Back for another of our Design Cuts Live sessions was Scott Serkland, the creative mastermind behind the art lab Serkworks. With his skills as an illustrator and graphic designer, Scott has built a resource for evil geniuses looking for everything they might need to carry out their 'nefarious plans'. Serkworks is the first of its kind - a "mad science supply company". Curious about what that means? Make sure to watch the replay of our session to learn how Scott created a comic strip in Photoshop and Illustrator with his very own mad science/retro-future tools.

Set the Grid

Choose a four-panel layout for the comic strip on Illustrator. Save a copy to avoid overwriting the master file. Add a new layer on top to begin working on the template.

The first thing to do is decide on how many panels you wish to have. Create a comic strip by grabbing the rectangle tool. Set the interior to none. 

When working with a four-panel grid for comics, use a structure. These work best even with Instagram or newspapers. Enlarge one of the panels so it's essentially three panels but it's following the four panels.

Pro tip: For this, you can also use Procreate or Photoshop. However, the advantageous thing about using Illustrator is that you can build sprites. So when you design a character, you can build pieces of that character and then reuse those to save time.

Create another layer to avoid over-writing on the panels. One of the most important things with the comic strips is the actual writing. It’s a three-act structure, like a movie, but condensed into three or four panels.

Brainstorm the whole concept of blue sky to lead to great ideas. Then weave everything together like a song.

Add Sketches

Draw sketches separately and then drag-drop them on the main composition panel. See the references of sketches below.

Resize them and use them as assets. Duplicate them to change facial expressions. 

Add character expression guides from the Comic Book World Builder, which is available for Photoshop and Illustrator.

Add facial expressions such as eyebrows for expression. Add contraption and resize it, allowing you to generate a joke or a punchline. Duplicate to add more contraption.

Use the Clip Studio Paint Brush to make the cartoons. It's specifically made for creating comics but you could also use Illustrator to get different line weights. Use the Pro or the Blob Brush for pressure sensitivity to get a different line weight and one solid weight at the same time. Create outlines using the same brush and check for pressure sensitivity.

Add a Background

Get rid of the existing layers to add a background. Choose from over a bunch of backgrounds from the Comic Book World Builder. You can click on the foreground and background to get an outdoor comic look.

If you want to do an outer space comic, there are outer space backgrounds to choose from. These are the exteriors in the builder. There are also a bunch of interior backgrounds in Photoshop and Illustrator, including PNGs.

You can also choose assets from the background and use them as assets on the main composition.

Add Content

Pick a font from the Comic Book World Builder and the Comic Maker Toolkit and write the dialogues. Use the Pool Box Font at the top. You can put them in boxes and use all capital letters.

Add word balloons to place the text into a box or a balloon. You can also use bursts or pop balloons for the composition to manipulate and better use the words.

Choose from over a number of balloon tails and add on the balloon. This adds attention and also makes it look attractive.

Use the word blows to point as close to the character's mouth as possible. Follow the curvature of the tail that’s pointing to the mouth. Use different assets and drag them.

Add human elements and touch such as that shown in the reference image below.

Add Sound Effects

Choose Sound Effects and go to Illustrator. By adding sound effects, it adds more character to the comic. Choose from a variety of sound effects and use them on the composition or drag and drop them.

Resize and angle them to what best fits in the box.

Add Different Assets

As part of different assets, create all kinds of different hands. For example, if in one panel his hands are straight then you can angle them in a different direction and use it. If you've got a cast of characters that you're creating, do your characters from different angles because different views have different expressions.

Pro tip: Illustrator is independent of any resolution. So, if you’re using Procreate, Photoshop, Clip Studio or a Raster-based program, even though you're most likely going to be publishing to the web, just make sure that you're working at a high resolution.

Finally, make final adjustments and add color if required.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully learned how to create a comic strip in Photoshop and Illustrator.