Well, since (at the time of writing) I was busy making a webcomic mini series that will appear here in October, I thought that I’d talk briefly about how to improve your occasional webcomics significantly within a relatively short period of time.
After all, whilst I’ve technically been making webcomics since 2010 (or earlier if you count the failed projects I never posted online), I only really started my current occasional webcomic in 2011/12. Likewise, thanks to the fact that I seem to be pretty far ahead with my art, I originally wrote this article about 4.5 – 5.5 years later. Here’s a comparison chart:
So, despite only making webcomics occasionally, how did I go from the comic on the left to the comic panel on the right within just a few years? And how can you?
1) Regular art practice: Even though I only post webcomics occasionally, I have been doing regular daily art practice since 2012. I originally started out by making small daily drawings that were about a quarter of an A4 piece of paper in size. Then I gradually increased the image size until I found the right one for me, discovered new art materials (eg: watercolour pencils), discovered new techniques (eg: digital image editing techniques, better shading, improvements to my art style etc..) etc… over the years.
When I’m not making webcomics, I’ll make a painting every day. Like with webcomics, I’ll keep a fairly large “buffer” of paintings made in advance to keep the time pressure as low as possible – but I’ll add to it every day.
Regular art practice is one of those things that will seriously improve your webcomic, especially if – like me – you only make webcomics occasionally. Of course, if you’re making a “traditional” webcomic that is constantly updated, then you’ll be getting regular art practice whilst making the comic.
But, one advantage to regular non-webcomic art practice is that it helps you to focus on practicing just the art (without writing dialogue) and it helps you to learn what makes a good picture, as well as what makes a good comic panel.
2) Read more webcomics (and watch/play other stuff): When I started my current occasional webcomic mini series in 2011/12, the writing was a bit clunky. Sometimes, I’d come up with a funny comic and sometimes my comics would be really crappy and/or random, like this old one from 2013:
But, one of the things that really helped to improve the writing in my webcomic over the years was looking at more stuff. Sure I read a lot of traditional print comics in 2008-11, but I’d only read a few traditional webcomics back then (eg: “Unicorn Jelly”, “Penny Arcade”, “Ctrl + Alt + Del”, “Least I Could Do”, “Questionable Content”, “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal” etc..). Within the past couple of years, I’ve started discovering webcomics that really push the boundaries of the medium, like Winston Rowntree’s “Subnormality“.
But, most of all, I’ve found far more influences from outside of webcomics. I’ve watched a lot more TV shows on DVD since 2012 than I had done before then. I’ve played a lot more “point and click” games (good for learning concise dialogue, characterisation etc…). I’ve taken the time to analyse the things that I really like to learn more about my artistic tastes and my own sense of humour.
Basically, the more influences you have (eg: cool things you discover that make you feel like “I want to make something like that”) then the more this is going to improve your webcomic. So, be on the look out for interesting webcomics, fascinating TV shows, compelling computer games etc….
3) Plan it!: For a long time, I resisted planning my webcomics in advance. I thought that planning took the spontaneity and fun out of making webcomics. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My webcomics were hit and miss. For every funny comic update I made, I’d make at least two or three crappy ones. I’d get writer’s block a lot more often, sometimes even during the middle of making a comic update. It was only when I went through a phase of mostly making story based webcomics (from February-July this year) that I finally really learnt the value of planning comics in advance. Yes, I still sometimes foolishly fail to do it, but I try to plan most of the time these days.
Your plans don’t have to be detailed (the art quality in them doesn’t matter at all). But, if you plan out your comics in advance then this gives you time to spot any possible flaws in your comic before you start making it. It also gives you a chance to refine and improve your ideas before you make the final comic.
But, best of all, once you’ve made your plan, you can just get on with making the next comic update. No pausing in the middle to work out what you’re going to write next, no desperately trying to salvage a failed panel etc… You can actually just make the whole comic update, because you already know what it is going to include. In other words, making webcomics feels more spontaneous when you’ve got a plan.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂