Thursday, September 28, 2017

An Introduction To Working in Batch: Watercolor Basics

Before we go much further into Watercolor Basics, especially Watercolor Basics for Watercolor Comic artists, I need to let you guys in on my worst kept secret.  I work in batch.

There's a difference between Batching and Working in Batch, both of which I do.

Batching- completing all of a stage of a project before progressing to the next

Working in Batch- Working on several pages at the same time, keeping everything at the same stage.

I create my comics using Batching from script until my final pencils are completed.  This means I finish all of my thumbnails for the chapter before moving on to any of my roughs, I complete all of my roughs before scanning and correcting anything, I print out all of my bluelines and pencil all of my pages before I start painting.  Although for some webcomic artists, this isn't a feasible system, its the only way I can keep everything straight while also juggling this blog, the Youtube channel, conventions across the country, and working on commissions.

From tight pencils on, I work in batch.  This means I work on two to four (sometimes as many as six, but I usually regret that) comic pages at a time.  I try to work on a full scene when possible- this allows me to mix all my colors and keep things consistent.

Don't forget to check out my other watercolor tutorials in the Watercolor Basics series!

Why Work in Batch


  • Consistency
  • Dedicated schedule for longer projects
  • Keeps you producing pages
  • Takes advantage of in between times


Skip lightboxing- printing bluelines using an inkjet printer like the large format Canon Pro 9000 Mk II means you can go straight to pencils- stretching your pages will reactivate the printer ink, and it will wash cleanly away.

Working in batch is the secret key to how I produce 7" Kara sustainably. 
























Tips for Working in Batch


  • Prepare your work area ahead of time, clean things up, make plenty of room, clean your palettes, assemble your paints.  Have everything in arm's reach.  


  • Establishing work flow is important- once you get in the painting mindset, you don't want something trivial holding you up.  Start your project with clean brushes, fresh paints, lots of palettes.


  • Work with two cups of water- start with fresh cups every day, your clean water will last longer.


  • Work with multiple welled palettes- this allows you to mix color ahead of time, and work consistently.


  • Do everything you can in batch- it's boring but effective.  Stretch in batch, do washes in batch, this way everything is drying at the same time, or drying while you paint.


  • Try to avoid working on humid or rainy days, and if you can't help it, set your watercolors under a vent to dry.


  • Don't expect your usual level of attention- you are splitting your time and attention between multiple pages.  Simplicity is key.


  • Create systems for how you address shadows, folds, etc.  A shorthand that works visually.


  • PRACTICE A LOT beforehand, so you spend less time thinking about how to solve problems, and actually solve them.  Practice doing standalone illustrations, doing studies, using your paints, using your paper, different papers, practice solving paint problems, creating happy accidents.


  • It takes time to get good at batch painting- Chapter 1 of 7" Kara was painted in two pages per batch, and Chapters 5 and 6 were painted in 2-6 pages per batch, yet look much better.  A lot of practice happened between chapter 1 and chapter 5.


  • Give yourself time to think- you might end up painting yourself into a hole if you try to rush things too much.

I hope these tips, collected over the years while painting 7" Kara, will inspire you to try painting in batch.  Batch painting can be a great solution to handling a chapter efficiently, although it may require you to change how you handle your watercolors.

And if you enjoyed the art used in this post, don't forget to check out the source- my watercolor comic, 7" Kara, now available to read as a free webcomic!

7" Kara follows the adventures of minature Kara- a sheltered girl facing a huge move.  Determined to have adventure while she's able, she sets off to explore the outside world, and perhaps meet a human.  You can read 7" Kara for free at 7inchkara.com, or skip the cliffhangers and get caught up by purchasing Volume 1 from the Nattoshop.

And if you're looking for more wonderful webcomics, make sure you check out Ink Drop Cafe, a webcomic collective.

7" Kara is a proud member of Ink Drop Cafe, and the Nattosoup Studio Art and Process blog is a proud affiliate.