Software and Tools

Outlines and Ideas: Goodnotes, Scrivener, Moleskine notebook, iPad with Apple Pencil

Writing: Scrivener, Textedit

I scribble down my ideas either in my notebook or through a basic text file. I tend to do multiple, incomplete iterations of an outline or script across various documents before consolidating them into a single master document. My scripts are not at all beautiful in appearance. In a typical situation, my scripts are almost stream-of-consciousness conversations with my future self (the one who is going to illustrate the text) with no regard for a third-party audience. 

Research: Airtable, Unpaywall, Firefox,

I use multiple tools for gathering and archiving research material. Each work requires varying levels of research intensity and different approaches.

Thumbnails: Moleskine notebook

Thumbnailing is the only strictly traditional part of my process. I treat thumbnails as scribbles and I find the careless scrawl of a pencil more condusive to quick thinking.

Sketches: Sketchbook, Procreate, iPad with Apple Pencil, Photoshop, Huion H610 Tablet

Sketches are glorified scribbles. When I am sketching, I am seeking out the best lines that capture emotionality, style and appeal.

Inks, Colours, Final: Procreate, iPad with Apple Pencil, Clip Studio Paint, Photoshop, Huion H610 Tablet

Inking is when I secure the best line and push it further (if needed). Colouring is my favourite part of the process; it is intuitive to me, and is the stage when I feel the art is becoming real.

Inside the Studio(s)

The Onion Method

What I call my own homemade custom method of making graphic novels, which is a fusion of the Randy Ingermason's "Snowflake Method" and a bit of Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Philosophy of Composition".

In the Snowflake Method, a writer begins from a singular point - a topic of interest, a character, a cool scene, a premise - and builds branching narratives and questions out of that. In The Philosophy of Composition, a writer should consider what their goals are and the emotional response they want to nurture in their readership - the effect - , and then ensure every part of their writing is engineered towards achieving those goals. The Onion Method is a fusion of those two, but focused on building specificity of story and emotionality through interrogative conversation between Character and Theme.

My Onion Method arose from my particular way of deliberate thinking and intellectualising the stories I plan to make or am making. In 2019, I wrote a blog post explaining the Method for the first time. Though developed specifically for graphic novels, apparently it has been useful too for prose writers.

The Onion Method has two stages: outlining/writing (growing the onion) and art directing/drawing (cooking the onion).

Making the Onion

Involves constructing alternating, responsive, dynamic layers of Character and Theme. Refining and interrogating, on and on, until you form a story so integrated, it’s as tight as an onion. It’ll be difficult for you to remove any of the layers without careful, active consideration of the domino-effect consequences, but this is what you want. You want a strong story, not any generic thing that can be interchangeable with any person or any theme.

Cooking the Onion

Art direction is customised based on story goals (the aforementioned Characters and Themes), as well as other details such as setting, tone, genre and authorial vision. Art direction normally defines visual style, but can determine form in some cases. In comics, the visual art is the primary driver of the storytelling, so I treat it the same way a prose writer treats language.