February 08, 2012

So I was recently asked by Kaboom! Studios to do a short piece for the new Adventure Time comic book... based on Adventure Time... the cartoon on Cartoon Network. I started writing and doodling ideas as soon as I got the email. I was so excited... HONORED to be asked. Adventure Time is one of my all time favorite cartoons. EVER. I don’t know many people who would disagree themselves. Pen Ward and his team are pretty fantastic. All of the amazing characters! It is boundless in it’s ability to explore ideas... any ideas... piling weird on top of weird, and then chopping it in half to watch the weirdness ooze out. 

The inaugural issue of Adventure Time is out in comic shops today! Wednesday February 8th! Go pick up a copy from your local comic shop! I just got a box of them in the mail, and I really couldn't be happier with how the whole thing turned out. Ryan North's story with Shelli Paroline's art is SO good. It was like READING a secret Adventure Time episode. I can't wait for issue#2. 

And now that I have said that... phew! (Go buy it.) Here is a little more about my comic.

I was given 7 pages to work with... to focus on any side character... and told not to focus on Finn and Jake. So I picked Tree Trunks. I picked her because I have a fondness for elephants, and she’s so much fun to draw... like a toaster oven sized elephant with oven mitts for ears. This is what most of my rough drafts look like... really quick just trying to get the idea out:

When my story was finally approved I decided I wanted to do it in watercolor... because I wanted to get the bright colors I love about the show, but I also really wanted it to be clear that I wasn’t trying to mimic the art of the show. I wanted it to feel like my comic as well as a tribute to the program. 

I did the line art first, so I could keep my lines pure.

And then painted my watercolors on another sheet at my light table. I had to turn the overhead lights on once in a while to see what I was doing... but I very much painted them in the dark.

If you want to read the reason I decided to do this, read on.

The reason I didn’t paint on the same paper is because of something called trapping. If you are an artist who works in print you know what I’m talking about... and if you’ve ever seen a color comic printed in a newspaper or a book and there are weird magenta or cyan or yellow shadow around the lines... that’s what I was trying to avoid. It has always confused me how other artists scan watercolors to print. To trap line art on a watercolor, to me is like recording music in mono, and then making it stereo. You just can’t do it. So maybe there was a way to do it that I just didn’t think of. The idea came to me after looking at a Richard Scarry book where they break down his process... and seeing that he painted on paper that didn’t contain the line art made SO much sense to me. So I wanted to try it.

I can say the process was a lot of fun... and when I finally put them into the computer, and laid the color on top of the lines... it was magical. Like watching a photo appear in a developer bath. 


thanks for sharing!
i love seeing your process


This turned out amazing! I'll blab about it!


Best thing ever.

Jeremy Tinder

Amazing, Aaron! Wonderful


Interesting process, and I love your take on Ooo! It's also great to see that such a pro's rough comic drafts are just as sketchy and silly as my own. My boyfriend and I both love Adventure Time and are excited to pick up the comic soon!


thanks for sharing!! could you give an example of trapping? I'm not familiar with the problem, I think I know what you mean but I'm not sure.
And what book was it that showed richard scarrys process? I would love to see that!


These look beautiful, Aaron! Congratulations!

I did a series of short comics with that lightboxing technique last year and I agree about the awesomeness of combining the final images when you're done. Magic!

I'm playing around with printing my inked lines faintly onto a separate piece of watercolor paper now, since the inability to see what the colors really looked like on the lightbox was getting to me. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Awesome work, and I can't wait to see this puppy in print.


This was very interesting! It seems like it would be difficult to paint with no lines!


Very nice work! Do you stretch your paper before painting on it? It looks so nice and flat, how did you do it?


Holy so good! I'm working on a new children's book, and I may have to "borrow" this technique for lines vs. colors. Looks so great, and I can't wait to read your comic!


@ antonia I'm thinking of a way to explain trapping. When you scan in black lineart and print it in CMYK the black is made up of all 4 colors. If one of those plates move your lineart becomes fuzzy, because it gets a shadow of one of the other colors. But if all of the colors under the black lines get sucked in a pixel, they have room for error... and then the mess up doesn't make you want to pull out your 3-d glasses.

@ Sally I didn't stretch it, but I taped it down and colored big areas of yellow first. I worked on all of the pages at once... doing yellow yellow yellow... then going through green green green... if that makes sense. But the large areas of yellow Ifeel locked it to it's shape.


Holy Cow! Neat.


I appreciate seeing your process! Thanks so much for sharing!


Thanks for sharing your process, Aaron. I am definitely going to show this to my Publication Workshop students. The work looks great, I can't wait to read the rest!


This is amazing!!! Kudos sir!


Aaron, this is great, thanks for showing us how you did it. Two questions:

1. Did you have trouble scanning in your watercolor and getting all of the color information to come through in your scans? I seem to lose a lot when I scan in watercolors, even if I Adjust Levels in Photoshop afterwards.

2. What was the book about Richard Scarry? It sounds great!


The book is... The Busy, Busy World of Richard Scarry by Walter Retan and Ole Risom. It goes over the process of Blueboards on page 137. There are still a lot of questions I have about it. So if anybody knows more I'd love to know.


Awesome! Nice work!


really happy to have found this - thanks. great work.


@ Sally I didn't have too much trouble scanning my watercolors. I think the key is you can't blow the white of the paper to white white... you need to leave some tone in the white. I added white in places like word balloons and in between gutters... but the rest has all sorts of info in it.


aaron it looks so awesome!!!
So in photoshop, you put the color layer on top of the black? And also, do you paint with a water-brush?


Melissa! I have the lineart on top... it doesn't really matter Iguess... but I always have my lines on top... 100% Black nothing in the other channels... set to multiply, then the layer beneath is sucked in one pixel and filled with all the rest of the information in process black 75% Cyan 68% Magenta 67% Yellow... so it looks like my lineart exactly but thinner lines, it looks like a pretty neutral gray. I leave that as normal but just the pixels... all white space is empty... then underneath that I have my color. Alec does something very similar when he colors Walker Bean.

And yes! Waterbrushes are AMAZING. Whoever invented them should be given the same award as the person who invented toast!


thanks for the insights in your process!


Ha ha! How great is it that the world now has an Adventure Time comic book?! Your line art and characters are so playful, and the watercolors look fantastic! Maybe they'll do an all-watercolor episode?

If you had to do an entire book using this process, where you are painting the watercolors on separate paper, would you go through with it? It looks so good!

It's nice to see an update on the site, too. I know you've been busy with Walker Bean 2, and I can't wait to see it once it's finished :D


bow wow wooof ruufff




Aaron--great looking stuff! Love the show and your cartooning. Therefore I double love this!


Wow ... It's hard to believe the 2 seperate images together make the final piece! Great to see how you did it and very inspirational.

My little girl (who's only 4) adores adventure time and has just stated "if I'm going to be a real artist, I need to find some tracing paper!"

Keep up the fab work.

Sarah & Ostara

Woooo go Aaron! Looks great!

Amy Koch

This is inspiring. I am going to go draw now! Thank you for sharing this!

Jim Clarke

I read the whole thing in Treetrunks' strained Alabama accent which made my jaw hurt like crazy


so :] wasn`t Treetrunks supposed to be yellow? :D


You say "laid the color on top of the lines." Is that really how you did it in PS? Or were the the lines on top of the color? How did you pull the white neg space off the line layer? I'm very interested in trying this in my own work. Thanks.


I loved the story and the art was gorgeous! Hope to see you in future issues of Adventure time

Kai Charles

Love this piece of work...watercolour was a good choice.
I also use a waterbrush, i use it for ink really well...thankyou for the's very inspiring


Aaron! I have been doing my water-coloring like this for years, mostly because I'm a timid painter and too scared of messing up my linework to do it all on one original page. I am relieved that you also use this 2 step process, and cite slightly more legitimate reasons....P.S. My friend gave me "Spiral-Bound" years ago and it's still one of my favorites!!


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AWSOME! Adventure Time is my FAVORITE show especialy the little side charcter's like PB she get's me on EVERY JOKE its like she KNOW'S me personaly OH! the peersonal episode's make me cry sometime's its great knowing my favorite author love's adventure time. PEACE!:) PS:i love watching finn i xcan relate to him!

Andrew Scoringe

Aaron - well done. this Adventure time post ws super amazing. I love how u separate out the production process. something to be admired - u really have carved it out. best to u, sir!


Love it, man!


These comics are absolutely magical! I really admire your style and ability to use watercolours without lines (being a complete noob at watercolours I know I couldn't do that)!


I wish you had facebook or deviant or even twitter so I could follow your art

Jose Natgal

Gorgeous work!
And thanks for the insight into your technique.
You probably know about the old ‘blue line’ / ‘grey line’ method used for decades in the comics and other venues, detailed at the link below with respect to Richard Corben’s work, but also known from V For Vendetta, for example, in the USA, and Rupert The Bear in Britain.
This avoids the light box/working in the dark issue, but can mean that the blue lines still show on misregistered printed pages.


Ha ha... silly me...
I’ve just seen your reference to ‘blueboards’ in the Richard Scarry book, so you DO know all about this!


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