The Trouble with Canvases

I’m new to digital art, and it shows. I’ve been working on some pretty small canvases, based on the format that work with Webtoons and Tapas. But I didn’t realize that should be the finished size, and that I should work larger than that if I want to print it someday. Oops!

Well, at least I figured this out before I launched the comic! The good news is that it isn’t too late to start over. The bad news is that I have to start over 😀

‘Fail faster’ was one piece of advice I came across re: making comics. It’s absolutely true; the more I fail the better the comic gets. The pacing of the story is changing along with the canvas size. I’m going to end up posting all of the original work to my patrons on Patreon before uploading them all here in the months leading up to launch.

When I Said Struggle With Redrawing…

It’s ba-aaaaack! I’m in the process of working on chapter six of A Palestinian Tale. I was really unhappy with how it was going. My inclination is to paint it rather than do line work because the setting is very foggy and mysterious. After some feedback on Twitter, I gave redoing the chapter a go and I’m happier… at least!

Although I have a new problem. I keep reworking the same panel.

The Struggle with Redrawing

I was warned that one of the dangers of making a webcomic is the temptation to redraw old panels. It’s the biggest hurdle after actually starting the comic, apparently! And… it caught me in its trap. Part of the problem is that it is inevitable that the drawing and painting styles will change over time. I’ve done around six chapters of A Palestinian Tale now. And the style has changed a lot already.

I gave in to the temptation to redraw the first panels I worked on, the sequence known as Four Giant Leaps for Safia. Here’s how that broke down:

It’s a Process

I’m very new to digital art and to making comics. My process keeps changing but this is the flow I’ve settled into for the time being. I work entirely in Clip Studio Paint Pro. We start off with a sketch layer. I use the mechanical pen to roughly block the scene then change the colour of the layer to blue using a handy one-click option in the layers window.
On a separate layer I fill the canvas with a grey tone. And on another layer I do my inking with the mechanical pencil again. I prefer the look of the mechanical pencil to the ‘pen’ brushes available with CSP. This is one of my favourite steps because it can be quite relaxing. I keep thinking to myself “specific, specific, specific” to keep the details at the forefront of my mind.
The next steps are in colour. This is a very poor example because my Cintiq was acting up and the pen wasn’t aligning properly. That’s never happened before! I chose a dominant colour for the panel. Usually this is the same across all panels at a particular location in order to unify them and signal to the reader that they are all in the same place (the cafe, for example, is cream). This location from chapter five is otherworldly, and has a verdigris tone. I fill the panel using the paint bucket tool.

From there, I choose local colours from the colour picker. I keep in mind my dominant colour. Colours closer to it can be more saturated while colours distant from it are kept neutral. In this way, colours shift according to the environment (Rumanye’s shirt is yellow but it’s brightness is drained away by the spooky pea soup environment).

I use the opaque watercolour brush to do my first pass. This allows some of the base colour to show through and further unify the scene.

Next, I add effects. Sometimes this is as simple as using the airbrush tool, but occasionally I use blending modes to boost the magical quality of an effect, for example.

And that’s all for now! I know my process with change again, as it has so often during this project!

ETA: I fixed the driver on the Cintiq. What a difference it makes, eh?


Chapter five has a new main character, Rumanye Daoud. Above is the first colour test. She is an archival assistant at Saint Sisyphus’ University in New Haifa. It isn’t long before she has a spooky run in with a creepy Canaanite robot. Yes, an ancient robot. One of my interests is medieval and ancient automata. If I can give Canaanites robots, why would I not?!

I’m almost finished the first pass on the colours for chapter five! You can read the short story that this chapter is based on here on my website.

A Struggle With Architecture

It all began with what I call ‘the Cafe Scene.’ I solved one problem– that of the main character meeting Hasan and Raghda– by having her apartment be over a cafe. And I opened up another problem: I can’t draw architecture.

And so it goes. Adding colour to the scene did help to bring it together but without adequete experience drawing interiors, or even people sitting in chairs, it looks wonky and unsatisfying.

The problem isn’t limited to interiors either! Chapter five requires an establishing shot at a university. This is the current draft for that panel:

And so it goes. I’m reading about sketching architecture, as well as learning to use 3D modeling programs so I can build my own reference material.

It’s quite a journey!


I settled on the image of Safia holding hands with her grandmother as the cover page for the prologue to A Palestinian Tale. Something about the image struck me as appropriate, beyond the other contenders such as a schematic of the world of ‘Ard, or a sunrise. Safia and the reader are learning about the foundations of the world, the setting of A Palestinian Tale. It’s intimate and earthy rather than grand and spatial. There is the slight glow of magic about the gesture too, since there is the transference of a story taking place.

I hope to complete cover pages for all of the chapters of A Palestinian Tale.

Sketchy Beginnings

I forgot the earliest form of Safia’s comic adventure: the storyboard art! I sketched out the first few pages with my mother’s old clutch pencil from her drafting days. It really came together quickly once I got it down in the ol’ sketchbook!

Four Giant Leaps for Safia

The middle of the first chunk of A Palestinian Tale was written after The Marriage. It’s working title was ‘Train Jockey.’ A peculiar name, isn’t it? It came about from a writing prompt and exercise in writing short stories. Mary Robinette Kowal leads this fantastic lecture on short stories. Following along, I wrote Train Jockey and invented the character of Safia.

It was as I was working with this piece that the thought of making it into a comic came to me as a whim. I started to refer online to “Palestinians in Space.” Using Clip Studio Paint, I began to explore making a comic, and the first panels started to come together: a monochrome first pass.

My guiding principle was to make the comic without expending too many spoons. I’m disabled, and stamina issues plague me. I thought, starting out, that I could keep some stamina in reserve if I made the comic monochrome.

I was happy with my first attempts, and my first reader, Natasha, was on hand to give me feedback along the way. An important detail in Train Jockey and the comic was the establishing shot of the twin moons. This detail was meant to be a shorthand way of introducing the genre of the story. But, as it turns out, two moons can’t just be hanging in the sky like that! Back to the drawing board…

Much better!

Next time, we’ll take a look at the first colour tests for our plucky protagonist, Safia, and see how she has evolved.