Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Making Comics, Getting Started


This is the first in a series of essays I am going to produce on the topic of making comics. I would hardly consider myself an expert on the subject, which, in my opinion, makes me well suted to address beginners, as I have a better idea of the baseline of starting knowledge than might someone who has gained expertise.

If you're reading this I assume you want to make some $&@#ing comics, but even after reading McCloud and maybe Eisner, you're still at a loss as to how to begin.

What you will need:


Comic making is pretty complex and requires a lot of different skills. At the most basic, you must be able to draw and write- to some degree. I would suggest that you achieve at least a mediocre (by your own assessment) level of skill in both before you begin trying to create finished pages. Mediocre isn't good enough, of course, but it is good enough to start. It is more important that you strive to improve than you start out with perfect skills. Perfection is a goal, not a starting condition.

Chances are if you have an undergraduate experience or even just like to read a lot, you are probably already a mediocre writer, you might even be good, but it is best to assume otherwise. This reduces the pain later. Trust me.

Drawing. Pffffffffft. This is the hard one. I don't know if it is harder in an abstract all thing remaining equal sense, because we spend a huge part of our schooling on the written word. Drawing instruction is all but non existant in traditional education. I cannot sugar coat it. Even baseline mediocrity is heartbreakingly difficult to achieve.

Honesty: The only reason I know how to draw is because of the sunk cost fallacy. I have also been diagnosed with a fairly robust range of mental illness. Chicken or the egg?

This brings us to a bit of unpleasantness that I have never seen addressed in any how to book. If you're anything like I was before I could draw, you might be thinking, 'I'll just find an artist. After all, I am willing to work for free, so they certainly will too- for the exposure."

Just typing that makes me salty. Here's why. That 12+ years of writing education I mentioned? Every single artist went through that too. Unproven, you are not offering that guy anything he can't do on his own. Further, if she is any good the artist has already heard this offer a dozen dozen times. Often it is delivered by a writer who has been rebuffed on a number of occasions, and is already snarky about the whole thing. As if they are somehow entitled to an artist FOR FREE, goddammit!! There are literally web pages devoted to artists mocking free art requests. Don't do it.

Okay, setting aside the salt, I am going to close with some practical data:

Standard comic pages are have a width/height ratio of 3x5. Traditional artists mostly use 11"x17" Bristol (smooth or plate surface) measure in1 1/2 inch from the bottom and top and 1 inch from both sides to create the proper sized work area.

If you are trying to color using an image a manipulation program such as the gimp, or photoshop and getting nowhere, set your bleed mode to multiply and color on a layer beneath your line art. You will want a background layer, usually white, beneath your color layers. That, btw, is virtually everything I know about color.

Need something to ink with? Sakura Microns are available at almost every art store in North America. Get a set of three .01/.03/.05. Change things up later at will, once you get the hang of it.

If you think inking is just tracing. I have some more heartbreaking news for you, but not just now.

I'll happily answer specific questions in comments or via email.

You can see my bulshit here.



  1. Are your comix available as printed versions anywhere? If so, would you be up for trading for one of mine?

  2. Thanks for the interest. I'm working on my second attempt at getting something physical together. I'll certainly post here and at the other site when it's available. i I am totally open to a trade.

  3. I look forward to more of these posts!