If you’re new to making webcomics, I thought that I’d provide a list of ways to give your webcomic a graphical upgrade. If you’ve been making webcomics for a while, then you probably already know this stuff but it might be useful if you’re starting out.
Some of these things will have an instant effect, and others will take a bit longer – but they will make your webcomic look a lot more distinctive and interesting. So, let’s get started:
1) Basic image editing: If you make your webcomic updates using traditional materials (eg: ink, paint, pencils etc..) then one quick way that you can give your webcomic a visual upgrade is to use some image editing software after you’ve scanned or photographed it. Even if you make your webcomic digitally, then it might benefit from a small amount of image editing.
If you don’t have an image editing program, then you can download a free open source one called “GIMP” (GNU Image Manipulation Program). Like many other image editing programs, this one contains some basic features that you can use to make your webcomic look a lot more professional.
For example, one basic feature in most editing programs is the “Brightness/Contrast” option. You can instantly make the scanned/photographed art in your webcomic look a lot less faded by lowering the brightness level and increasing the contrast level slightly. Seriously, it’s still one of the very first things I do after I scan all of my paintings, comic updates etc… Here’s a chart that shows you what kind of a difference it can make:
Other common basic features that are worth looking out for include:
-The cropping tool (which can be used to trim your picture to the right size).
– The selection tool (which allows you to select an area of the picture that you want to edit).
– The “pick color”/”color picker” tool (which allows you to change the brush colour to the exact colour of any part of the picture you click on)
– The hue/saturation options (which allow you to control the colour and colour intensity of anything you’re editing).
The best way to learn how to use an image editing program is just to mess about with it and to experiment with it. Yes, this might take a while, but you’ll probably end up learning the basics relatively quickly. And, after a while, you might start discovering some slightly more advanced techniques almost by accident.
2) Backgrounds: You may have to update your webcomic slightly less often if you use this technique, but one way to make your webcomics look better is to focus more on the amount of background detail in each panel.
If you’re new to webcomics and/or if you’re on a tight schedule, then using plain or solid colour backgrounds for many of your comic panels (like in a newspaper cartoon) can be a good way to speed up the comic-making process. However, plain backgrounds can also look slightly boring.
More detailed backgrounds (even if you use illusory detail or impressionistic detail rather than real detail) may take longer to make, but it’ll grab the audience’s attention more quickly and it will make your webcomic a lot more visually interesting. Still, given the extra effort involved, it might be worth slightly reducing your comic length or your update schedule if you take this approach.
For example, many of my webcomic mini series that are being posted here this year are shorter than the ones I posted last year, for the simple reason that I’ve started including more detailed backgrounds. Here’s an example of a comic from last year, which mostly uses plain backgrounds:
And here’s one from the webcomic mini series that is currently appearing here every night- you can see how the increased background detail really helps to make the comic look more interesting:
3) Materials: Although different tools won’t make you any better or worse at making art, you’d be surprised how changing the type of art materials you use can have a dramatic effect on the look of your webcomic.
For example, during 2012 and 2013 I preferred to add colour to my art and comics using coloured pencils. These are extremely practical, but they tend to look slightly grainy when scanned, and it’s easier to see any pencil lines or areas that you’ve missed.
However, in early 2014/late 2013, I switched over to using watercolour pencils instead. Although these are a little bit less practical (eg: they require watercolour paper, waterproof ink, a paintbrush, drying time etc..), they give the colours in my artwork a considerably smoother and more vivid look. Not to mention that blending colours was a lot easier and smoother too. Plus, since they were still pencil-based, it wasn’t too hard to make the switch from coloured pencils either.
However, different art materials are no substitute for skill or practice. Still, if you switch to something similar-but-different, then you might be able to use your pre-existing skills in order to create better-looking art.
4) Art practice: Finally, although there are a couple of tricks that will quickly make your webcomic look better, the only way that the art is really going to improve is if you either keep practicing making webcomics regularly, or do another type of regular art practice when you aren’t making webcomics.
Seriously, there’s nothing as effective at improving the look of your webcomic than regular practice. Yes, you’ll only notice improvements when you look at your old artwork after several months or years of regular practice, but the improvement will happen.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂