So I recently completed a draft cover for Catapulted and I realized I didn’t add an entry on my blog. So here is the process I went through from concept to pencils, to inks and finally colors with some notes on the process.

It’s always good to start with thumbnails. Get ideas down quickly to see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes I’ll do this digitally, but most of the time I do this in a sketch book. After a few ideas I might do a slightly more detailed thumbnail just to get a better idea of a final version might look. Here are a few ideas I had.

Currently I still pencil and ink traditionally. For me there is still something about pen and ink that shines through in the finished product. Digital methods are improving but I find it much easier to see the size of the paper and then work out composition and contrast etc. I do have my eye on the new Wacom MobileStudio Pro tablet but until I have saved a little more I’m sticking with traditional methods. Sometimes I keep pencils loose but often I mess up the inks because I’m not experienced enough at inking. This time I tried to keep the pencils fairly tight so that I’m not making random lines that will affect the final piece negatively. Maybe with more experience I’ll be able to have looser lines.

Inking is a skill in itself and people dedicate themselves to inking with great results. I ink with anything and everything. Brushes for large areas of black, technical pens for fine areas and smaller brushes for certain textures or for giving lines a little more life. I was pleased with how it came out although I think I could have beefed up some of the outlines a little more. I used a combination of inks I have been storing for years, cheap Black India Ink from an art shop and some Chinese calligraphy ink from a shop in China town. I mix them together in a separate bottle. Beware however, when mixing inks. India ink is best when it dries to a water resistant finish. This is good if you want to draw over the ink after, e.g. using white pen, paint or pencils (something I’ll write about a bit more in a future post on a certain commission I had).

Now comes another area that I’m still learning, coloring. I scan my inks in 2 parts using an A4 printer (scanning at 300 dpi) and then manually stitch it together using Manga Studio 5.0. I clean up the page removing smudges and unintended marks. The next step is to turn this into true line art, black lines with a transparent background, as opposed to and black and white image. Manga Studio 5 has neat feature to do this called Convert brightness to opacity under the Edit  menu. Works very nicely.


After adding a separate white background layer, I then add flat colors trying to pick out colors close to what I want but not spending too long on selection. Then I add a textured background underneath the picture add some texture. Then I select each area of flat color and adjust the hue and saturation to get it more in line with what I want. Add some separate layers for low-lights and high-lights (which makes edits easier) and another layer for text and I have a colored image.


I used a great color wheel tool from Adobe to help me select colors. A lot is involved in color theory but I experimented with the Triad and Complimentary color rules to see what colors “go” together.

What is Catapulted about if you haven’t heard about it? Let me try and hook you in…
In the 50’s various world super powers were competing to get into space and eventually get to the moon. In particular USA and Russia competed fiercely and diverted a lot of money and energy in accomplishing this. In the early days of testing, before using human astronauts/cosmonauts, animals were used.
USA sent chimps.
Russia sent dogs.
and France…

They sent cats. For real.

Why did they send cats? I’m not exactly sure, maybe it was to establish themselves apart from the US and Soviet efforts. As far as I can gather one poor cat was actually sent up for a very short space trip and then came back to earth successfully, only to be dissected and studied afterwards. Poor kitty.

Often the cats went through a grueling training process. Cats were conditioned to live in small and enclosed spaces, they were suited in special spacesuits witch monitored their health conditions and were subjugated to various tests that would simulate launch and reentry conditions (compression chambers, centrifuges and rocket propelled sleds).

Here is where I take a little artistic license with history. It’s also fairly well known that there were many Soviet cosmonauts that went into space and didn’t quite make it back. This is also featured in Catapulted. We see how our feline protagonist makes it to space, using its instincts to survive the perils of space travel as well as how our feline interacts with many humans during its preparation and journey. There is much more to this 4 issue miniseries however I don’t want to give too much away.

If I had to compare this book to another I would say I am aiming for something similar to Chrononauts (by Mark Miller and Sean Gordon Murphy) in terms of feel and story. A fun short story that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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In the mean time here are some cats in simulated zero gravity.