26 tips for new Webcomics

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26 tips for new Webcomics

Postby RobboAKAscooby on Thu Jan 21, 2010 6:56 am

After browsing through the old threads lately (boredom/artist's block) I came up with the following:

26 tips for beginners, or how to avoid the mistakes the rest of us all made:

1. Learn to draw
No, seriously, LEARN to draw. Whether self-taught from books and tutorials or by taking art classes you need to learn to draw and draw the real world before you draw comics, so just bookmark that how to draw manga tutorial for now and go buy a good simple art book (I'd recommend this book it's a good all-rounder) and any anatomy for the artist book. You don't have to become great at drawing just learn to understand.
2. Have a story
Preferably a good one but so long as it's competently written you've got a good starting point.
Alternatively if you're doing a gag-a-day comic (which is a good way to learn comicking) learn to tell a joke.
3. Make your bible
No don't go start a cult or anything (yet), a bible is basically just a book of information - in the case of your comic this should include character designs, location layouts, plot outlines, character bios, rules of your universe, anything you need to know about your comic - and do it in advance, if you can resist just jumping into your comic, it will make everything a LOT easier.
4. Be realistic
Don't expect you're going to be the next big thing, the truth is the vast majority of new webcomics fail miserably.
Also don't expect your first webcomic to be the one you stick with, more often than not you'll use it as a learning experience and your second (or third etc) will be the one you can truly be passionate about.
5. Be prepared
Try to have a decent amount of strips/pages done before you go online, either as a buffer or so you have a reasonable sample for when you go around asking for critiques /reviews. Having a buffer is probably the better idea but be sure you maintain it, if you can't draw a page one day/week/whatever draw two next time to make up for what you've used.

6. Be patient
A quick check of topwebcomics.com shows over 3000 comics (I wasn't clicking anymore pages than that) so there are plenty of comics out there waiting to be discovered, no matter how loud you shout about it people will take their own sweet time to discover you comic. Don't watch the hits counter and don't get frustrated by the lack of feedback just enjoy doing the comic.
7. Never be ashamed of your work
Artwise most of us beginners are frankly dreadful, but that's okay keep trying you WILL improve. The same thing goes for the writing.
More importantly don't be ashamed of the subject matter you choose (especially if it's "controversial") because I guarantee you some troll will find your comic and bash it to hell, ignore them or if it really gets to you maybe rethink your ideas (especially if they involve some wierd fetish).
8. Don't be an arrogant SOB
If you strut around the place acting as if you/your comic/your opinions are gifts from the Goddess then people will NOT like you, will NOT take you seriously and even if your comic really is the best thing ever people won't stick around to enjoy it.
9. If you ask for help be prepared to accept it
There is nothing more annoying than someone asking for help around here and then arguing with every single pointer they are given. If you don't like or disagree with the advice given, ask for a second (or third or sixteenth) opinion, none of us in this world is an all-knowing expert but at least respect the fact we're trying to help you AND you asked for our help.
10. Your comic isn't perfect, accept this now
Your first critique/review will more than likely point out numerous flaws you have been "blind" to, these people (generally) are not saying these things just to be mean.

11. Quality materials for a quality result
This doesn't mean rush out an buy all the expensive professional equipment/paper/tools/programs/etc but at least use materials that are of a good quality.
If you're traditional use clean, flat, unlined, uncreased paper a nice new pencil/pacer and INK your comic, avoid using shapies, ballpoint pens, etc go to an art store and buy real pens (or nib pens if that's your thing).
If you're all digital DO NOT USE MS PAINT, you can find free programs like gimp if you can't afford to buy software.
12. Cut and paste or tracing paper CAN be your friend
But only if you use it properly. For instance here I needed to maintain the same basic positions/expressions from the previous comic (the effect being two characters having one of those meet-cute, crushy moments) but I still made subtle changes to expression and the hair flow so as it does not appear to be a static moment, time visibly flows between frames of the conversation.
13. Tell the story with the images
You should, in most cases be able to take a comic and remove the words without removing the feel of the story. Certainly in some more conversational pages you may not get across the exact details of the story but you should at least be able to tell the tone of the conversation (mind you I have seen some comics where you wouldn't even know it was a convesation, just two people on a couch staring like goldfish).
One big exception to this is the offscreen gag, sometimes you do have to tell rather than show but this normally is only one frame of the page.
14. Creation is a multi-step process
The first thing you put on paper (or first layer in photoshop) should not be the final product.
My process goes roughly: script - thumbnail - layout - underdrawing - inking - colouring - scan - tidy - background fill - lettering - resize.
Your exact process will be different than mine but even digitally you should have a similar amount of work going into each comic.
15. Stick to a schedule
If you plan to update three times a week update three times a week - a buffer will help on those occasions that real life interferes, and let life interfere from time to time you need the chance to chill and find inspiration - if you can't stick to the schedule change it, start small and increase updates as your speed/skills improve.

16. Realism
Make your characters believable - they're people, they have flaws and insecurities and motivations.
For instance if your character is a 107 year old vampire don't make him act like a whiny petulant teenager, would he really still be in highschool and wouldn't people have noticed after a couple of decades, perhaps a more reclusive, pining for the outside world (like Edward Scissorhands or the Beast) personality would better suit the character and the story.
17. Design
I have to blame anime/manga for the single biggest flaw I see in characterization: characters whose designs don't fit.
There are too many examples out there of overly cute characters with dark personalities, violent activites, etc - and sometimes this can work as a contrast to other characters around them - there should always be some hint of the character's true nature in their appearance, give your secret schoolgirl assassin colder eyes or a stiffer posture.
18. Clothing makes the character
It's more than something you use to cover up the nakedness. Clothing is a great shorthand for the characters personality, whether you use it simply to illustrate stereotypes (goth, jock, slut, etc) or as a more subtle, personal expression of the character - for instance a girl wearing baggy t-shirts could hint at certain body-insecurities.
19. Your world is a character too
Even if set in the here-and-now real world your comic's world is just as much in need of characterization as the cast.
For example if your story is set in a medieval fantasy world the people shouln't speak like 21st century teenagers.
Everything from the appearance of the world to the language usage should be considered and consistent.
20. Variation
Everyone is an individual. Remember that.

21. Obey the rules
Your world needs to have established rules, you need to have limitations on where you can go, this helps to maintain a streamlined and cohesive story. If you allow yourself to go anywhere you can lose track of the destination.
22. Let today lead into tomorrow
If you plan on telling a proper story rmember that not only does each page of a webcomic need to stand on its own it also has to build expectation for the next page.
23. If you set it up pay it off
If you introduce an idea earlier in the story you must return to is eventually to pay-off the idea, all super-secret weapons must be used eventually and all prophecies should be fullfilled.
Of course you don't necessarily need to pay it off as expected, your super weapon could be a dud and your prophecy may have been made up by a drunk at the local pub, the point is to return to the idea at some stage and close the circle
24. Let the story explain itself
You shouldn't be drumming story-points into people's heads, just tell the story and trust them to understand it for themselves. If you have some little mystery plot-point that is "important" to the story don't jump and shout "Look at this, look at this", it ruins the story later, be subtle.
25. Don't lecture
If you have an important message to make with your comic, just make your comic, people will generally get your point without you having to get on the soapbox under the [insert opinion of choice here] banner. You get more people thinking by weaving your message into the story than by shouting at them "[subject of choice] is good/bad!!!"

Alway push yourself, always try new things.
Try to draw a new pose or expression or object.
If you always draw teen characters try drawing an oldy once in a while.
Normally draw furries? try a human or a real animal. Draw Sci-fi? Why not try a cowboy or an elf.
Normally write a funny comic? try a little drama or action or romance.
You don't need to include your experiments in your comic but experiment anyway, you never know you might get a great new idea.
"Your service is to the story and to the characters. Fuck the audience and fuck your own whims." - Yeahduff
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Re: 26 tips for new Webcomics

Postby Harishankar on Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:40 am

Great tips.

Let me add my own here. It's simple but seems to be effective for me at least.

If you aren't happy with drawing on a pen-and-paper, try using a vector graphics program like Illustrator or Inkscape and invest the effort to learn it.

Vector tools give you an unbelievable, unmatched line quality that cannot be beat (at least for beginners) so that you can focus more on getting your shapes and proportions right rather than waste time on "fixing" your line quality. I know this won't improve your traditional artistic skills, but for a lot of us, the end result matters more than the process/tools used...
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Re: 26 tips for new Webcomics

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:23 am

I like it too!


- Don't go into big advertising right away. Just don't. Suppose someone clicks a link to your page and sees you've only got 15 pages up so far, it will be very unlikely that they will be hooked and want to come back for more.

Now personally, I've seen comics where I've only read a few pages and something- either the art style, the sense of humor, the subject matter, whatever have you- was able to really take a hold of me and make me come back to visit again. But it can be a little presumptuous to do. Wait a while, wait until you've gotten, I would say, at least three story arcs out. I mean that's not a set-in-stone number but I think that's a good enough timespan for you to have developed your characters and your world and plot to the readers enough.

It's one thing having your link on here since this is already a webcomics-oriented forum, and therefore a place where you can receive helpful criticism, but wait longer until you start going out on limbs. You don't want someone to visit your site, say "Oh, is that all?" and then never click one of your links again.

- Scooby, I will disagree with you on one point- you don't need to have every single trait and characteristic planned out ahead of time. I would say you just need to have a fitting knowledge of your characters' main attributes before you begin. I'm still learning more about my characters- the more I write and draw them, the more I get to know them.

Here's some ideas I had posted in another thread: viewtopic.php?f=695&t=89126#p1530911. These help in focusing your work in terms of your characters.

- Everyone has a different way of writing and drawing. I used to write out the dialogue/script for a whole season, then set up the panels for a whole mess of strips, then sketch ink etcetera. After a while I realized that this was just a waste of time, because once I got to the point of actually drawing the thing, there were things I wanted to change and didn't like anymore. Now I do things a lot more off the cuff. I'll have the idea of what should happen next, and then I ponder it for a while until I come to the best way of presenting it. I rely less on the exact words of the dialogue now, and more on what message the dialogue is trying to convey. In fact, the words don't even get added onto the page until I'm inking everything. For me, keeping it sort of fresh and unplanned like that not only maintains my own interest in the story, but I feel that the characters sound a lot more like themselves.

- Also, seconding your ideas about "The Right Attitude." Jesus Christ on a pogo stick did I have issues there. From seventh grade until basically last year, I had a very very very specific way of drawing bodies. I would not budge on this system. I mean, I wasn't a jerk to people that told me I could do better, but I just kept going along on my merry way under the defense of "It's a stylistic thing."

No, old self. It wasn't. It was laziness and that's all. As a result, I am five years behind where I should be in terms of my ability to draw decent anatomy. I mean, just compare my two comics. Band Geeks Anonymous was done in high school when I was very much rooted in my stubborn state of not wanting to improve. Then once I started drawing Loud Era I realized that that style wouldn't cut it anymore. Oh lord, the stages in between BGA and Loud Era are freaking HILARIOUS. Like some awful angular chibi-fied amalgamation with this horrible air of earnest sincerity and seriousness. I really thought that that was the way things should be.

Which brings me to another thing

-Styles change. The way you draw today will likely be different (and hopefully worse) than the way you draw six months from today, a year from today, three years from today, and forevermore. Don't cling to something if it doesn't feel natural anymore. Seek out new ways to improve your art. Challenge yourself. Never let it get too easy, because part of the fun is in the improvement (at least for me). Strengthen your anatomy. Streamline your inking process. Embellish your facial expressions. Learn textures. Learn shading. Learn about using color. Work in a differnet medium, just to see what it's like, and just to see if anything you learn from it can be applied back to your regular work. There's always somehting that you can work on.

- Look back at your work. Every once in a while, if you've hit a point where you're not sure where to go next, go back and reread what you have so far. You might find somethign that needs closure, which can help. But most importantly, be able to identify your own improvement. Be your own critic. Look for things that someone could call you out on. Remember them so that you can improve in the future.

Don't reread it all everyday, though. I mean, you probably shouldn't, because then it could become difficult for you to be able to put yourself in the audience's shoes because you know what's coming. Think of certain things that might not be coming across so clearly. Are they things that can be rectified in the future? Do you need to go back in and fix them now, even? Or, do you think it would be better to just start from scratch all over again? You needn't do the latter every time you've reached an impasse, but sometimes you find yourself just not telling the story that you want to tell.

- Make the rest of your website good. Funcitonality comes first, of course- can readers navigate easily? Do you have extra pages on your site to help readers learn more if you feel that this would be supplementary to your comic? (Note that I said supplementary- your character page and other assorted goodies should not be required reading in order for someone to enjoy your comic. They should act as those bonus things on the DVD menu when you're watching a movie.

Consider form, also. If your comic is about people with a flesh-eating disease running throughout the town and slicing people open, your background likely shouldn't be a soothing pastel color with comic sans as the main font. Unless you're going for jarring mood dissonance. If your art is simple, don't clutter your site with overwhelming and distracting decorations. If it is more detailed, on the other hand, you can get a little more artsy. Just make sure that the comic is the clear focus of the page.

If you don't know how to make your site pretty, ask for help. There are over nine billion and sixty two thousand people who use the internet every day. And at least 30% of them understand something about web design. You can even ask on this very forum. It's cool! It's like there's people out there available to assist you!

- If you need to, take a break. You shouldn't do it too often, and you shouldn't take too long, but sometimes a baby's gotta do what a baby's gotta do. Maybe it's just me, but I would rather read a consistently good comic that takes a hiatus now and then than a comic that updates with clinical precision but looks like the author has grown to hate their own work. Don't force yourself.

-As a corrollary: Enjoy being an artist. You probably won't make money off of it, or at least not very much at all, but is a good hobby. All you need is a writin' stick, a surface, and something to share. Build up from there.
Don't kid yourself, friend. I still know how.
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Re: 26 tips for new Webcomics

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:25 am

I did not intend for that post to grow so massive
Don't kid yourself, friend. I still know how.
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Re: 26 tips for new Webcomics

Postby RobboAKAscooby on Thu Jan 21, 2010 12:46 pm

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:- Scooby, I will disagree with you on one point- you don't need to have every single trait and characteristic planned out ahead of time. I would say you just need to have a fitting knowledge of your characters' main attributes before you begin. I'm still learning more about my characters- the more I write and draw them, the more I get to know them.

Totally agree with you there, you only really need to know enough to get started and add to you bios as you "discover" more about your characters.
So long as you know enough about their personality/motivations/insecurities to make them believable you've got a good starting point - I'd say it comes down to consistency.

When I was planning out my comic reboot - Ride The Wind - I spent a long while figuring out who my characters were, which has been fun since I've essentially rewritten my entire stable of characters from Sh!t Happens.
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Re: 26 tips for new Webcomics

Postby Forsakenstars on Thu Jan 21, 2010 1:53 pm

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I did not intend for that post to grow so massive

Haha, that was great. Thank you so much Scooby and Cuddly. I've just posted a request for critique, and this helps a lot. (Still, it would be great to hear some direct feedback at this point.)

There are lots of different webcomickers out there. Some who want to do something great and epic, some who just want to have fun, some who plan months in advance, and some who want to learn as they go because they just have an idea that's burning in them and they just want to get it out there because if they don't they'll explode! Many, like me, have a mix of all of these qualities, and this info is greatly appreciated.
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Re: 26 tips for new Webcomics

Postby meticulator on Tue May 18, 2010 4:07 pm

Thanks a million bunches Robbo and Cuddly. As someone taking my first step in the webcomic world, these tips are enormously useful.
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Re: 26 tips for new Webcomics plus one

Postby RobboAKAscooby on Fri May 21, 2010 2:49 am

Adding one huge tip for drawing anatomy well, and this one really applies to everyone no matter your style:

Use real-life photos for reference images.

Far too many comickers (myself included at one stage) try to learn off of other peoples art, especially with manga wannabes. Often those How to draw Manga (or DC or "the Marvel way") books are as far as they'll go when it comes to learning to draw so they pick up the mistakes that others make and add their own on top of it.

Google images can be an awesomely valuable tool.
You're sitting at the computer going "Shit this pose/object/etc doesn't look right" google pose/object/etc and browse until you find something suitable.
It is amazing how many people don't think of this.
You can even print out the image (or import it into your program) and lay out guidelines on the image to help you figure it out if required.

Same thing goes for anthro comics, if you're going to draw an animal see how it looks in the real world first, so many anthro comics have characters that look practically the same with exception of ear & nose shape.

Also there is always the photo-reference books you can buy from some art/book stores (I have an awesome fantasy one) which now often come with CDs that have the photo files included.

The point is not to try and copy someone else's art but learn HOW they created it in the first place and help yourself create your own art.
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Re: 26 tips for new Webcomics plus one

Postby Samuli on Fri Jun 04, 2010 4:46 pm

RobboAKAscooby wrote:Use real-life photos for reference images.

I'd go one step further: Use real-life people for reference. Abuse the help of friends, get a big mirror and maybe a camera. Way quicker than google for simple poses (you can spend hours looking for a good shot). And as a bonus you get to accessorise your model exactly the way you want. :)

Plus, by looking at a 3-D human being and visualising it in 2-D you get a much better understanding of how the human body works. Too much reliance on photos usually results in a stiff traced quality, which is more than a little offputting (learned from personal experience).
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Re: 26 tips for new Webcomics

Postby Laemkral on Mon Jun 21, 2010 3:23 am

A few things I want to throw out from when I was first getting started with my own webcomic.

Get advice from anywhere you can. When I was still going to Comic-Con in San Diego, I went to a panel devoted strictly towards people starting new comics. Very helpful. Also, keep coming to places like CG and use the forums to pester those who have "been there, done that". That is in fact a life lesson that should be applied to not just comicing, but your career and education.

Start small, build up. If this is your first comic, telling your grand opus of a story that is the definitive work of your life...not gonna happen. Even the big guys like PvP, Penny Arcade, QC, etc...their comics started with very small stuff that grew into the big things they are. Little stories can become big stories later on. This will give you the practice to hammer out kinks in your style (both writing and drawing) so that when you DO attempt to tell your epic tale, you won't look back and go "Wow, that was crappy, I need to redo that."

Be passionate. I made my comic for me and my friends, and as a result I loved doing it. Taking photos of the stupid things we did and turning them into comics was just a ton of fun. Because I enjoyed doing it, it wasn't a chore and I produced good material. If you hate your comic, its probably time to end it and move on, or reevaluate what it is you don't like about it. When it became an obligation, it became quite clear to me real quick that I was done making my comic. Again, this applies to not just your comic, but your life. Be passionate and enjoy what you do, and you'll do it well.

Seek to improve. Be honest with yourself, criticize your past works, and be comfortable enough to admit that certain things could be better. When you look at your current works, find something that you aren't satisfied with and set out to improve it. For me, for a long time it was word bubbles. I just couldn't get them to look how I wanted. It was acceptable, but it wasn't great. I kept trying to find a new way, and they kept improving. In addition, find something about your current works that you are PROUD of. Remind yourself of the things you do well, because those are achievements worth noting and they'll keep you motivated. Really, this is also another "works for life" type lesson.
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Re: 26 tips for new Webcomics

Postby peterabnny on Fri Jun 25, 2010 9:14 am

Wow, lots of great stuff here! A lot of it I figured out for myself and this just reinforced the idea, but some of it was new and useful stuff. With my own anthro comic Critters, I learned the hard way about all the stuff not to do in my time spent on the furry site FurAffinity.net. In fact, one of the things that drove me the craziest was the fact that I could ask for feedback, and no one would give a crap since I didn't do the porn that these people only look at.

Here, however, I could ask for feedback or help and actually get it! Thanks to you guys I'm learning the right way to do things, and although I credit FA for allowing me to discover the kind of artist I am and want to be, I credit you guys for making me feel good about it and that I was right about the path that I'm on.

If you're an anthro artist, FA is a very toxic place. It nourishes the accomplished artist, but poisons the up and coming. Leaving that place and hanging out here is probably the best thing I could have done for my artistic self esteem. You guys rock! :)
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Re: 26 tips for new Webcomics

Postby Warlordofnoodles on Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:10 pm

Thanks! This list actually makes me feel a whole lot better^^
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