Johnny Saturn Cover Production Part 2

by Scott Story

Hello! My name is Scott Story, and I’m an author and artist from the Midwest. I’m probably best known as the artist and co-writer of Johnny Saturn, but you might have seen my work in any number of indie comics over the years. In this installment, I am continuing my demonstration for how I created the cover for my third graphic novel, Johnny Saturn: Intelligent Redesign.


I’m usually an old-school inker. I’m most satisfied when I’m using a Windsor & Newton Series 7 brush, my crowquill pen, my India ink, and I get to make a mess everywhere. I’m a traditional pen and ink guy these days, but I’ve got comic book inking in my soul! I’ve heard it said that you never leave comics completely, that you will always get drawn back in. The same goes for Inking comics. It’s not a matter of sophistication, because the great comic inkers of old produced very detailed, nuanced art.

Digression: I also really love Pentel brush pens, and I use a variety of traditional dip pens as well. I’ve even taken to using glass pens!

For this picture took a different path. It’s large format made inking by hand cumbersome, so I opted to scan in these drawings and ink them in Clip Studio. This wonderful software was called Manga Studio back then, but it’s still the same thing. I was a hardcore Adobe Photoshop guy for many years, but Clip Studio is awesome, and it’s expressly designed for the type of work comic artists and many illustrators produce.

As I mentioned, these pictures were ungainly, but in Clip Studio was able to use the vector tools to lay down and tweek all my lines.

The inking approach I took for this drawing was very open and simple, without a lot of shadow, heavy ink, or feathering, because this was going to be a color piece, and I didn’t want the inks and colors to fight each other. Dense, highly rendered coloring over dense, highly detailed inks looks like crap. Hyper-detailed ink art is great, but it looks better with a simpler color palette and far less rendering. This illustration was going to be fully rendered.


This is the stage were you define each color’s outlines, making it easier for the colorist to select correct areas for the rendering. For me, this is also the time when I choose the exact colors I want. For comics, I believe if you pick the right hues, then the inked picture should look almost complete. I’m a big fan of Silver Age comics, when the ink-work ruled and the colorist didn’t work with gradiants, but had to let the flat colors help tell the story based on their own merit. The color artist really had to know his color theory, but when it worked, it worked beautifully.

digression 2: There are many great colorists working in comics today, but I think they are the exceptions. Most modern colorists are good with computers, but they seem to know little about depth, contrast, or the color symbolismc. I sorry to say that, but . . .

These flats were laid in Clip Studio. It used to be a more laborious job, using the lasso to define each color group, but the Clip Studio creators have simplified and streamlined the process.

As you may see from the illustration above, I put down the darker colors first because I intended to work from dark to light. That’s pretty standard for most colorists these days. Another common method is starting with the middle or “mother color,” and then working in several levels of shade, then several levels of highlight–I guess you could say those artists work from the middle out! I think every colorist has his own way of doing things.

Next Time-Rendering & Compositing

Scott Story

Scott describes himself as an author, artist, medievalist, mentor, musician, publisher, introvert, and historian, not necessarily in that order. So far he has published dozens of comics, multiple graphic novels, and prose novels, and he has contributed art to scores of comic publishers and and multiple prose anthologies.