Drawing Comics: Turning Ideas Into Reality

drawing comicsIf you’ve ever thought that you’d be interested in drawing your own comics but weren’t sure where to start, have no fear. Drawing comics is a lot easier than you think, and all it takes is a bit of creativity! Whether you’re creating a short comic strip or a long epic story, many of the rules are the same.

If you’re worried about your artistic skill, head on over to Udemy’s course on anatomy for comics and you’ll be creating flawless characters in no time!

Developing the Plot

Even though a comic is not visually set up the same way that a traditional story is, it still tells a story. Every good story has a plot line, and a comic is no exception. There are a handful of different aspects of a story that you’ll need to consider before creating your comic:

  • Location: Where is your story told? Is it set in modern day Chicago, or is it set in a fantasy land of the past? Even allowing your characters to interact with each other on a white background can be okay in the right context. Whether the location is on a mountain or on a plain background, it’s an important decision to make. The location should make sense in context of the story.
  • Characters: These don’t have to be human characters, but comics usually have one or more characters interacting with each other throughout the plot. You can personify lamps, unicorns, anything, but it’s important to develop a good relatable character or one that evokes some sort of emotion from the reader (whether it be contempt, joy, a sense of wonder, etc).
  • Plot: What is the point of the comic? What are the characters aiming to do? In a short comic strip the plot may be as simple as one horse attempting to trick another horse into doing something in a humorous way, but in a longer comic book it should be a little more complex. While it’s not necessary for all stories to be full of epic adventures, it’s important to keep the reader engaged. Maybe two characters are developed individually, and throughout the course of the comic we see their paths slowly beginning to intersect until they finally meet. Or maybe one character is on a journey to find the meaning of life, meeting many other interesting characters on its way. The possibilities are endless!
  • Overall meaning: Does your story have a lesson? At the end of the comic, are readers going to sit back and think about what they have learned, or are they simply going to giggle and move on with their day? It’s alright to create a comic simply for the comedic effect, but understand that this is your motive. Think about your plot and consider what readers can take away from it.
  • Tone: The overall tone of your comic will help you develop your text. Are you creating a comedy? A horror? A romance? You can help set the tone of your comic through both your images and your dialogue. A mystery or thriller may have a lot of sharp lines and dark colors, while a romance may use rounder lines and brighter colors.

Visual Style

drawingcomicsWhile the story line is an important part of developing a comic, the aesthetic quality is equally as important. When people first glance at your comic, this is what they are going to notice, and this is what is going to either draw them into the story or cause them to walk briskly away in the other direction. Make sure the visual style of the comic reflects what the story is about. As with everything, there are exceptions to this rule. You can have a lot of bubbly characters set in an old, haunted mansion, who seem to deflect anything negative that comes their way without even realizing it, or you can have a lot of menacing characters set in a happy little town made of gumdrops and candy canes.

You can base your visual style off of your favorite comics or cartoons, pulling influences from manga, traditional superheroes, stick figures, Calvin and Hobbes, etc. Each has a distinct style that you can work off of, though it’s important to add your own personal flair.

The Layout

The layout of your comic will depend on whether you’re creating a comic strip or a comic book. Single frame comics are often used for political cartoons or one-liners, and short comic strips can be anywhere from three frames to five frames all in a row. These shorter comics are used for simple plot lines and are typically humorous, and a full-page style is used for longer comic books. When using a full page, you can separate the page into as many little squares (or other shapes) as you want. You’ll most likely want to use straight lines, but you don’t have to stick to the traditional square and rectangle shapes.

The Process

  1. drawingcomicsCreate your script. While you’re writing it out, try to imagine the script separated into different frames. Since comics are primarily images, try not to use too much dialogue. Your story should be able to rely on the images to tell the plot, with the dialogue adding humor, mystery, etc.
  2. Begin a preliminary sketch. Don’t worry about getting the frame sizes or shapes correct or adding too much detail into your sketches, this is simply to help you visualize the flow of the story. When sketching, try to begin developing your visual style, deciding what parts of the plot you’ll be showing through images, and where the text will fit in each frame.
  3. Cut frames that don’t help move the story forward, and rearrange frames to help the story flow nicer. Once you have finished storyboarding, it’s time to create the final product. Begin by using a pencil and ruler to create the different frames within the page – try using a traditional printer sized piece of paper so you can scan it later. Your layout can change page by page, so don’t worry about making them all identical. Start lightly drawing your frames in pencil, making sure to leave room for text, thought bubbles, exclamations, etc.
  4. Once you are happy with the way everything looks, use a brush and ink or a nice Micron pen to draw over your pencil lines and add in smaller details. You may have to play around with different sized brushes and pens in order to get the detail and line quality you want. If you are using your own handwriting for the font, you can add in your text now. If not, wait until later. Once all frames are covered in ink, erase the pencil lines. You can now scan the comic into your computer. Make sure to scan at 600 dpi for best quality!
  5. Open up the comic in Photoshop, then boost the contrast to create stark whites and deep blacks, and use the eraser to clean up any messy or unwanted lines. You can then choose the font you’d like to use for your comic and add in all of your text through Photoshop as well. Photoshop will let you create different shapes for speech bubbles and exclamations, and offers different ways of layering them on top of each other.
  6. You can now use Photoshop to color your comic. Try to stick to one particular color scheme throughout to keep the story flowing nicely. While a tutorial on coloring comics with Photoshop is a whole separate article, Udemy’s course on painting comics will give you a full Photoshop coloring tutorial!
  7. Once you have colored your comic and added all of your text, you are now free to save it and publish it anywhere you’d like!

Practice makes perfect, so keep brainstorming and sketching until you come up with a comic you like! If the first one doesn’t succeed, don’t give up. By continuing to create and spreading the word, you may just start the next big web or print comic!