The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed
The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed - Coming in December and available for pre-order now
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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground

    Join Date
    Sep 2007

    Default How is the comic created, technically?

    So, I realize this topic may be very esoteric for the general readers of this forum, but I figured it's still the best location for these questions. Probably only the Giant can answer these, but I'm good with seeing some speculation, too.

    In a technically detailed sense, how does the Giant produce the comic? I'm not talking about the story plotting or the joke writing, but rather the process of converting those ideas into curves and color. I've been using Illustrator for over a decade now, but I've never had any formal training and I still find it amazing that it only takes 2-3 hours (according to the FAQ) to produce each comic. Some questions I'm curious about:

    I know that the Giant uses Illustrator, and that one of the reasons for the typeface change was that his old computer died and the older version of Illustrator no longer worked. Was the old version something like Illustrator 9 on a Mac, or something older? Is the comic currently produced using Illustrator CC, or something slightly older like CS6?

    Is Illustrator the only application used (with a final export to PNG), or is there ever an occasional touch-up in Photoshop or the like? I could see maybe Photoshop used for the Order of the Scribble, for example.

    It'd be insane if the character were redrawn for every panel, so I have to assume that there's some copy-pasting of large libraries of characters and monsters. Are the characters stored as swatches, symbols, or brushes?

    What's the granularity of the character designs? For example, when the Giant decides that he wants to, say, show Roy looking bemused, does he pull out a blank-faced Roy from the character-body library and a bemused-face from the face library? Or does he have a Roy library with dozens of different Roy expressions? Does the Roy library contain naked Roys with a separate library for Roy clothing, or is he armored in all of them?

    About how many layers go into the production? I'd assume balloons/foreground/background at the very least, but sound effects and things go into different layers. Photoshop allows for "Layer Comps", which is a great way to see certain sets of layers, but Illustrator doesn't, which makes previewing and combining layers a pain.

    Obviously the panels need to mask the artwork so that character legs and the like don't stick out of the bottom of the panels when they're near the edge. Are the panel masks done all in one pass at the end, or are they done panel-by-panel?

    How are color effects done, especially for when characters are in shadow and the like? Is there a separate library of "characters in shadow", or is there some sort of overall transparent filter?

    Is the comic one file per page, or something trickier? I know that Illustrator does a really horrible job dealing with multiple-page documents, so how does stuff get compiled into the books? Acrobat? InDesign?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jul 2019

    Default Re: How is the comic created, technically?

    I don’t know much of this but I’d bet good money on that 2-3 hours number being a few hours behind since the various art upgrades (I do believe he’s said that it does take longer draw after he did the major art improvement for Utterly Dwarfed).
    Spoiler: Read this if I've posted a theory in the post above

    Quote Originally Posted by Schroeswald View Post
    I recognize that Conservation of Detail is Overrated, but I find the event that I am using as evidence for my theory above important enough/given enough focus to qualify for what I call Elan’s Exception, “Who wastes perfectly good foreshadowing like that?”. Also I have never correctly predicted any event in any piece of media so take this theory with a grain of salt (I call this Peelee’s Ye Old Reminder).

    Quote Originally Posted by Squire Doodad View Post
    "A sufficiently big wedge of cheese is indistinguishable from an aircraft."

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