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:
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!
#4: If your comic style evolves, make sure you can maintain your posting schedule
My comics started out simple, like this:
Now they look like this:
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.
#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:
- 10 Things Before You Start a Comic or Graphic Novel: A list of things to consider before getting underway, and links to good resources
- A 24-Hour Comic about Comics: All about drawing a webcomic
- 1,000 True Fans: An important post explaining why 1,000 true fans are better than countless untrue ones
- How to Host Your Own Webcomic: The best post about creating a website for your comic. I hope to create a similar post one of these days.
- The Biggest Mistakes People Make When They Start a Webcomic: This is an amazing post because it cleaves information from many established webcomic artists.
#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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