Starting a webcomic is daunting if you have never maintained an online presence before, but it is a surmountable task. I wrote a post about how to draw a webcomic, but things have changed since my days of paper and pencil. There are some things I wish I knew about how to make a webcomic from the start. By sharing here, perhaps readers interested in making their own webcomic can get it right from the outset.
So, here are some thoughts to consider before you begin.
1: How to Start – diversity is not always a good thing
The most important part of starting a webcomic is to have a clear idea of what the comic will be. If I were to go through the trouble of creating a whole new comic, I’d want to stick to a certain kind of humor rather than dabbling in the cute one week, and the grotesque-absurd the next.
Things in Squares will likely never be as successful as a niche comic, because it’s too diverse. It’s too all-over-the-place. I can’t tell you who my audience is except to say that they are eclectic: they don’t mind following a comic that is hit or miss depending on what kind of humor I fancy that week. I think Sarah of Sarah’s Scribbles can probably define her following much more clearly. Her humor is consistent. People react better to consistency. Obviously, the comic has to be good first, so kudos to anyone who can nail that formula.
2: How to make a webcomic that anticipates its own evolution
One thing I’ve started to do is edit old comics. This is somewhat controversial because some readers like to see the evolution of your work. I’ve struck a compromise by including the old versions of the updated comics in the bonus panel link. Here’s what I can tell you is true:
- It is a better idea to spend time on new comics than re-doing old ones
- If you want to make a webcomic that tells a chronological story with recurring characters, it’s better not to edit old posts
- There’s no way to anticipate how your style will change, especially if you’re new to drawing
- To minimize changes, think carefully about how you want your style to look, and create templates that you can reuse each week
It is a better idea to spend time on new comics than re-doing old ones
One-off gag-a-day comics are easier to manipulate because they don’t affect one another if you change something. I think in the end the most important advice is to listen to your audience and measure their response. I would never suggest that you let your audience dictate how you make your comic, but your following’s response is a powerful indicator of a good or bad change.
3: Pick your software, create your template
I did not know how to draw webtoons when I began. Sometimes, you just have to begin without a plan, and that’s what I did. At the same time, I never read a blog post like this to tell me that maybe there was a better way. For one thing, I didn’t bother to learn how to use Photoshop or Illustrator before I launched this website, so the entire evolution of my webcomic is a work-in-progress. I used pen and paper and took photos using a phone. The comics were always different resolutions, different layouts, and pixelated until I learned a few Photoshop tricks.
My point is pretty simple: do the best you can to establish which software you’re going to use before publishing. You could go the route I did and let it all hang out and change over time, but you’ll have quicker success establishing a following if you’re consistent from day one.
So what does this mean?
- You should learn tech specifics of how to make webcomics from webcomic artists with experience
- Read industry advice from other people who know what they’re talking about
- Research the advantages and disadvantages of using certain drawing programs
It’s difficult to know what to use, so maybe changing tools and technique is inevitable.
There are a few programs I’d recommend offhand. MangaStudio is a widely-used program among webcomic artists, including Zach of Extra Fabulous Comics. I am a proponent of the Wacom Intuos, which is the kind of drawing tablet I use to make webcomics. The Wacom Cintiq is an even better option if you can shell out the money and won’t have to lug it around. I’ve evolved from drawing webtoons on paper to using the Intuos, but the advantage of drawing directly on the screen with a Cintiq is very alluring.
Using a template is critical, unless your comic depends on changing layouts weekly. Creating a template allows you to standardize your resolution and format. If later on you want to collate comics into a book, you will save yourself a lot of time if your comics share a common format already.
4: How to write a webcomic that’s funny
Naturally I gravitate toward advice for humor webcomics, but this advice is applicable whether you’re trying to garner laughs or generate intrigue. Your webcomic doesn’t have to be popular to mean its good, and there are popular things out there that to some standards are not. Don’t worry about any of it. Write what you know, and experiment with what you don’t.
Writing a webcomic is helped when you have clever minds to bounce ideas off of. I interviewed Nicholas Gurewitch of The Perry Bible Fellowship, who revealed that he has a group of friends he runs ideas by before making comics. It’s an effective way to avoid delivery that may otherwise land on deaf ears. I don’t vet my ideas, which is why a lot of my published comics don’t work, and it’s why I’ve started changing old ones.
Learn from your mistakes. If you can train yourself to pay attention to what makes some comics work and others flop, I envy you. I wish I could tell you that I have a solid strategy for writing comics. I don’t. I have hunches that I often ignore to the detriment of a new comic. Even though I don’t do it, my advice is to develop a strategy to constantly improve. Never re-use wording or delivery that yields crickets.
Write what you know, and experiment with what you don’t.
Emulate others and find your voice. Nothing exists in a vacuum–art affects art. You will receive praise and hate–it comes with the internet territory. Don’t let naysayers get you down, especially when they cry foul that you’re copying. Language and humor are intrinsically repetitive. The same ideas occur organically to different people. Emulation is part of the creative process, and even though you’ll eventually find your voice, it will likely still sound like something that came before.
5: Share comics everywhere you can, and share them on a regular schedule
An article about how to make a webcomic should inherently pair with talk of where and how to share them. I like Sarah Andersen’s advice, which is to post everywhere you can.
I had started a list of places to share your webcomic. Since starting my comic I’ve posted to a lot of social channels and content mill sites like Memecenter and 9GAG. But my followers on these channels had weathered fluctuations in how I make comics and how often I post.
One of the major additions to the list is Instagram. After my Facebook page growth leveled out, I turned to Instagram for the first time, and it has been the fastest growing platform I’ve seen. When I started using Instagram, I had hundreds of comics ready to go, so followers got a comic per day no matter what. I credit this consistency with helping my Instagram page grow faster than other channels.
I would also add as an afterthought that Twitter is a valuable space if you know how to use it. I generally have measured success of a comic against the number of Twitter followers–Twitter users tend to be more active.I believe that Twitter is the one social platform where the advice “interact with your following” makes or breaks your performance there. Want Twitter to work? Engage the community.
6: Make guest comics as often as possible
Learning about making webcomics involves growing an audience. The best way to do that besides posting to reddit using imgur is by creating guest comics for like-minded comic creators. They’ll share the guest comic with their following, and some of their followers will become yours.
7: Focus on the comics
There is no big secret for how to make a webcomic. The evidence is already there: the best webcomics are good because they tell a good story, they’re relatable, and they’re easy to digest. For new comic creators, the most vital piece of advice is to focus on the comics. Yes it’s important to monetize, sell swag, and network; but nothing is as important as creating good comics.
Other articles from the webcomic creator’s blog:
- SEO for comics
- Posting comics with dedicated titles to hosting websites
- A collection of comic font tutorials
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