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The making of The God Machine - by: Chandra Free

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God Machine comic

Greetings and salutations, Chandra here. Weíre about ready to go over my very odd, and very rough way I write and make a comic page for The God Machine! [coming out this October 28th, from Archaia.]

When it comes to writing I have a very specific process in which I do it- Since Iím an artist foremost, I work from a pure visual standpoint and work with dialog at the same time. I tend to work from a rough concept of what I want to happen in the issue. I keep it loose so I have plenty of room to improvise and change things on the fly. This leads to keeping the material fresh and organic every time I return to it. I combine both my visuals and words to make the rough draft...

God Machine comic

As you can see from my rough draft Iím focused on the characterís emotions, and basic dialog. I get a feel for what will be said in what panels, but without figuring out the page layout just yet. (That comes later.) Much will change from this, but the idea is to just write and draw as the words and images come to me. Itís very similar to what they tell you about writing- just write! No matter if itís flawed, includes grammar errors, makes no sense, etc. just getting the ideas on paper is the important part.

Now onto the script phase! Taking all of what I wrote in the rough draft, I bring it into a word file. I dump out ideas that donít work, refine others, and construct things to work in a more logical manner that works with the plot. Also I start to figure out panels, and approximate how many panels will fit on a page. (I do this by grouping dialog into one section, and put a space between the next grouping of dialog.) After that, Iíll print out the script, do edits, and have others look over it for errors. Itís not finished just yet, but itís probably going to be close to what the final will be. This is important since now we want to take that and figure out our basic layout for a page.

(Note: My script formatting is usually just for myself so I tend to leave out 'some' action because I usually understand this intrinsically.)

God Machine character

Before we can dive into a page I need to figure out some basic stuff like costume changes. I like to have my characters dressed in different clothes to keep that sense of reality and personality for each character, regardless if they wear clothing thatís similar to what they wore before. I donít need much in the way of detail, just a basic idea to take to final. (Note: Now if the scene required backgrounds, Iíd also do those as rough sketches, but for this page, we donít need any real background elements.)


Now on to the thumbnail. My thumbnails vary. They can be very sketchy, just a few lines, to lots of detail. It all depends on the scene. The basic idea is to figure out the page layout and where things are going to go on the big comic page. This is just a very rough idea mind you, I usually still change up things when I put my final lines on comic paper. Working on a larger scale can change the way you look at composition or you have a better idea of how things should work.


God Machine comic

Now weíre ready to start our actual comic page. I use Blue Line brand comic pages to help me approximate where my bleeds are and where to put my word bubbles within the right areas. Much like the thumbnail, I do a rough sketch of the entire page. Putting down elements, and figuring out how to use the space effectively. I also approximate how big the bubbles need to be for the text based on my script as well, though they donít have to be spot on due to the magic of Photoshop. (Note:You can re-size the bubbles later, or adjust the text to fit within the bubbles.)

Now, I try to retain some energy in my sketches, keeping things fresh and lively. (Note: that I donít bring in rulers for this process. I figure things out intuitively. I donít recommend this process, in fact Iím pretty sure itís deemed ďcrazyĒ in some circles.)


God Machine comic

So weíve gone through our rough pencils, itís now time to flesh them out.

I made changes throughout, refining where I want things, and putting in expressions. Again, for these pencils, I didnít need a ruler. I was going for a look that the whole page works as one giant puzzle, with shapes interlocking.
With a lilí erasing, and tightening of the pencils itís ready to be scanned in.

(Note: I do not do inks. Iím not the best at inking [plus it takes me forever to do], and I enjoy the look of my pencils so much more.)

God Machine comic

After scanning, I take out artifacts (eraser shavings, dots, etc.), remove the blue marks from the comic page [Photoshop: replace color], and adjust the levels/contrast/brightness (Note: This is how we get a darker and stronger line, much like inks!) Also I go in with white to thin some lines (last minute line weighting), clean up lines, and whatever needs adjusting. I sometimes redraw things in Photoshop as well.

In this particular page, iíve used the ďtransformĒ option for my character Good God in the upper left hand corner, and made her face bigger. This helps make the panel bigger which adjusts the balance of the page, making the upper corner top heavy. This helps direct your eye to the first panel on the page. Iíve also done the same to the lower right hand corner panel to help balance the weighting. Remember kids, Photoshop is your friend!


God Machine comic

After I have my line work, itís time to pull the lines away from the page. Now, my husband made me a VERY useful Photoshop action that does exactly that. Itís full of magic- magic that I couldnít explain, but itís rather cool. Under this line art, I lay down my texture[s] and base color scheme I want to come through all of the page. I function as a painter when it comes to my pages- my goal is to have that uniformity in color that lends itís self to the general mood of the the scene and page composition.


God Machine comic

I lay down base colors to get a feel for what I want for my characters color scheme- plus some shading. (Note: Iím rather sporadic when it comes to this. I tend to go for skin tones and hair first. Itís usually what I find most interesting.)

God Machine comic

I further add colors and now some detail work and just build up on the colors, getting a feel for mood and what the situations of the characters are going through. I work under the line art layer, and vaguely on top of it at this point.

Of course I refine the image, adding more details on top of the line art area, and still working under that for a more complete look to the page, all while maintaining a very painterly look, with flares of digital. (Note: A page for me will probably have anywhere between 30-80 layers in Photoshop. I try to have closer to 40 if I can help it, but sometimes a project gets to be rather intense.)


God Machine comic

Ta-da! Almost finished page!

Now itís time to tie everything together.

I tighten up the script, get my friends to edit my latest draft of it, get others to edit that draft, then make sure it all makes sense, and then I can finally bring it into Photoshop and letter my pages. (Note: Not shown.)

Thatís essentially ďkindaĒ how I make a God Machine comic page. Sometimes my process varies based on page, or how Iím feeling that day. -I know, itís a little crazy, but this process works best for me, and keeps things interesting!


I hope you guys out there found this useful!

-Chandra Free


P.S. Don't forget, The God Machine: Special Preview Edition comes out this October 28th! It's the full first chapter of the epic tale! It even includes some bonus bio pages. This is just a little treat before we get to the graphic novel which comes out the first quarter of 2010! (Published by Archaia)

Be sure you pre-order yourself a copy! Just print out this:
and take it to your local comic shop!

Or pre-order it online:

You have til August 31st to Pre-order it!

Comment on the making of The God Machine.


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