Three Lazy Ways To Include Fight Scenes In Your Webcomic (If You Don’t Usually Include Them)

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As regular readers probably know, I’m busy with making this year’s Halloween comic at the time of writing. As such, I thought that I’d talk about making webcomics again. Today, I’ll be looking at lazy ways to include elements from the action genre in your (web)comics, if you haven’t had much practice at this.

Although action scenes in comics are designed to be read quickly, they are probably one of the most difficult things to draw well. After all, you’ve got to work out how to draw your characters standing in all sorts of dramatic-looking poses and you also have to clearly show a complex series of events using just a few panels.

Yes, technically, you should probably practice drawing anatomy. You should learn how to draw every type of perspective. You should probably carefully study lots of action scenes in other comics and learn techniques from them. But, you’re making a webcomic and you’re on a schedule. So, you could always, you know, cheat.

But, a word of warning, these “lazy” techniques will only work if you include action scenes infrequently in your comics. A small number of “lazy” action scenes, coupled with lots of funny dialogue, interesting artwork etc.. can be overlooked by readers. But, if you’re including lots of action in your comic, then you should probably study how to draw these scenes properly.

But, that said, here are some lazy ways to include action scenes in your comic:

1) Gunfights: If you are inexperienced with the action genre in comics, then you should probably try to stick to including gun-based combat in your comics if the story allows it.

Not only is it easier to learn how to draw someone holding or firing a gun (eg: a few poses, as opposed to the hundreds of possible poses needed to draw a realistic fist-fight, sword-fight etc..) but, due to the especially deadly nature of guns, it can mean that the fight scenes in your comics can plausibly be over within the space of a couple of panels at the most. In other words, there are fewer complicated combat-based panels to draw.

Of course, you shouldn’t include guns in comics where they would look somewhat out of context. So, this technique isn’t a cure-all for being inexperienced with drawing action scenes. But, if you have to include other weapons in your comic, then….

2) Posing: If you need a lazy way to give the impression that your comic contains lots of action, without actually including that much action, then one way to do this is to include as many (or more) scenes of characters holding or brandishing weapons than scenes where they actually use them. Just make sure that you only include this in contexts where your characters would realistically be expected to be brandishing weapons.

For example, my Halloween comic from last year is set during a zombie apocalypse (eg: a context where the characters should probably be armed) and it contains something like eleven or twelve panels where characters are holding or brandishing a variety of unusual weapons, but not using them. On the other hand, there are only something like five or six panels in the entire comic where the characters actually use those weapons.

In other words, although the characters are visibly armed for large parts of the comic, there are about twice as many panels showing the characters not using their weapons.

Doing this sort of thing gives the impression that the characters are in a dramatic and dangerous situation (why would they be armed if they weren’t?) whilst also allowing you to include a minimum of complex action scenes in your comic.

3) Implication: As ironic as it sounds, self-censorship can actually be your friend when it comes to drawing action scenes when you have little experience. Whilst a well-drawn action scene in a comic should show both an act of violence and it’s direct consequences (eg: someone swinging a punch and the punch connecting with whoever they are hitting), this requires a bit more planning and artistic knowledge to do well.

So, one lazy way to get around this is to use implication. For example, one panel of my upcoming Halloween comic shows the main characters being theatened. The next panel consists of nothing more than a melodramatic illustration of one of the main characters firing a machine gun (whilst saying a witty line of dialogue).

The “action” in the scene is conveyed entirely through “sound effects”, dialogue, dramatic lighting etc… But, it’s basically just a picture of the character standing still and firing a machine gun.

But, most critically, the panel after this one is just a dialogue-based panel. The “fight” is implied to be over through the more relaxed demeanour of the characters, and the more puzzling aspects of this scene (eg: where did the machine gun come from?) are addressed through dialogue.

Yes, it’s a lazy way to handle a scene like this but – because there won’t be that much violence in the comic (well, there will be more than usual, but less than in many more action-based comics) and because the comic is meant to be more of a comedy horror comic than a “serious” horror or thriller comic, then hopefully it won’t have too much of an adverse effect on the quality of the comic.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Today’s Art (15th September 2017)

Well, this digitally-edited painting was kind of a strange one. Originally, I’d vaguely planned to start a series of paintings inspired by 1980s/90s horror novel covers but, when I actually started making this painting, I found that I was slightly uninspired. So, it ended up being this fairly gloomy, minimalist retro sci-fi horror painting instead.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Unknown" By C. A. Brown

“Unknown” By C. A. Brown

Adding “Rest Pages” To Your Comic

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Well, since I’m still busy preparing this year’s Halloween comic at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk briefly about something that can make longer comics projects slightly easier.

As regular readers probably know, I tend to have something of a short creative attention span. It is, for example, why I release my occasional webcomics in mini series of 6-17 daily comic updates (well, more like 6-12 updates these days).

So, making a full-colour A4-size Halloween comic that will be 12 pages in length (including the cover) is something of a stretch for me. But, as I’m learning, it’s certainly possible. So, I thought that I’d talk about one of the techniques that I’m using to reduce the amount of effort that this project requires, in case it’s useful to you.

This technique is simply to include the occasional low-effort page within my comic. If this is done well, then it can be barely noticeable to the audience, whilst still giving you a chance to rest slightly at the same time.

For example, here’s a reduced-size preview of page three of my Halloween comic (which I made the day before writing this article):

The full-size comic update will be posted here on the 23rd October.

The full-size comic update will be posted here on the 23rd October.

This is an example of a low-effort comic page. One of the first things that you might notice is that it only contains six panels (page one contains seven panels and page two contains eight).

Likewise, as I discussed in yesterday’s article, many of the backgrounds are simple interior locations that contain a minimum of detail. There’s just enough detail to make the backgrounds look like convincing locations but, the overall detail level is still fairly low.

In addition to this, the dramatic-looking lighting in the third panel helps to distract from the low levels of detail in most of the artwork. This is further disguised by the fact that the comic features multiple background locations, which adds some visual variety to the page without using too much effort in the process.

Finally, there’s also the fact that it is – for the most part – a “talking head” comic. This is a comic update where the characters just stand around and talk to each other. If this isn’t done right, then it can look lazy or boring. But, I’ve disguised it somewhat by adding a couple of simple action-based panels to the comic (eg: the two panels showing the television screen) and by showing a close-up of a video player in the third panel.

So, although it might not look like it at first glance, this page was a lazy “rest page” that I created in order to conserve effort for other parts of the comic. If you’re making a longer comic and you tend to have a fairly short creative attention span, then learning how to do this kind of thing can be extremely useful.

There are lots of other ways to do something like this, and I don’t currently have time to list them all here, but hopefully this article will have at least pointed you in the right direction.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

Two Sneaky Tips For Making Longer Comics Look More Detailed

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As regular readers of this site probably know, I’m busy preparing this year’s Halloween comic at the time of writing. So, I thought that I’d talk briefly about detail levels in webcomics today.

This was mostly because, when I tried to make the failed mini series that was posted here recently , I went for more of a ‘back to basics’ approach with the art. In other words, I tried to reduce the level of visual detail to the minimum that I could get away with. This was an interesting experiment, but it sucked some of the “life” out of my comics.

On the other hand, in the mini series that will appear here in early October, I did the exact opposite. I made larger comics that contained slightly more visual detail than many of the ‘detailed’ comics I’d posted earlier this year. This was a lot of fun, but it also meant that the comic-making process was a lot slower. Of course, whilst this was perfect for a short six-comic mini series, it wouldn’t be practical for the longer narrative comic I’d planned for Halloween. So, what did I do?

1) Mix high and low detail backgrounds: This is one of the oldest tricks in the book (I’ve mentioned it before, but recently learnt how to use it in a slightly better way) and it can be barely noticeable if done well.

For example, the pages of my upcoming Halloween comic contain a few detailed interior and exterior locations. But, these often appear for only one or two panels. Most of the time, the backgrounds are slightly less detailed – but this is disguised in a few clever ways.

For example, here’s a preview of one of the less detailed backgrounds in page one of my Halloween comic:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 21st October.

The full comic update will be posted here on the 21st October.

If this had been a scene from my failed “back to basics” comic project, then I’d have just used a plain purple background. However, although most of the background is solid purple, I’ve also added the corner of an old computer monitor and an undetailed poster to it.

Although both of these small details were fairly quick to draw, they give the impression that the scene is taking place within an actual room. So, a couple of tiny and quick details can make an undetailed background look like a detailed one.

Another good trick to use is to draw a few detailed “establishing shots” of a new location and then to add less precision and less detail to most of the other drawings of this location. Since your audience will have seen the more detailed drawings first, they’re probably just going to “fill in the gaps” when they see the less detailed drawings of the same location a little while later.

2) Clever recycling: First of all, I’m not talking about directly re-using backgrounds. Although, if you’re making your comic entirely digitally (and are skilled with using layers), then you can obviously do this. But, I’ll be talking about something far more subtle and much less noticeable than that.

This technique works best if you also do regular art practice, have a good visual memory and/or have made lots of comics before. But, all you have to do is to use something that you are familiar with drawing for your background. Not only does this save you thinking/planning time, but it means that you’ll be able to add a lot of detail more quickly for the simple reason that you already know what to do.

For example, the first page of my upcoming Halloween comic features a detailed outdoor location. Since the comic’s location is loosely-based on Aberystwyth, I already had plenty of pre-made ideas for outdoor locations. On top of this, I’d previously made a sci-fi painting (which will be posted here on the 10th October) which was based on this old photo of Aberystwyth high street that I took in 2009.

One interesting feature of the photo was that the bank in the background had been undergoing renovations at the time and was covered in scaffolding. Likewise, the top of the building next to it looked a little bit like something from “Blade Runner“.

Needless to say, both things were a part of my sci-fi painting. But, since I’d already worked out how to draw them when making that painting, they were surprisingly quick to re-draw when I wanted to add a detailed outdoor location to my Halloween comic:

 Again, the full comic update will be posted here on the 21st October.

Again, the full comic update will be posted here on the 21st October.

This outdoor location isn’t exactly the same as either the photo or my sci-fi painting but, since I was drawing buildings that I’d practiced drawing recently, I was able to add a lot more detail to that panel a lot more quickly.

So, if you find some way to draw what you know, then it’ll be easier to add detailed backgrounds far more quickly.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Two Random Thoughts About Comic Cover Design

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Well, since I’m busy preparing this year’s Halloween comic at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk briefly about cover design in comics. This was mostly because the cover for the Halloween comic was somewhat hit and miss. Here’s a reduced-size preview of it:

The full-size cover artwork will appear here on the 20th October.

The full-size cover artwork will appear here on the 20th October.

This was probably the first time I’d tried to draw a comic cover in landscape, rather than portrait. So, it was something of an experiment as much as anything else. Still, like all creative experiments, I’ve learnt a couple of things from it.

1) Colours: This was one of the first times where I tried to use a consistent colour scheme for the cover of one of my comics. Unless you are trying to make more “realistic” cover art, it can often be a good idea to use a complementary colour scheme of some kind for your cover.

Limiting the number of colours you use and combining them in the right way can really make your cover artwork stand out. Likewise, try to choose colour combinations which suit the mood that you are trying to create.

For example, the preview image I showed you earlier mostly uses a red/green/blue colour scheme. This is intended to be reminiscent of old CRT television screens and, by extension, the 1980s too. If I wanted to emphasise the horror elements of the comic, then I’d have probably used more of a red/black colour scheme. If I wanted to give it more of a sci-fi horror atmosphere, I’d have used a red/blue/black colour scheme etc…

The best way to learn which colour schemes are appropriate for different moods, genres etc… is simply to look at as many comic covers, DVD covers, album covers etc… as you can (the “image search” feature in many search engines can be useful for this) and take careful note of the colour combinations that are used. Once you’ve done this, see which ones tend to be the most common.

2) Layout and composition: This is probably the most important part of any comic cover, and it’s probably the thing that I messed up in my cover. This is probably because I’m more used to making comic covers in portrait than in landscape but, since the comic itself will be in landscape, it made sense for the cover to be in landscape too.

Likewise, I used a fairly boring composition for this cover and just drew the four characters standing in a line. This was mostly done for time reasons, and as a reference to the cover of last year’s Halloween comic. Whilst this composition shows the audience all of the main characters, there isn’t really much happening in it.

In retrospect, I should have probably spent longer planning the cover. I probably should have added more action and/or less detail to it.

So, yes, planning is important when it comes to cover design. Whilst this was probably more of an issue with print comics (where the cover is always the first, and possibly only, thing people will see), it still matters in comics posted online (even though people are just as likely to see a random page from your comic before they see the cover).

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Sorry for the short and rambling article, but I hope it was useful 🙂