So I've had a number of people actually ask me recently about my process for creating my little cartoons. How long it takes, what programs I use, that sort of thing. Most are surprised when I explain the process, and how it really isn't as complex as people seem to think.
So anyway I figured I'd just document the process in several stages and show how each one comes about. For this I'll use the most recent Melon and Post, created just today for this very occasion.
First off, I use Photoshop exclusively. I have a scanner, and I like to draw in sketchbooks, but I only scan drawings I really like and want to convert. most of the time I open up Photoshop with no concrete ideas and just bring out the brush and start having fun. The Undo button is my friend. I actually have "Undo" mapped to one of my tablet buttons because I use it so much sometimes.
So I'm fooling around, thinking, I get a melon and post idea. I open up my M&P template file. This is just a document with a few colors on it, at the designated size that I've used for essentially every M&P. It saves me time.
So I start to sketch.
I use light blue for sketches, similar to how animators use light blue on paper. I like the color because its still quite visible against the white but also very easy to draw over later in black without the color behind obscuring it. I don't use just blue, the more complex the picture I then start doing different parts of the picture in light green/ pink, and so on.
After I have the sketch roughly in place (this one is a tad more refined then usual, I got it essentially first try), I designate Layers. usually 3-4, one for the black outlines, one for the middle ground, one for the background. For this one i decided to have Post on his own separate layer, it makes him a bit easier to isolate and color later. I then draw the fine black "ink" lines over the blue.
Then I move on to the next layer below, the Wall and Melon. This serves as a reminder to never draw individual bricks again. The Fine line process is probably the most time consuming part of it all anyway. Requires more precision then the rest of it.
After I got the lines done, I decide to make the color scheme. I take my black outline layers (in this case, 2 of them, Wall and Post) and I throw an empty layer under both of them, to be that layer's color layer. Then the background gets its own layer for color. I take the basic colors I want to use, throw them behind the lines really fast just to get an idea how it all works, futz around with the scheme.
After I get the color scheme right, I refine all the lines. Since the color layer is actually under the line layer, it makes refinement extremely easy. On layers like the BG where there are no outlines, I just smooth the lines out.
After I got the colors all set up, I go in for the shadow and highlight details, and any further tweaks (like adding action lines to help illustrate anything, haha) I also tweaked the backgound a bit by adding a very subtle gradient overlay, it helped the focus of the picture pop put more. I don't consider the background high priority in most of my cartoons.
Naturally this is just the typical approach. Takes about 2 hours max now for one of these. they aren't the highest quality illustrations or the most ambitious but they are very fun to do, and it leads into more detailed projects when I get ambitious.