How to make a Terminus

I thought it might be interesting to show the process of an average Terminus being created. Don’t worry it’ll be brief…

Stage 1

The humble doodle.

I often mull ideas for a Terminus about on a Monday morning, but sometimes it takes a while to get inspiration. Sometimes letting a doodle just happen canbe the key breakthrough. That said some ideas kick around your head for ages before they finally cohere.  Like this one.

Note:  doodle is done in biro, on work stationary, the place where all my best work happens. Only ever bettered by school books.

Stage 2:

The tight pencils. This is actually a pretty clean line drawing. Some Terminus‘ are more complicated, and the pencilling stage can be a lot sketchier. I always feel happiest having crisp lines to ink to – not always, but definitely for the style of Terminus. 6H and 2H pencils if you’re interested. Oh yeah, and working on Daler Bristol Board.

At this stage I tend to favour listening to introspective lyric heavy stuff like The Mountain Goats , The Magnetic Fields or Why?

Stage 3:

The sexy inking stage. Easily the most fun part of Terminus. I love the stark beauty of ink on paper. Nothing better in the world. This is also the most nerve wracking bit. Messing up on inking is remediable, but absolutley gutting nonetheless. This was a doddle compared to some other Termini though.

I use  a Prolene 2/0, round headed brush. Dirt cheap but works like a dream on Bristol Board. Oh and Windsor & Newton black ink. The best.

At the inking stage I tend to prefer drone music or electronic stuff. Burial, Flying Lotus, The Boredoms and Odd Nosdam are getting heavy rotation at the moment. Gets you into a nice empty state so you can become one with the brush.

Or something.

Stage 4:

Colour the bastard! Into the ol’ Mac for a nice scan, clean up and paint-job. Colouring is where you can make or break a cartoon, and there’s a part of me that’ sad to see the black and white go. That said you can add all sorts of moods or effects with colour that add to the overall impact of the cartoon. Photoshop’s a great tool as well, just endlessly useful, and one of the nice things about doing nearly two years of Terminus has been getting to explore it’s many facets.

At this stage  it’s usually Hip Hop. Preferably East Coast. Nas, Kool G Rap, a bit of Wu. You know the drill. A bit of aggression to power through the tedium of layers, filters and heavy duty mouse-work…

Stage 5:

Finito! The words to Terminus are easily the most challenging part of creating it. As the strip has progressed it’s moved from ‘illustrated micro-stories’ to ‘haiku strip gags’. As a Raymond Carver devotee the aim is to create maximum impact with the minimum content. The best Terminus are the ones that suggest whole worlds amd multiple stories in a single snapshot.

Not to say I don’t love a cheap gag though.

Once it’s done it’s usually some form of triumphant ‘lap of honour’ song. The final track on the most recent Fuck Buttons record is currently doing the trick.


So there you go. This low-rent version of MTV Cribs is at an end. Hope you’ve all learnt something. Don’t let the hovel door hit your ass on the way out.

2 thoughts on “How to make a Terminus

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