I’ve just finished my work on the monthly book from BOOM!, Thomas Alsop. This video is about some of the lessons I learned working on that book – hopefully there is some value in it for you too!
Here is a little trick to get the job done faster, if you’re trying to draw a leather jacket. It works on other things as well!
There is an Amazon link in the resources section to the acrylic markers shown in this video.
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In any comic, the way the panels arranged on the page is extremely important. Equally important, is what’s inside the panels!
Every panel has it’s own composition. And the arranged panels make up the composition of the page.
It is almost impossible to teach composition. In comics, it’s basically the distribution of black (or dark) shapes on a white page. A good composition is pleasing to the eye and helps guide the reader’s attention. The main focus should be telling the story.
The best advice I can give on composition, is work really hard on your thumbnails. If it works in a two-three inch sketch, it will probably work in full size as well. Ask yourself if it’s clear what’s going on. Is the eye guided down the page? Is it pleasing to look at? Does the page “tip” because there is too much or too little black in some areas?
Another pitfall to avoid is vertical or horizontal lines within the frames, like a wall or a door. If the line art i.e. the thickness of the lines are similar, the eye can easily confuse it with the edge of the panel. If you make sure to break the lines within the panels with an object, a person or a speech ballon, and that will help the reader tell the lines apart.
Take photocopies of your thumbnails, and try going over them with a black marker, trying out different ways to apply shades and blocks of light, to make the page appealing. Remember that speech baloons are part of the picture! And if you intend to color the page that matters as well.
When you are working on the actual page, try tacking it to your wall and taking a few steps back. Quite a few steps, actually! If a panel or page works at a ten feet distance, you’ve done a good job.
If you’re working digitally, be sure to zoom out once in a while for the same effect. Or print it out and doodle on the printout to see what might help adjust the overall expression.
In summary: The more decisions you make at the thumbnail stage, the less trouble you will have with composition at the final inking stage.
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Is there a right way to hold a pen or a pencil when you draw?
One of my YouTube chanel followers seems to think so. And it’s NOT how I hold a pencil!
Comics is a wonderfully diverse medium and there is no one right way of doing it. But I have a few things I find just plain wrong!
1: Word balloons that come directly out of people’s mouths.
I’ve noticed this a lot in independent comics. It looks like someone is blowing smoke or bubble gum, and that really ruins the reading experience for me.
2: That hair.
A couple of loose strands of hair is generally a good idea. But for the slicked back hair to stay slicked, it’s probably a lot longer than the lock in front here. Did the hairstylist make a blunder? What? It doesn’t make sense. Yet I see this hair in A LOT of comics.
3: Talking during a fight.
Come on, really? I’ve never been in a fight, but I’m pretty sure I would be focused on not getting killed rather than what my next snappy comeback line would be. Long and clever dialogue during a fight scene is unbeliavable and takes the danger out of the scene.
4: Balloon shaped breasts.
How many women do you know who have breast that are completely circular? Not only is it anatomically incorrect, is also gives me the impression the artist is a 12-year old boy who is afraid to even Google for reference. I’m SURE there are pictures of real breasts out there.
5: Evil, evil, evil-doers.
I happen to believe people do things for a reason. Going up against the law or a team of superheroes takes a lot of nerve and effort. I don’t believe anybody would risk their lives doing evil, unless they had a clear motive – however faulty and twisted that motive may be! – or no other option. At least try to come of with a reasoning behind the bad guy’s evil plans to take over the world.
But hey, these are just my personal pet peeves. What are yours?
The most important thing about making comics, is finishing what you start. No one will get anything out of a half-finished story, least of all you!
Be aware that when you are working on a project, it can be very tempting to bail when problems arise. You get stuck on some aspect of the story or things that are hard to draw. That other story you have brewing somewhere in the back of your mind suddenly seems way more attractive. You feel like that’s the one you should really be working on.
But with every new story, comes new problems! You just don’t see them now, because you are not deep in the story yet. It is simply the dream of what it could be, so much better than what you are currently working on.
And of course you can work on any story you feel like. I would just advice that you finish them eventually. One by one.
Another thing that happens as you’re working, is that you learn. You grow. You look at the work you’ve already done, and you think you could do better. If you go back and change that particular scene or redraw that particular panel.
My advice? DON’T!
You’ll end up re-drawing the same three pages over and over again.
Finish the story. Then go back. If it still needs some work. 9 times out of ten, what seemed hopeless and bad during the process, will seem irrelevant and pretty OK after you have finished the story.
The most important thing to gain by finishing a project, is the confidence you build. Making comics is a lenghty and often gruelling process. It’s easy to feel like it’s all for nothing. You start beating yourself up. You feel you are not good enough, that nobody cares.
Having something finished changes that. Now you can show it to others, get feedback, respect. You have achieved! You are a success!
Abandoning a project half way through has the opposite effect; You feel like a failure. Do you think feeling like a failure helps your productivity?
The short answer is NO.
You learn more from one finished comic, even a three page one, than from ten projects that are halfway done.
Get to the finish line. Even if you have to stagger or crawl to get there.