Three Tips For Making Webcomics When You’ve Got Less Time

Well, at the time of writing, I’m busy preparing this year’s Christmas webcomic mini series (which will start appearing here in about 4-5 days time). But, since I also seem to have got back into reading regularly and writing book reviews (and don’t want to fall out of the habit again), I’ve got slightly less time to make each webcomic update.

As such, I thought that I’d offer a few tips for making webcomic updates when you’ve got less time. Most of these are things that I’ve mentioned before, but they’re probably worth mentioning again.

1) Planning: As counter-intuitive as it might sound, setting some time aside beforehand to plan your next few webcomic updates will actually save you time in the long run.

Your plans don’t have to be ultra-complex. For example, here’s the plan for the first comic in my Christmas mini series. It was scribbled in a different notebook with a cheaper pen, and the art planning is kept to a bare minimum (because planning the dialogue and structure matters a lot more than planning the art):

This is the plan for the first comic update in my Christmas mini series. As you can see, the focus is on planning the dialogue and structure, rather than the art.

But, why does taking a bit of time to plan the next few comics save you time? Simple. When you get round to actually making the comic, you can just make the comic. Because you’ve planned everything out in advance, you won’t get slowed down by writer’s block when you’re actually making the comics.

2) Adjustments: Simply put, there are a lot of ways to save time that won’t affect the quality of your comic too much. For example, you can tweak the production or release schedule slightly (I mean, when I’m preparing comics, I usually prepare two per day. This time, I’m only making one per day).

Likewise, you can alter the length of each comic update slightly to save time (this is why, last year, I went back to making 4-5 panel comic updates after making 6-8 panel updates for a while). Plus, don’t feel too bad about adjusting your release schedule if you have to. As long as you are still following some kind of update schedule (and your audience know what it is), then your audience is likely to excuse any changes you have to make in order to keep making comics.

Or you can take the approach that I do, which is simply to release daily comics for a limited time (usually about 6-8 days per month, although this will probably drop to four days per month for future comics), and then do non-comic stuff (in my case, daily art – which is usually quicker/easier to make than comics are) during the rest of the time. This way, you get the advantage of a daily schedule, but it isn’t something that takes up a part of your day every day.

3) The art: I’ve said this many times before and it’s worth repeating again. The art is the least important part of a webcomic update. If you don’t believe me, then just look at a popular webcomic called “XKCD“, which uses stick figure art. This is a webcomic that is popular because of the writing and humour, rather than the art.

So, if you have to rush or downgrade any part of your webcomic in order to save time, then you should do this with the art. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the writing, characters, humour etc.. in your webcomic matter more than the art does. Not only that, if you’ve been making webcomics for a while, then even a slightly “rushed” or “downgraded” version of your art will still look better than (or as good as) the art in your older comics because you’ve had more practice.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a panel from the first slightly “rushed” comic update for my upcoming Christmas mini series:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 19th December.

And here’s a “good” webcomic update that I made in 2015/16 (from this mini series) . As you can see, the modern “rushed” art compares fairly well to it:

“Damania Redux – Cyberpunk” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, if you have to save time, then rush the art rather than the writing/planning. Likewise, if you’ve been making webcomics for a while, then even your current rushed art will probably look better than your “good” older webcomic art. So, don’t feel too bad about it. The important thing is to actually make comic updates.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania Revisited” Webcomic Mini Series

Well, since my “Damania Revisited” webcomic mini series finished recently, I thought that I’d do my usual thing and show off some scans of the ‘work in progress’ line art from when I was making the comic.

If I remember rightly, there weren’t that many art/dialogue changes between the line art and the finished comics. This was mostly because most of the changes took place during the planning stage (since these comics are remakes of old comics from 2012/13). Although there are a couple of parts where I made small mistakes with the line art and corrected them in the finished comics.

You can click on each piece of line art to see a larger version of it. Enjoy 🙂

“Damania Revisited – Youtube & Copypasta (II) (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revisited – Newsagent (II) (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revisited – Dark Electric & Evil Cyborg (II) (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revisited – Trolls (II) (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revisited – 11:11 (II) (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revisited – Haunted (II) (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Nocturnal” Halloween Comic

Well, I thought that I’d do my usual thing of showing off the “work in progress” line art for my recent Halloween comic.

If I remember rightly, most of the changes between the line art and the finished comic were visual changes rather than dialogue changes (although there are a couple of these, such as in the final panel of page 7).

This is mostly because I refined the dialogue in the time between planning the comic and drawing the line art, so most of the dialogue changes happened before the comic was made.

Still, there were quite a few visual changes. Most of these involved reducing the amount of blood in a few scenes (since it looked a little bit excessive) and, yes, this can be seen in the line art since I used red ink for the blood. The most notable example is probably in the third and fifth panels of page eight.

The most notable visual change is probably the cover, which I’d originally envisaged as a minimalist thing featuring silhouettes of the characters (with red fangs). But, this didn’t look that good. So, I had to spend quite a while adding lots of extra detail to the finished cover art digitally.

Anyway, here’s the line art (you can click on each piece of line art to see a larger version of it) Enjoy 🙂

“Nocturnal – Cover (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 1 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 2 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 3 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 4 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 5 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 6 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 7 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 8 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 9 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Nocturnal – Page 10 (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

Time Travel And Art Mediums- A Ramble

This article is a little bit different to my usual articles, since it’s more of a short account of an eerie experience I had whilst editing the final page of this year’s Halloween comic.

Still, it seemed like it was worth writing about (since I imagine that some of you may be able to have similar experiences, and because I felt like preserving an account of the experience ).

About two-thirds of the way through making the line art for the final page of this year’s Halloween comic, my drawing pen ran out of ink. So, I looked through my stash of drawing pens and picked out a new one. However, I soon realised that this was a fine-tipped one (rather than the medium ones I normally use). At the time, I thought that this was kind of cool, since the thinner nib allowed me to cram more stuff into one of the more detailed panels.

However, when I was digitally editing the line art for the page, I suddenly saw the line art I’d made with the fine-tipped pen and, in that instant, the comic page suddenly seemed like it could have come from my early experiments with comics during 2010. Back then I tended to use fountain pens and fine-tipped pens regularly.

Even though quite a few years had passed, it suddenly felt like I was back in 2010 again.

It felt like I’d come full circle. It felt like I’d suddenly picked up a comic I had left unfinished in 2010 and had kept making it, like no time had passed whatsoever. The past few years felt like they just hadn’t happened. It didn’t so much feel like I’d travelled back in time, but more like I just hadn’t travelled forward since 2010.

My mind was suddenly flooded with ultra-vivid memories of both that year and the “atmosphere” of that year (this is the only way I can describe it). This was an experience that is difficult to really put into words. But it totally caught me by surprise.

And it all came from using a pen with a slightly thinner nib to the one that I usually use.

It’s amazing how something as simple as this can evoke memories. But, if you’ve been making art for a while, then it’s very likely that you’ve experimented with several different art supplies and/or art mediums over time. So, there’s a very good chance that the art supplies you used to use are more connected with your memories than you might think.

Ok, this might just be me. But, it’s certainly something that can take you by surprise.

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Sorry for the ultra-short article, but I hope it was interesting 🙂

Three Basic Tips For Writing Vampire-Themed Comedy

Well, at the time of writing, I’m still busy preparing this year’s Halloween comic (which will begin tomorrow evening). Since it will be a comedic vampire-themed comic, I thought that I’d talk about how to write this genre of comedy.

So, here are a few basic tips for writing vampire-themed comedy. This article will contain mild SPOILERS for my upcoming comic though.

1) Do your research: Generally speaking, the more things you see, play or read in the vampire genre, the better. If you’re familiar with the genre, then working out ways to parody and just generally have fun with it will become considerably easier. This will also help you to spot common themes in the genre and to see how different people interpret the genre, which can help you to find your own “take” on the genre.

I mean, one of the initial inspirations for my comic was the fact that I’d been going through a phase of replaying “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” almost obsessively a few weeks earlier. Although this game has a lot of mythology surrounding vampirism, it’s basically a game about a character who suddenly becomes a vampire and has to deal with the complex politics etc.. of vampire society (whilst also doing more typical computer game stuff too).

Although the game is a masterpiece, one thing that I felt that the game fell slightly short on was showing how the player character reacts emotionally to becoming a vampire. So, when making my Halloween comic, I thought that it would be funny to show characters reacting in wildly different ways when they discover that they’ve become vampires.

Plus, having at least a vague understanding of the genre allows you to include all sorts of small references and parodies too. For example, in one scene in my Halloween comic, a character refers to vampires as members of “the un-dead”. Although this phrasing might sound a bit strange, it’s actually a reference to one of Bram Stoker’s working titles for “Dracula”.

Likewise, look at other comedy horror genres too. For example, some great examples of how to make horror hilarious can be found in the zombie-comedy genre. So, don’t restrict yourself to just the vampire genre.

2) Practicality and rules: Simply put, one of the best ways to come up with vampire-themed comedy is just to think about the tropes and conventions of the genre in more practical ways. Needless to say, this can be a very useful source of slapstick comedy and/or farce.

In addition to this, try to play around with the “rules” of the genre too. After all, most things in the vampire genre either make a point of following or ignoring various “rules” (eg: related to garlic, sunlight, crosses, stakes, bats, blood etc..). So, a lot of comedy can be found by playing about with these rules – either proving or disproving them in amusing ways, or showing your characters discussing them.

Or, if you’re feeling bold, try to invent some new “rules” for the vampires in your story or comic to follow. Although this sort of thing tends to be done more often in the horror genre than in the comedy genre, it certainly has the potential for comedy.

3) Non-gothic vampires: Simply put, the vampire genre is often heavily associated with the goth subculture. Although this can be useful for goth-themed humour, it can also be amusing to try to link the vampire genre to other subcultures too or to show non-gothic vampires.

The heavy metal genre is a brilliant example of this. Although vampire-themed gothic rock songs are a lot more common, there’s certainly vampire-themed heavy metal out there. Some examples include songs like “We Drink Your Blood” by Powerwolf and “Love Bites” By Judas Priest.

Needless to say, heavy metal interpretations of the genre generally focus more on hedonism, gruesome horror, vampires as a type of monster etc..- in contrast to more atmospheric, philosophical and character-based gothic interpretations of the genre.

So, say, contrasting a gothic interpretation of the vampire genre with a more “heavy metal” interpretation of it can be a great source of comedy. In fact, contrasting a gothic interpretation of the genre with pretty much anything else can be a great source of comedy.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Stress- Reduction Tips For Making Comics And/Or Webcomics

Well, at the time of writing, I’m busy preparing this year’s Halloween comic. So, I thought that I’d offer a few stress-reduction tips for making comics and/or webcomics. Apologies if I’ve mentioned any of these before, but they’re worth repeating nonetheless.

1) Plan it!: This is really obvious, but make sure that you have prepared a plan/script for your comic before you start making it. Although it might take you a little bit longer to plan out your comic, this can save you time and stress in the long run. Why? Because it means that you don’t have to worry about writer’s block, writing yourself into a corner etc…

If your comic is planned out in advance, then all you have to worry about is actually drawing it. You don’t have to worry about “what happens next” because you’ve already worried about that before you made the comic. Planning your comic also allows you to see whether your comic idea is a good one or not before you invest any serious time or effort into it. This means your comic is much less likely to fail.

Likewise, make sure that you have a “buffer” of pre-made comic pages before you post any of them online. What this means is that you’ll have a bit more leeway when it comes to deadlines (since you have several pre-made pages queued up), meaning that your self-imposed deadlines will feel a little bit less harsh or stressful than they would be if you had to worry about no comic updates appearing at the appointed time.

2) Put most of the background detail at the beginning: When you start a new comic or webcomic project, you’ll probably be filled with excitement and enthusiasm. However, once you’ve made a few pages, you’ll probably start to find that this initial burst of energy and enthusiasm has faded slightly.

So, plan your comic accordingly! If you dazzle your audience with detailed backgrounds etc… in the early parts of your comic (when you’re feeling more enthusiastic), then set more of the later parts of your comic in locations that are easier to draw (for when your enthusiasm drops slightly), your audience will be less likely to notice the drop in detail because they’ve already seen detailed backgrounds earlier.

Yes, this is a bit of a cheap trick and it needs to be done in a slightly subtle way in order to work properly. But, when done well, it can work!

3) The writing matters most: With comics, the writing actually matters more than the art does. In other words, if you need to make some kind of visual downgrade to the art in order to save your own sanity, then your audience is more likely to forgive this if your comic contains interesting characters, funny jokes etc…

The classic example of this is the webcomic “XKCD” – this is a very popular webcomic that often features basic “stick figure” art. Yet, it is rightly considered to be a great webcomic because of the sophisticated humour and writing. So, yes, the art doesn’t matter as much as you think.

For example, after the stress of making a full-colour comic last Halloween, I decided that the pages of this year’s Halloween comic would mostly be in greyscale/limited colour. Here’s a preview:

The full comic page will be posted here on the 22nd October.

Although this was partly a stylistic decision (because it’s a gothic comedy comic) I also chose to use greyscale/limited colour because, if you’ve practiced making this type of art, it can be considerably quicker and easier to make than full-colour art. Likewise, things like digital image editing are also signficantly quicker/easier with this type of art too.

So, don’t be afraid to downgrade the art in your comic for the sake of your sanity. But, don’t downgrade the writing.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Basic Tips For Making Tenebrist Art

Well, for today, I thought that I’d offer a few tips about using my favourite lighting style in your paintings or drawings. I am, of course, talking about gloomy, shadowy tenebrist lighting.

So, how do you use this amazing style of lighting?

1) Black paint/ink: I’ve mentioned this rule more times than I can remember, but it is always worth repeating. Try to make sure that at least 30-50% of the total surface area of your painting or drawing is covered with solid black paint or ink. Like in this digitally-edited painting of mine:

“Spotlight” By C. A. Brown

Not only does this make any lighting or colours you add to your art stand out a lot more by contrast, but it is pretty much essential to creating the type of gloomy, tenebristic look that you want to achieve.

2) Light sources: Although darkness might be the most noticeable feature of a tenebrist painting, the genre is actually all about painting light. It is about playing with light and/or using light to draw the audience’s attention to a certain area of the picture.

Generally speaking, it’s best to only have one major light source in your tenebrist painting (with perhaps a couple of smaller ones in the distant background at most). Whether this light source actually appears in your painting (eg: a computer monitor, a lamp etc..) or whether it is outside of the picture, you need to know where your light source is and to paint your lighting accordingly.

If you don’t know how to do this, then just imagine a 3D model of everything in your painting. The sides of everything that are facing towards the light source should be either the same colour as the light (if the light is red, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple etc..) or they should just be brighter (if the light is white). Conversely, the other side of everything should be darker (and should have shadows behind it).

Another way to think about it is to imagine “rays” of light emerging from your light source. Everything they touch should be brighter. Here’s a diagram to show you what I mean.

This is a quick diagram showing rays of light radiating out from a light source. The areas facing towards the light source are brighter, whereas the areas facing away from it are darker.

3) Realism (doesn’t matter as much as you think): Although it is important to understand the basics of painting realistic lighting, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

If you are faced with a choice between illuminating a part of your picture that you want your audience to see and being ultra-realistic, then go with the former. As long as the lighting looks reasonably right and helps to add visual drama to your picture, then it’s ok to use a bit of artistic licence. For example, here’s a preview of one of my upcoming paintings.

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 18th October.

The main light sources in this painting are the ominous green sunset and the light behind the door. Yet, several of the shadows are technically in the wrong place. However, this was done for artistic reasons. For example, the light on the door has a large shadow above it, which is unrealistic but it makes the light stand out more by contrast.

Likewise, the far wall is a lot gloomier at one side than the other – in a way that implies that the light source is in a different place to where it should be. Again, this was done for an artistic reason:

The “unrealistic” shadow at the right-hand edge of this wall is there to add depth and to signify that the two walls are not connected.

So, yes, it’s ok not to be 100% realistic with your lighting if there’s a valid artistic reason for it. Still, try to make sure that the lighting looks at least vaguely realistic at first glance.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂