Lessons Learned: steps for starting your first webcomic
November 8, 2016 1:59 pm
Making your first webcomic is fun, educational, and worthwhile! For making one, you get practice in art and storytelling, work for your site or portfolio, and maybe a little something you can sell for cash. You also get to experience the joy of creating something, and you can create some context and a setting for your favorite original characters. You have every reason to start working on a webcomic sooner than later.
But how? Writing, drawing, there’s so much to do! How should you start? Below are the steps I took for Running Man.
Some quick tips
First, some tips for a first webcomic! Many of these are similar to my tips about short films, but I’ll say it again: start with a short and simple story, don’t worry about extravagant artwork, and don’t worry if your first comic isn’t your best work. You’ll get there.
Start with a story
Webcomics usually start with a story or some sort of premise – “a character tries to solve a mystery”, “a hero gets sent on a quest”, “a young man stands in his bedroom”, and so on. It’s hard to make a webcomic without knowing what the comic is about first. This step requires a lot of brainstorming and a little writing, unless you already have an idea.
Write down ideas as you think of them, and begin working on an outline. Think about conflicts, characters’ goals, resolutions, and how your characters will drive the story from point A to point B.
After the outline, I began working on a script. This was just done in a basic text editor – nothing fancy.
The script just needs to outline the dialogue and actions on each page so you know what to draw later. Here you can start getting an idea of how the story is going to flow and what the pace will look like.
Once the script is finished, you can begin drawing… sort of. Before committing to entire pages, it’s a good idea to start with thumbnails: small, fast drawings that show how the final page layouts should look. These can give you a glimpse of how panels flow, whether speech placement makes sense, and if multiple pages fit together well.
Since thumbnails are pretty quick to draw, you can discard page layouts that aren’t working and redraw new ones. By the end of the process, you will be able to “read” through your comic using your scripts and the page thumbnails, and get an idea of your comic’s pace.
Drawing thumbnails is about as freestyle as scripting. You can use a pencil and paper, or you can use a drawing program and just delete, move, or copy thumbnails as you please. I did the thumbs for Running Man while I was out, and drew them on my phone.
The fun part
Review your story, script, and thumbnails. Are you ready to jump into drawing your comic? When you start on this, work with an art style you can manage easily and commit to for however many pages your comic is. Running Man was, for this reason, somewhat simple and very much in my comfort zone art-wise. Your comic might not be the most visually striking one out there, but if it’s easy to draw you’ll have an easier time seeing it through to completion, and making those pages won’t be a chore.
For drawing the comic, you can use traditional media and scan it in or use any of a number of digital tools. I used the free and open source program Inkscape for Running Man, though other good options include Krita and GIMP. If you already own some software you know and like, then you can also use that.
The web part
Is this a webcomic or is this a webcomic? Consider where you want to post it on the web. WordPress offers blog themes intended for comics, and can be hosted on your own site – no relying on third parties to keep your comic safe. But if you don’t have the resources to get your own website, you can post to social media as well. Some people use tumblr, for which you may be able to find comic-friendly themes. DeviantART has an entire comics gallery and many groups where you can submit your comic for more visibility. Niche art sites might work well, especially if your comic could appeal to a more specific audience – for example if your comic has anthropomorphic animal characters, you may have luck posting it to Weasyl or other furry-focused sites.
Other things you can do with your first webcomic
Sign up for Top Web Comics and register your comic. Readers can vote for your comic and push it up through the ranks so it has a better chance of getting noticed by others. You can post “vote incentives”, images that people get to see after casting their votes. These can be wallpapers, bonus comics, or just the next page of your comic that you haven’t posted to your site yet.
Each time you update, post a notice to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or any other social media you use so your followers know to go check it out. Remember to include a link to the page!
Also consider compiling a PDF file of your webcomic to sell. This is easy to do in LibreOffice Writer. I drew all of Running Man before posting any of it online, so all the pages were ready to go before the comic even started updating. By the time I posted the first pages, I had a PDF version for sale so readers wouldn’t have to wait all month to see the end of the comic if they didn’t want to. At Azdion we use Selz for our digital goods, but many creators use other sites like Gumroad. Shop around and see what fits your needs best.
You just need to get startedAs you learn more you can create bigger and better comics, but you need to take that first step. Click To Tweet
Webcomics are great practice for storytelling, drawing, and even marketing and selling your work if you wish. Your first comic may not be your best, but taking on the task will make future comics easier to create. As you learn more you can create bigger and better comics, but you need to take that first step and make your first one!
Running Man, the webcomic that brought you this post
Webcomic Construction, a PDF booklet by Meg James based on their years of experience with comics
Lessons Learned: tips for a first animated film, some advice based on my experience in making the short film Lūdō
If this post inspires you or helps you create your first webcomic, send a link to email@example.com and we may feature your comic work! And if you have any thoughts or advice on starting a new webcomic, feel free to contact us with your input and I may add it to this article for other readers to learn from.
Tags: Resources, Running Man
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