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The making of North 40 - by: Fiona Staples

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I did a few quick character designs for the original pitch for NORTH 40, over a year and a half ago- the look of the characters, as well as my actual drawing style, have changed a bit since then!

North 40 comic sheriff

North 40 comic

North 40 zombies

North 40 girl

North 40 Wyatt


When I'm giving one of Aaron's scripts the first read-through, I usually do tiny thumbnails in the margins, mainly to figure out panel placement. Then I do slightly larger and more detailed thumbnails, about 4" high, which are sent to the editor for approval. I like to have the panel, crop and bleed lines on my layouts to help with panel placement, so I photocopy batches of 8.5" x 11" paper with little layout guides to use.

I also try to work out caption and speech balloon placements in this stage. Even though I'm not the letterer I need to remind myself how much space to leave for balloons.

North 40 comic layout


I work in Photoshop so there are no literal pencils or inks- I just start drawing and then refine it until it looks right. First I paste in my thumbnail sketch and enlarge it, then draw using that as a guide, also looking at photo reference for most things.

North 40 comic


Setting my lineart layer to "multiply," I work underneath it and paint everything in grey tones. Generally I start by filling the panel with a gradient to indicate the direction of the light, then I paint everything its natural value (i.e., white cups, light skin, mid-grey for a red shirt). On a new multiply layer, usually at 25-35% opacity, I use black to put in the shadows. Finally, on a layer set to either "normal" or "screen" I paint in the highlights.

North 40 page


This is the fastest and easiest part because most of my colouring has been done in the grey tones stage. After flattening the image, I create a new layer overtop set to "color" and paint in the hues.

North 40

Find out more about Fiona on her website:

Comment on the making of North 40.


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