How to draw a webcomic

How to Draw a Webcomic, or Not

The best way to learn how to draw a webcomic is by just doing it. There is no right way to do it, but there are pieces of advice or suggestions about how to sketch or use Photoshop or Illustrator for webcomics that will at least help you avoid pitfalls from the beginning. I’m still learning, but here are a few things that I’ve learned about drawing comics for the internet.

#1: Getting the contrast right on your line drawing

Most webcomics I see online depend on their black-drawn outlines rather than a blurred border between colors. I knew from the beginning that my lines were scratchy and noisy. It took some time to get it right, but eventually I was able to make webcomics out of rough line drawings. The key was the contrast between line and background, and the ability to clean up the noise and scratches.

I ink by hand. Some people who make webcomics don’t ink at all, and their work turns out wonderful anyway. Others ink digitally, which creates the smoothest lines. The roughness of the hand inking has become a part of my webcomic style, but that’s not to say it hasn’t improved with time:

How to make a webcomic with line drawings--it's an evolution
How and how not to draw a webcomic

As you can see, I used to increased the line drawing’s contrast until the lines were a deep black, to the detriment of their appearance. They became sharp around the edges, and not in a good way. Now, I’m careful to prioritize the quality of the line rather than its darkness, which I hope is evident in the second comparison above.

#2: If you want to draw a webcomic, remember to draw BIG

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to draw a webcomic, like Wikihow’s somewhat surface-value instructions. But the best piece of advice about creating the comic itself is to draw big.

This goes for real and digital drawing. For digital, drawing big means having more work space. For the hand-drawers, drawing comics big means that you don’t lose as much quality during scanning. Never draw a comic the same size as you want it to appear on the screen, because its resolution will be inherently fuzzy. This has only been a recent revelation for me, and you can see that in the example above. Draw big, so that you can re-size the image to get smoother lines.

#3: Make sure your title makes sense

I started this webcomic, Things in Squares, because I was drawing things in squares. Now, my panels are rectangular, and even circular sometimes. So that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think Pictures in Boxes thought it through way more than I did!

Things in squares and rectangles: how to draw a webcomic
Things in squares and rectangles, I guess

#4: If your comic style evolves, make sure you can maintain your posting schedule

My comics started out simple, like this:

A really simple webcomic style
A really simple webcomic style

Now they look like this:

How to draw a webcomic with shadow
Now it has shadow

It may not look like a lot to do, but between creating more sections that need coloring in, adding shadow, and blurring, all with a mouse, it takes a lot more time. So now I’m spending more than twice as long on comics as I did when I started out.

Since I publish twice a week I can maintain it. But I can imagine things getting out of hand. I think it’s important to establish a style that can evolve, but that you can at least envision how long your webcomic will take to draw no matter how much the style changes.

#5: Make sure you’re drawing webcomics that you want to draw

Over at Penny Arcade you’ll find a good thread about what it takes to be a webcomic creator. It’s a big rough around the edges (puuunn 🙂 ), but it gets to the meat of it.

The thread talks about most aspects concerning how to draw a webcomic, including website stuff, comic layout, how to stick to a webcomic routine (my link), materials, and how to draw the comic itself. But the best part of the thread is the beginning, where the poster talks about what it takes to draw a webcomic in the first place. Best thing to remember:

If you want fame and/or fortune, then forget it.

Don’t get sidetracked by ideas about what the comic can bring. Make sure you want to draw what it is you plan on drawing. The hardest part is going to be keeping up your motivation to post regularly, and if you get bored of your own content, everyone else will, too. Luckily for me I really like being ridiculous, so these comics never get boring to draw.

How to Draw Comics, by Stan Lee

#6: Read up on how to draw a webcomic before getting started

This suggestion is pretty meta. I’m telling you to read this.

Read whatever you can about how to create webcomics. Make sure you know what you’re getting into, what you need, how to create a website for your comic, where to post, how to connect with other webcomic creators, etc. I hope this blog will be much more useful later on, but in the meantime I will link to these posts, which also link onward to even more useful information:

Modern Cartooning: Essential Techniques for Drawing Today’s Popular Cartoons

#7: Reach out to other webcomic artists from the start

I can’t say much to this because I still haven’t been as active in the gag webcomic community as I should be. But the principle is the same whether I stick to it or not. Getting to know other artists is a great idea, and the best way to do it is by creating guest comics for them. I like using their style with my characters, but I’m not expert in how to draw a webcomic in others’ styles. Owl Turd’s guest comic for the Gentleman’s Armchair is a pretty good standard, I think.

I only wish I had more time to spare to create guest comics for all the comics I read, which is a lot!

I hope this post has given you a few new ideas about how to draw a webcomic, or how not to.


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12 thoughts on “How to Draw a Webcomic, or Not

  1. great post, it’s so complete in content and explanation.
    Great job.

  2. There’s no doubt that this is a really good blog with exciting topics. Have you ever heard about Punch Animation? This company has just reached one million dollars in financing and it is the right time to buy it. Under the stock symbol, URBT, it’s Trading Over the Counter for pennies which may develop remarkable profits for investors that invest now! Punch Animation is developing its first animated tv series that will stand for the future of animation. The person that is in charge of Punch Animation is Joseph Collins who is a powerhouse expert in the animation industry. Ultimately, the major concentration of Punch Animation is the production of animated TV shows along with movies for distribution around the globe.

  3. I am a great story teller but I really suck at drawing. I need help for someone to draw my stories for webtoon

  4. Hi, what technology do you use? I am interested in drawing digitally. I would like to use a pen and kind of like an ipad with the right software. But I am looking for suggestions on if there is something better out there.

    1. The best (in my and many other professional’s opinions) software for drawing comics and illustrations is Clip Studio Paint. PhotoShop is good with pixel art/photo editing, Illustrator is good with Vector graphics but Clip Studio Paint is geared toward digital art, it combines Vector Lineart with pixel coloring for sharp lines and natural coloring.
      Another thing CSP has going for it is price. It is a one-time purchase, whereas the Adobe Collection has become a piece-by-piece monthly subscription service that puts it outside most beginning artists’ price range.
      CSP has 2 versions, Pro and EX. Pro has everything you need to draw, and even a sample of the animating capabilities (limited by length of animation, but you can still create and save short animations!) EX adds the unlimited animation length and some other seldom-used-by-me features, like posterizing a picture to make it into useable lineart… But, like i said, Clip Studio Paint -Pro is all most artists will need.
      Check their website, they often hold sales! Clip Studio Paint is very prominant in Manga and Comic creation.
      –Full Disclosure: I am NOT affiliated with CSP nor do I have any relations with anybody, I am an amature, self-publishing creator of things in my spare time. ( I don’t get any incentives or kick-backs or any free stuff (sadness) for recommending CSP, I do it simply because it is AWESOME!!

  5. I appreciate the way you wrote this. It’s clear that you come from a lot of wisdom and experience, but you presented it in a very humble and accessible way for someone like me who has ADHD, is extremely introverted online, and struggles with low self worth. I’ve wanted to create a webcomic for decades now. I have so many ideas, I love to draw, but I don’t have the executive functioning and planning skills to put it all together, keep it going, and stick with the same theme. My low self worth usually gets the best of me and leads me to throw in the towel. Something about this how-to makes me feel like I can overcome that if I can just stick with it and ignore all of the unsolicited advice from others. As you said, there’s no right way to do it. Thanks for that.

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