Drawing with Robin

What’s your process?

Everybody has their own way of doing things, and the Webcomic Alliance folks thought it would be neat to compare the different ways we approach our artwork. So I thought I’d get the ball rolling and share with you a video I’d made earlier of my storyboarding and sketching process! (I hope you’ll forgive the dual-purpose use!)

Scripting & Dummy Book

I like very bare-bones scripts – if I’m illustrating for myself or others. I enjoy the freedom of a brief script, and it makes picking out overly-wordy dialog easy. I also rarely script out more than a scene or two at a time. I know where the story and each chapter start and end, but I like flexibility in actually crafting the pages. It keeps things fresh for me, and I get to revisit my themes many times over as I progress through a chapter.

My “Dummy book” is like a more developed series of thumb-nail sketches. It lets me get an idea of how the final product will look in the book. That way I can plan for pages to flow well not only online, but in the printed book format as well. Here’s an example of how that concept works in application. The two pages below will appear side-by-side in the printed book. Even though they were created to stand on their own, they can also work as a 2-page-spread:

Naked Sketches are the Best Sketches

I always focus on the anatomy beneath the clothing rather than starting with clothed characters. It has really helped me envision how the body works as well as how cloth will fall on a form. The only downside is the judgmental looks of people that can actually decipher the chicken-scratch that is my drawing style.

Perspective and Backgrounds

I used to hate backgrounds, but that was before I picked up one of my favorite books for perspective drawing of all time (~$14 on Amazon and well worth the price):

Vanishing Point: Perspective for Comics from the Ground Up
by Jason Cheeseman-Meyer

What’s your process?

What kind of scripts do you write? How do you translate that into storyboards or pages? What are your favorite drawing resources?

Robin Dempsey is addicted to storytelling, despite all logical reasoning against this irrationally glorious pursuit. By day she works as a Mechanical Engineer, and in every spare moment outside of that she is making comics. Including in her sleep, on occasion. Addicted to world-building, character crafting, and language making, you can find the results of her sprawling storytelling pursuits at LeyLinesComic.com! Or drop a line on Twitter at RobinofLeyLines.

Posted in Featured News, Helpful Hints, Writing.


  1. My scripts are written in a 5.5″x8.5″ Strathmore sketchbook. That way, as I’m writing the dialogue or action cues, I can thumbnail it at the same time if needed. I write way ahead of the production line, for example, my scripts were written up through March 2013 when I was producing for August 2012. I do my pencils in a 9″x12″ Strathmore sketchpad, without physical boxes. I draw the scene or panel with dialogue, which is either left as is, or tightened up if it is long winded and ruins the beat of the particular page. I’ll pencil 2 or 3 weeks at a time, then scan them into photoshop at 600dpi grayscale. I then pull up the matching template based on the number of boxes needed (I have a ton of templates for all of my box combos as well as a blank template for just the work area if I need to have a custom panel layout) then cut and paste from pencil scans into the template, which were created at 600dpi RGB. I’ll do this for usually one week at a time (5 strips) then ink that week, color, shade and letter. Depending on my client project schedule (which lately has been empty), I’ll move to the next week until all my pencils are completed as final, resized images, which I save for the web with standard comicpress name format and upload all work completed. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    Once I see I am getting close to the end of the written scripts, I pull out my story arc notes (or just wing it from memory on where I want to take it in the grand scheme) and write for a few months more.

    That’s the process I’ve used for the past 4 years at least. No more I’ll write and produce when the muse strikes me…lol and the system works for me to keep me in a buffer. Someday maybe it’ll pay off as I’ve conditioned myself to keep to a self-imposed deadline.

    • I’ve been moving towards a more blocked schedule myself – I think there are a lot of advantages to doing 2-3 weeks of work at a time like you do. It definitely makes going back and correcting things easier!

  2. That’s a REALLY cool idea to make a “dummy book” like that. I’ve never seen anyone do that before but it’s really smart for page spreads! Honestly I’ve never even thought about making a spread for any of my comics and that’s unfortunate because spreads can do a lot for the story. So thanks for reminding me that spreads CAN exist in webcomics. haha ๐Ÿ˜€

    As for my process, I have Composition books of a variety of colors and prints so that each of my comic story ideas has a different one. I write down all of the random ideas I get in pen so that I won’t erase any of it. I really like keeping everything I don’t use in a story because it’s fun to see how stories have evolved over the years of writing it before the final “draft”. I don’t really write a script, I write it out more like as if it was a book. Then I do thumbnails in the composition books and sketch the page in blue pencil and trace over that with a normal pencil with more detail. Scan it, ink it in photoshop, etc until it’s finished.

    • It’s definitely a struggle to make certain tools of the comic trade work in a webcomic setting. Spreads in particular can often get lost, or are awkwardly delivered. Using the “dummy book” has helped me bring those elements back into my books in a subtle way, that still works on a website format.

      I like writing in pen too! It makes it feel more permanent – if I make a mistake, it’s there, and I have to move on.

  3. I always draw my characters naked to start with for the same reasons… it also entertains my teenage son. But you need the have the anatomy right first, then you can “dress” the characters as needed. I find if you try to draw the clothes first, you can get the angles or motion incorrect. So, draw them nudes and get it right the first time!

    Great insight Robin!

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