Inside Look: The Nightly News

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Last month, he baffled the comics industry with his design sense and page composition in The Nightly News #1, his first ever published work. With the second issue of the instantly-acclaimed Image series released yesterday, the time was right Jonathan Hickman to guide you through all the different steps of his creative process on one double-page spread from The Nightly News.


This is pretty straightforward stuff. I’m working with photo reference on The Nightly News—something I thought I needed to achieve gritty realism and probably won’t be doing too often in the future. It’s way too much extra work for, what seems to me, little pop in the “realness” of my art. I’ll use a light box, projector or just side-by-side reference to pencil it out. Inking, I mainly use a brush and a nib, but sometimes I’ll use a micron/copic pen for some fine line work and a copic brush marker if I want the kind of line it makes. From here I scan the art in at either 300 or 600 dpi depending on the size/detail of the drawing.

By the way, I draw each picture individually on 8.5x11 100lb Bristol. So, yes, that’s a lot of paper per issue.


After scanning, I convert all my artwork to vector. I still use the legacy program Adobe Streamline instead of Livetrace in Illustrator CS2 because there are some differences in how the later converts the image. Now, there is a loss of quality here, so you have to go back in and add some of the detail you lost with the pencil tool. So, if there is a loss of quality and you have to do repetitive work, why do it? Two reasons.

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Reason one: It’s easy to export color line art. Doing color holds in the normal fashion is just a pain. So I don’t.


Reason two: This is why you go through the pain of all that Illustrator stuff: A final image that is completely scalable and resolution independent. And since I put all my pages together after the fact, this is pretty much a necessity.

Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge


I then export everything out of Illustrator as a .PSD (300 dpi, maintain layers, anti-alias)


In Photoshop, I color all of my backgrounds with custom brushes—some I made, some I downloaded, I’m sure I stole some from somewhere; I honestly have too many too remember. The thing to remember here, use pure CMY colors—no black.

Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge


Then I add in some “designy” junk. Sorry, I don’t have any other way to describe it.


I wait until last to render the characters. For The Nightly News, I went with kind of a “cut” style of coloring. This is the kind of thing that Adam Hughes or Dave McCaig does a lot and I thought it went well with everything else I was doing in the book. I could be wrong… who knows?

Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge


That’s it except for a couple of things I haven’t mentioned yet. Even though I don’t have the text on the page in this example, I letter the book first. That dictates where some stuff does or doesn’t go, and it dictates where all that “designy” stuff is placed. All of which dictates how a reader’s eye flows through the page.

Click to enlarge

And one last thing: I really don’t know what I’m doing… not yet. At this point it’s still just a lot of experimentation and effort. My hope is that somewhere down the road I can look at my work and feel like I’ve pulled off something special.

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