Making your own ‘Blue Lines’


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My pencils for Dracula, as drawn, and next to them converted to blues to be printed out and inked over. Pencils were done on 8.5"x11" copy paper, and printed as blues on 9"x12" Smooth Bristol.

My pencils for Dracula, as drawn, and next to them converted to blues to be printed out and inked over. Pencils were done on 8.5″x11″ copy paper, and printed as blues on 9″x12″ Smooth Bristol.

Blue lines are reproductions
of our pencils or even thumbnails,
printed, usually with a bubble jet printer,
onto fresh sheets of Bristol.

Using them can replace using a light table or vellum
to transfer the art as was done in back in the day,
and it also allows a few other handy things along the way.

One of the ways I use it is to scan both thumbnails and pencils, and have a chance to edit them in Photoshop before moving on to the next stage [penciling or inking]. I cut and paste, redraw, and love Liquefy. I also use the opportunity to re-size the art. I tend to do my thumbnails very small, no more than an inch and a half to two inches wide. The height depends on the page dimensions.

I’ll then print those out–often on regular cartridge paper you use in a printer normally–blown up to fit in an 8.5″ x 11″ area. I take those and use anything from traditional graphite or col-erase pencils, or even ballpoint or markers to do my “penciling”. I then scan those, and again make any changes I like in Photoshop, before printing them out on clean smooth 300 or 400 series Strathmore Bristol.

Sometimes I use 9″ x 12″ paper, or 11″ x 14″. I seldom use 11″ x 17″, the traditional format to work on for comics. But that’s just a personal preference. I tend to be very detailed so I work smaller to offset that and keep from overdoing it.

This clip shows you how to prepare the files in Photoshop once you’ve scanned them.

Why would you do this? A few reasons. Aside from the being able to edit them as you go, and the flexibility that gives. And being able to use things like ballpoint pen for my pencils. I also don’t have to worry about making a mistake. If I mess up, I can just print a new one.

And either do it all over again, or just the area that i got wrong. I also don’t have to worry about overworking the paper. if you rough, pencil and ink all on the same piece of paper, by the time you ink the surface can be roughed up and ruined by the penciling and erasing. Printing blues means every page is on a fresh sheet.

It’s also much easier to see what you’re doing, working over the lighter colour. Once, the blue was a special colour that didn’t reproduce when you copied it. But this isn’t’ true anymore, most scanners can see it. If it’s very light, you can use levels to get rid of it. Or as in the clip, you’ll see that I tend to get rid of it with “color replace” under Adjustments in the PS menu.

It helps to have a large format printer and scanner. If you’re going to make lots of comics and art, it’s a worthwhile investment and they can be gotten cheap now. But I also used to do this with a regular size printer, and just trimmed now 9″ x 12″ Bristol to fit in it, and printed my art out one or two panels at a time. Some of the cover and card stock papers made for jet printers are also pretty good for drawing on too.

I broke up the thumbnails and pencil and inked them in parts like this, then stitched the page back together in Photoshop again after scanning it. It’s a bit more work but will allow you to use printed blues long before you’re ready to buy a large format machine.

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