Writing your first comic is a daunting task as you now must learn the art of visual storytelling. Here is a quick start guide to help you get started on your first comic from start to finish in 5 easy steps.
Step One: Research
I know it may seem counterproductive to spend more time reading other people’s work instead of writing your own, however, is just like learning a new language it is hard to write in a language if you do not read it.
Plus, if comics are your passion think of it as the best homework ever assigned to you. Pull out some comics and take notes on what the comic artist did and think about why the comic appeals to you as a reader.
Why do you feel sad when you look at the character crying? What about the artist’s choice in the perspective and character posing make you sympathize with the character? Analyze what makes the comic great and find a way to incorporate it into your comic.
Step Two: Develop a Top-Notch Script
It is always best to start with a few short comics with a single conflict plot. This will allow you to gain more experience in the entire drawing process from start to finish.
If you immediately start with a really long comic, you will end up having to redraw the first half of your comic. This is because when you first start out you are going to make mistakes, but as you learn and grow you will have to go back to fix the beginning chapters.
Working on short 3 to 10-chapter projects will give you the opportunity to learn the process from start to finish. Then once you feel ready, you can attempt your first big project!
Write Out a Script
It can be tempting to just jump into a comic and start drawing, but behind all great comics is an amazing script. A well-planned out script will save you the painstaking decisions to scrap panels that you spent hours drawing.
The script can go panel by panel describing each scene or simply outline the plot for the entire comic. The script is just there to guide you as an artist. As you write and draw you will find a balance that works for you.
Step Three: Character Design
Develop Unique Characters
The key to developing a unique character is making them recognizable by their silhouette alone. Keep in mind that the character’s design must fit the mood of the comic and the personality of the individual character.
For example, a bunch of round and squishy characters looks unique, but they may not be the best design for serious action comics. To help with designing characters you can create a chart and outline your character’s physique (Age, Gender, Muscle mass, or lack thereof) as well as personality and history to help you develop their look.
Step Four: Storyboard
RESPECT the gutter space
When creating your first storyboard be sure that you do not neglect your gutter space. The gutter space is the blank space between panels and is considered the heartbeat of the comic. Borderless panels and thin gutter spaces are great for fast-paced action scenes as they allow the reader’s eyes to quickly jump from panel to panel.
On the other hand, adding more space between panels add suspense as it takes the reader longer to look from panel to panel. Be sure to also have a variety of gutter widths as it will keep the comic from looking too boxy and interrupting the natural flow of the panels. Also be sure to not overcrowd a page with too many panels, as a rule of thumb include at least 4, but no more than 6 panels per page.
SHOW Don’t Tell
Comics are visual storytelling. Keep narrations short and simple, your goal is to draw art with a caption, not write a story with an illustration on the side. Overall try not to include more than 1-2 sentences per panel on the page unless necessary.
Too much text can clutter the page. Every time you include text in a panel think if there is a way to replace that text with an image. Show the reader what is happening, they want to see your amazing art!
Picking Panels and Finalizing Sketches
Once you have planned out the gutter space, scenes for each panel, and dialogue and SFX placement. You can begin editing. This process may need to be repeated several times until you get it just right.
Keep in mind that having a perfect storyboard is impossible, but making sure you like the flow of the scenes before spending a lot of time on drawing the final sketches will save you a lot of headaches down the road. Once you have your panels all planned out, finalize the sketches by making sure all the proportions are exactly the way you want them and draw in those fine details.
Step Five: Inking and Coloring
Clean clear line art is key to a visually appealing comic. You will need to first get to find a stabilizer brush or maybe two. Stabilizers take the jitters or small mistakes out of your lines by smoothing them.
Be sure to play with a few different brushes to decide on which one works best for your style and comic. Also, be sure to vary the line thickness to create more interest within an image.
Take your completed line art and create a duplicate file, keep this as your original file, and do not color it. This is very important, because if you accidentally draw on the line art layer and then save it, you may have to redo the line art completely.
On your coloring copy duplicate your line art onto a separate layer. Use the bucket tool to fill the bottom line art with a base color. Then on a separate layer or if you are more daring on the same layer add shading and highlighting until you are satisfied. Be sure not to go overboard with shading as the more details you add the longer it will take to complete each page.
Congrats, you have just learned how to write your first comic book. Keep these steps in mind while working on your first creation and remember that as an artist it is your right to break the rules, as long as you have a reason. Thus, do not feel as if you have to follow the 5 steps above exactly and have fun!