Hello everyone! It’s Phoebe here, the resident graphic designer at Megan Nielsen Patterns :) Today i’ll be sharing about the process of illustrating a sewing truths comic!
You might have seen me before in the MN Team intros and on the Instagram feed, but I’m more a team member who works behind the scenes, working on pattern packaging and the visual marketing of the brand. What I love about my job are the opportunities I get to be creative with my work! I’ve loved drawing since I was a kid, and the wonderful team here has encouraged me to practice using my illustration skills in my work.
A few months ago, Meg gave me an idea to illustrate a Sewing Truths comic as part of our Durban sewing pattern release. It was a story about the woes of wearing a jumpsuit and needing to visit a public restroom. It’s a situation which, after seeing all your hilarious comments, many of us can relate to!
I still consider myself a beginner in sewing, so you don’t see me around much here on the blog. But since the Durban comic received so much love from our community, Meg gave me the opportunity to share a bit more about it here and give you a little insight to my process of making the comic!
I’ll start by giving you a brief background about myself and how I learned to draw digitally. From a young age my family encouraged me to take up craft hobbies, and drawing traditionally (using traditional methods such as paint, pencil, charcoal, etc.) was my favourite past time over many years. It wasn’t until late high school that I discovered digital artists through Youtube and online art communities, and watching their process videos inspired me to get myself a drawing tablet and draw digitally too!
What I like about drawing digitally is that I can experiment with different art styles using different digital brushes and textures. And I’m able to turn my illustrations into cool things like prints, stickers and keychains! In the past, I needed a computer, a drawing tablet and Photoshop to draw. Now with the growing interest in digital art and improved softwares, I use the Procreate app on my iPad and it’s my favourite alternative right now, because it’s like drawing directly on paper with a pencil. I can pop my digital canvas in my bag and take it with me anywhere I go!
I’ve only ever drawn short comics on paper as a kid, so drawing a comic digitally was something new. It turned out to be a really fun experience, and I’ll dive right into my process with you now!
Planning the Story
When it came to planning out the illustration, I immediately thought of making a four panel comic strip, which is a comic format that is frequently used to draw comedic situations within 4 images/panels. This was the first time illustrating a four panel comic, but planning it out was quite an easy process! Here was my rough idea:
Panel 1: A girl wearing her Durban jumpsuit, having a good time and showing off what she made.
Panel 2: Needing to go take a bathroom break. Everything goes as per usual…
Panel 3: …Until she realises she can’t just take off her bottoms!
Panel 4: She ends up sitting on the loo quite naked. Whoops!
Usually I would do some rough sketches on paper first when I draw as it helps me plan the overall layout of the finished illustration. But when Meg and I were chatting about the woes of jumpsuits and bathroom breaks the comic kind of put itself together in my head already! So I went straight to sketching the comic on my iPad.
Visualising the Story
The sketch stage is where I visually plan how the story will take place. Sketches are intended to be rough and I usually draw stick figures first to get poses right, before drawing full figures. I wanted to keep the focus on the girl and the jumpsuit, so I was going to keep the background simple and use speech bubbles to indicate there are other characters in this scene without needing to use space to draw them.
As you can see in my sketch process above, I started drawing backwards from the 3rd panel. There’s no reason for it really, I just had that panel image come into my head clearer than the others. Personal experience may have kicked in and helped create the scene!
I’ve only ever owned one romper and I don’t remember if I’ve ever worn it long enough to need a bathroom break in public. However, I’ve always loved wearing overalls and there have been many “UH OH” moments where I get into the stall, look at the toilet, and realise I need a PLAN to get my pants off without letting the straps or any part of the garment touch the floor! I drew the girl’s face with what I imagined my expression was like in those situations.
Cleaning up with Lineart
The next stage in the process is refining the sketch to a clean illustration, or what artists refer to as the lineart/line art. You can see in the below graphic that I lowered the opacity of the sketch (in red) and drew over the sketch with a bold black brush. This is where the illustration becomes more fleshed out and objects begin got take a more defined form.
Changes can still happen at this stage! I redid some poses and I pulled in a stock image of a toilet as a reference to draw the girl sitting down in the fourth panel. Using references is all part of the drawing process. It can make drawing poses and objects easier, especially if you haven’t had much experience drawing such things. It’s similar to drawing from life, except you don’t need that object physically to be in front of you to reference it. Very handy!
Bringing Colour into the Story
Now for the fun part…colouring! There wasn’t a particular colour scheme set for this illustration. It was more a process of choosing colours that would fit with the story and look good together overall. You can see in the colouring process that I changed the background colours of the 3rd and 4th panel, then changed the colours of the girl’s hair and outfit.
My train of thought was to make sure you, as the viewer, can tell that our girl has moved into a different environment (from outside to inside the bathroom stall). Changing the background colour is the simplest non-verbal way to indicate that, but I thought the new colour clashed a little with the girl’s then pink hair. The girl’s new colour scheme was just a product of making her stand out more than the background.
Another subtle colour use is in the outlines of the speech bubbles. I used different outline colours, and a lighter text colour, to indicate the background character voices apart from our protagonist. Also, the overall colour tone of the comic is light and bright, which fits the silly and lighthearted atmosphere of the story.
I hope this comic gave you a chuckle and that you enjoyed reading about the process of illustrating a sewing truths comic! It was quite exciting to write about something I drew, because it’s usually all thought out in my head and rarely ever written down. Are you someone who likes to draw as well?
Thank you all for your lovely responses and jumpsuit stories, and I hope to bring more comics to you in future :)