How to Draw Four Pages of Machiavelli

I’ve been meaning for a while to do a process post about how I go about making a page of comics. I’ll do a separate post about my research process, as that deserves its own section. Let’s assume for this post that research is mostly done (it’s never entirely done) and I’m ready to begin making pages.

I usually work in batches of four pages at a time. This allows me to focus on one task at a time (rough pencils, finished pencils, inks, wash) and keep a certain flow and coherence between pages.Marlowe thumbnail
First, I do a thumbnail outline. Something like a script with little boxes and hieroglyphics, drawn on copy paper and put into plastic sleeves so I can reorder and add pages if necessary. This example is actually from Marlowe, as I don’t think any of the Machiavelli thumbnails remain. Perhaps in my attic somewhere, where my kids will discover them after I’ve passed.

The next step is rough pencils. I typically work on cold press watercolor paper with a hard 3H pencil: light and easy to erase.


I will usually do the pencils in two stages: first, a rough blocking out, then a second pass with more detail added. At this point I scan the page and insert it into an inDesign file, adding text so I know how big to make the text. It would look something like this:

InDesign page

That lets me know how much space I need to allow for text. In this page, I let the text at the top float free and created a large text box between the panels:


When I ink, I use a Hunt 102 nib pen and Higgins Black Magic ink. It needs to be waterproof to survive the wash I’m going to subject it to next.

Finally, the wash; I use watercolor paint (Winsor & Newton ivory black) to finish the page.


I scan the finished page and replace the FPO image in the inDesign file. From start to finish, I can usually produce 2 pages a week if I’m firing on all cylinders (this rate presumes, of course, that the research and thumbnailing is done).

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