Three Sneaky Tricks For Making Rushed Webcomic Updates Look Good

Well, at the time of writing, I’m busy making this month’s webcomic mini series. But, since I’m busy with other stuff too, I haven’t got quite as much time for it as I had last year (so, it’ll be another four-comic mini series).

But, so far, it seems to be turning out better than the four-comic mini series I posted in January. So, I thought that I’d offer a few sneaky tips for making rushed webcomic updates look good.

And, yes, one of the classic rules of webcomics is that the writing is more important than the art. Still, if you want to improve the art without too much of a time cost, then these tips might come in handy.

1) Digital backgrounds: Although this can look terrible if not done correctly (and I’ll explain one possible way to reduce visual consistency problems a bit later), one way to make a good-looking webcomic update relatively quickly is to use a digital background.

If you’ve got any spare digital photos of scenery etc.. that you’ve taken (and own the copyright to), then this is the time to put them to good use. It’ll allow you to make comic updates that look like this panel from one of my upcoming comics:

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

Although the specifics of how to do this will vary depending on the image editing program that you are using, it basically just involves drawing the characters (and writing the dialogue) and then copying them onto the background image. Most image editing programs include a “copy” function and, if you mess around with the options a bit, you’ll probably be able to get your art to copy properly.

However, as I hinted at earlier, the contrast between cartoonish art and realistic photography can look a little bit jarring. So, it’s usually a good idea to choose photos that don’t contain people (since your cartoon characters will look even more cartoonish in contrast to them).

Basically, the more “generic” your digital photo looks, the less obvious the contrast between cartoons and photos will be. So, go for natural scenes, generic buildings etc.. And try to avoid using photos that include people, posters etc..

2) Vary the backgrounds: I’ve mentioned this technique before, but it is worth mentioning again. Basically, one of the quickest and easiest types of comic updates to make are “talking head” comics where two characters stand next to each other and talk. However, these can be quite boring to look at. So, how can you make them more visually interesting?

Simply put, vary the backgrounds. One classic technique is to include a detailed background and/or detailed artwork in one panel, whilst keeping the other panels relatively undetailed. This makes the detailed panel the focal point of the comic whilst also meaning that you only have to make one detailed panel (which saves time). It looks a little bit like this:

“Damania Reduced – Book” By C. A. Brown

Notice how the third panel of this comic contains dramatic, detailed art with more realistic shading etc… Whereas the other three panels feature two characters standing in front of a plain purple background. Yet, the three boring panels are slightly less noticeable because the detailed panel is more attention-grabbing.

Another way to disguise talking head comics is to either use “close up” pictures of one of the characters during some of the panels and/or to use a solid black background in panels that contain dramatic dialogue.

For example, the angry dialogue in the third panel of this comic update uses this technique to break up the monotony of the red backgrounds in the first and fourth panels.:

“Damania Reduced – Trance Metal” By C. A. Brown

3) Expressions: This is a little bit of a sneaky one, but one way that you can add some more drama and visual interest to a rushed comic update is simply to focus on your character’s facial expressions.

Showing your characters’ reactions to things might not look like an obvious improvement at first glance, but it can really help to add extra humour and/or drama to your comic, which can distract your readers from the more rushed elements of your art.

Not to mention that if you’re in such a rush that you have to re-use the same art for several panels (this, in itself, is another good technique for making good-looking comics quickly. If you can re-use one good piece of art four times or whatever, then your comic will look better), then using digital tools to change your characters’ expressions in each re-used panel can be a good way to make the recycling very slightly less obvious too.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (28th December 2018)

Well, due to a lot of stressful technical issues (involving system recovery disks, restoring data from backups etc..), today’s digitally-edited painting ended up being a very rushed and minimalist greyscale “film noir” painting.

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

“Before Midnight” By C. A. Brown

Three Tips For Making Webcomics When You’ve Got Less Time

Well, at the time of writing, I’m busy preparing this year’s Christmas webcomic mini series (which will start appearing here in about 4-5 days time). But, since I also seem to have got back into reading regularly and writing book reviews (and don’t want to fall out of the habit again), I’ve got slightly less time to make each webcomic update.

As such, I thought that I’d offer a few tips for making webcomic updates when you’ve got less time. Most of these are things that I’ve mentioned before, but they’re probably worth mentioning again.

1) Planning: As counter-intuitive as it might sound, setting some time aside beforehand to plan your next few webcomic updates will actually save you time in the long run.

Your plans don’t have to be ultra-complex. For example, here’s the plan for the first comic in my Christmas mini series. It was scribbled in a different notebook with a cheaper pen, and the art planning is kept to a bare minimum (because planning the dialogue and structure matters a lot more than planning the art):

This is the plan for the first comic update in my Christmas mini series. As you can see, the focus is on planning the dialogue and structure, rather than the art.

But, why does taking a bit of time to plan the next few comics save you time? Simple. When you get round to actually making the comic, you can just make the comic. Because you’ve planned everything out in advance, you won’t get slowed down by writer’s block when you’re actually making the comics.

2) Adjustments: Simply put, there are a lot of ways to save time that won’t affect the quality of your comic too much. For example, you can tweak the production or release schedule slightly (I mean, when I’m preparing comics, I usually prepare two per day. This time, I’m only making one per day).

Likewise, you can alter the length of each comic update slightly to save time (this is why, last year, I went back to making 4-5 panel comic updates after making 6-8 panel updates for a while). Plus, don’t feel too bad about adjusting your release schedule if you have to. As long as you are still following some kind of update schedule (and your audience know what it is), then your audience is likely to excuse any changes you have to make in order to keep making comics.

Or you can take the approach that I do, which is simply to release daily comics for a limited time (usually about 6-8 days per month, although this will probably drop to four days per month for future comics), and then do non-comic stuff (in my case, daily art – which is usually quicker/easier to make than comics are) during the rest of the time. This way, you get the advantage of a daily schedule, but it isn’t something that takes up a part of your day every day.

3) The art: I’ve said this many times before and it’s worth repeating again. The art is the least important part of a webcomic update. If you don’t believe me, then just look at a popular webcomic called “XKCD“, which uses stick figure art. This is a webcomic that is popular because of the writing and humour, rather than the art.

So, if you have to rush or downgrade any part of your webcomic in order to save time, then you should do this with the art. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the writing, characters, humour etc.. in your webcomic matter more than the art does. Not only that, if you’ve been making webcomics for a while, then even a slightly “rushed” or “downgraded” version of your art will still look better than (or as good as) the art in your older comics because you’ve had more practice.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a panel from the first slightly “rushed” comic update for my upcoming Christmas mini series:

The full comic update will be posted here on the 19th December.

And here’s a “good” webcomic update that I made in 2015/16 (from this mini series) . As you can see, the modern “rushed” art compares fairly well to it:

“Damania Redux – Cyberpunk” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, if you have to save time, then rush the art rather than the writing/planning. Likewise, if you’ve been making webcomics for a while, then even your current rushed art will probably look better than your “good” older webcomic art. So, don’t feel too bad about it. The important thing is to actually make comic updates.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Tips For Making Rushed And/Or Uninspired Art Look Better

Since I seem to be going through a bit of an uninspired phase at the time of writing, I thought that I’d give you a few tips about how to make rushed and/or uninspired art look better.

Whilst this won’t result in ultra-high quality or ultra-detailed art, it will at least make rushed and/or uninspired art slightly less noticeable to the untrained eye.

Although I’ve probably mentioned some of this stuff before, I’ll try to avoid some of the really obvious ways to make uninspired/rushed art look good (eg: remaking your old paintings, making studies of historical paintings, making still life paintings etc..).

1) Focus on the easy parts: If you’re feeling uninspired and/or you don’t have a huge amount of time to make a piece of art, then one of the best ways to make it look better is to focus on the “easy” parts of the picture and to either leave out the more complex parts or find some way to hide them.

For example, people are often relatively difficult to draw well. So, in an uninspired digitally-edited painting that I’ll be posting here in early July, I made sure that the person in the foreground was facing away from the audience (and, thanks to the positioning of the painting’s light sources, was also little more than a silhouette). Here’s a preview:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 1st July.

By devoting less effort to the person in the foreground, I was able to spend more time on the “easy” parts of the painting – such as the background and the lighting. This allowed me to make these parts of the painting look reasonably ok (or at least better than they would have done if I’d focused my time and effort on drawing a more detailed character instead).

So, find the elements that you find “easiest” to paint or draw and focus on these.

2) Detail control: One of the best ways to make uninspired and/or rushed art look better is to add lots of detail to one element of the picture whilst reducing the detail levels in other parts.

This can be as simple as drawing or painting a detailed foreground and adding a rather quick or impressionistic background (or even leaving the background out altogether). But, it can also be done in much more subtle ways too. For example, here’s a preview of a somewhat rushed digitally-edited drawing that I’ll be posting here in early July:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 2nd July.

Although this picture looks reasonably detailed at first glance (due to the detail on the plants), the picture’s colour scheme is considerably less detailed. For the most part, it is just a simple orange/black colour scheme (with some grey and white too). By devoting much less time and effort to the colours and choosing an “easy” – but striking – colour scheme, I was able to save a bit of time whilst making it.

So look for areas where you can add detail and, more importantly, look for areas where you can reduce the detail level (without affecting the quality of the picture as a whole).

3) Have a unique style: Although it can take quite a while to develop a unique art style, it can be incredibly useful when you’re feeling uninspired and/or are in a rush.

This is because even a less-detailed or lower-quality piece of art in your own style will still look more unique and visually-interesting than a piece of art that uses either a more realistic style or a more commonly-used style. For example, here’s a preview of a slightly uninspired painting that will appear here in a few days:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 17th June.

Although I wasn’t feeling that inspired or enthusiastic when I made this painting, it probably still looks reasonably ok since it includes most of the key features of my art style – such as high-contrast lighting (where at least 30% of the total surface area of the painting is covered in black paint), my usual colour palette, my usual drawing style, some elements from the cyberpunk genre etc…

The thing to remember here is that even though an uninspired painting in your own style might just seem “mediocre” to you, it will probably still look interesting to people who either like your art style or haven’t seen it before. So, having a more unique art style can make even your uninspired or rushed art look a little bit more distinctive and interesting.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art ( 28th January 2018)

Well, today’s art looks a bit… different… to usual. This was mostly because I was extremely tired when I drew the line art, but fell asleep before I could get round to adding paint. The next day, I was in the mood for spring cleaning and – realising that I didn’t have time to make a full painting – I scanned the line art and added colour, shading etc.. to it entirely digitally. So, yeah, it was a quick, low-effort thing. Sorry about this.

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

“Salvage Coast” By C. A. Brown

Three Ways To Rush A Comic Update Well

2017-artwork-better-rushed-webcomic-updates

Well, at the time of writing, I’m still busy preparing this year’s Christmas webcomic mini series. Although, annoyingly, I had to rush one or two of the comic updates. But, hopefully, this won’t be too noticeable when they actually appear here in mid-late December.

So, I thought that I’d talk quickly about the good ways to rush a comic update if you have to make one in a hurry. I’ve probably mentioned this stuff before, but I’m also writing this article in something of a rush too.

1) Don’t skimp on the writing:
Generally, audience members are more likely to overlook rushed art than they are to overlook rushed writing. So, if you have to focus on making only one part of your comic update good, then focus on the writing.

After all, if the audience are laughing or thinking because of the dialogue, then they probably aren’t going to notice any hurried parts of the artwork as much.

On the flipside, a comic with a small amount of acceptable-quality dialogue and lots of reasonably good art can also be a good way to make a comic in a hurry.

2) Have a plan: It’s easier to make a comic update in a hurry if you’ve planned it out in advance. After all, one of the huge time sinks when making a comic update is working out what the comic update will actually be about. So, if you have this planned out in advance, then you can get on with making the comic update straight away. So, try to plan as many comic updates as you can in advance.

But, if you don’t have a plan, then either just make some quick filler content (eg: a quick sketch of one of your characters and a brief explanation that you didn’t have time to make a comic) or use something like a previously-established running joke, or possibly make a more art-based comic or something like that.

But, if you have a plan made in advance, then this can be incredibly useful if you have to make a comic update in a rush.

3) Backgrounds: If you have to hurry, background detail should always be the first thing to go. For example, when I was making the comic update that originally inspired this article, my original plan was for the whole comic to be set in an outdoor location. But, since this was a Christmas comic, I realised that this would mean that I’d have to digitally add falling snow to every panel (which is a fairly time-consuming process).

So, I set the first panel in an outdoor location (because the events of the comic required it to be set outdoors), then I just showed the characters returning home in the next panel (and spending the rest of the comic there). This just meant that I had to draw a simple hallway in the background of the rest of the comic, with no snow effects required. Like in this preview:

Yes, this scene was originally supposed to take place outdoors. But, due to time reasons, I used a simple interior location (The full comic update will be posted here on the 23rd December)

Yes, this scene was originally supposed to take place outdoors. But, due to time reasons, I used a simple interior location (The full comic update will be posted here on the 23rd December)

Yes, I had to make a slight change to the punchline of the comic to account for this change of setting – but, surprisingly, this actually improved the comic. Plus, I also saved a ridiculous amount of editing time too 🙂

So, if you have to hurry, then make sure that the first thing you do is to make the backgrounds as undetailed as you can get away with. After all, most of the time, the audience are more focused on the characters, events and dialogue than the backgrounds.

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

Three Causes of Crappy Webcomic Updates (And How To Deal With Them)

2016 Artwork Failed webcomics causes article

At the time of writing, I’m still making a webcomic mini series that will be posted here at the start of next year. So far, it’s been going ok but two of the comics that I made on the day that I wrote this article didn’t turn out quite as well as I’d hoped.

Yes, they weren’t as bad as some of the comics in my “Damania Returns” mini series. And, yes, I was able to salvage one of them with lots of image editing and I was able to improve the dialogue in the other one with digital editing too. So, hopefully, the problems aren’t too noticeable. Even so, this made me think about some of the common reasons why webcomic updates can sometimes end up being slightly sub-par.

1) Lack of planning/ fine-tuning: One of the most important rules to follow when making a “newspaper comic” style webcomic is to plan your webcomic updates before you make them. If possible, try to plan them well in advance – so, you’ll have chance to fine-tune the dialogue etc.. in the time between your initial plan and the final comic.

This, I think, was the main cause of some of the problems with the two comic updates I made. I’d planned one of them the evening beforehand, but (due to writer’s block), I didn’t get round to planning the other comic until shortly before I made it. As such, it didn’t really have the necessary amount of fine-tuning time for the dialogue.

So, you can lessen the risk of making a crappy webcomic update by not only planning it in advance, but planning it far enough in advance to give you time to fine-tune and revise the dialogue before you make the finished comic.

2) Rushing the comic: Due to a number of reasons, I was in something of a slight rush when I made these two comics. Making daily webcomics (even in short mini series, quite far in advance of publication) can involve a certain amount of time pressure. If you aren’t careful, this can lead to lower-quality comics. Both in terms of writing and art.

Rushed dialogue can usually sound somewhat clunky and/or random (one of the two comics had this problem, even after some editing). Depending on your own writing style, rushed dialogue can also run the risk of being too wordy or too abrupt. I suppose it is usually best to err on the side of brevity if you’re in a rush.

It’s completely counter-intuitive but, rushing the art can also sometimes be something of a false economy since, if you edit your comics digitally, then this usually just means that you’ll spend even longer editing the artwork than you would have done if you’d put the time into making higher quality artwork.

If you’re in a mild rush, then it’s usually a good idea to come up with comic ideas that require a smaller amount of higher-quality art and/or a smaller amount of dialogue than to try to make a “normal” comic in half or two-thirds of the time.

For example, the second of my two “sub-par” comics doesn’t actually look that bad for the simple reason that I only included 21 words of dialogue, one almost entirely art-based panel (showing a scene from a distance, which meant that I only had to draw basic, distant scribbles) and very few close-ups of the characters. Yes, the art in this comic still required more editing after I’d scanned it, but I eventually ended up with a vaguely decent-looking, if slightly basic, comic.

If this isn’t practical or possible, then just make and post a small filler illustration (possibly even a sketch) of one of your characters and briefly explain to your audience that you didn’t have time to make a comic, but that you wanted to give them something to tide them over until you do have time.

3) An off day:
Every comic writer and/or artist will have their “off days”. These are days when inspiration is hard to come by and any idea, however crappy, will have to do.

One way to moderate the impact of these days is to limit the number of webcomic updates/ webcomic panels you make per day when you’re preparing your webcomic before publication. This means that any dips in quality hopefully won’t affect too many of your comic updates. If you leave it long enough before publication, this also gives you a chance to go back and edit your lower-quality updates before they appear online.

Another way to mitigate this problem is to use running jokes. For example, the second of my two “sub-par” comics revolves around an occasional running joke that has appeared in earlier instalments of the series. To me, it doesn’t seem that original – but, to fans of the series and to new readers, it’ll probably seem pleasingly eccentric.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂