Katie Green Signing Lighter Than My Shadow

It has been quite a month!

I wrote on my website recently about how strange it is that Lighter Than My Shadow is now finished and ‘out there’. After working on it in virtual isolation for so long, it has been odd (and quite wonderful) to at last be sharing it, and hearing what people think. I’ve spent the month since publication traveling all around the UK for launches, book fairs and events to talk about the book. I’ve been interviewed in The Guardian and I’ve even been on Radio 4.

I spent a long time preparing myself for these months. I knew, to some extent, what I was letting myself in for: that, for a while at least, my identity might once again be defined by the illness I’ve experienced. I decided I was OK with that. But still it’s been weird and hard to stand up and speak and answer questions from strangers who now know so much about my personal life. But it’s also been wonderful to talk. Part of why I wanted to write the book is because I don’t think we talk about the difficult things enough. And so I intend to keep talking.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to use this website going forward, especially the blog. I’ve still got some more things I can share about making the book, including a considerable number of ‘deleted scenes.’ But I’d also like to open the conversation, and use the space to answer questions – about the book or about recovery in general – so if you have a question please do contact me. I’ve loved hearing from everyone who’s written to me in response to the book so far. Though I sadly haven’t had time to respond to every email individually, I have read and appreciated them all. Thank you.




After years and years of hard work and preparation, Lighter Than My Shadow finally went out into the world on October 3rd. The above photos are from the launch party in Foyles, Bristol, taken by James Phillips.

It’s all been terribly exciting, and you can now buy copies of the book in actual bookshops as well as directly from me at several upcoming events or online, where of course I’d be delighted to sign it for you.


Adding the Text

Process #4

I always knew I wanted the text in Lighter Than My Shadow to be in my handwriting. Not a font of my handwriting, but every word handwritten. I had a few people tell me that was a crazy decision, but it surprised me that it turned out to be a lot less work than I thought. I kept the book’s text as sparse as possible, only adding words where absolutely necessary for dialogue or clarity in storytelling. The result was all the writing in the book fitting on less than 40 sides of A4 (although I do have very small writing…).

Scanned Text 1

Unlike the drawings which were made at actual size, I did adjust the scale of my handwriting. Because all my life I’ve had complaints that my handwriting is too small, I enlarged it slightly, by 16.6%.

Scanned Text 2

Setting the text happened in batches, usually 12 pages at a time at the end of a week’s drawing. I created the speech bubbles from the textured paper background, lightening it a little to stand out on the page, and I drew the tails in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet.

Scanned Text 3

…and that’s it! Apart from the beginning of every week, when I finalised the storyboards into pencil sketches, I was very simply a drawing machine. I continued like that, 12 pages a week every week for 14 months like clockwork.

Well, not quite. Because I am not a drawing machine, I am a person. And the story I was working on was not exactly something I could detach myself from. My plan was to work at 12 pages a week, every week for 14 months, and the book would be done just like that. Instead it was unlike anything I could have anticipated at all.


Process #3

If I was having a good week, I managed to draw 4 pages a day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving me to scan, colour and add the text on Thursday and Friday (and usually Saturday and often Sunday). Throughout the process I referred to what I did in the latter half of my weeks as ‘colouring’, though in the finished work there is very little discernible colour to be seen.

Technical stuff. After scanning the images, I adjusted them in Photoshop to remove the yellow of my chosen paper and leave me with a crisp black line. This I laid over my textured paper background, and manipulated the creases to form my panel borders. I then coloured the image – perhaps shaded is a more suitable term – using a very limited range of black and white in varying opacities (so the texture of the paper would show through).

Scanned Panels

Black Line

Line and Textured Paper

Figures in White

I shaded figures in white, with the opacity turned down to 40%. I kept this very simple, not using any other colours for clothes or hair for any characters. Furniture or any other scenery I shaded black, with opacity of 20 or 10%.

Black Colouring

At first this process was verrrrrrry slow, and I worried about my ability to keep up with my schedule. By the middle of things I had a good routine and usually felt confident of getting things done on time. By the end of my 14-month drawing extravaganza I was a whizz at my particular and peculiar Photoshop colouring formula.

Shaded Background

Another thing relating to colour. I left all the backgrounds the same shade of grey until I’d finished a whole chapter. At that point I would make a decision about the tone of the story, emotionally and therefore colour-wise, and would adjust the backgrounds of the chapter accordingly. The result is subtle shifts in colour that I think you will barely notice as you turn from page to page. But dipping in and out of sections the change is more pronounced and – what came as a nice surprise – the finished book has an ombré effect in profile that I find very pleasing indeed.

Ombre Pages

From Pencils to Inks


Process #2

After the pencilling, truly all the creative decisions had been made and I found the process from then on to be – comparatively – relaxing. I could put some music on, or an audiobook, and settle in for an afternoon of inking.

Throughout the process I used 01 and 005 Pigma Micron pens which I went through by the boxful. I always inked a whole page with a 01 first, going back over it with a 005 to add finer details afterwards.

When I wore the pen nibs down to nubs, which was inevitable, I marked them and put them aside. Not quite the in pen graveyard, because these nubbins were ideal for the scribble-scrawl, the main visual metaphor for my illness, which appears to greater or lesser extent throughout the book.


Only after every bit of ink had been scribbled out of them did the pens become defunct, but I still couldn’t bear to part with them. Somehow the growing stack of dead pens felt like more of an achievement than the growing stack of artwork piling up around my studio. And yes, I am still hoarding all the dead pens.

From Storyboards to Pencils


Process #1

When I was working on Lighter Than My Shadow, I mostly followed a very strict and orderly routine according to the wallchart. This was necessary to constantly remind me that as long as I kept on top of what needed to be done – week by week, day by day – I could deliver a 500 page book within the deadline.

Roughly, I drew 12 pages per week for a little over 14 months. This rate was possible because I opted for a pared down visual style, and also because I’d spent the better part of the preceding three years planning. I no longer had much creative thinking to do, I just needed to draw.

The first stage in creating a page of finished artwork was to translate my storyboard to a full-size pencil sketch ready for inking. Often at this stage I would make some changes if I had an idea for a better composition or panel progression. I was also incorporating the last round of editorial feedback so the last storyboards and the final artwork often diverged a surprising amount. These changes I planned as very quick thumbnail sketches that were only understandable the day I drew them – looking back they make very little sense, and I can only sometimes match them to the corresponding finished page!


Technical stuff. I drew each double page spread as a single piece of artwork at actual size (390 x 255mm). I drew on A3 recycled xerox paper but I wish I hadn’t. I chose it because it’s cheap, and therefore less intimidating. I get very frightened by using posh paper, and afraid to start work, but if I’m using something like xerox paper which is so cheap it feels disposable, I’m a little less precious. It also happens to take Pigma Micron pens (size 01 and 005) very well. The downside of this cheap paper is that it’s non-archival, and, let’s be honest, downright flimsy. When I was deep in the process of Lighter Than My Shadow, the last thing I was thinking of was exhibiting or even selling artwork. Now the slog is behind me, I have 250 original pieces that I’m sure people would love to see, but they’re on cheap, rapidly yellowing paper that wouldn’t look nice hung on a wall and certainly isn’t saleable. I plan to get more comfortable with expensive paper in future.

I pencilled 4 pages – 2 double pages spreads – at a time, which would usually take a morning, giving the afternoon and evening for inking (that’s tomorrow’s post).


Drafts 2, 3, 4…

Never Good Enough

In truth I don’t know how many drafts I went through. Perhaps four or five of the entire book, but some sections were certainly reworked much more than that. Some sections have changed very little from that first draft, others are unrecognisable.

Perhaps I don’t need to tell you that I’m a perfectionist. It goes hand in hand with anorexia (though I’ve recovered from one, I’m not sure there’s any hope for the other). With that in mind, I’m sure you’ll understand that I was never going to feel ready. To go through one final draft and decide “That was it, it’s finished, now I’m ready to start drawing,” was never going to happen.

I know that’s how my brain works, but still, I was expecting the final draft to be more…done.

What decided the final draft, in the end, was time. I wanted this book to come out in 2013, the year I turn 30, and therefore I needed to set pen to paper in 2012. Or perhaps earlier than that, but it was 2012 already so that would have to do.