Stage 1: Script
Every Cartoon and Conquer strip begins its life as a simple text script. These scripts may be written anywhere from more than a month in advance to only a single day before the cartoon is published.
Sometimes story arcs make scripts easier to write, allowing several to be planned at once, however, this is not always the case and some story arcs are written one episode at a time. In all cases, the ultimate ending to an arc is not planned at all until the final script of that arc has been written.
Stage 2: Rough Draft
While the script may be written far in advance, the first draft is not made until about 5-6 hours before the strip is published. The rough draft is drawn by hand with a pencil on paper. The draft is drawn extremely quickly, with many mistakes left to be adjusted in the later stages. This draft is then scanned onto the computer and inserted into a Cartoon and Conquer strip template which already possesses the title, outside border, and author’s signature.
Since the script is not added until the end, the content is set in approximate panel locations. The draft process takes about 1-2 hours to complete, making it the most time-consuming step, despite the haste under which it is drawn.
Stage 3: Outlining
The outlining is done in GIMP on a second layer over the draft. The outlines are drawn using a 3×3 pixel pencil tool. At this point, most errors in the draft are corrected as the outlines are drawn over it. Outlining takes the second-longest time to complete after the draft.
Once the outlines have been finished, all of the draft layer other than the template itself is erased. If the graphics interfere with the signature, it is occasionally moved to the left until it reaches an open spot.
Stage 4: Palette
Cartoon and Conquer has a very limited palette, with new hues only added as they are needed. They are kept in a list of hexadecimal values which are copied into GIMP as needed. The outlines are then filled in.
The time required for this stage varies significantly depending on the contents. Episodes featuring Nod, which mainly consist of large areas of red, dark blue, silver, and black take much less time than GDI or Soviets which have many small sections to fill and from a wider range off the palette.
Stage 5: Shading
Once all of the outlines have been filled, the objects are shaded. The shading’s only purpose is to add a 3-dimensional effect, there is no light source, the shadows are always cast to the right regardless the direction objects are facing.
Most shading is added using a burn tool, although some more complex shading may be done through other means when necessary. In the example image above, the tank tracks were added through a mask layer and the rubble was shaded by lowering brightness in segments.
Stage 6: Dialogue
Dialogue is usually the final addition to a strip. During this stage, the panels are given their final adjustments to accommodate the text and panel-dividing borders are placed. Small changes may also be made to the script for better flow (note the script pictured above is not identical to the final episode pictured below).
Speech is written in DomBold BT, sound effects use Slasher Heavy, and anything else such as radio transmissions and the occasional Cyrillic text uses Courier New. Because it is actually faster than GIMP, dialogue is added using Microsoft Paint.