Two Very Basic Ways To Give Your Webcomic A Consistent Look (Without Being Boring)

2017 Artwork Webcomics consistency article sketch

Generally, many great webcomics can be recognised instantly at a glance. Even though the comic updates may include a variety of different locations and characters, they are always instantly recognisable as being part of one particular webcomic.

However, the look of your webcomic will always change over time. This is because, by it’s very nature, making a webcomic involves lots of regular drawing practice. As you improve, so will the look of your art. If you don’t believe me, then just find a famous long-running webcomic and compare the most recent update to the very first update. They will look different, and this is good.

But, this aside, how can you make your own webcomic look as consistent as possible? Here are two very basic ways:

1) Art style: This is the obvious one. If you take the time to develop your own unique art style, then your webcomic will instantly stand out as something unique. However, if you just use commonly-used art styles (eg: manga, American comic book art etc..), then your webcomic won’t be quite as distinctive.

But, how do you come up with your own art style? I’ve written about this many times before, but it basically just involves finding other art styles that you like and borrowing techniques from them. It also involves a lot of regular drawing practice too. If your art style looks simplistic or childish, then all that means is that you need more practice.

But, even if your own art style looks fairly simplistic or is obviously influenced by another style, the fact that you’ve put the effort into using an original style (rather than a commonly-used one) will make your webcomic stand out from the crowd a bit, whilst also giving it a consistent look.

2) Location design: If you have consistent principles for your location design, then your webcomic will also have a consistent look.

This includes things like using similar colour schemes, using similar types of lighting, using similar types of weather and having a common set of inspirations for your location designs. Basically, if you have a set of principles that you can apply to most of the locations in your webcomics, then your comic will have a consistent look to it even if it includes a lot of different settings.

To use an example from my webcomics that have been posted here this year and will be posted here in the next couple of months, many of them use some variant on a blue/orange/green/purple colour scheme. Likewise, many of them feature gloomy lighting, dramatic sunsets and/or rainy weather. Likewise, the location design is sometimes inspired by films like “Blade Runner” and old computer games too.

Although I haven’t been able to do this in all of my comics (eg: it wasn’t possible in “Damania Requisitioned” or “Damania Renaissance“), here’s a chart showing how this has given some of comics (including a few that haven’t appeared here yet) a distinctive look, despite the fact that they’re set in wildly different locations. If you want to read the comic found in the bottom right corner of the chart, it can be read here.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] - As you can see, the locations are all different from each other, yet they all look similar at the same time because I've followed a consistent set of design principles.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] – As you can see, the locations are all different from each other, yet they all look similar at the same time because I’ve followed a consistent set of design principles.

So, yes, work out a set of design principles and your locations will look fairly consistent.

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Sorry for such a short and basic article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

Three Basic Tips For Creating A “Realistic” Setting For Your Webcomic

2016 Artwork Interesting webcomic setting article sketch

Chances are, if you’re planning to start a webcomic, then you’ve already worked out where it will be set. In fact, the setting is probably one of the first things that people think of (after the characters, of course) when they’re coming up with an idea for a webcomic series.

But, in the event that you’re not sure what the setting of your webcomic should look like, I thought that I’d offer a few tips (learnt by making some of the comics in the “2016” section of this page) that will help you to come up with an interesting and/or practical “realistic” setting for your webcomic.

Anyway, let’s get started:

1) Base it on a real place: Note here that I didn’t say “set it in a real place“.

Although there probably aren’t any rules about setting your webcomic in a real town or city (however, using real shops etc.. is a bit of a complicated issue though. Generally, it’s a good idea to either change the name or cover up part of it), it generally requires a lot of research and it can also place some limitations on the kind of stories you can tell, the kind of jokes you can include etc…

So, set your webcomic in a fictional location that is heavily inspired by real locations – but which also gives you the flexibility to include “unrealistic” locations if the comic demands it.

This is the approach that I’ve taken to many of the “exterior” scenes in the modern incarnation of my occasional “Damania” webcomic mini series. Although the comic itself isn’t set in Aberystwyth, many of the locations have been loosely-inspired by parts of that wonderful town. Here’s a picture of some of the Aberystwth-inspired locations from past comics.

If you haven't been to the town, these will probably just look like generic locations. If you've spent some time there, you might recognise a few places.....

If you haven’t been to the town, these will probably just look like generic locations. If you’ve spent some time there, you might recognise a few places…..

But, since the comic isn’t explicitly set in Aberystwyth, I can also include a plethora of “unrealistic” locations too – like a paintball range, a very Portsmouth-like market, a laser tag arena (in one of December’s comics) etc…

So, if you’re going to use a real town or city, then only use it for inspiration.

2) Keep it simple: Although my webcomic includes a few outdoor locations, many of the comics take place in various rooms on the same floor of the characters’ block of flats.

Whilst there are a few recurring background objects, what this mostly means is that I can include plain backgrounds and just change the background colour depending on which characters are in the room. Here’s a chart to show you what I mean:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] The corridor also doesn't appear often because it's a corridor.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] The corridor also doesn’t appear often because it’s a corridor.

Making webcomics to any kind of deadline can sometimes be a more demanding task than many people think. Not to mention that there is nothing more monotonous than re-drawing the same highly-detailed background over and over again. This is a mistake that I made in my very first finished webcomic (in 2010) and it’s one I’ve been sure to avoid since then…

So, keeping the level of background detail as low as you can is a good way to save time and prevent boredom. However, your art will look slightly less impressive though – but this isn’t as much of an issue as you might think….

In fact, if you look at a lot of syndicated daily newspaper cartoons, you’ll see that many of them include as little background detail as the artist can get away with. This is mostly for time reasons, but it’s also a testament to the fact that the emphasis of a good comic update should be on the writing and the humour. If these things are good enough, then the audience won’t really notice or care about the lack of a detailed background.

3) Generic settings: One of the easiest ways to come up with a setting for your webcomic is to set it in a generic town or city. This allows you a lot of creative flexibility, but it can also run the risk of making your setting look … well… generic.

However, if you keep at it for a while, then you’ll probably eventually come up with a few interesting recurring settings that will help to give your webcomic a bit more individuality.

Even if it is just somewhere like a cafe or a pub that your characters visit regularly, you’ll probably still end up coming up with distinctive recurring locations even if you start out just using a generic town or city as a setting.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂