Comics For Beginners – Episode 1


How to write and draw comics! Writer/artist Palle Schmidt takes you through the basics of making comics, from story idea to finished pages. In this first of ten episodes, you will learn how to structure and plan ahead, so your story doesn’t end up in the ditch.

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Open Me

Hi and welcome to this web-based learning program about how to make comics.

You probably already know a little bit about it, since you found this page. Maybe you even know more than me! But I hope my little videos can be of inspiration and maybe make you see another perspective.

My first 48-page comic was published in Denmark in 1999. Since then I’ve been working full-time as a freelance writer, illustrator and comic book artist, and last year my graphic novel The Devil’s Concubine was released in the US from IDW Publishing. In my 13 or so years of experience, I’ve read tons of books on writing and making comics, but this video format is a really cool way for me to share some of my experiences in an easily accessible way with all the visual aids available. Now you can jump ahead, skip episodes or pause or re-watch all you want. While there are plenty of tutorials for artists to be found online, I’ve yet to see something that covers ALL the bases in making comics.

What’s so great about making comics is that you can tell any story, without spending a dime. You can have three-headed monsters, exploding spaceships or hordes of gun-toting elephants. Anything you want! As long as you can draw it. And if you can’t draw it right now, well I have a few tips for you. I’ll also be going over how to write and plan your story, so you don’t end up in the ditch like so many other aspiring comic book artists.

I’m constantly learning new things myself and I try to share what I learn as much as possible, both here and on my personal web-page. I’ll also be available for questions or comments to these videos, so be sure to check the comments below for more tips.

In this first episode we are going to be talking about getting started on your story. In other episodes we’ll be going over script formats, laying out your page

By the end of this program, you will be ready and able to make your own comics, online or in print.

I’ll try to be as practical as possible. I’m not here to tell you how YOU should make comics. I’ll just tell how I go about it, see if you can’t pick up a trick or two, huh? So let’s get started!

TITLE: Episode 1: FIRST THINGS FIRST

A lot of cartoonists start with a blank page and a vague idea of what they want to do.

I DON’T recommend that! What usually happens is, you’re all fired up when you draw the first frame or two, then the story gets stuck or your interest dwindles. Usually when you get to something that’s hard to draw.

Now, while there ARE creators out there, who do great work without so much as a written outline, I will always, always work out a script before getting on with the drawing. This doesn’t have to be a full script with each picture described. Especially if you’re going to be drawing it yourself. I use the format from movie scripts. You can find loads of scripts online or buy them in books. It’s a great way of learning how to write stories this way.

When you open up a new document on your computer or in your notebook, you sort of have the same problem as I talked about earlier; the blank page. A blank page is never a good place to start.

When I start a new story, I usually have a bunch of ideas, characters or scenes in my head. It can be a location, it can be a piece of dialogue. So what I do, is I try to get some of that down on paper. Get a notebook for the project, and keep it with you at all times. Write down ideas, do little sketches, maybe put in a clipping or an image that inspires you.

This is one of my favorite parts of cooking up a story. Everything is possible, nothing is set in stone. After a while, you need to take a look at your list of ingredients, see what kind of dish you’re making. You’ll find that not all of it belongs in the pot.

You can make a little mind-map with notes, and see if you can’t make some more sense of it all. The great things about comics, is you can do basically whatever you want. It doesn’t cost a thing! Just hard work.

But you have to limit yourself in a way, or your story probably won’t make any sense.

One of the first things to decide, is genre. Is it a romance? A space opera? A detective story? Maybe there’s a particular film or book you can use as inspiration, to sort of set you off. Perhaps there’s a certain style, tone or plot structure you can borrow. Don’t worry about stealing, your story will be YOUR story. More about stealing in lesson 5.

OK, so now you know what KIND of story you want to make. The next thing is to decide WHO it’s about. Every story has a main character. Now, we go over character design in lesson 4, but that’s more about the visuals. Right now let’s focus on the story.

A story, ANY story, is about somebody who wants something, and is having trouble getting it. Stuff happens, things get in the way. So he has to work even HARDER to achieve his goal. Maybe he get’s what he wants. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he get’s what he want’s, but finds out it wasn’t what he wanted after all!

Here’s a little checklist of want you need, before you start working on the script.

1: A genre
2: A main character
3: A setting
4: A beginning
5: A middle
6: An end!

You don’t need to be absolutely sure about everything on this list, you can still change things around later. But having an idea about this helps tremendously.The great thing about working on the computer, is you can undo everything and move everything around in your document. That’s a lot harder to do, once you start drawing. So make sure you get the structure of you story right before you start drawing page 1!

Sometimes you need to get to know your characters a little better, before you start writing. We talk about character design in lesson 3. But right now, if you’re not turned off completely by the amount of work, it’s time to start writing your script. So; on to lesson 2!

37 Responses to “Comics For Beginners – Episode 1”

  1. David Buus May 14, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Great video! Shows me some of my problems, and why I get stuck 🙂 Thanks a bunch!

  2. Palle Schmidt May 29, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    Thanks David, I appreciate it! Hopefully these vids will help you get UNstuck!

  3. natalie August 17, 2013 at 12:35 am #

    I loved this video it was very informative and i learned my mistakes. Its just when i get pumped i want to tear up the page but like you said i always end up in a ditch. Thanks so much for your information! :3

    • Palle Schmidt August 17, 2013 at 6:19 am #

      Learning from our mistakes is what makes us move forward, I find.

      I also find that whenever I feel the urge to tear up a page (or at least re-draw part of it) the best thing I can do is move on to the next page! I make a deal with myself that I can only re-draw AFTER the entire thing is finished. Then I can go back and redo a panel that doesn’t work.

      That distance puts things in perspective and I maybe realize that the thing I was so displeased with is not that big a deal as part of the whole. Or I’m just too fed up with the project to bother with nitpicking, so I just leave it!

      There will ALWAYS be panels or drawings you just can’t seem to make work. But pushing through is what helps you see clearly what needs fixing and what doesn’t.

      Glad you liked the video, thanks for your comment.

      • Matthew September 13, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

        Hey palle have you ever seen the movie called creepshow?

        • Palle Schmidt September 16, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

          I have not. Wonder why you would ask that question here, but…

      • artkid January 29, 2016 at 11:41 pm #

        hw cn i draw d heads,eye.etc. most especialy hw 2 paint

  4. Tammy December 2, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    Hi Palle, I just discovered your site and am taking a look around today. I’ve watched the first video and can’t wait to watch the others. Thanks for making this available to all, I know it will help me tremendously.

    • Palle Schmidt December 3, 2013 at 8:58 am #

      Thanks, Tammy! Hope you enjoy the rest of the vids just as much. I know you will!

  5. rommel Fernandez March 16, 2014 at 7:22 am #

    I am loving the videos, I am at that the stage where I have drawing storyboards for about 10 years now, and I have gotten into the habit of using short hand for just about everything I draw. It works great for story boarding, but not so much for comics. Now I can’t seem to finish anything!

    I am currently writing a script that I am determined to finish, writing is not my thing but trying to find a writer to collaborate with comes with a plethora of problems.

    ANyways, love the videos and also your comic work itself is outstanding. Where can I read or see some of your comic work?

    • Palle Schmidt March 16, 2014 at 9:20 am #

      You seem to have posted the same question on two pages, so I’ll answer here as well 🙂

      Hi Rommel, sounds like you’re in a good place to make comics! Storyboards and comics are all about storytelling and short hand. But yeah, finishing is a critical part!

      My comics work in English amounts to two books at this point, my graphic novel The Devil’s Concubine is out from IDW and can also be found on Comixology. For trailer and samples go to http://www.devilsconcubine.com

      I have a shorter crime noir story on Graphicly called Hard Evidence.

      I have two upcoming projects as well. I’m currently working as the artist on a monthly book called Thomas Alsop, written by Chris Miskiewicz. The first of 8 issues will be released in June of this year. And I’m looking for a publisher for my own 120 page graphic novel, STILETTO, which was published in Denmark last year. Samples at http://www.stilettographicnovel.com.

      Thanks for your interest and your support!

      Best of luck,
      Palle

      • rommel Fernandez March 17, 2014 at 3:15 am #

        my apologies, I kept getting an error that Posted it 2x’s but the post was not there. I thought it never posted.

        After writing the post last night I found your other blog and links to the comics. Your comics are what comics would be like if Quentin Tarantino made them. An instant appeal so you have another fan.

  6. Bobby Kemp September 28, 2014 at 7:07 am #

    Hi!
    I’m a brand new beginner who’s aspiring to draw and write his own comics. Your videos make me feel like I can really do this. Thanks for going out of your way to make these. Right now I’m at the idea stage just drawing and writing whatever I can. 🙂

  7. Katja Louhio March 9, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

    Hi!
    I just want to say thank you, Palle, for making these tutorial videos. I’ve bought books about making comics for years but not one of them has been as helpful and inspirational as these videos. 🙂

  8. Adam Benally March 31, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    Hello!! Palle,
    Im so happy to start making and working on my comic book ideas! Thanks to you and your helpful website!!! 🙂 GOD BLESS YOU!! THANK U, THANK U, THANK U. You have your self a great day Palle!!

    • Palle Schmidt April 1, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

      Well, my day just got greater 🙂 Glad you find the site helpful. Thank YOU!

  9. Adam Benally April 2, 2015 at 11:01 pm #

    Sorry Palle if I start leaving a bunch of comments It’s just I am so inspired by how you could do this , to help others i’m already starting on my comic book!!!! 🙂

    • Palle Schmidt April 3, 2015 at 8:57 am #

      Leave as many comments as you want, Adam 🙂 Thanks!

  10. Adam Benally April 6, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    WOW I might publish these comics I make thanks to you Palle thanks alot for how you take the time to think of other comicbook makers 🙂
    You have your self a great day Palle BYE_BYE!!!

  11. Jay April 9, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

    Great video! Thanks for doing this! I look forward to the rest of the series!

  12. Nyll Elijah Del Valle August 15, 2016 at 6:07 am #

    Can I make a comic with my pencil & color pencil and my blank comic book? Because I don’t have computer and printer

    • Palle Schmidt August 17, 2016 at 10:31 am #

      You can use any tools you want, Nyli! That’s the beauty of it 🙂

      • Nyll Elijah Del Valle August 19, 2016 at 5:20 am #

        Thank you for info

  13. Nyll Elijah Del Valle August 15, 2016 at 6:28 am #

    I am a 12 year old child my best hobby is reading my different comic book and want to make my own comic but I don’t have a digital gadgets I am from Philippines and I want to be a professional comic maker someday and I want make my first own comic right now.

  14. Rachael M. October 5, 2016 at 6:09 am #

    Hey, Palle. How long does it usually take to make a comic? I am making a comic book for a project, and I have until around October 18th.

    • Palle Schmidt October 5, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

      Hey Rachael,

      That depends on a lot of things. If you have to write the script yourself, ink it, color it, learn along the way. That last bit is of course hard to avoid, but I mean if you are just starting out in sequential art, it will take a lot longer than for a seasoned pro. A good rule of thumb is you should be able to produce at least a page a day. If you can’t keep that pace, you’re either not cut out for a career in comics or you need to lower your standards in terms of what the finished art should look like. Less details = less time.

      Hope this is helpful – Best of luck!

      -Palle

      • Rachael M. October 6, 2016 at 4:49 am #

        Okay, thank you!!!

  15. wole November 26, 2016 at 1:31 am #

    good job i love it

  16. Nikita Choudhary July 6, 2017 at 10:51 am #

    I want to know if I can make a story short as 2 or 3 pages as one chapter of a comic……..i am making multiple chapters(with each different plot)…..you know like short tales……So is that fine?

    • Palle Schmidt July 30, 2017 at 1:29 pm #

      Do whatever you want, Nikita 🙂 Actually, starting small and gaining some experience that way is a great idea!

      Sorry for the late reply, I missed your comment in the dashboard.

  17. kamal September 19, 2017 at 2:03 am #

    hi my name is kamal lneed this video you can open the you tube

  18. Bindu November 11, 2017 at 9:39 pm #

    Hi Palle,
    Thank you for taking the time to make these videos. They are very informative and helpful. Enjoyed them immensely.

    I have an idea to do short strips as part of an educative initiative to reach out and help children. A lot of it is still in my head and I plan on putting it down on paper real soon. I can draw fairly ok, but I have never attempted caricature and am quite sure it’s not my thing. I came across several online comic and storyboard creators Pixton, Canva etc. Is that a good way of doing things? What I really want to know is – Will they have rights over what I create on their site especially if I decide I want to move on to another service?

    Thnak you so much for your time!

    • Palle Schmidt November 20, 2017 at 10:12 am #

      Hi Bindu, I am not an expert in the sites you mention, I guess you will have to read their terms and conditions thoroughly. I do know that unless you specifically sign off on your IP you retain the rights to work that you create. A lot of free services online have the annoying habit of putting watermarks on things tho.. That’s something to be wary of.

      Thanks for your kind words!

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