The art for CATAPULTED has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It took me months to draw all the pages, and I wasn’t skilled or experienced enough to colour the comic. I’ve been working hard to improve my artistic skills and I’ve recently completed a new poster for CATAPULTED. I hope you enjoy this breakdown of my creative process.

Choice of Tools

I would love to draw traditionally and create physically unique pieces of art for covers and internal pages. I’ve done it before with the original cover of CATAPULTED and I love having it in my collection. However, it can take me ages to complete and I worry so much about making mistakes or ruining good progress that I hesitate to relax and focus on experimenting or feeling the art.

As a result, I almost exclusively draw digitally. I made a blog post a while back discussing my current digital tool, which is the Samsung Tab S8+. The S8+ has a better screen than the S8 and at the time of purchase, was better value for money than the Ultra (which is also less portable). The tablet uses Wacom technology, therefore making some of the Wacom Pens compatible. It’s been a little-known secret that the Wacom One Pen is compatible with most of the recent S-Series tablets, including the S8/S8+. The tablet and pen are very precise and responsive, making them a great combination for artists.

Clip Studio Pro is my program of choice. I’ve been using it for years and I think it’s reasonably priced. It’s also specifically designed for comic/manga creators.

Rough Sketch

I start with an idea. Sometimes I have a very high-level idea, and other times it’s more detailed. This one started out as a high-level idea. I knew I wanted to draw a pinup or poster of Yubkin and Fifi in a simple pose. So I start to create a rough sketch. I do this using one of the default pencil tools in Clip Studio Pro. I draw rough outlines of basic shapes I want to use and then fill them in as I go along.

I like to keep it simple during this stage, so most of my sketches consist only of shapes and lines. This helps me stay focused on what needs to be done next—and keeps me from getting distracted by other parts of the picture. If I’m drawing certain shapes in perspective, I use the shape tools in Clip Studio rather than spend lots of time trying to do it freehand. An example of this is the elliptical circles for the helmet base.

After I have a rough sketch, I start to refine it. This involves adding more detail and making sure all of the elements are in place visually. For this piece, I wanted the focus on the character’s faces, in particular the face of the cat. In this rough sketch, both characters are looking up, putting them in equal focus (in my mind anyway). I later change this so that the cat is looking directly at the reading, hopefully holding the gaze of the viewer for a little longer than usual.

It’s normal to sketch out a few different versions of my design before making any final decisions. This helps me get a sense of what works best visually and gives me time to think about how each decision affects the overall look of the art. I also try to not get too attached to this stage. I often get disappointed at how the picture is looking because it’s nowhere near what I have in my head. If this happens to you too, don’t panic! You’re not alone, it’s quite normal and part of the process.


Once I’m moderately happy with my chosen idea and rough pencils, I move on to the inks. Sometimes my pencils are very tight and I’m inking clean lines over rough ones. Other times my drawings are more like scribbles with many parts of the drawing that need reworking. This was one of those times. I select a brush that resembles a fine-liner pen and I begin to ink. The software allows me to draw in the same way I would on paper, with the added benefit of layers. For this piece, I must have inked it about four times, each time on a different layer. I used different layers for Yubkin’s face, his space suit, and his helmet.  This helped me to build up the detail slowly and contrast any artistic decisions I made along the way. I’m essentially redrawing parts of the picture over and over until I’m happy with it. Then I combine the inks into one single layer for tidiness.

I wanted to make sure this was visually appealing as a black-and-white image. To achieve this I made sure to use a good amount of black in the artwork. There are shadows in the hair, the inner part of the helmet rim, and on the cat. I tried to use more black in the cosmonaut suit to indicate shadow but I didn’t like the way it was beginning to look. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m heavily influenced by Travis Charest and his work on WildCATS series 2. I like the idea of rendering most of the shadows with line work rather than doing this at the colouring stage. Sean Gordon Murphy is also another artist I like that works this way.

I took my time with this stage and completed it over a week (drawing casually in the evenings most days).


Flat colour is the first step to colouring comic book art. These are the flat colours without shadows and highlights to fill the line art. I pick colours that closely resemble the colours I want to use but I’m not too picky as I can easily adjust the hue, saturation and luminosity later on in the settings. Flat colour shapes on their own layer make it easier to select areas of the drawing in later stages of the process.

Once I lay down colours, I can easily see if I’m choosing garish colour selections (which is what usually happens). Sometimes I’ll even use a palette website like Coolors, to help me select more complimentary colours. I’ll use tonal correction tools to adjust the hue, saturation and luminosity to achieve my final base colour selection. This part of the process doesn’t usually take too long.

Background & Texture

It took me a while to figure out how to add texture to my work. I got the idea from Matt Hollingsworth, an amazing comic colourist who often works with Sean Gordon Murphy. Matt used to have lots of helpful videos on YouTube but sadly, he’s removed most of them. One of those videos described in detail how he used texture while colouring. He achieved this by painting and spraying separate pieces of paper and scanning these at a decent resolution. This provides a selection of textures to layer up and add to your artwork.

I bought some cheap mist and spray tools from my local art shop and mixed up some blue acrylic wash. I randomly sprayed some paper, trying to create variations of dense textures. I then scanned these into my computer. After importing them into my art project, I set them to ‘screen’ mode. I used the digital spray tool on a separate layer and then clipped it to a textured layer. This gives it more of a gritty feel when compared to just laying spray on a normal layer. Another way to use these scanned textures is to set a layer colour or gradient. I tried to pick complimentary colours and played around with different combinations until I was happy with the result. I think I even duplicated some of the texture layers so that I could experiment with colours and opacities.

I made an Instagram reel showing the process briefly here (I’m terrible at making these). Below are the textures I created (if anyone wants a copy of these, leave a comment and I’ll put them up DeviantArt for download). Spray bottles on paper are just one idea of texture. Rough paint brushes, sponges, really anything can create a texture. Matt had a folder of homemade references he had collected over the years that he could use. This is the start of my collection.

Final Touches

To finish off this piece, I use separate layers to add-in shadows and highlights. I also add in a layer for glow effects around the characters. I try to not go over the top with shadows and highlights. One of my pet peeves in comic book art is when a colour artist adds dark colour over ink line renderings so that they are no longer visible. In my opinion, a good artist has already done the hard work of indicating light sources and shadows. A better choice would be to use a lighter colour so that the black lines feathering can show through. I tried to do that in this piece. I think I could have gone even lighter with colours to increase the contrast between the colours and inked lines. But at some point, I have to mark a piece as finished and move on to something new.

I hope you enjoyed this short breakdown. Keep an eye out for new art coming in early 2023!