10 Easy Steps to Making Your First Digital Comic

Updated: Oct 8

Do you have a cool story idea but don't know where to get started? After starting my own comic, CATFISH, and publishing it on the web - I have a decent idea of how you feel right now and have a few tips to get you started!


The Basics of Comic Creation for Beginners


1) Write a Script

Take your idea and really plan it out. Get to know your characters and scenery. Don't worry about your script being super professional and following "scripting rules." As long as you are consistent with your layout and follow some of the basic guidelines, you'll be fine. If you will be the only one reading your script then you're the only one you need to worry about understanding the script. If you have a team, make sure you stay consistent with your layout and formatting. A good book to get started with comic script writing is

The Art Of Comic Book Writing By Mark Kneece.




2) Drawing Software

You will need a drawing program to make your digital art. There's lots of programs to choose from: Krita, Clip Studio, Gimp, Photoshop...


I personally love Clip Studio and its really geared toward digital painting and comic production. You can see why I love Clip Studio here.




3) Concepts

This is something I wish i had really developed earlier on. The more you draw characters from different angles and views the easier they are to draw consistently. Practice drawing your characters at different angles and with different expressions. Figure out your style before you start drawing your comic (or you will be redrawing down the road *cough cough*... Not that I know from experience). A good book about character design is Creating Stylized Character by 3dtotalPublishing.




4) Thumbnails

Create a basic panel layout and and get an idea for how your scenes will look in the panels. This takes practice and you will get better with scene composition over time. A comic is kind of like a movie - but drawn. Study other comics and movie scenes and make a little reference folder for yourself with ideas. Make note of why certain scenes are good (Do they convey emotion? Are they framed well? Can you understand what's happening in the frame?) and why certain scenes are bad (Is it hard to see what's happening? Does it make you feel confused? Could the camera angle have been done in a better way?)


Thumbnails can be done on a sketch pad or digitally. I personally do all my art digitally now but at this stage it doesn't really matter. Clip Studio is great for this because it has 3D environments and pose-able figures that you can turn, angle, zoom in and out, and manipulate however you want. It allows you to see the basic framework of a scene before you start drawing. Framed Ink by Marcos Mateu-Mestre is an excellent book to learn about composition. (It focuses on black and white comics - but is a valuable resource!)



5) Begin Sketching

Remember to be loose with your sketch. On that note, the more you refine your sketch, the easier the next step will be because you will have your artwork basically done without any need to realign or adjust proportions.


6) Inking

Now you get to choose your pen tool and decide how you want to stylize your line art. Take a panel and do a few different styles to see what you prefer. Again, study other comics you like and see if you can combine their style with your own. I've read several books about inking and recommend Pen and Ink Drawing by Alphonso Dunn.




7) Lettering

Believe it or not, lettering takes skill. You need to find a word bubble style and font that looks nice. I've seen a few comics that look really nice but their word bubbles are ehhhh.... Even my earlier work is not so great, but I've learned over time what works and what doesn't. Figuring this out early on will save you time later. (I basically went through 160 pages of my comic and had to update my lettering.... ugh!)


8) Coloring

Is your comic black and white? Full color? You can use digital toning (easily with Clip Studio) or simply color your work as you would any illustration. There are a few techniques you can use and the best way to learn is to practice and watch how others do it. A good book to get started with digital coloring is Master Digital Color by Brian and Kristy Miller.




9) Saving and Formatting

I always save the native file in layers so that I can easily make changes later on. I also save it as a jpg or png for sharing on social media or web publishing platforms. Whatever platform you publish to will give you size and resolution guidelines. Just create a document in that size and resize your art.


10) Publishing

These days, digital first is the way to go to make sure there is an audience for your comic. My first comic was a bust.... After a year I only had 10 subscribers... Clearly my comic sucked. My art was bad and my story was decent but I just didn't fully understand the whole process and how to make a GOOD comic. Over several years I've learned a lot and with my second comic I have 6200+ readers in just a year. Even if you think your idea is amazing - not everyone will. By publishing digital first you can see what other people think and begin building (or not building) a fan base for your story. Line Webtoon and Tapas are great places to get started.

*Please Note: I own and use all the books recommended. When you purchase a book from the link provided, I may receive a small commission which helps fund this site.


Copyright 2019 Mel McKenzie

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