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Behind the Scenes: Balkar Comics



Hello, I'm Ángel Sánchez, and I go by the alias 'angelsan' on Blender Artists. Like the priest character in my comic, I'm starting to have memory problems... It's been a long time since I started working with Blender... Ugh, my memory must go back to 2003! 

Maybe it wasn't love at first sight, but it was a love that has lasted till today, only darkened by the need to use other software to complement aspects that Blender can't do on its own. My training in drawing and 3D is essentially self-taught, although my studies and work as a museum curator have allowed me to come into contact with archaeological material and scientific publications, which have been crucial in the creation of this comic.


This project was born out of the need to remove a thorn that had been on my side for a long time. When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by the world of comics and I started to make some comics. However, most of them ended up at the bottom of a drawer.

The need to finish my studies and then concentrate on my work as a museum curator put this hobby on the back burner for a while. However, the shadow of authors such as Jordi Bernet, Vicente Segrelles or Víctor de la Fuente is a long one, and I wanted to create an adventure story with classical overtones as a tribute to the works of these great illustrators that I was so passionate about.

In this project, I decided to combine two of my passions: history and comics. The story would be set in ancient Iberia (between the sixth and first centuries B.C.), a period that has not been widely covered in comics, but which was the ideal setting for a story that combined archaeology and fiction. On the one hand, I would try to be as rigorous as possible in the aspects that archaeology has allowed us to know. On the other hand, the plot would be a fictional story following the classic scheme of the hero's journey.


Software used

In this project, I have used several software that have two things in common: free software tools and made for graphic design. In my work, I always try to use these types of tools to show their enormous potential in the field of illustration, an area that has traditionally been dominated by well-known proprietary software.

  • Inkscape is the software I used to draw the characters.
  • Blender was used to create reference models, backgrounds, architecture, furniture and many other elements. In fact, it was essential to create the urban fabrics of the main Iberian cities (Edeta, Saiti and Kelin) so that we could use reusable locations. 
  • Gimp was used for retouching and compositing all types of images. 
  • Scribus was used for the design and layout of the printed book.

This article will certainly be different from the usual Blender Nation posts, as this project involved work outside of Blender. Some aspects of the creation process will be better explained than others, but to go into the details of each would be beyond the scope of this article.

Script and previous works

For example, I won't go into detail about the process of creating the script and the story. I will only point out that a good planning of the composition of the comic strips and pages during the creation of the script can help to speed up the process. At this stage, it is also important to define the characters, settings, and other objects in order to calculate all the material we will need to carry out the project. This is where we really realize the scale of the work.

Reference search and model creation

One of the objectives of this comic was to achieve the greatest possible historical rigor in aspects such as weapons, clothing, architecture, tools, etc. I therefore needed a lot of references for real archaeological material: to know how to interpret it and how to use it. In this sense, I had the advantage of working in a museum, where I had first-hand knowledge of these materials, and I could also count on the advice of other specialists in this historical period, such as Helena Bonet. If you are interested in learning more about Ancient Iberia, much of this information is available online at our museum's website.

Regarding the work of 3D modelling of archaeological materials, I have published some tutorials on my YouTube channel with examples made in Blender. For example, Forging an Iberian Falcata in Blender (Spanish with English subtitles):

And, Creating pottery with the 'Screw' modifier in Blender
(Spanish with English subtitles):

In any case, the greatest effort was made to create architectural elements and the urban fabric of the main Iberian cities. Sometimes there were indoor or outdoor locations that required more or less detail. That’s why the initial planning stages are so important as discussed before.

Creation of comic strips

Drawing the comic strips is a combined process using several software programs, but I distinguish between backgrounds and characters.


Creating models in Blender

Most of the backgrounds were created in Blender; they are the scenes with standard materials rendered with Cycles. I did not create the final 'comic' look in Blender, but I did prepare the lighting, contrast, and color adjustments of the scene, thinking about the application of the following filters. I don't try to achieve a hyper-realistic look in the renders, as I should focus on how lighting and color can help achieve a better result with post-processing filters. 

The work of modeling the cities and architectural elements is done using edge extrusions to create the general lines of the urban fabric. These simple planes are given volume using the 'Solidify' modifier. The 'Shrink' modifier, applied to certain groups of vertices, allows the houses to be fitted to the ground. The materials used for these models are of the generic type for Cycles, without any special shaders.

In most cases, these urban parcels required a topographical base for settlement. These terrains were created using a subdivided plane to which a displacement modifier with a heightmap image was added. The easiest way to create this type of image is through sites such as 'Cities: Skylines Map Generator' or 'Terrain Party'.

The final appearance of all these models will be completely different, as we will see in the next section on post-processing renders in GIMP.

Render post-processing with GIMP

In GIMP, the render is post-processed with filters to create a watercolor effect. Basically, we are working to create a base with the color effect to which we will add the contour lines and the black ink. It is important to note that in addition to the standard Gimp filters, I also used the filters from the G'MIC plugin.

Below, I describe the process of achieving these effects, although it should be noted that many of the filter values and settings depend on the size of the original image, as well as its brightness, contrast or color. They are not absolute values. The opacity of the layers can also make some of the effects stronger or weaker. Experiment with all of them until you get the result you want.

 Creating the color part of the image that imitates watercolor

  • Open the original render that we will use as a base for the filters. 
  • Create a new layer from the render using the GMIC filter > 'Cutout'.
  • Number of Levels: 32; Edge Simplicity: 0.5; Edge Fidelity: 7 
  • Create new layer from the render using the GMIC filter > ‘Vector Painting’ 
  • Details: 9.85 
  • Duplicate Vector Painting layer 
  • Noise HSV filter > Opaque: 2; Gaussian Blur: 0.5; Opacity: 30-60% 
  • Create a new layer with a Watercolor image or texture: 
  • Mode: Overlap; Opacity: 100% 
  • Duplicate Vector Painting layer 
  • Generate Filter > Noise > Solid Noise. Size: 16; Detail: 6; Layer Mode: Hard Light; Opacity: 1.3% 
  • Duplicate this last layer. Layer Mode: Darken Only; Opacity: 7%

Creating the black ink part of the image using the render as a base

  • Duplicate the render layer and apply 'Lineart' filter to create the outline lines. 
  • Duplicate the render layer and apply the GMIC filter > 'Stamp' for the black masses (adjust the threshold for more or less black). You can also try the effect of the GMIC filter > 'Charcoal' to see other types of black spots and even the GIMP filter 'Photocopy. 
  • Apply the GMIC filter > ‘Engrave’ on this last layer to add some brush stroke effects. Radius: 0.1 - 0.2; Coherence: 1 - 1.5; Threshold: 40 - 50 
  • These two layers must be set to blend mode: Multiply.

A total of 8 layers were used to achieve the final effect of this image, but these can vary depending on the level of complexity required.


Creating models in Blender

The composition of the characters in the comic strip depends on the complexity of the scene. I usually prepare some dummies in Blender that I use as a reference in the drawing. These dummies are normal human models, usually without any details (no clothes or hair). I only use them as models for the composition of the scene (proportions, movement, depth, etc.). These types of models can be created directly in Blender using addons like mpfb from makehuman (only Blender >3.0) or the MB Lab addon.

Drawing in Inkscape

In Inkscape, I import a render from the 3D viewer to use as a reference for drawing. I draw the details of the clothing and other elements directly in Inkscape to give me more freedom to draw the movement of the hair, folds, wrinkles, and other details that might give me more work in Blender.

Within the black ink part, I distinguish between the outlines of the figures (similar ink with a pen), the black masses (similar ink with a brush), and the detail lines (similar ink with a fine marker). When I say 'similar,’ I mean that I try to achieve the effect of these tools in Inkscape itself, using variations of the 'Chalk and Sponge' and 'Film Grain' filters, as well as the 'Pattern Along Path' Path Effect applied to the black lines and masses.

The color has a simple solid base. In the panoramic or long shots, the color shadow is created with blue fill areas, on top of solid color.

Once the comic strip composition is finished in Inkscape, I export the image in .png format with the final result. Below is an example of a finished comic strip:

In close-ups or medium shots, I add color gradients and small areas of brightness to create volumes with more detail, as you can see in the image below.


For the composition and design of the printed book, I used Scribus, a software that is more than adequate for this type of work. 

Defining the size of the canvas is an important issue as we need to be clear about where we are going to publish our work e.g. online, print, European market, American market, etc. In my case, since the printed book would be produced on Amazon, I chose the US Letter format (215.9 x 279.4 mm/ 8.5 x 11 in) among the options available on this platform. Once the print size was determined, I created a template for the comic strips and incorporated it into the master pages. 

As far as the shape and size of the strips and panels are concerned, the oblique panel design gives more dynamism to the composition of the page, but can cause more problems when defining the panels in a Kindle e-book. In my case, I opted for a classic composition with orthogonal comic strips.

The working document has layers with different elements: images or comic strips, speech bubbles, text, onomatopoeia, effects, etc. It is also advisable to consider the possibility of publishing the book in different languages. It is advisable to create new layers for text or for images with embedded text. This will give you more control when exporting the .pdf document for printing.

To publish a Kindle e-book, it is necessary to use ‘Kindle Create', a free-use software provided by Amazon. It is a tool that is not overly complex and fulfills its function. However, I miss a version for Linux which is an open source software, but one cannot have everything.

RENDER : Balkar Comics


Comic book, Balkar - The Forge of the Warrior:

Comic book, Balkar - The Betrothal of the Lady:

Comic book, Balkar - Conspiracy and Fire:


Congratulations if you managed to read the whole article! I have tried to reflect the most important aspects of making ‘Balkar.’ It was not easy because there are so many different workflows and I did not want to make the text too long. 

It was also not my intention to create some kind of manual for making comics. Every artist has their own way of working, and the method described here may be too complex because I tried to keep some manual control over the drawing part and not do everything by rendering. Doing all the drawing in Blender would have simplified things a lot, but I liked the idea of getting the best of both worlds (2D and 3D). 

I hope it can help you get an idea of the scale of this kind of work or at least give you an idea or solution for your own work. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to ask via any of my social networks. Have a nice day!

About the Artist                       

Ángel Sánchez is an illustrator and historian. He currently works as a curator at the Prehistory Museum of Valencia.                                                                                               

About the Author

Avatar image for Alina Khan
Alina Khan

A self taught 3d artist, who seeks to excel in the computer graphics field. Currently a student, freelancer and the editor for the 'Behind the Scenes' at Blender Nation.


  1. Looks like a great project! Congratulations. I don't have Kindle and I don't speak Spanish. I can only find Spanish paperback version (on Are you planning to make an English paperback version available soon? I would also be interested in PDF English version (because I read comics on my Android tablet). Maybe you could sell PDF versions directly?

  2. I see too many wonderful artworks posted on BA that I suspect like many I go "wow" and and never say anything.

    I'll go out of my way and say this is remarkable. Wow Wow Wow.

    • I'm glad that this work has aroused so many 'Wows' in you.
      These expressions of enthusiasm are always a morale boost, encouraging me to continue working on future projects.

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