of editing and laying out each line carefully, allow the page to dry.

Realize you didn’t muck up all of your work. Dance in triumph and then scan the page.

Step Six:

Using Photoshop, edit out any small mistakes and add any large blocks of black that you didn’t want to waste a bunch of ink filling in. Then transfer the file to Illustrator to create speech bubbles, text and special effects.

Start feeling really good about what you’re doing now that the hard part is over.

Convert the file to the appropriate type and make any last edits that need to be made. Celebrate it’s completion by dancing like a lunatic.

Show finished product to Boyfriend and family. Start process of obsessing all over again.

Step Seven:

Post to site. Sit back and squee like an idiot.

Return to step one!