Whaleocalypse 028

People ask me pretty often how this comic is made, so I I thought this week I'd take a moment to explain the process. I sort of assume that the reader knows photoshop terminology for this, but you can probably get the gist either way.

The comic is made almost entirely in photoshop, though the characters and props are initially hand drawn. So I start by drawing the animals, occasionally pulling tutorials from this book by Lee J. Ames. The dolphin and the killer whale are the only characters so far for which I've used that book.

Then I scan it using an HP Photosmart C3180 and open it in photoshop

Usually, I cut out the drawing with a knife, but truth be told the photoshop wand tool does a much better job of this. In this case I removed the background digitally. I adjust the levels and use the stamp/clone tool to touch up the line work. I used to agonize doing this step with a pen, drawing and redrawing the shape to get it perfect. Like background removal, I've come to find that photoshop is simply better at that task.

I set the layer containing the line art to blend mode "Multiply" and create a solid fill layer beneath it. Then I mask the layer to remove the parts I don't need. Here's that layer on it's own.

And then all together:

At this point, much of the art I need has already been drawn and scanned for previous strips. I went through this same process for the seafloor, the starfish, and the main whale John (who btw is named for John the Evangelist, who wrote the Book of Revelations). I assemble these layers in photoshop, adding shadows and textures where necessary. These documents are fairly complex, trending over 100 layers--I do a pretty poor job of keeping them organized in the layers panel.

I draw the word bubbles using the marquee tool, then warp the shape to fit the text better, and distort the edge to give it a more "papery" feel using a custom displacement map I created previously. The font is called Axe Hand which you can download free. I'm not crazy about the punctuation characters in Axe Hand, so I go through the text and change every comma, apostrophe, and quotation mark to Times New Roman--I guess it's sort of an odd thing to do, but I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to typography, and it never takes more than 5 minutes.

The stary sky in the background is a photograph taken by the hubble telescope of the Large Magellanic Cloud. You can read a little about it here. The red glow is just a soft red brush at low opacity. Occasionally I'll also add vector shapes that I draw in photoshop, like the desk in this strip, or the socks in this strip. I upload the strip to this site, which runs on the free comicpress plugin for wordpress.


Hello, I’m here about the whale job.
Thanks for coming in, let’s just jump right into the interview.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Standing over your lifeless body.
Wow, skipping right to threats I see.

Did I say lifeless body, I meant hairless body.

That’s somehow even worse.


You know that orcas aren't whales, right?
They are actually the largest member of the dolphin family.

Heh. If you're going to correct somebody, make sure you're actually correct.

yes, dolphins belong to a suborder of toothed whales, but orcas do belong to the oceanic dolphin family. if you wanna get nitpicky about it.

Matt Korostoff's picture

Without offering any additional thoughts on the dolphin/whale controversy, I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that my comments now appear in Cornflower Blue

Orcas are both whales and dolphins. They are under the order Cetacea (derived from the Greek word for whales), and family Delphinidae (it sounds like dolphins). Looking at the syntax of it, scwaloha's argument was that orcas are NOT whales and ONLY dolphins. Matt's argument was that orcas indeed were whales and mentioned nothing about dolphins. Therefore, he is correct.

And we've now demonstrated that everyone can use wikipedia.

Nah, I just know because it I researched the orcas for an endangered species project I did for Biology in high school. :P

See, that's why you interview RESIDENT orcas. Transient ones tend to eat first, ask questions later.

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