I get asked this question quite a bit. There are a number of people who already know how to draw and don’t need basic pointers on how to physically draw a comic. They want to know how to get the ideas that are in their heads out there for all of the web to see. This week’s Tutorial Tuesday is going to focus on that. I’m going to show you the quickest way of getting your digital comics put together from planning and ideas right up to uploading to the Internet. I’ll use my own personal webcomic – El Cuervo - as the sample for this tutorial. Click here to continue…
After a little bit of a layoff, idrawdigital returns with a Tutorial Tuesday post – this time we’re going to learn about developing a character sheet featuring a series of different action poses. By creating a character sheet, you can always refer to it while you’re drawing your digital comics to ensure that your character design is consistent from every angle. Click here to continue…
It’s “Tutorial Tuesday” once again at idrawdigital. This week I’m going to show you how to prep and draw a simple base file in Photoshop to create your own character turnarounds. These sheets are absolutely vital in keeping your characters looking consistent from all angles. By having this handy reference, you’ll be able to compare it to your current drawing for any inaccuracies. Click here to continue…
In today’s update, we’re going to check out the calibration options for a basic WACOM tablet. By setting up your tablet according to your drawing preferences, you should be able to replicate or modify your existing method and make the transition from paper to digital much easier. Once you have your WACOM tablet set up just the way you like it, you’ll be drawing digital comics in no time! Click here to continue…
For the last few months, I’ve been creating tutorials and giving away valuable information on the creative and organizational processes of drawing comics. This time, instead of a tutorial, I’m going to give you a different type of take-home work. You’re going to do some reading, and trust me – it’s definitely worth it. Click here to continue…
Going back through the archives, you’ve seen and read about ways to develop your own comics. In this post, I will be showing a group of videos on how other artists create their print and webcomics. Some have commentaries, others are tutorials. Many of the techniques I have mentioned in earlier posts apply, with the artists personal workflow methods injected into the core process.
Here are a few examples:
This first video is done by EXTRA LIFE webcomic creator Scott Johnson. He talks about how he developed this particular webcomic strip about the joys of late Christmas shopping. Scott offers a number of time-saving tips while he discusses certain aspects of his process during this time-lapse video.
In this three-part video series, Brett Lamb from LessonBucket decribes the process used in creating a Frank Miller “Sin City” noir-styled comic book. The process is very easy and effective for creating a comic book, using mainly photo reference and Photoshop techniques. There is no actual drawing involved, but this style works if you are looking to create something hand drawn and are wondering about the effects of light and shadows.
This quick tutorial by master illustrator Jay French shows you how to plan out a panel layout and sketch simple blocked in characters prior to creating a full blown comic.
The tutorial by Xia Taptara of idrawgirls is an advanced tutorial which requires a bit of drawing skill. This is more of a commentary while drawing rather than a step-by-step tutorial. Xia shows you some techniques using construction lines and poses.
From the DVD based on the best selling book “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” Stan Lee and artist Jim Lee explain how to draw individual parts for characters in comics – foreshortening, perspective, musculature and process are all explained.
I hope you learn something new from this series of videos. I’ll be back with some written tutorials later on in the week to add to your knowledge base. Until then, check out some of these other tutorials from the archive.
In this previous post about drawing backgrounds, I wrote about their importance and how to apply them to your comics in order to add further detail to your stories. Without some kind of defining background (whether its a colour, abstract linework, or a beautifully rendered scene) your foreground characters will just appear like they are floating in dead space with no purpose. This quick tutorial will give you a few more advanced techniques for backgrounds, and how to keep a nice big library for use at a moments notice.
Establish your Settings
If your comic is set in the city, amass a folder filled with reference shots in the city. Skylines, high and low angle views, rooftops, sidewalks, interesting buildings, street scenes, traffic, etc. The more reference photos you have, the better. If your comic is set in the wilderness, you’ll want trees, mountains, lakes, rivers and all sorts of natural vegetation. Separate these files into folders based on location.
Make a Composite Image
You may find yourself seaming two or three photos together in order to get the right look for your scene. Using photo editing software like Photoshop allows you to alter your images in order to create the basic background you are looking for. Here’s some basic tips on how to do this:
Using the transform tools to warp, skew and twist your photos to fit can save you a lot of time trying to figure out what the structures would look like on an angle. Save time and use photo reference where necessary.
Render your Image
Once you’ve set up your photo reference, merge your layers together.
Reduce the opacity of that layer to 40-50% so you can see what you are drawing over.
Your work area should be somewhat transparent.
Now, proceed to trace out your background on a separate layer. Use a variety of different brushes for increasing line weight and creating depth.
I prefer to use a bright colour such as a lime green or a bright red. This shows me where I have traced – using flat black can lead to some problems if the photo below has a lot of dark patches (like the night scene in this example.)
Once your background has been traced out, use the black and white filter to convert your colored line to black.
The Black and White adjustment has a number of options to convert the color on your layer to black and white – choose ‘Maximum Black‘ in the settings.
Adjust the sliders in the dialog box until you have found a dark black that does not lose any of its edge fidelity (gets jagged or too blurry) and click OK. You have converted your background line art into solid black.
Creating the Library
With all of these background files for use in specific situations, you will have an easier time keeping a consistent look to your setting, as well as saving time. I most of your story takes place in a certain area, reusing and modifying the line work is much easier than redrawing it all by hand. This helpful set of shortcuts will make you comics process way more efficient.
So you think you’re ready to jump into your comic/webcomic, right? You have a script, you have a schedule, you have drive, ambition and motivation. Now you need to put pen to paper, or in a digital sense, stylus to tablet. If you’re wondering what tools artists use to master their craft, look no further – idrawdigital is going to give you the run-down on the must have items a comic book artist should have in his / her arsenal.
I know I preach a lot about doing everything digitally – but there may come a time when you don’t have access to a computer or have the itch to kick it old school and draw using pencil, pen and paper. There’s nothing quite like the feel of sketching on a natural surface, and it will also keep your skills sharp, your planning in composition and proportion exact, and force you to analyze your subjects more carefully. There is no UNDO feature when you draw by hand – unless you count your eraser, and that can be quite time consuming and sometimes messy.
Go to your local art store or stationery supply store and stock up on a few sketchpads of various sizes. Amazon offers various brands as well if you’re interested in purchasing online for dirt cheap (click the image.) Keep all your random scribbles and concepts – they make great conversation pieces and journals for the projects you’ve worked on – and they also make great reference material as well, where you can go back and skim for hidden gold you may have forgotten about.
If you’re planning on going the hand drawn route at different stages of your production (you could start with pencils and scan them in, or do your roughs digitally and ink by hand, etc) you’ll need these tools at your disposal. Make sure you buy a graphite pencil set with varying degrees of hardness, there are also non-repro versions as well (the blue line pencils that don’t appear when photocopied). For inking, you can use the traditional quill with ink for supreme control, or mimic that elegant line weight result with technical pens with varying point sizes (from millimeters to brush width!)
A Digital Drawing Tablet (WACOM)
The weapon of choice for digital comic artists – this is the keystone for all digitally created artwork. There are other cheaper brands, but for the purpose of this list, I will be referring to the WACOM brand of tablets. With a plethora of touch sensitive options, advanced cursor control and key mapping functions, the digital tablet is as close to drawing naturally as you’re going to get in the digital realm. There are a number of tablet products ranging from the small and simple, to the expensive and complex. The higher-end versions allow you to draw directly on screen (the Cintiq by WACOM doubles as a touch sensitive monitor) and simulate the feeling of drawing. If you master the use of a tablet, you are well on your way to a fully digital workflow. For more information on using your WACOM tablet, check out this post.
A Flatbed Scanner
If you insist on doing your artwork by hand using traditional means, you’ll definitely want to scan it into your computer in order to complete the job. Sending electronic proofs, cleaning up inks and pencil work, or just tightening up the artwork and converting it to digital format requires the use of a reliable scanner. Scanners come in a number of sizes that can accommodate oversized sheets (especially bristol pages) and have a range of resolution (dpi) depths dependent on your need (large format printing or just high quality). Having a scanner in your arsenal is essential if you’re planning to draw comics.
The final tool you need when you’re learning how to draw comics is the purchase of licensed software. There are a number of drawing programs available – whether you’re following the fully digital workflow, or traditional means, drawing software is absolutely necessary for building your work, or preparing your scanned image for final output on press or online.
I’ve given brief reviews in another post on the different drawing software that is available – there are free options, and expensive high-quality versions. All of the software has a try before you buy option – so you don’t have to commit to an expensive purchase if you’re uncomfortable using the programs.
There you have it – get these tools in your possession, and you’ll be ready to tackle any of your comics projects. Go forth and create!
I’ve been practicing and preaching about the digital workflow for presenting comics for quite some time. It is perfectly fine to draw and ink and color by hand, but if you are on a time-sensitive schedule, or you want to simply speed up the process, you may want to consider making the jump to digital for a number of reasons. This post will discuss the benefits of learning how to draw comics using a purely digital workflow.
Many seasoned artists have a set routine when it comes to their workflow. They sit at their desk for a set number of hours per day, have certain tools at their disposal, set a certain amount of days to achieve production goals, and are quite comfortable in their approach. While it sounds like the ideal situation, it may not be the best method for everyone. The traditional workflow for a comic artist generally looks like this:
Rough sketches > Pencils > Inks > Color > Final tweaks
Now, if you’re working for an editor who has a number of specific changes, this can be extremely time consuming. Drawing out your panel roughs and presenting them, then going back and erasing, redrawing and presenting again can be a serious hassle and eat up valuable time. Especially if you have to scan in these changes, convert them to a JPEG file and e-mail them on for review.
Using a fully digital workflow for creating comics saves a lot of time you would spend erasing planning lines, tracing from a lightbox, photocopying and resizing, and scanning. All of these physical actions are virtually eliminated, giving you more time to come up with quick concepts and sketches, then refinements to those sketches.
Instead of lugging around a sketchbook, full sheets of bristol, your pencils, inks, brushes and other miscellaneous tools, everything you need is in a file or two and on one (or maybe two) programs on your computer. If you use Photoshop, you can set up various layers for your ideas and concepts and use them as reference. You won’t have to keep multiple sheets and layout pages and cut pieces from all over in order to make something complete – you’ll have the ability to do all of that in one spot! Here’s how to draw comics using the digital process.
From Roughs to Pencils: Once you’ve sketched out your rough plan, you can simply create a new layer above it, and proceed to trace and refine your artwork. This eliminates the lightbox step.
Pencils and Revisions: When the pencils have been set and it is time to make modifications to perspective, proportions or the overall look of your panels, you can easily distort, copy, move and adjust your artwork without having to draw/erase/draw like you would with traditional pencils and paper.
From Pencils to Inks: At this stage, you can create a new layer above your pencils, and simply retrace and modify them – or you can duplicate your pencils, darken the linework and add in your ink details. There are no faint pencil lines you need to erase after inking in order to clean up your image – you’ve already created a clean, inked page with a few button clicks and WACOM stylus strokes. The digitally inked page is also more precise and has cleaner edges – traditional inks can bleed on the page and cause the edges to look fuzzy.
From Inks to Color: Once your final solid inks have been created, you can proceed to color your work using numerous digital effects and techniques – airbrushing, metallics, smooth gradients, light effects – can all be achieved in less time. The bonus to this is, if you don’t like the result, you can simply undo it and try it again. This eliminates any guesswork and failures after experimentation. You wouldn’t be able to get away with that if you rendered your colour by hand. Also, your colors will have been chosen specifically using the printed color gamut, so you won’t have any surprises when the final piece is created. There is no conversion necessary from a scanned image.
Adding Dialogue and Sound Effects: With a wide variety of comic book styled fonts and lettering, you can set your dialogue and sound effects in place in minutes. Instead of trying to determine where these items will be placed in relation to the drawn page, and hand rendering letters, you can easily type them on to your screen, then resize and distort them to fit.
The Finished Piece: Now that your page has been drawn, inked, colored and lettered, there is no need for a final scan in order to prepare the file for printing (since modern print-shops create rips from digital files). Your file is already 100% digital, and is print ready.
Another benefit to the digital workflow include the ability to use and obtain reference material. You may have a folder or a file that contains various poses, landmarks, color inspiration etc. that you can view at a moments notice. You can drag these elements into your working file and use them as reference from a spot on your desktop – it is almost like having a digital drawing table with all of your photographed resource material laid out in front of you.
The real benefit comes from being able to make all of those items disappear by turning the visibility of a layer on or off in your Photoshop file.
There is my basic plug for using the digital workflow method when you are learning how to draw comics. These techniques are extremely effective in saving you time, and I highly recommend them. It may take some time to find a comfortable routine, and it may be a big expense initially (if you do not have all of the tools and software first) – but the end result pays huge dividends. You can start out slowly – replace one of your traditional steps (pencils, inks or color) with a digital method, and eventually you will be confident enough to replace a number of the steps until you are using a fully digital workflow for your comics.
Experiment and practice – you’ll be more efficient with time!