Four Important Things To Remember Before You Start Your First Webcomic

2017-artwork-before-you-start-your-first-webcomic

Webcomics! If you’ve read a few of them, then you might possibly want to start your own one. In fact, you might actually even try making one. This is, of course, how many people who make webcomics get into making webcomics. It’s how I got into making webcomics, even if I only make occasional mini series of 6-17 daily comic updates these days.

Still, there are a few things that are worth bearing in mind before you start your first webcomic. If you’ve read this blog before, then you’ve probably heard all of this advice already, but I thought that it might be useful to put the most important parts of it into one long-winded article.

1) Your first webcomic won’t be great (and that’s alright!): There’s a very good reason why the page I linked to earlier in this article only showcases the webcomics I made from 2015 onwards. The very first time I posted a webcomic online was in 2010 and I won’t even link to that one – even thinking about it makes me cringe at how badly-written and badly-drawn it was.

But, do I regret making that abysmal first webcomic? No! If I hadn’t made that terrible first webcomic to prove to myself that I could make webcomics, I wouldn’t have made the mildly less crappy ones that I made in 2011-2013. I wouldn’t have got back into making webcomics in 2015, after a year-long hiatus where I just made daily paintings instead (caused by making too many webcomics in 2012-13). I wouldn’t be making occasional mini series to this day.

That one terrible early webcomic is responsible for all of the webcomics I’ve made ever since. Without it, the better ones I’ve made would never exist!

When you make your first webcomic, you will probably be inexperienced at both comic writing and/or making art. This is ok! Everyone is inexperienced when they start out.

Even the very first update of the very best webcomic ever made will look awful when compared to the most recent one. The true test of a webcomic creator is if they’re willing to keep practicing even though they know that their earlier comic updates aren’t as good as the ones they’ve seen online.

If you truly love the medium of webcomics, then the fact that your first few hundred comic updates won’t be great will not bother you! The fact that your comic updates might only get a few views on a good day won’t bother you!

After all, not only are you having fun making your comic, but you’re also gaining the practice, experience and skills that you need in order to make better webcomics. Also, you’re actually making webcomics! How cool is that?

2) Make ten or more updates before you post anything online!: This is the most useful thing that you can do if you’re starting your first webcomic. Make at least ten comic updates before you post any of them online. This is useful for two reasons.

Firstly, it allows you to test out your webcomic. It allows you to see if the characters are interesting enough, if the humour is good enough and if you can think of enough good comic ideas for the premise you’re using.

It also allows you to judge how much time it takes you to make a webcomic update, so that you can come up with a realistic update schedule (that you’ll actually stick to).

Secondly, it means that you’ll already have a comic buffer before you post anything online.

If you don’t know what a comic buffer is, it’s the most useful thing any webcomic creator can have. Basically, it’s where you stay several comics ahead of the ones you post online because you’ve already made the next 1-1000 updates in advance. If you’re using a blog to post your webcomic online, then you can often automatically schedule your updates to be posted at any time or date you want.

Having a comic buffer takes a lot of the stress out of making webcomics since, although you still need to make comics regularly to maintain your buffer, if you aren’t able to make a comic update one time then it means that your audience won’t miss out. It means that you won’t constantly be rushing to meet deadlines in the way that you would be if you posted your webcomics immediately after you made them.

3) Let it change!: If you keep making a single webcomic (even occasionally) for a long time, then it’s going to change. This is ok! For example, my current occasional “Damania” webcomic series was originally supposed to be a dramatic “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”-style urban fantasy comic when I started planning it in 2011-12.

Then, it was mostly supposed to be a slightly surreal “newspaper comic” style webcomic in 2012-16. These days, it’s a silly comic about a gang of miscreants (and a detective) who go on all sorts of stupid adventures. It couldn’t be further from the serious “magic, ghosts and vampires” comic that I’d originally set out to make in 2011-12!

Your webcomic will change from the thing that you’re just about to start making, and this is good! Often, a webcomic will change because you find that it’s easier to stay inspired if you do something different (eg: switching from self-contained updates to short story-based comics). It’ll change because you get to know the characters better. It’ll change because the things that inspire you will change. I could go on all day, but it’ll change.

Let this change happen! Not only will this mean that you’ll end up ditching the parts of your comic that don’t work, but it also means that you’ll be able to stay motivated and inspired.

4) A crappy update is better than no update!: It’s probably worth writing that down. When you make webcomics, there will be days when you will be uninspired. There will be days when you don’t feel as motivated as usual. You still need to make webcomics on those days! Even if the things you make are badly-written or badly-drawn, you still need to make them and post them (or add them to your buffer)! But, why?

If you are following any kind of update schedule, then your audience will expect to see something at the appointed times. Give them something! Even if it’s just a quick sketch of one of your characters with a sarcastic caption about writer’s block underneath it, it’s something! It’s something that shows the audience that you’re still making your comic and that they should keep reading it.

No matter how awful, unfunny, clichΓ©d, uninspired or crappy your next webcomic update is, it’s still better than an empty page! Even if people online moan loudly about how terrible your comic update is, that is still better than the ominous silence of people leaving your comic because they don’t think that it’s still being updated.

Likewise, although forcing yourself to make comics when you don’t feel up to it might seem difficult, it gets easier with practice. Plus, it will give you practice too! It’ll also allow you to stay in the “rhythm” of making comics regularly.

If you’re worried that this might give you webcomic burnout (which was something that happened to me in 2014), then make changes to your webcomic. Release it in occasional mini series (like I do now). Reduce your update schedule if you have to. But, whatever you do, if you tell your audience that you’re going to post a webcomic at a particular time, then do all you can to keep that promise – even if it means posting a sub-standard update.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Four Freaky Tips For Addding 1980s/90s-Style Comedy Horror To Comics

2017 Artwork Retro Comedy horror article sketch

The comedy horror genre is one of the best genres every created – blending all of the cool elements of the horror genre with all of the inventiveness of the comedy genre. It’s kind of like everything great from the horror genre, but without all of the depressing bleakness that usually comes with it.

Although it’s had a major resurgence within the past decade or two, the golden age of this genre was probably sometime in the 1980s and/or the 1990s.

This was a time when Hollywood was a lot more creative than it is now, and where imaginative low-medium budget American comedy horror films were often instant cult classics – I’m talking about amazing films like “Army Of Darkness”, “Gremlins”, “Return Of The Living Dead Part II”, “Beetlejuice”, “Tremors”, “Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark” etc.. Seriously, watch them!

But, since you probably don’t have the budget to make a movie, I thought that I’d look at some of the ways that you can add a 1908s/90s style version of this awesome genre to comics and/or fiction.

It’s been a while since I’ve made a proper comedy horror comic (the last one was last year’s Halloween comic, although this comic from 2015 springs to mind too), I think that I can offer a few tips about how to use this type of “retro” comedy horror in comics:

1) Rubbery monsters, zombies etc… : Monsters are one of those things that people used to think were scary, but which aren’t really that scary… and this is why they are perfect for comedy horror! The same is true for zombies too.

Good comedy horror will often take something that used to be considered scary and then play it for laughs in all sorts of interesting ways.

However, just adding a monster to your comedy horror story won’t make it funny or retro. Monster design plays a large part in good retro comedy horror.

When designing retro comedy horror monsters, zombies etc… you need to make them look “endearingly grotesque”, rather than “gruesome” or “frightening”. In other words, make them look slimy, oddly adorable, cartoonish etc… Keep the amount of blood, viscera etc.. to an absolute minimum. Here’s an example of the type of monster I’m talking about:

This is a detail from a digitally-edited drawing that I'll be posting here in mid-late April.

This is a detail from a digitally-edited drawing that I’ll be posting here in mid-late April.

A good rule to remember here is that, if your monster looks like the kind of thing that a special effects studio in the 1980s or 1990s could have created cheaply using rubber models, rubber masks etc.. then you’re doing it right. Yes, your monsters should look like they could be made out of rubber.

2) Small towns: Since the dawn of time, horror stories have often worked best when they’re set in remote areas – for the simple reason that it adds to the suspense. As such, most great retro comedy horror movies (except for “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”) are usually set in small towns of one kind or another.

These settings also have a huge amount of comedic potential for the simple reason that small towns are often, well, crap. Don’t get me wrong, they’re much less crappy than ultra-large cities probably are, but they can certainly be dull, quirky and/or backwards places. It doesn’t take a genius to see how this can be used for comedy.

Plus, the contrast between the drama of the events of the film and the dullness of the setting can often also be used for comedic effect – like with this four-panel comic of mine from earlier this year (which is kind of a follow on from last year’s Halloween comic):

“Damania Resolute – Yet Again” By C. A. Brown

3) Slapstick and gore: If you watch a few retro comedy horror movies, one of the first things that you will notice is the sheer amount of physicality in them. Monsters leap out from their hiding places melodramatically, they scamper around merrily, they die squelchily melodramatic deaths etc…

In other words, you’ll probably need to use a fair amount of slapstick comedy. Like this:

"Zombies Again! - Page 5" By C. A. Brown

“Zombies Again! – Page 5” By C. A. Brown

When it comes to the subject of how much gore to include in your retro horror comedy comic, it’s totally up to you. But, if you’re going to include gore, then it has to be ludicrously exaggerated to the point where it isn’t even vaguely realistic. I’m talking about gushing fountains of blood, splattery exploding heads etc.. The gruesome parts of your comedy horror comedy comic should be used for slapstick comedy.

If you want the advantages of this kind of gory slapstick, but without the gruesomeness, then you can always replace the monsters’ blood and guts with something like slime or gunge instead (see a movie called “Tremors 2: Aftershocks” for some good examples of this).

4) Characters: The 1980s and the 1990s were the golden age of sarcasm and cynicism. If you don’t believe me, then watch a classic BBC comedy series called “Blackadder” (the third and fourth series especially). There isn’t much, if any, horror in it, but it’s one of the most brilliantly cynical and/or sarcastic things in existence.

So, if you want to add some retro comedy horror to your comic, then make sure that your characters are suitably unimpressed, cynical and/or sarcastic about the events of the story. Genuine horror often relies on the audience empathising with the main character’s fear. Comedy horror often relies on the audience laughing at the main characters’ almost total lack of fear.

Learning how to do this well will probably require watching a lot of classic comedy horror movies and/or comedy movies in general, but if you only have the time or budget for seeing one of them, then I’d recommend “Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark” (Elvira has so many brilliant sarcastic one-liners, double-entendres etc..) if you want to learn how to write comedic dialogue.

If you want a great non-horror (well, mostly…) 1980s comedy movie with brilliant sarcastic dialogue, then I’d have to recommend the one and only “Heathers“.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Four Very Basic Tips For Making Heavy Metal Art

2017 Artwork Heavy Metal Art article sketch

Although heavy metal is perhaps the most awesome type of music in the world, it’s always been a genre that I’ve found difficult to use for direct artistic inspiration. Although I might be listening to it when making a lot of my art, relatively little of my art has actually been recognisable as “heavy metal art”.

Likewise, although some of the visual techniques I use all of the time (eg: tenebrism etc..) were probably inspired by heavy metal album covers, I still found it difficult to make art that was explicitly “heavy metal art”.

But, when I was feeling uninspired the day before writing this article, I eventually decided to try to make some heavy metal art. In the process of working out how to do this, I learnt a bit about how to make art in this genre. But, here’s a preview of part of the painting that I made (which will be posted here in early-mid March):

This is a preview of a painting that will appear here in early-mid March.

This is a preview of a painting that will appear here in early-mid March.

So, here are some basic tips for making heavy metal art if you haven’t really made any before, but already have some art experience/practice:

1) Music: This almost goes without saying, but there is only one genre of music that should be playing in the background when you are making heavy metal art. I probably don’t need to expand on this point much.

2) Research: Do a quick image search for heavy metal art online (it’s probably not a good idea to do this if you’re at work etc.. though!) and look at as many pieces of it as you can. Likewise, dust off your CD collection and look at as many album covers as you can.

Once you’ve done this, try to look for common visual themes in all of the heavy metal art that you’ve seen. For example, during my research, I found that the common visual elements were tenebrism, skeletons (glowing eyes are cool, but optional), swords, semi-nude/nude women, semi-nude muscular men, grotesque monsters, gory violence, creepy old buildings etc…

When you’ve found all of the common visual themes, choose the ones that interest you (for the painting earlier in the e-mail, the elements were tenebrism, skeletons and old buildings) and try to find a way to incorporate these generic elements into a new and original painting.

3) Action: If there’s one thing that can be said about heavy metal art, it’s that it includes a lot of action. Something is always happening in a heavy metal painting. So, when doing your research into heavy metal artwork – look at the kinds of things that are happening in each piece of art.

Once you’ve looked at enough examples, try to think of a dramatic scene that looks like something from a horror movie and then use this new imagined scene as a basis for your painting.

Likewise, if you see a common/ frequently-used pose that you like, then find a slightly new variation on it and use it in your artwork. Although I’m not a copyright expert, my brief online research on the subject seems to suggest that poses, in and of themselves, probably cannot be copyrighted (under the same principle that ideas, but not specific expressions of those ideas, cannot be copyrighted).

Still, both to err on the side of caution and to make your art slightly more distictive, it’s best to come up with a very slight variation on any poses that interest you.

For example, the “outstretched hand” pose used in my painting was probably made famous by Iron Maiden, but variations have also been used in art for bands like Children Of Bodom. My own variation features a slightly tilted head, a very slight forward lean, an outstretched left arm and a few other small changes that help to differentiate it from either of these things (as well as the fact that the actual content of the art is totally different to either example).

4) Other inspirations: It almost goes without saying, but your inspirations for heavy metal art should be more than just other heavy metal art. The thing to remember here is that the best heavy metal art is often a heavy metal-style twist on another genre of art. All of the classic metal album cover artists have probably taken inspiration from things like horror movies, comics, old paintings etc… rather than just other heavy metal album covers.

So, make sure that you have other sources of inspiration too. For example, my painting was at least partly inspired by the wonderfully grotesque artwork in old American horror comics from the 1940s/50s. Likewise, the lighting in the painting was inspired by both classic computer games. I could probably go on for a while, but this painting has more inspirations than just other pieces of heavy metal art.

If you have some non-metal influences, then your art will look significantly more original and interesting.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

The Five Stages of Making A Webcomic Update (Plus, A Comic Preview)

2017 Artwork Making A Webcomic update

Well, since there will probably be about twenty webcomic updates (from three different time-travel themed mini series) posted here this month (with another ten next month), I thought that I’d write about making webcomics again.

In fact, I thought that I’d show you the five stages of making a webcomic update. Of course, different artists have different creative processes (eg: I use a combination of traditional and digital tools, whilst many webcomics are digital-only) but at least some of the things here should be similar to how many other artists make webcomics.

For this article, I’ll be showing you the “making of” a comic update that won’t formally appear here until the very end of the month, so it’s also something of a preview as well (well, here anyway. If you don’t mind SPOILERS, I tend to be somewhat further ahead when posting comics and art on DeviantART [due to a whole host of scheduling reasons].)

Anyway, let’s get started:

1) Planning: Surprisingly, this is actually the most important part of making a webcomic update. Before you make the update, sketch out a rough plan of what it will look like – this gives you the chance to fine-tune the dialogue, to see if a comic idea will work and to work out the pacing of your comic (eg: what happens in each panel).

It’s usually a good idea to use a different sketchbook for your plans, since you can use cheaper paper (eg: non-watercolour paper) and so that your plans won’t clutter up your “proper” sketchbook.

The paper that I use for my actual comics is a sketchbook of (a fairly cheap type of) watercolour paper. This is just because I’ll be using watercolours later. If you aren’t using watercolours, then you can use a different type of paper.

In the example below, you can see that the top comic plan has had a couple of small dialogue changes. Not only that, you can also see an abandoned comic idea at the bottom of the page – this idea started out well, but fortunately it failed during the planning stage (rather than when I was actually making the real comic).

 [CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This is the comic update in the planning stage. As you can see, the art in my plan is very rough and there is more emphasis on planning the dialogue. You can also see an abandoned comic idea at the bottom of the page too

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This is the comic update in the planning stage. As you can see, the art in my plan is very rough and there is more emphasis on planning the dialogue. You can also see an abandoned comic idea at the bottom of the page too



2) Pencilling, inking and lettering:
Different artists have different approaches to this.

My approach is to start each panel by writing in the dialogue using waterproof ink, before using a light pencil (2H graphite) to sketch out the artwork, before inking the art and moving on to the next panel.

Some artists prefer to just make the art and then add the dialogue digitally, other artists prefer to pencil the entire comic strip and then ink the entire thing in one go. Different things work for different artists, but lettering, pencilling and inking each panel sequentially is probably my favourite method.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] As you can see from the unfinished comic, I usually like to add the dialogue first, then sketch the art in pencil, before adding ink and moving on to the next panel.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] As you can see from the unfinished comic, I usually like to add the dialogue first, then sketch the art in pencil, before adding ink and moving on to the next panel.

3) Line art: This part is fairly self-explanatory. When I’ve finished inking the comic with waterproof ink, I wait for the ink to dry before erasing it and scanning a copy of the line art before I start painting. The advantage of keeping a copy of the line art is that you can show it off separately as “added value”/ “bonus material” for your fans.

Often, I’ll digitally alter the brightness/contrast levels of the line art before I show it off online (in posts like this one). But, here’s an unprocessed (albeit cropped) scan of the line art for this comic.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] - This is a cropped, but otherwise unprocessed, scan of the line art for this comic update.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] – This is a cropped, but otherwise unprocessed, scan of the line art for this comic update.

4) Painting: Ever since very late 2013/very early 2014, my main method of adding colour to my comics (and artwork) is to use watercolour pencils.

If you’ve never heard of these before, they’re like colouring pencils but they turn into watercolour paint when you go over the finished picture with a wet paintbrush. If you’re using these, then you’ll also need to use waterproof ink and watercolour paper too though.

This allows me to add colour relatively quickly, precisely and consistently, as well as allowing me to blend colours easily too. Here’s what it looks like when I’ve finished painting:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This is a cropped, but unprocessed scan of what the comic looks like after I've added watercolour paint to it.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] This is a cropped, but unprocessed scan of what the comic looks like after I’ve added watercolour paint to it.

5) Digital editing: This is probably the most time-consuming part of the comic-making process.

As you can see, the scanned painting I showed you earlier looks a bit faded and a bit rough – so, digital editing can be a good way to refine the artwork (and to correct any small mistakes in the art and/or dialogue too). This is how many of my comics and paintings get their characteristic “vivid” look.

Most of the time, I use a couple of old image editing programs for this but, everything I’ll describe in the next couple of paragraphs can be done in almost any graphics program (even a free open-source one like “GIMP” [GNU Image Manipulation Program]). So, don’t think that you have to use a fancy, new or expensive one.

I usually start by lowering the brightness level/ increasing the contrast level of the image. After this, I’ll usually have to correct the skin tones in the picture (since changes to the brightness/contrast levels can affect these parts of the picture) by selecting these areas of the picture and altering their RGB values. I’ll then sometimes alter the highlight/midtone/shadow levels of various parts of the picture (eg: some of the backgrounds) too.

After this, I’ll use various airbrush, paintbrush, pencil etc.. tools to correct numerous small mistakes in the picture. Eventually, the finished picture looks a bit like this:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Repressed - Goth" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Repressed – Goth” By C. A. Brown

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Three Tips For Making Quick Daily Art To Post Online

2017 Artwork Ways To Make Quick Daily Art

Although it doesn’t suit every artist, there are certainly advantages (for both you and your audience) to posting art online every day. It gives your audience something new to return to your site for every day. It also means that you have a strong incentive to practice regularly too.

Of course, you should probably have a “buffer” of pre-made art before you start posting any of it online. You’ll probably still have to add to the buffer every day, but it means that you’ll be a lot less likely to miss a day’s updates.

Likewise, if your site has a feature that lets you schedule posts in advance, then take full advantage of it (eg: this is why my daily art posts appear here at precisely 7:45pm GMT every day).

But, most importantly of all, how do you make art quickly enough to post it online every day? I’m sure I’ve mentioned all three of these tips at least once before, but they certainly bear repeating.

1) Standardisation: If you’re making slightly more elaborate art, then one thing that can speed up the creative process is to make sure all of your paintings or drawings are a standard size. If in doubt, start small and – when you feel more comfortable working at larger sizes – keep increasing the size and experimenting with different sizes until you find the right one.

Not only will a standard size save you thinking time every time you make a painting, but you will also eventually be able to work out approximately how long it takes you to fill each page (or part of a page) with art, allowing you to plan your time more accurately.

For example, most of my daily paintings are 18 x 18cm in size, with 1.5 cm black borders at the top and bottom of this area. This basically means that the actual area I have to paint in is only 15 x 18 cm (even if the painting itself looks larger).

Even if I add a lot of detail to one of my paintings, I know that it will usually take me no more than 1-2 hours at the most to fill this amount of paper with art.

2) Sketchbooks: Even though I really don’t seem to keep a non-painting sketchbook these days (well, I have one, but it’s turned into a general notebook, where the closest things to drawings that appear in it are my plans for my occasional webcomics), keeping a sketchbook might be a good idea if you want to post art online every day without it taking too much time.

If you see anything interesting or have any interesting ideas, then just make a quick sketch in your sketchbook. Since these sketches will probably be fairly small and they probably won’t be too detailed, you’ll probably also be able to produce more than one sketch per day.

However, if you only post one of them online every day, then you’ll also be able to increase the size of your art “buffer” – which can either take some of the pressure off of you, or give you time for more elaborate art occasionally.

3) Find “Backup Ideas” For When You’re Uninspired:
One of the major causes of time wastage when making art is probably the planning stage. A drawing or painting may only take you 30-90 minutes to make, but trying to work out what you’re going to draw or paint can sometimes take a lot longer when you aren’t feeling inspired.

To speed this up, I’d recommend finding several “backup ideas” that you can turn to when you feel uninspired. These vary from artist to artist, but they’re basically the kinds of things that you can practically paint or draw in your sleep. In other words, the types of art that you find easiest to make.

For me, this includes natural landscapes, minimalist art, still life paintings, some types of sci-fi art, re-paintings of my really old paintings, fan art etc…. But it might be different for you.

Yes, you might find that some of the paintings you make using these ideas may look “boring”, but you’ll actually have a painting to post online. And you will have made it quickly, because you could start painting right away – rather than having to wait for “inspiration”.

Anyway, the main role of a “backup idea” is just to keep you making art regularly until you feel inspired again. So, even if you might spend four days painting similar-looking minimalist paintings, you’ll still be in the ‘rhythm’ of making daily paintings when inspiration strikes again.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Three Benefits Of Making Seasonal Webcomic Updates

2016 Artwork Seasonal Webcomics article sketch

Well, I thought that I’d talk about making webcomics again today. In particular, I’ll be talking about several of the reasons why it’s a good idea to make themed webcomic updates or themed comics based on major celebrations (eg: Halloween, Christmas etc…), to be posted online before or during these festivals.

This was mostly prompted by the fact that, at the time of writing this article, I’d just finished making a webcomic mini series that will be posted here in the six days leading up to Christmas (with an extra illustration/large single panel comic to be posted on Christmas day). Naturally, it’s a Christmas-themed comic.

This is the first time I’ve attempted this with Christmas (although I’ve something vaguely similar twice for Halloween – as can be seen here and here). This, of course made me think about some of the benefits of making seasonal comics.

1) Relevance AND timelessness: The most obvious reason why seasonal webcomics can be a good idea is that they reflect things that are happening in the world at the time that your comics are being posted.

Even if your webcomic is the least topical thing in the world (eg: because you want to avoid politics, or because you make the updates quite far in advance etc…) then major festivals are one of the few times where your webcomic can seem up to date and relevant. Even if you’ve actually made the updates months ago, posting a Christmas-themed comic on Christmas will still be a topical thing.

In addition to this, many seasonal webcomics can also have a surprisingly timeless quality too. Since, say, Christmas or Halloween don’t change too much from year to year, then if someone happens to see last Christmas’ webcomic updates on Christmas this year, then they’re probably going to seem just as up to date and relevant as the Christmas comics you made last year.

2) Easy inspiration: Generally, festivals tend to have a lot of popular mythology surrounding them. This mythology, of course, is perfect source material for the times when you just can’t think of a subject for your next webcomic update.

In fact, one of the things that surprised me about my upcoming Christmas mini series was the fact that – when I sat down and started planning it – I’d come up with six comic ideas within the space of ten minutes. Normally, it might take me twice as long to come up with a third of this. But, since I had hundreds of years of Christmas stories, traditions, cultural stuff etc.. to draw on, the comic ideas came thick and fast.

However, there is a downside to all of this. Although getting ideas might be a lot easier when you’re basing your next few webcomic updates on a festival, finding inventive ways to use those ideas is significantly more challenging. In fact, I had to discard and re-think at least two of my planned Christmas comic ideas because they seemed too predictable or too obvious.

3) Niche comics: Although festivals are often widely publicised at the time, everyone has their own attitudes towards them. There’s obviously a chance that not everyone will share the mainstream enthusiasm or lack of enthusiasm for a particular special occasion. If you’re one of those people, then your webcomic should reflect your opinions- since there will be people out there who will share these opinions, and a comic that speaks to them will be like a refreshing oasis in a vast cultural desert.

For example, I really love Halloween. Although Halloween gets it’s fair share of airtime on TV, in adverts etc… it isn’t really celebrated in the same way that, say, Christmas is. So, posting a Halloween comic can be a great way to both celebrate the occasion and to provide something for other people who are enthusiastic about Halloween.

Likewise, I have a fairly ambivalent attitude towards Christmas. Some years I really love it, but some years, I feel at least mildly cynical/ unenthusiastic about it. As such, as soon as I allowed myself to include some humourous cynicism in my upcoming Christmas webcomic series, this really helped me to get motivated to make the comic. Not only does it allow me to express some of my own cynicism, but other people who are cynical about Christmas might also enjoy it too.

So, yes, if you have slightly “different” opinions about a particular festival or occasion, then express them in your comic – it will be more distinctive and interesting as a result. Unless, of course, you’re living in a country or culture which takes it’s festivals extremely seriously. In that case, use caution.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Lettering In Webcomics – Handwritten Or Digital?

2016 Artwork Webcomic Lettering Article Sketch

Well, since I’m still busy making a webcomic mini series at the time of writing (eg: the one after the one that is currently being posted here every night), I thought that I’d talk briefly about lettering in webcomics and whether handwritten lettering is better than digital lettering.

In case you don’t know what “lettering” is, it’s a professional-sounding term for the written text in a comic. This can either be written the old-fashioned way, or it can be added to the comic digitally. In fact, many traditional print comics apparently actually had a separate artist just to do the lettering – although, if you’re making a webcomic, then you’ll probably be adding the lettering yourself.

Personally, I’m a fan of handwritten lettering (with some occasional digital editing) for several reasons. Even so, there are some advantages to entirely digital lettering. This is one of those questions where there isn’t really a “right” or a “wrong” answer, so I’ll be talking about both types of lettering here.

The first reason why I prefer handwritten lettering is that I find it to be a lot more intuitive in many ways, since you have slightly more control over things like text size, the writing style and how much text you can cram into a speech bubble. It’s also a natural fit if you’re using traditional materials to make the rest of your comic. In addition to this, it also lends the comic a certain amount of “personality” that you just don’t get with typed text.

Unless you’re writing very small text, legibility isn’t as much of an issue as you might think as long as you follow the cardinal rule of handwritten lettering – “ALWAYS WRITE IN BLOCK CAPITALS“. This can take a bit of getting used to, but if your “normal” handwriting is anything like mine, then your webcomic’s readers will thank you for it.

Plus, modern technology has eliminated one problem with traditional handwritten lettering. If you make a mistake in your text, or need to change it, then all you have to do is to open your scanned comic with an image editing program (I use MS Paint for this) and either copy and paste some pre-written replacement text over your original text, or create new text digitally by painstakingly copying individual letters and/or words from other parts of the dialogue.

On the other hand, the advantages of digital lettering are consistency and easy editing. Not only that, because most computer fonts are designed to be read quickly, you don’t have to follow the “block capitals” rule that applies to hand-written lettering. This can allow you to include more nuance in your writing by including both upper and lower-case letters in a realistic way.

In addition to this, if you have some expertise with image editing, you can also add both the speech bubbles and the lettering to your comic after you’ve finished the art. This gives you slightly more control over speech-bubble placement, although the idea of drawing a comic without speech bubbles just seems kind of strange to me. Still, different things work for different people, I guess.

One downside of digital lettering is that, unless you use a custom font, your lettering will have a lot less “personality” to it than it would do if you wrote it by hand. However, if your writing is good enough and your art is interesting enough, most people will probably just let this slide by without really noticing it.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful πŸ™‚