Cartoons and comics have been a feature in print media for hundreds of years. They’ve taken many different forms from political statements to funny gags to chuckle at as you slurp your morning coffee.
I used to draw them when I was at school a few years ago. Mostly just little characters with funny expressions when I should have been doing physics or French or something.
So the other day I had an idea for my new blog; I’d start a weekly web comic. Why not? People like them, they’re fun to make, more memorable than an average post and they keep people coming back when you post them on a regular basis.
But there were a couple of obstacles in my path when I considered how to make a web comic. The first one was that I hadn’t picked up a pencil in almost five years. The second one (and perhaps the bigger problem of the two) was that my scanner is currently out of operation. And what I mean by that is I lost the power cable and the adapter. However, there really is no extreme need for a scanner if you’re only making a basic web comic.
So my first task. Draw my cartoon. I decided that I’d make my first strip a quick one using the same image three times. The joy of drawing cartoons is that they don’t have to be good. Just draw it big. Really big. An A4 page will make up one panel. Then, when you shrink it down and edit it a little your mistakes will become so miniscule they won’t matter. In fact, blemishes and bad effects add character to a drawing.
So I drew out my basic shapes and added some features to make a fat, round man sitting at a computer. It’s not perfect. His hands can even touch the keyboard for God’s sake but that’s what makes it a cartoon. Then I took a snap of it with my mobile phone and sent it to my PC via Bluetooth. This is what I got on my screen: not exactly the makings of a great cartoon (like if I’d had a scanner) but fully workable.
This is where technology works its magic. Send the drawing to a Photoshop program. I usedbecause it’s free but you could also use Adobe or another program similar to that. If you need to brush up on your Photoshop skills I suggest reading MUO’s Idiot’s Guide to Photoshop.
The first thing we want to do in Photoshop is blow the picture up to 200%. This is normally found under the ‘Image‘ tab along the top of Photoshop programs. This is so the editing tools used later on will be more accurate. Then we want to highlight the different areas and separate the lines from the open spaces. To do this, lower the level of brightness and up the contrast like in the screenshot below.
This will give you red areas with deep black lines like they’ve been inked beforehand. Now it’s time to clean it all up. Using the eraser tool (on its largest setting) clean up all the spotty and blotchy areas from when I altered the brightness and contrast. Don’t try to be too perfect as you’ll be there for hours. Just get the big areas and the blemishes in noticeable places. All the bad areas will be further cleaned up as you go along and then made smaller when downsizing the image.Your image should look like this when you’re erasing all the blemishes.
Now that you’ve got all the main blemishes and marks removed, fill in the large areas with the colours and textures that you want. I chose to go with the simple ‘fill with colour‘ tool but you can use different brush styles and patterns to replicate hair, leaves, sky etc. It all depends on what style you want your drawing to be. Since I’ll be posting mine weekly to my blog I want to keep it simple so it won’t take up too much of my time.
When all of your main areas are coloured there will still be marks and the image won’t look good at all. No really I mean it, it won’t. Click ‘Save‘ and then open the file with MS Paint. The reason I’m using Paint to finish off the editing is because it has some good ‘line tools’ to make the objects look better and it’s easier to work with.
Your image should look much bigger in Paint. Use this opportunity to go around with the paint brush and fill in any missing details and white areas. Use the colour matching tool highlighted in the screenshot to the right to match the colour exactly.
Then use the line tools and the box tools to make regularly shaped objects look better. You can see how I made the table appear better by using the deep, bold lines but I’ve still left in some blemishes and crooked lines because that’s the style of my drawing.
If you’re going to use the same drawing in multiple panels like I did then select it with the cropping tool. When you have it selected, right-click on it and click ‘Copy’ and right click on the page and paste the drawing in again. Then move it into the next panel area.
Use the shape tools to add panels (don’t be afraid to experiment with different style panels – when they’re all the same it can get boring. It’s not a spreadsheet!). Finally, resize your image to a good size for your blog. Six hundred pixels wide is about the max you can hope for on the web.
The final task is to add captions and speech bubbles. You do this last because resizing text ruins it completely. Enter in the text where you want it to go in the panel. Then surround it with a shape which will form the basis of a speech bubble. Erase one of the corners, and by using two lines make a little point towards your character. You can used curved lines for this if you wish.
Here is my finished comic strip. Nothing fancy as it was largely just a test to see if I could do it.
It took me about 45 minutes from start to finish. It would have taken less if I had a scanner – that would have meant less cleaning up in the beginning.
Here are some tips for how to make a web comic on your PC:
- Make lines/shading bolder where there will be less light. I’ve done this on his back as the light from the computer screen doesn’t reach there. Do the opposite for where there is light – such as on Harold’s face in my cartoon.
- Be sure to blow your image up big in the beginning to make your tools more accurate.
- Always leave text until last.
- Experiment with different panel styles.
- Use textures in Photoshop to replicate water, sky, sand, wood etc…
- It’s okay to crop the one image and simply reuse it if you’re feeling lazy like I was.
- Make your character simple – you’ll have to draw him/her again and again – remember that!
Of course, if you have a drawing tablet you can simply draw it directly onto your PC and forget about all that cleaning up!
How do you manage to draw and produce your web comics? Any tips you’d like to pass on?
Thumbnail Image Credit: atibens