I sketch in red to help the inking process, I find red to be an easy colour to sketch in compared to blue or green as it contrasts well against the white canvas, the value being neither too high or low.
I start all of my pieces with a sketch, something new artists tend to want to skip as it’s time-consuming, but after I went through the phase of thinking everything I drew was “good enough without it”, and I was sorely mistaken in that assumption, I learned the value of planning and creating thumbnails and rough drafts. The value of feedback when constructing jokes cannot be overstated, and if I want someone to tell me if a joke is working I first need to show it to them.
So here’s an example of the sketch to inking process on a recent Meet The Pones strip. Yes, the dragoness is an original character, I designed her based on Ember’s body build and my friend Arcanel named her “Ash”. First up was the idea, I wanted to have a scene where Spike was trying to convince an attractive female dragon that he was once dragon lord, but he naturally wasn’t going to be believed.
After considering the timing, it became obvious that the “punchline” would be when the girl laughs in his face, and with all good reason. The part where Spike orders another lighter fluid and says “leave the bottle” is a secondary joke meant to recall pictures of down-on-their-luck men crying into their whiskey in dive bars.
When sketching, I tend to break down scenes into “beats” or moments, and divide them up into panels, generally leaving the largest space for the beat that requires more flamboyant movement, or depth of field, or the moment that takes up the most time in the scene. I use a rectangle tool to create the panels in the ink colour as they don’t need to be drawn in rough and will remain unchanged in the finished piece, the panels are identical sizes to keep a steady pace when reading. The sketch itself uses construction lines, and is prone to be cut and pasted around, resized and whatnot to get roughly what I need from the final piece.
Once I’m done with the sketch (after tweaks, erasing some construction lines, rescaling and positioning elements, creating guidelines for dialogue etc.) I then lower the opacity of the sketch and start a new layer ontop of it.
On this new layer I do all of my inking in the Meet The Pones purple. Using a different colour when sketching and inking means the process is much less visually confusing, and gives instant visual feedback on lines I have yet to finish (if it’s still red I haven’t inked it yet.)
Inking allows me to refine the lines and exercise line economy, I use as few lines as I can to get the shapes I want for the final piece, keeping the lineart clear and readable. I put a lot of effort into expressions for my pieces, so having faces and body language easy to read helps the gag come across quicker and keeps the strips immediate and pithy.
All that’s left is to hide the sketch layer and go ahead with shading and creating the background, something my good friend Trev helps me with for both MTP and Southern Belle AJ.
So there is a reason for the red sketches, it’s a tool that became habit and now it’s all over the Meet The Pones tumblr because of Trixie. I wanted to answer some questions with the minimum of effort, inking and shading is a lengthy process and I love the sketching so much more because of the instant creativity it affords me. Yeah it looks a little janky but in 500 years who will know the difference.
Always love seeing the thought processes behind the work of artists I admire- always incredibly helpful in shaping my own methods ^^