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Hackles: The Metamorphosis

Here we use the May 28, 2001 cartoon in a behind-the-scenes look at Hackles.

The storyboard in pencil

Drake: Here is where it all begins. Well, not always. Sometimes I just begin drawing the comic without a storyboard sketch, especially if we know exactly how the strip should look.

This step is useful for visualizing the character placement and story pacing, without cluttering the final copy with a ton of eraser marks. Because its purpose is conceptual, only the bare essentials go here. The last two panels are blank because they will look roughly similar to the first one. Note my total inability to draw straight lines without a ruler.

The good copy, inked

Drake: On a new sheet of paper (8.5x11", 94 brightness, extra thick, for those who like to know this stuff), I draw the cartoon in pencil. I don't bother drawing stuff that I know Jen can handle with her computer wizardry. The mice holding the sign, for example, will look the same in each frame, so I only have to draw one copy of them. Jen can handle the copying later. Similarly, I left the store window blank, because I wanted to see what kind of fun things she'd put in there. I use a #2 pencil and a kneaded rubber eraser, which doesn't leave a lot of crumbs like most erasers.

Once I have a good pencil drawing, I ink everything with a felt tip pen. It's a Stabilo Sensor, medium 0.7, which I like a lot. Finally, I'll erase over the entire strip to get rid of any stray pencil marks.

The finished comic after the GIMP

Jen scans the inked picture and then performs her magic with the Gimp. First, she pastes the scanned image into our border template (the frame that has our names and copyright info). Then Jen fills the strip with colors and background patterns (e.g. the brick building). She sticks primarily to a Web-safe palette of colors, so that people with monitors capable of only 8-bit color can see our toons. However some effects, such as patterns, gradients, and anti-aliasing, may introduce some Web-unsafe colors.

All the objects you see in this picture that you don't see in the previous step were created by Jen on the computer. For example, the items in the cheese shop (where else would mice hang out?), the clouds, and the whimsical bird flying around in the last frame, were all mouse-drawn by her. Also, Jen created the text and word balloons seen here.

Often, some surgery is required. In the inked picture, Marcus's legs looked a little too short in the first frame. Jen stretched them out by a couple of pixels on the computer.

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