A Comic Workflow

With the demise of the dearly departed ToonPaint 1 I needed to consider a new workflow in order to post comics in 2017. After some searching, I’ve found a workflow which allows me to create a close approximation to the comics I made using the older tool. I create my line artwork using a nice app called ToonCamera, and do my coloring in Pixelmator 2.

ToonCamera allows users to apply various comic effects to both video and photos, and displays these in real time. Even better, once a photo or video is captured the effect can be changed using ToonCamera’s settings. My one knock on the app is the interface is a bit too busy, and the adjustments are all presets 3. Still, for the $1.99 price tag, it’s very capable and quite useful. I highly recommend it. The look I’m going for in my images is a line art with significant blacks and grays. My ideal result looks something like the below image.

ToonCamera sample

Pixelmator is one of the best image editing apps on MacOS and iOS. The interface takes some getting used to, especially if you come over to it expecting a desktop experience, but it’s feature set is quite amazing. When I save the greyscale image from ToonCamera, I copy it to clipboard. After opening Pixelmator, I create a new image and set the clipboard as its contents 4. This leaves me with something akin to the image below.

Image imported into Pixelmator

I don’t want to color directly on my lines, as that would over-write them. So I create a new layer and set it’s blend mode to “multiply.” This allows the darker values of the layer below to be visible when I draw a stroke over them.

I then select the “Paint and Erase” tool, select my brush 5 and begin to color.

I have my basic skin tone saved in a custom color palette, and I typically begin filling those portions of the image in first. If I end up coloring outside the lines it’s a simple tap to switch to the eraser and fix the more egregious bleeds. I don’t try to be perfect, imperfections are part of the charm.

When I began wearing glasses, I struggled with how to color those. I eventually decided on filling them with a grey or blue-grey to indicate the different material. After I finish coloring the skin tones this is typically my next step, followed by shading in the highlight of my hair with a brown akin to my natural color. If the frame of my glasses is clearly defined, I’ll sometimes fill it with a pale yellow.

After the head is colored, I turn toward my clothing. I typically use a bright color, close to a primary, to cause my outfit to pop. I’m not concerned with making it photo-accurate, so I don’t care much about logos or stripes or any other features. Again, I’m not very concerned with coloring outside the lines, a simple eraser stroke can fix the worst bleeds.

When I’m finished coloring in the subject, I end up with an image like the one below.

Subject colored in

The most tricky step in Pixelmator is coloring the background. I could carefully trace around the edge of the subject, but that’s far too time consuming, and it would cause a lot of headaches when I inevitably mess up. Instead, I select my color layer and switch to the “select” tool. In the options which pop up, as displayed below, I choose “Quick Selection” and quickly select my colored portions with a few swipes. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just reasonably close.

Pixelmator selection tool

I save this selection, I very it to select the background pixels, and then create another new layer. This third layer is also set to “Multiply” for the blend mode, and place it between the colors and the greyscale base. I then switch back to the “Paint and Erase” tool and set the brush to one of the sprays. I set the value of the brushe’s width very high and quickly stroke through the selection with a pale color which has a strong contrast with the foreground elements. When finished, the image looks like the one below.

Finished Pixelmator composite

My next post will explore adding the comic frames and lettering in Strip Designer.


  1. This is only partly true. The iPad app is still listed on the app store, but it crashes when it’s opened. The iPhone app is still functional, but that doesn’t have pencil support. 
  2. I’m also considering purchasing ProCreate for the coloring step, but I’m hesitant as it might be a bit of an overkill for my needs. We’ll see. 
  3. As far as I can tell. 
  4. Not having to save the image to my camera roll is very nice. 
  5. I’ve found the “Triangle Brush,” under the paint section, works best for my needs. 

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