Top tips and tricks from yours truly along with some pieces of advice from creators in the webcomic community. Happy holidays! ❤
The first page is always the hardest. Do the research, do the designs, do the hours of lying on the sofa thinking about narrative and plot and backstory, but remember to start! – Modmad
Plot out your story.
If you have a great idea, that’s awesome! But don’t just start it without thinking anything else through. There are several ways to build a story, all of them are correct depending on what works for you. But for the majority of people, writing as you go doesn’t produce the best results. From what I’ve been taught back when I studied English and storytelling, start with an idea and then write the ending. Work backwards and start with the big plot events –branch out into specifics and backstory from here then connect the dots (aka fill in the transitions between big plot-building scenes).
I think the most important things about creating a comic is to map out whatever it is you want to convey, and start out with what message you want to give out, and build off of that very little seed. – Vel
Don’t rush the story.
It can be discouraging for readers to sit and get a history lesson from a narrator before jumping into the action and excitement that a comic may offer. It can be so easy to skip over background information, and sometimes you might not even be aware of some vital information being missed because you understand the concept so well –you did make it up, after all. In this case, get someone who doesn’t know your story to read it over. If it makes sense to them, you’re okay.
I’m not one for a book-read-lecture on how the comic’s world supposedly works. I’d rather learn it bit by bit on how the population of the said world live in it. – Cerberyusu
Break up your story.
This ties in with #2. Don’t just spew out a paragraph about the world and the characters. Incorporate it into the story piece by piece. It makes the read more enjoyable.
Character development is just as important as plot climaxes.
Your story is moving quickly and the protagonist is about to confront the antagonist in a deadly battle. The adrenaline is pumping and the scene is turning out just as you wanted. But these scenes can quickly go from peak to base again without any character development involved. Almost every interaction the protagonist has with the antagonist should either open up or close questions about who they are –whether the reader (and character) is aware of it or not. Any other form of environmental interaction can also have this effect.
This can be excruciatingly difficult. Nowadays, it feels like every story and combinations of stories has been done before. This may be true, but one thing that may help is remembering that every great story can be broken down into the same backbone. Start with that backbone and then work your way into the specifics. Using this technique can help you create a generic story concept with original ideas or new and exciting twists. If you are really good at this, it may even be able to mask the backbone.
…remember that 1st impressions are always important and try to always have a fresh style because people dig that… – Jose
Enjoy your story.
This is key for motivation. Make sure you are dedicated to your project and are passionate about the characters and the world you are creating. It doesn’t matter what other people think in the end, just have fun and create what you want.
All that matters is creating something that you are proud of. Something you like. Something you enjoy. Something that says what you want to say. Don’t worry if it’s good. The only way to grow is by doing. So do. Create. And have fun. – Dave Stankoven
Avoid spelling/grammar mistakes.
This one is straight forward and yet it is probably the #1 flaw in all comics I read. Make sure you, your friends, family and cat all proofread your story before you release it. If you don’t speak English very well, make sure you have an editor who does.
Watch for flow.
Ugh, flow. Transitions. The pain of awkward conversations. This can feel impossible sometimes to get that perfect flow in conversations and narrative from panel to panel, page to page. One way to deal with this is by reading the conversations out loud. Maybe act them out if that helps. If the speech sounds awkward or broken to you, chances are other people are going to pick that up too.
A great comic to me is one that makes me laugh out loud before I share it. – The Awkward Yeti
Fluff is unnecessary.
Make sure most (if not all) conversations that your characters have serve a purpose. There are several conversations that are important but are often too winded in a lot of comics. One of these is introducing new characters. It’s great when two characters are meeting for the first time –but if what they are saying can be shown, then eliminate it. It’s more effective to show a character’s personality through actions and their environment than through words. The same goes for generally everything else. The less you say and the more you show, the better.
Think of the environment as a part of your character. The reverse is also true: your character is a part of the world that they live in. They are inseparable. – keii4ii
Consistency in your art style.
It’s always great to see artists branch out and experiment with new concepts and styles. But remember that there is a time and place for that, and in your comic may not be the best idea. However, improving your art is very different from experimenting with your style. Reader’s generally like consistency in your style, but are all for you improving in areas that you may consider a weak spot (and may even enjoy seeing your improvement from page one to where you are now).
Experiment with various themes, genres and characters –you’ll learn more that way… don’t limit your creativity and experiment as much as you can in order to grow. – Zelkats
Bonus: Try out new styles in short pieces or concept art, don’t be afraid to experiment with your style, but once you start your comic, try to stay consistent.
Use shorter stories to play around and learn how to do things you’re weak at. – Heather Meade
Quality over quantity.
Yes, readers may be pestering you for an update, but don’t compromise your art just because people can’t wait longer than 5 minutes for anything nowadays. If you aren’t happy with the work, don’t release it. If you must, apologize that your update is going to be a bit later than what you expected. Most people would rather see your best work and wait forever, than see art that didn’t receive your full attention. Plus, you’ll feel better about releasing something you are actually proud of.
Even if you give it away for free, the comic you make has to be good enough to stop you, the creator, in your tracks. – harrodeleted
Be creative with your panels and page designs.
Make a statement with unique panel crossovers and transitions. Drop an item from the top of the page to the bottom, spiral down to the bottom of a well from one panel to the next, elongate panels starting from space until you reach the bottom of the ocean. It may feel like you are boxed in with the limitations of a page size, but there are ways to experiment with it –this is an opportunity to get creative.
Add more shading.
Avoid flat designs and add shading to create depth and movement. Shading is a great tool to create character. It is so versatile and, depending on how it’s used, can depict so many different things. It can set the mood from frightening to exciting, or it can make a specific item or person pop out at you on the page. Use it, and use it well. It’s a powerful tool in an artist’s creative belt.
Don’t be afraid to reach out of conventional norms. Sometimes the best work can form out of the unexpected. Exaggerate those expressions, break away from the typical species form (i.e. humanoids), and create something unique.
…we’re all constantly learning, and honestly, the best (and fastest) way to learn is jumping in… – kurisquare
Embrace your style.
Everyone has their style, and it is important to recognize that your work will always look different from someone else’s. Stop comparing yourself to other artists and focus on your style and what works for you.
…surround yourself with inspirational people, art, and don’t compare yourself to people who are ‘better’ than you. – Mikiko
Concluding Words of Encouragement
I normally get very motivated when reading other manga and playing video games… so much so that I sometimes only read a few pages and then I have to start drawing… – rukan
I should keep trying and not get upset when I do fail. I should just move on and try again. Take healthy breaks. – The Kao
The tough bit is to keep getting things done. It’s a slog sometimes, but discipline helps a lot! …working a little on something every day – well, it adds up! – Anna Landin
Just draw it. No excuses, just do it. – SnaiLords
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below. I’m sure myself, along with anyone else would be happy to help you out. Also, if you have anything to add or just want to leave a comment, those are always encouraged!
For any new creators looking for further advice, there is a thread on the Tapastic forums by my buddy Vincent that may be able to help you out. Some of his answers are more specific to Tapastic, but there are a few that would be relevant to those outside of that platform.
I’d like to end this segment by saying a huge thank-you to everyone who contributed in creating this article. I can’t believe how many creators responded to my questions, and how incredibly helpful the comic community is. You are all amazing! Another big shout out to both DynamoToon and Zannen for the amazing posters they created for this as well on Tapastic. Love you! ❤
If anyone would like to see the full responses given by comic creators, you can check them out here. Links to each of the creator’s comics are also provided there. Most are from Tapastic, but a few are located elsewhere.