Three Reasons Why It’s Important To Be “Well Read” (In Written Or Visual Media) If You Are An Artist, Writer etc…

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Back when I used to see myself as mostly being a writer, I read a lot more fiction than I do now.

I’d buy more books than I could ever read from charity shops/second-hand bookshops and I’d usually have a horror novel, a detective novel, a thriller novel or a sci-fi novel on the go at any given time.

But, when I started to focus a lot more on making art and (occasionally) comics, I found that I did pretty much the same thing… but with visual media instead.

Instead of reading novels regularly, I often have a second-hand DVD of a TV series on the go at any given time. I also watch Youtube more, play even more computer games and binge-read any interesting webcomics I find.

For quite a while, I worried that all of this meant that I was becoming less “sophisticated”. But, then, I realised that I was merely trying to be “well-read” in visual media. It was pretty much exactly the same thing as I used to do when I wrote fiction a lot more often. Just with pictures instead of words.

But, why is being “well-read” (whether in visual media or written media), so important?

1) It gives you more understanding: One of the cool things about being “well read” in your chosen medium is that it enables you to see things like inspirations and allusions a lot more clearly. If you have a good background knowledge, then you can work out what inspired your favourite writers, artists, comic-makers, game developers etc…

For example, although it might be a while until I review it, I started playing an indie computer game called “Technobabylon” a couple of days before I wrote this article. When I first heard of this game, the cyberpunk screenshots on the shop website intrigued me and I thought “This looks a bit like “Blade Runner“. When it goes on special offer, I’m getting a copy!

Of course, in the time between first hearing about the game and eventually buying it, I had seen and played a few other things in the cyberpunk genre.

So, when I started playing it, I thought more complex things like: “Although the visual style of the game has some influence from “Blade Runner”, it’s a lot more like the “Ghost In The Shell” anime films/TV series (which were, in turn, inspired by “Blade Runner”).”

Here’s a comparison to show you what I mean:

This is a screenshot from "Technobabylon" (2015). Although the background is reminiscent of "Blade Runner", it has a much stronger influence from the "Ghost In The Shell" anime franchise.

This is a screenshot from “Technobabylon” (2015). Although the background is reminiscent of “Blade Runner”, it has a much stronger influence from the “Ghost In The Shell” anime franchise.

This is a screenshot from "Ghost In The Shell: S.A.C 2nd Gig" (2004/5). As you can see, the cityscape looks a lot more like the one in the screenshot above than...

This is a screenshot from “Ghost In The Shell: S.A.C 2nd Gig” (2004/5). As you can see, the cityscape looks a lot more like the one in the screenshot above than…

-... This screenshot from "Blade Runner" (1982, remastered in 2007), which also contains a dense cityscape, albeit a lot less 'clean', 'bright' and ''neat' than in the other two things that it inspired.

-… This screenshot from “Blade Runner” (1982, remastered in 2007), which also contains a dense cityscape, albeit a lot less ‘clean’, ‘bright’ and ”neat’ than in the other two things that it inspired.

Even if you don’t ever plan to write reviews, then being “well-read” can help you to see how inspiration works. It can give the things that inspire you a lot more depth.

It can also show you what is popular within a particular genre and, more importantly, why it is popular (which is something you’ll probably only truly learn when you see popular tropes etc.. being used in different ways by different people).

2) It teaches you a lot : Although you can learn a lot about the theory of writing or the theory of making art from things like reading tutorials, taking lessons etc… One of the best learning tools for art or writing (apart from regular practice, of course!) is actually seeing examples of it done well.

If you read a well-written novel in your favourite genre or see a few cool-looking images, then you’re probably going to wonder how they manage to be so great. This might prompt you to work out what elements (eg: narrative style, description style, colour combinations, artistic techniques etc..) make these things so interesting. And, once you’ve worked this out, you can then use those elements in new ways in your own creative works.

Likewise, getting a good sense of what does and doesn’t “work” in stories, paintings, comics etc… is something that you’ll only really pick up after you’ve seen numerous examples of the things in question. The same is true for a lot of more subtle skills, like working out how many panels to include in a webcomic update, how to arrange them etc…

3) It keeps your work original: First of all, there’s no such thing as a “100% original” story, comic, painting etc… Whether it is conscious or not, every creative work is inspired by something else. If you’re unsure about the difference between reasonable inspiration and actual copying, then check out this article.

But, although there’s no such thing as “true” originality, originality still exists. However, the only way to produce work that people consider to be “original” is to have as many influences as you can. The more things you are inspired by, the less your creative works will look like or read like any one thing.

This also applies to things like finding your own narrative style or art style. It’s ok to copy other styles when you’re learning but, the more styles that you copy at the same, the more different your style will look like. It will look or sound more original for the simple reason that it’s a mixture of different things, rather than just one thing.

For example, here’s one of my cyberpunk paintings:

"Antique Shop" By C. A. Brown

“Antique Shop” By C. A. Brown

First of all, if you read the early part of this article, you can probably guess two of the largest influences on the content of this picture. But, the focus on 1990s technology was also inspired by an episode of “Cowboy Bebop” (where the characters have to find a Betamax VCR) as well as my general fascination with the 1990s.

The actual drawing style that I used has had many inspirations over the years, including “Pepper Ann“, “Pokemon“, “South Park“, various old comics from the 1950s-90s, Frank Kozik’s booklet art for The Offspring’s “Americana” album etc… This is a style that has been evolving for most of my life (although I put much more effort into it within the past five years), so it has a lot of influences.

The composition of the painting (eg: placing large inanimate objects in the close foreground, like the shop window in my painting) was inspired by the compositions used in old 1990s “Point and click” computer games. The colour scheme I used in this painting was mostly inspired by a really cool set of fan-made “Doom II” levels called “Ancient Aliens“.

The high-contrast lighting and high-contrast colours in this painting were inspired by things like heavy metal T-shirts, Derek Riggs’ album art for Iron Maiden, numerous 1990s computer games, “Blade Runner” (again!), “Ghost In The Shell” (again!), the cover art for old splatterpunk horror novels, old VHS cover art I’ve seen on the internet etc…

So, yes, if you want to keep your work original, then try to read, watch, play etc… as many things as you can. The more things that inspire you, the more original your work will be.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Basic Ways To Downgrade Your Webcomic (To Stay Inspired)

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Although the webcomic mini series I’m posting here at the moment has fairly detailed art and a slightly elaborate storyline, the next mini series will experience something of a downgrade when it appears here in early September. Here’s a preview:

The full comic update will appear here on the 4th September. As you can see, it looks and reads more like one of my "old" comics from 2016.

The full comic update will appear here on the 4th September. As you can see, it looks and reads more like one of my “old” comics from 2016.

Why? Well, it was mostly because, when I was preparing August’s daily art posts, I was extremely reluctant to make comics. After all of the effort I’d put into the mini series that’s being posted here at the moment, making comics started to seem like an arduous, time-consuming thing. It was only when I noticed that I hadn’t included a single comic in any of August’s art posts that I realised that I was in danger of succumbing to comics burnout (like I did for pretty much all of 2014). So, drastic action had to be taken.

In other words, I began to make a fairly heavily downgraded short mini series for September, as a way to ease myself back into making comics. But, how can you downgrade your webcomic if you need to stay inspired, if you have less time, if you have less enthusiasm etc…

1) Comic type: There are two types of webcomics – webcomics that tell continuous stories and webcomics where each comic update is self-contained. Both of these comic types have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to ease of writing.

Different people find different types of comics easier to make. So, if you want to downgrade your comic, then just choose the type that you find easiest. Interestingly, this can work both ways- I switched to “continuous story” comics for the comics I posted earlier this year because I felt that it was easier than having to think of new ideas for each comic.

However, after a while, coming up with suitably interesting plot ideas became more difficult. So, during my recent downgrade, I switched back to self-contained comics. So, yes, it can be something of a cyclical process.

2) Art downgrade: The easiest way to save time and energy if you need to downgrade your webcomic is to simplify the art slightly. There are literally loads of ways to do this.

For example, you can switch from colour artwork to black & white artwork. Yes, knowing how to make good black & white artwork is a skill that has to be learnt but, if you know how to do this, then you can save a surprising amount of time.

Or, you can do what I’ve done in my upcoming mini series and simply reduce the level of background detail in each comic. Whilst most of the comics I’ve posted here this year tend to feature detailed outdoor background locations, the next mini series will go back to mostly featuring simple interior locations. This means that, for most of the backgrounds, I often just have to draw a single wall or two – rather than, say, an elaborate cityscape.

This allows me to keep the overall “look” of the comic, and the writing within it, at a reasonably good level whilst also saving me a large amount of time. In addition to this, I had a lot of practice with using simplified backgrounds during 2016, so it was a way to recapture some of the “spontaneity” that I used to feel when making those old comics.

3) Know what to downgrade: Have you noticed how I’ve only really talked about downgrading the art in your comics or changing the format you use? Well, this is because there’s one thing that you should never downgrade. I am, of course, talking about the writing in your comic. Don’t downgrade the writing!

I’ve probably mentioned this a few times before, but the writing is the most important part of a webcomic. Even if the art looks simplistic, a webcomic can still be interesting, compelling or funny if the writing is good enough.

So, don’t downgrade the writing!

4) Time and length: One ‘downgrade’ that I applied to my webcomics before I even made them was to release them in short 6-17 comic mini series. Whilst this is fairly unusual for a webcomic, it was a decision that I made because I’ve learnt from experience that there are limits to how long I can focus on a single comic for.

Likewise, one subtle form of downgrading that I’ve used in order to stay inspired whilst making webcomics over the past year or two is to vary the lengths of the mini series. If I’m not feeling hugely inspired, then I might only make a six-comic mini series. If the art was particularly detailed, or the story required a lot of planning, then I might limit myself to just eight comics.

In fact, this was probably why I had so many problems after I finished the mini series that is being posted here at the moment. Due to it’s artistic complexity, it should have been a 6-8 comic mini series. But, since I was having so much fun making it – even if it was a bit of a challenge – I overstretched and made twelve comics.

So, yes, don’t be afraid to do things like releasing comics slightly less often or reducing the length of your comics, if it keeps you inspired.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Leaving Room To Imagine – A Ramble

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Although this is an article about creativity in general, I’m probably going to have to start by talking about computer games for a while. This is mainly because, as regular readers of this site know, I mostly play old games and/or low-budget indie games these days.

Anyway, one of the interesting things about old and low-budget games is the fact that they often don’t include “realistic” graphics. Likewise, really old-school/low-budget games sometimes don’t even include voice acting – choosing instead to use text for the dialogue. Here are some examples of the types of games I’m talking about:

This is a screenshot from "The Last Door: Season 2" (2016).

This is a screenshot from “The Last Door: Season 2” (2016). Note the use of text-based dialogue and the impressionistic graphics.

This is a screenshot from "Zombie Shooter" (2007)

This is a screenshot from “Zombie Shooter” (2007). Note the “unrealistic” graphics.

This is a screenshot from "Eradicator" (1996). Surprisingly, it is the only game of these three that actually includes voice-acting.

This is a screenshot from “Eradicator” (1996). Surprisingly, it is the only game of these three that actually includes voice-acting.

Yet, surprisingly, these games are often a lot more engrossing than more “realistic” games would be. For the most part, this is because these games don’t try to look ultra-realistic. In fact, they often leave a lot of visual details purposely or accidentally vague.

This, of course, means that not only does the player focus more on the events of the game than on the graphics, but it means that the player also has to actually use their imagination to work out what the locations are supposed to look like. These games give the player enough visual details to give them an idea of what the setting is meant to be, but it is left up to them to fill in the fine details with their own imaginations.

Likewise, the lack of voice-acting in some of these games means that it is left to the player to work out what the characters’ voices sound like. Like with reading a novel or a comic, the audience’s imaginations are probably going to come up with better voice acting than most voice-actors could probably do. After all, your own imagination is better at coming up with things that are well-suited to you than anyone else is.

In fact, comics are probably another good example of this sort of thing.

The artwork in many comics is deliberately unrealistic (for both time reasons and creative reasons). They don’t include voice-acting either. Likewise, they only show still “frames” from a movie-like series of events. And, yet, a good comic can often be more immersive and interesting than a film for the simple reason that the audience is left to imagine things like the fine details of the world, the sound of the characters’ voices etc… And, well, imagination is usually better than expensive special effects or A-list actors.

The best way to see how important leaving room for the audience to imagine things is to start by watching a film adaptation of a novel you haven’t read. Then read the original novel. I can almost guarantee that you’ll probably imagine the characters, voices, locations and events of the novel in a pretty similar way to how they looked in the film.

Now try the same thing in reverse. Read a popular novel that you enjoy, then watch the film adaptation of it (that you’ve never seen before). Chances are, the film will look at least slightly different to what you imagined when you were reading the novel. In fact, there are actually a few film adaptations that I absolutely refuse to watch, lest they ruin my imagined ideas about what the characters and/or settings of several novels look like.

So, what was the point of all of this? Well, the point is that – if you are creating something – then you need to leave room for your audience to use their imaginations. You need to give them the space to come up with their own custom interpretation of the story you are telling.

In other words, you don’t have to make the art in your comics hyper-detailed, you shouldn’t worry if your fiction never gets adapted into a film etc… The more room that your audience has to imagine things, the better.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Things To Do When You Predict The Future Incorrectly In A Webcomic

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One of the oldest pieces of advice about making webcomics is to have a large buffer of comic updates prepared in advance. This is extremely good advice, but it can cause problems if your webcomic features occasional political commentary or occasional political satire.

After all, if you’re making your comic updates weeks or months in advance, then you’ll have to predict the future. And, if 2016 was anything to go by, the future can be an astonishingly unpredictable thing.

So, what can you do if you get the future wrong in your webcomic (before it’s actually posted online)?

1) Scrap or replace the comic: If your incorrect past prediction about the future is the kind of thing that is likely to cause controversy (or worse), then it’s usually best to either not post the comic or, even better, to post something else instead. This doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, and it can even be a quick filler comic, but it’s better than posting nothing.

For example, early last year, there was a controversy in Britain about the press. During the middle of the controversy, I had prepared a comic about it. However, the events in question went in a very different direction to the one I had expected. By the time that the comic was ready to be released, I realised that it would not only be out-of-date but could also be a bit too contentious too.

So, using digital editing, I took parts of the artwork from the original comic and – with some careful rewriting and manipulation- was able to turn it into a totally non-topical and uncontroversial comic about newspaper horoscopes instead:

"Damania Revived - Horoscope" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Revived – Horoscope” By C. A. Brown



2) Filters and notes:
One of the easiest, and more interesting, ways to deal with an incorrect prediction is simply to post the comic but to point out that it is out of date.

One easy way to do this is to use an image editing program to turn the comic greyscale (eg: just lower the colour saturation levels to zero), or add a sepia filter to the comic.

This instantly makes the comic look “old”, so it is less likely to confuse your audience. If your incorrect prediction was an optimistic one, then it also adds a sombre tone to the comic too.

For example, I did this with a comic that expressed optimism about Hillary Clinton’s chances in the 2016 US election. The original version of this comic was posted on DeviantART before the US election, but (due to scheduling reasons) the comic wasn’t scheduled to appear here until after the election. It was out of date, and depressingly poignant, so I ended up adding a sepia filter and a small note to the version that was posted here:

"Damania Regrown - Back In Time (alternate history version)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Regrown – Back In Time (alternate history version)” By C. A. Brown

As you can see from this example, it can sometimes also be worth adding a small note to the comic itself in order to explain to your readers why your comic seems to be slightly out of step with the present day.

3) Alternate history: If your incorrect prediction forms a large part of the webcomic updates that you’ve already prepared for the future (eg: if it has knock-on effects on the rest of the story etc..), then it may be worth taking the bold step of declaring that your webcomic takes place in an alternate timeline.

Yes, this is normally the preserve of science fiction, but it can even work with “serious” politics too. For example, most of the US TV show “The West Wing” aired when George W. Bush was in office. Yet, the fictional president in this series is from the opposite party to Bush. It still took itself seriously as a political drama, and there were no sci-fi elements (which is a shame, because a “West Wing”/”X-Files” cross over would be awesome!). But, the events of the story basically take place in a parallel universe where the 2000 US election went differently.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Ways To Make Something That Is ‘So Bad That It’s Good’

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I’ve probably talked about things that are ‘so bad that they’re good’ before, but I was reminded of this subject the night before I wrote this article. This was mainly because I started watching an anime series called ‘Tokko‘ about a police officer who has to face hordes of demonic creatures.

It might be because I accidentally left the default dubbed audio track on or because I had slightly different expectations about the series, but it fell into the ‘so bad that it’s good’ category. Far from being a serious horror series, it is (both unintentionally and intentionally) one of the funniest comedies that I’ve seen recently.

The police officer and his best friend look like what people in the very late 1990s/early 2000s considered to be “cool”. Personality wise, they are basically two American frat boys/slackers. The cheesy dubbed dialogue tries to be ‘edgy’ at every opportunity, and often comes across as being eye-rollingly immature. The “scary” monsters either look adorable and/or hilarious. The animation can be a bit clunky and the fight scenes are ludicrously gruesome (in a silly over-the-top way, rather than in a genuinely disturbing way). Yet, surprisingly, I really enjoyed the episodes I’ve seen so far. As I said, it’s literally so bad that it’s good.

So, how can you make things that are so bad that they’re good? Here are three of the many ways:

1) Awesome idea, terrible implementation: One of the best ways to make something ‘so bad that it’s good’ is to try to stretch yourself far beyond your abilities. To have the ambition of creating something awesome, but without the resources or knowledge to really do it properly.

There something endearing about someone trying to create something great, even when they can’t. There’s something warmly amusing about, say, a low-budget DVD whose cover art promises an epic story that both you and the people making the DVD know won’t be delivered.

Most people’s first attempts at making a webcomic automatically fall into this category too ( in fact, making it through this ‘crappy’ early phase is something of a test for webcomic creators), because they’re both highly inexperienced and yet highly inspired by other webcomics that they’ve seen.

These things are “so bad that they’re good” because they’re more ‘real’. They’re literally the polar opposite of flashy Hollywood movies, slick mainstream comics etc.. They show people trying to create things because they want to and because they believe in what they’re doing, rather than because they want to make millions.

2) Hyper modernity: If you make something that is very much of the time that it’s made then, years later, it will look amusingly dated. This is especially true if you are trying to use an old idea for inspiration, which can often result in something appearing slightly dated when it is originally released.

This is also especially true if you try to make ‘modern’ science fiction. A great example of this would probably be a ‘so bad that it’s good’ spy/thriller/sci-fi/comedy TV series from the mid-late 1990s called “Bugs“. At the time, it was probably a lot more “cool” and “futuristic”. But, these days, it’s joyously hilarious to see all of the characters using ‘gadgets’ and surfing the internet with 56k modems and computers that still have CRT monitors.

So, if you make something very ‘modern’, then there’s a good chance that it will become ‘so bad that it’s good’ in a few years’ time.

3) Earnestness: Creative works that try to be hyper-earnest about politics, or go to ridiculous lengths to show off how “liberal” or “conservative” they are, can often fall into the ‘so bad that it’s good category’.

This is basically because the extremely prominent and earnest politics end up distracting the audience from the actual story and completely wrecking their suspension of disbelief. This will reduce even the most serious story to unintentional comedy within minutes.

I would describe modern examples of this sort of thing. But, ironically, in our highly-politicised age, I’d probably end up infuriating a lot of people if I gave cynical descriptions of these things. Still, the modern trend for hyper-earnest politics (on both sides of the political spectrum) will at least ensure that we’ll never run out of ‘so bad that it’s good’ things in the near future.

But, if you earnestly try to shoehorn politics into the things you make, then they’ll probably turn into unintentional comedy fairly quickly.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Ways To Make A Change To Your Webcomic Series (Without Alienating Too Many Of Your Readers)

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Although this is an article about making webcomics, I’m going to have to start by talking about TV shows for a while. As usual, there’s (almost) a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

The day before I wrote this article, I started watching the second season of “Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex“. Even from the opening credits alone, I knew that this season was going to be different. Everything in the opening credits had a much more gothic look to it, and the theme tune had hints of symphonic metal music in it. I was literally awestruck when I saw it for the first time.

When I started watching the episodes, I noticed that they’d gone from being intelligent sci-fi thriller episodes to being much darker and more complex political thriller episodes. Visually speaking, the set design in the first four episodes had a much stronger resemblance to both the original “Ghost In The Shell” movie and to “Blade Runner”. Needless to say, it was already my favourite season of the show after binge-watching a mere four episodes.

It’s an example of a change to a series done properly. And, since my own occasional webcomics have changed a bit over the past year or two (eg: I’ve moved more towards story-based comics etc..), I thought that I’d give some advice about how to make changes to your own webcomics. I’ve probably said some of this stuff before, but it bears repeating.

1) Have a good reason: As many users of a popular online art gallery site will probably tell you, change for the sake of change benefits no-one. In other words, you should only change your webcomic if there’s actually a good practical reason for doing so.

The main reason why webcomics change dramatically is because the change helps to keep the person making the webcomic inspired. Some people are able to make the same sort of thing repeatedly for years, and other people need to do different things in order to stay inspired. If you’re making webcomics, then staying inspired should be your top priority.

If you feel absolutely fascinated by a different type of comic, then make it! If your characters are developing in a way that you didn’t expect them to, let them develop! If you’re in a different mood to the one you usually are in when you’re making your comic, let your comic reflect that mood!

But, don’t make changes just for the sake of it, or to be fashionable. If a change doesn’t genuinely help you to feel more inspired, don’t make it.

Yes, inspired changes might annoy a few of your readers, but the higher quality that will result from these inspired changes will probably help you to keep readers or gain more of them.

2) Continuity: Even if you make a major change, try to keep some things the same. In other words, there should be something that regular fans of your webcomic will recognise instantly. This can be a similar style of humour, this can be recurring characters, this can even be a similar art style. Generally, changes tend to work best when they are part of a gradual progression – rather than a more abrupt change.

So, leaving parts of the “old” version of your webcomic in your new updates can help your audience to adapt to the changes you’ve made more easily.

For example, although I moved over to making more narrative-based webcomics (compared to more self-contained comics), many of my earlier narrative-based series included brief story recaps in the dialogue of each update, so that many episodes could theoretically be read on their own. Like this comic from “Damania Repressed“:

"Damania Repressed - Analytical Engine" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Repressed – Analytical Engine” By C. A. Brown

Plus, in the mini series that will appear here in late July, I’ve been experimenting with including a better mixture of story-based updates and self-contained updates, in part to appeal to people who prefer the “old-school” versions of my comics. Here’s another preview:

The full comic update will appear here on the 23rd July.

The full comic update will appear here on the 23rd July.

Likewise, the switch to more story-based comics wasn’t too difficult to make since I’d already made occasional story-based comics before (like this one, this one or this one). Yes, I’d used a slightly different visual style and panel layout for them, but regular readers of the series will hopefully realise that story-based comics aren’t an entirely new thing for me.

3) Practice and improvment: Many of the best changes in my webcomics have probably been the less noticeable ones. In other words, the improvements I’ve made in both the art and dialogue in my comics over the past year or so. Here’s a chart to show you what I mean:

 As you can see, I've started using slightly more detailed art and more extensive digital editing.

As you can see, I’ve started using slightly more detailed art and more extensive digital editing. (Note: The release dates refer to this blog, rather than to DeviantART)

In other words, if you practice making art and/or making webcomics regularly, then you’re going to improve. This will, over time, lead to changes in the “look” of your webcomic. These changes will probably happen without you even really noticing them at first. It goes without saying, but these are the kinds of changes that your audience is least likely to complain about.

So, if you want to change your webcomic without changing it, then just keep practicing (even if you only make webcomics occasionally, do art practice as often as possible).

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Ways To Make A Webcomic Update In A Hurry

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Although I talked about filler updates yesterday, I thought that I’d look at something subtly different today – namely, how to make a webcomic update quickly.

This is mostly because, the day before I wrote this article, I found that I had relatively little time to prepare the second of the two comic updates (to be posted as part of a mini series in late July) that I’d planned to make that day.

Luckily, I still made the comic update. Here’s a reduced-size preview of it:

The full-size comic update will be posted here on the 26th July.

The full-size comic update will be posted here on the 26th July.

So, how was I able to speed everything up? Here are a few tips:

1) Three panels or one panel: Most of my webcomic updates tend to have 4-5 panels per update, this comic update only has three – even if this is cleverly disguised by the unusual panel layout. Although this might sound like it would be more difficult to write (since there’s less space for dialogue and storytelling), it actually isn’t if you’ve had a bit of practice.

Whilst longer comics might require more complex writing or structure, three panel comics often just follow the rule of “premise, set-up, punchline“. The first panel sets the scene, the second panel creates an expectation (about the third panel) and the third panel then shatters that expectation in an amusing way.

When you’ve seen this done enough times (typically in newspaper comics) and have practiced it a bit, then it’s a very familiar and easy rhythm that can help you to come up with quick comic ideas when you’re in a hurry.

Likewise, the general rule with one-panel comics is to set up an expectation with the art or the dialogue, and then subvert it with whichever one you haven’t used already (eg: art or dialogue) to set up the expectation.

2) Recycling: If you’re in a rush, then you probably won’t have much planning time for your comic update. So, take all or part of an idea or a joke from one of your previous comic updates and try to find a new twist on it (or add something to it). Don’t repeat the joke or idea exactly, but borrow the parts that made it so good the last time you used it.

For example, when I was making the comic update that I previewed earlier in this article, I didn’t have a huge amount of planning time. So, since it was a science fiction comic, I borrowed elements from the joke from this old four-panel comic of mine about VR technology and then used a slightly different punchline.

Although recycling your own stuff isn’t the most creative thing in the world and it shouldn’t be done that often, it can be useful for actually making something when you are in a hurry.

3) Art tricks: There are probably too many of them to mention every one here, but it’s always a good idea to learn some tricks that make the art in your comic look better than it actually is. This will save you time, whilst also allowing you to make impressive-looking comic updates.

These tricks include things like giving the illusion of detail, using realistic lighting to distract from the lack of detail in other parts of the artwork, making the setting look larger than it actually is, using simplified backgrounds, numerous digital editing techniques etc……

For example, most of the art in the preview at the beginning of this article is in the large middle panel. In case you can’t tell from the preview image, most of the art in that panel was created digitally using a few image effects. What this meant was that the bulk of the update’s art could be created by just selecting a few areas of the picture and applying various image effects.

However, the other two panels are made traditionally using ink and watercolours (albeit with some digital image editing after I scanned them). Since the comic starts off and ends with a traditional panel, it still gives the impression that the comic update was mostly made traditionally. Even though only about 25% of the entire update was created by slightly more time-consuming traditional methods.

If you learn sneaky tricks like this, then they can come in handy when you are in a hurry.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂