As I begin work on Space Angel (coming in June 2017) I recall how daunting it can be to tackle the actual work of making a webcomic. You’ve got a plot, you’ve written a script, you’ve sketched your thumbs, and now all that’s left is drawing the darn thing, and you’re feeling overwhelmed. To hopefully get you started, here’s my comic page process for Running Man.
To dig into the guts of a comic page, grab this free SVG file:
I created Running Man in Inkscape 0.91, but I now use 0.92 and that’s what the file is compatible with. Note that this post assumes some basic Inkscape knowledge. If you know absolutely nothing about Inkscape, I made this tutorial a while back to get you started.
Since a standard comic page size is 10.25 by 6.75 inches, I decided Running Man would be that size as well. I wanted to factor in some extra room for trimming in case I ever wanted to print the comic (hey, you never know) so my document size ended up being 10.5 by 7 inches.
I added guides to the document to plot out the bleed (outer guides) and live area (inner guides). Anything outside the bleed guides will probably absolutely get cut off in trimming, and anything outside the live area guides might get cut off in trimming. These aren’t too important if you never plan to print your comic, but if you think you might want to you should keep this in mind.
Nothing fancy. I had thumbnail drawings for my pages and I mostly wanted to make them bigger and clearer. I threw in a border using the pen tool, then since my 10-year-old scanner barely works, I just used the calligraphy tool to draw up some basic sketches. If you have patience and a working scanner, you may opt to draw your sketches on paper. My mouse-drawing skills aren’t the finest but the sketches were good enough for me to understand.
I used the pen tool to draw the lines – the variable width was achieved either by drawing closed shapes with the pen tool or by using the “Powerstroke” path effect. In the newest version of Inkscape, there are other useful path effects such as “Taper stroke” as well.
The lines are colored, which can be done via the Fill & Stroke menu. This was done after the next step, coloring, to ensure the lines coordinated with the colors.
This is arguably the easiest part. Grab the paint bucket and start throwing color onto your page. Although the document has a border, this is pretty much for show and the paint bucket doesn’t respect it. You can use the pen tool to draw a quick line to close off unbound areas (such as the bottom of the wolf in the second panel), fill the area with color, then delete the extra line.
Double check tight corners, because the paint bucket doesn’t always fill them. The paint bucket fill is an object that you can easily edit with the node tool if you need to patch up any unfilled areas. Edit the fill color from the Fill & Stroke menu and make sure the stroke isn’t set – if you’re like me, having the stroke set will throw you off if you try to change the color later.
If you’re looking for advice on drawing backgrounds easily, I don’t have it. Especially if you mainly enjoy drawing characters, backgrounds can be hard. Luckily, making a webcomic can be some good practice for this. I used two layers for the background – one for the basics, and another one for special effects like the light from the window.
The background is just made of simple lines using the pen tool and some rectangles using the rectangle shape tool. The second background layer used a gradient fill to achieve a soft, glowing appearance. I didn’t worry about detail because I wanted the focus to be on the character and the speech bubbles.
I mostly avoided real shading in this comic, but I wanted to give the characters some visual dimension, so I added some simple lighting. The lighting layer mode is “screen”, which changes how light colors react to the colors on layers below.
The top panel just uses a linear gradient fill for the light from the window. On the bottom panel, the light on the wolf uses two objects – both have gradient fills, but one has a blur effect applied from the Fill & Stroke menu. This gives the appearance of both a soft glow and a hard edge at the same time.
Most comics have some speech in them, which I did last. I took this into account in my thumbnail drawings to avoid awkward placement.
You may want to type out the speech first then draw bubbles around it, to ensure you have enough space for the text. I drew the bubbles’ shapes with a combination of the rectangle tool and pen tool, then merged them together, copied them, added a stroke, and moved that underneath the original. The result is a separate outline that doesn’t overlap into the original shape.
The speech bubbles on this page were tricky because they required special effects – the voice comes through on a radio, so I wanted to give it a mechanical or “static” effect. Thankfully, Inkscape came through for me with its collection of filters. This didn’t make for a very strong effect, so I used a second layer set to “multiply” and added another copy of the speech bubble shape. Multiply makes the colors below it darker, so the dark bits of the noise effect stood out better.
Now you’re pretty much done! Of course, your comic might require its own steps or some other details – or you might be able to cut down on some steps. It’s entirely up to you! Make sure to export the page, and not drawing or selection. This will allow you to export the entire page and nothing that overlaps the document edges. Then you can post your page online for the world to see!
If you’re looking for more webcomic help, then check out steps for starting your first webcomic. Hungry for free software or more process posts? Look at my open source animation toolkit (which also includes my process for making the short film Lūdō).