Adding “Rest Pages” To Your Comic

2017-artwork-rest-pages-article-sketch

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 🙂

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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 🙂

Four Basic Ways To Preview Your Art (or Webcomics)

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Well, since I couldn’t think of another topic for today’s article, I thought that I’d talk about art previews. If you post art (or webcomics) online regularly, then there’s a good chance that you probably also prepare your art well in advance of actually posting it online.

Of course, if you’ve got something really cool that you want to show off, then the wait can be kind of annoying – so, posting a preview can be a good idea for both you and your audience. But, how do you do this? Here are a few simple tips:

1) Line art: If your next piece of art involves line drawing (in addition to other things like paint, digital effects etc..), then one easy way to come up with an intriguing preview is to just scan or digitally photograph your art after you’ve finished the line drawing, but before you do anything else to it.

If you really want to make the line art stand out, then just open the picture using an image editing program (here’s a freeware one, if you don’t have one) and mess around with the “brightness/contrast” options. Generally speaking, if you lower the brightness slightly and increase the contrast heavily, then you’ll end up with crisp-looking line art like this:

"Architecture (Line Art)" By C. A. Brown

“Architecture (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

The advantages of using a line art preview are that your audience gets to see the whole picture, but they are also left guessing what it will look like after you’ve added colour to it. Likewise, since more detailed parts of your line art can end up getting painted over etc… when you get round to finishing the picture – so, it’s a good way to show the audience all of the shading and fine details that they might have otherwise missed.

2) Reduced-size previews: I use this one a lot, mostly because this site tends to be the last place my art ends up getting posted online and because I like to discuss techniques that I’ve used in my upcoming paintings. As such, the audience either may have seen the full painting already, or they might need to see the full painting.

So, a good compromise is to make another copy of your artwork, open it in an image editing program and then use the “resize” option to shrink the copy to something like 30% of it’s original size. Like this:

This is, of course, another preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 5th August.

This is, of course, another preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 5th August.

Although this shows your audience a (mildly less detailed) version of the full-size picture, one slight disadvantage of this approach is that many websites automatically shrink images in order to speed up loading times. So, the picture will, at first glance, appear to be the same size as the full size one (even though it’s smaller if you actually click on it).

3) Details:
This is the classic way to preview a piece of artwork and it’s the easiest way to make your audience intrigued too. All you have to do is to make another copy of your painting or drawing and then open it in your image editing program.

Once you’ve done this, use the “crop” tool (the icon for it looks like two overlapping corners in most programs) and select a small, but interesting-looking area of the copy. When you’ve done this, just click on it and everything outside of that area will disappear. This allows you to show off an intriguing piece of your painting, whilst making the audience curious about the full-size painting. Like this:

This is a detail from a painting that will be posted here on the 4th August.

This is a detail from a painting that will be posted here on the 4th August.



4) Greyscale preview:
This technique is fairly similar to the “line art preview” technique. It’s a way of showing off the whole painting, whilst still making the audience curious about the final piece.

All you have to do is to make another digital copy of your artwork, open it in your image editing program and look for the option called “hue/saturation” or “hue/saturation/lightness”. Most image editing programs have this option, and it’s usually somewhere in the “colours”/”colors” menu at the top of the screen.

Once you’ve found this option, open it and reduce the saturation level to zero. You’ll be left with a greyscale copy of your picture that will leave your audience wondering what it will look like when you show off the full-colour version. Here’s an example:

This is a greyscale preview of a painting that will be posted here on the 17th July.

This is a greyscale preview of a painting that will be posted here on the 17th July.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

A Last-Minute Line Art Preview :)

Well, there was originally going to be an opinion article here. My original scheduled article was an article about my theories about why popular culture is less “edgy” than it used to be. Ironically though, a couple of hours before publication, I worried that the article itself would be too “edgy”.

So, instead, I thought that I’d show off some of the “work in progress” line art for a few of my paintings that won’t appear here until early next year. Sorry about this, normal articles will resume tomorrow.

“Aberystwyth – Misty Morning (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Metallic Magic (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Market Seven (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Future 2004 (Line Art)” By C. A.. Brown

“The Strange Statue (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

Three Awesome Announcements :) – Halloween 2016

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Woo hoo! I am very proud to make three awesome Halloween-themed announcements today 🙂

First of all, I have been interviewed for this autumn’s issue of a really cool free online magazine called “Abrazine“. This issue is based on the theme of “shadows” and it’s full of wonderfully gothic and/or ethereal art from several artists, as well as lots of cool interviews and articles.

Secondly, I am very proud to announce a (brief) return to fiction writing and, more importantly, to the horror genre too 🙂 From the 11th October until the 20th October, I’ll be posting a short horror story on here every night.

Well, sort of.. Some of these stories are dark comedy stories (the first one is probably the funniest), some border on science fiction, one is more gothic fiction than anything else and the last one is a totally random thing, but at least two of them (the second and the ninth stories) are actual proper horror fiction. Not to mention that the fifth story in the collection contains a rather unusual twist on a familiar genre of horror fiction too 🙂 But, which one? Well, you’ll have to wait and see…

(However, if you see any articles over the next few months that mention that I don’t really write fiction – this is probably because I write these blog articles ages in advance and didn’t notice it in time to correct it).

Last, but not least, there will be another Halloween comic this year 🙂 This one will be called “Zombies Again!” and it will run from the 21st-31st October (with a full retrospective afterwards).

I’m also hoping that this comic will have a relatively simultaneous release on both this site and on DeviantART. If you’ve ever wondered how the characters from my “Damania” webcomic would react to a zombie apocalypse, you’ll get to find out later this month 🙂

New Line Art Preview :)

2016 Artwork New Line art preview August

Well, I’d originally written and scheduled a full article for today – but, it really wasn’t that great (even after editing it quite a bit on at least one occasion).

So, instead, I thought that I’d give you all a preview of the “work in progress” line art for six of my upcoming paintings that will appear here next year (as I’ve mentioned a few times before, I tend to make my art ridiculously far in advance – it’s about the only real way to make consistent daily art posts).

Although I don’t scan the line art for all of my paintings, I sometimes tend to do it for the best ones -so, this preview gallery is also a “best of” gallery…. from the future!

Anyway, enjoy 🙂 And stay tuned for a proper article tomorrow 🙂

"Cafe Cyberpunk [Line Art]" By C. A. Brown

“Cafe Cyberpunk [Line Art]” By C. A. Brown

"Late Return (II) [Line Art]" By C. A. Brown

“Late Return (II) [Line Art]” By C. A. Brown

"Midnight Centre [Line Art]" By C. A. Brown

“Midnight Centre [Line Art]” By C. A. Brown

"Skeleton Catacomb [Line Art]" By C. A. Brown

“Skeleton Catacomb [Line Art]” By C. A. Brown

"Fan Art - Silent Hill 3 - Lead Pipe [Line Art]" By C. A. Brown

“Fan Art – Silent Hill 3 – Lead Pipe [Line Art]” By C. A. Brown

"In Blue Light [Line Art]" By C. A. Brown

“In Blue Light [Line Art]” By C. A. Brown

Comics News: E.U. Referendum Cartoons (Coming Soon) and Heavy Metal Parrot Picture

2016 Comics news 8th June

Well, I don’t usually make these spontaneous extra posts, but I just had to make one right now, for two reasons.

1) E.U. Referendum Comics (18th-21st June): If you’ve read the “comics index” page, then you’ll probably know about this (and lots of other upcoming comics too) already. But, if you haven’t, then – a few days ago- I changed my mind about whether I’d put anything on here about the EU Referendum.

As such, there will be a special series of four daily comics (featuring the characters from my occasional “Damania” webcomic series) about the referendum posted here from the 18th – 21st June at 12 noon(?)GMT/ 1pm BST.

Most of this series will probably be on the sillier side of things and I’ve tried to keep some semblance of political balance too. Still, if you’re curious to see how my characters will vote (and why), then stay tuned!

2) Heavy metal parrots: As regular readers of this site probably know, I tend to make my daily paintings ridiculously far in advance (I make one every day, but there’s a long delay before they’re posted). Earlier today, I finished a painting that won’t appear here for quite a few months.

But, an hour or two later, one detail from this painting caught my eye and I had to turn it into a small stand-alone preview illustration. And, yes, no prizes for guessing which heavy metal band happened to turn up on my playlist just before I had the idea for this small preview illustration:

"Rawk On!" By C. A. Brown (an altered detail from another painting of mine that won't appear here for ages).

“Rawk On!” By C. A. Brown (an altered detail from another painting of mine that won’t appear here for ages).

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Anyway, stay tuned for a proper article (well, sort of, it’s a ramble about Sherlock Holmes) a little bit later this afternoon 🙂