Understanding the Essentials of Comic Creation

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Secrets of Drawing Cartoons

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While the following subsections can apply to Manga Studio, they cover the art of manga and comic creation in a more general (and abbreviated) sense. I guess you could call this section Sequential Art 101.

Over the course of the book, I throw around a lot of comic terminology. Some terms you may be familiar with, others may be new. I even try to throw in a few terms that I think you should be familiar with in general, as you're going to encounter them as you go along on your artistic career. (And you'll definitely encounter them as you work in Manga Studio.)

f Panel: Where the magic takes place. These tiny (and not so tiny) boxes of various shapes and sizes contain all the action and dialogue of a scene. (See Figure 2-1.)

v Gutter: The white (or black) space between panels, columns, and the inner margins between two facing pages. (See Figure 2-1.)

^ Bleed: A panel that extends all the way to the edge of a page. (See Figure 2-2.) When the pages are cut after being printed on, any art extending into the bleed is cut off. This makes the panel extend to the edges of the finished pages.

Basic terminology

Panels pages are comprised of panels and gutters.

Figure 2-1:

Manga and comic

Panels pages are comprised of panels and gutters.

Figure 2-1:

Manga and comic


e* Trim: When you work on pages that will be printed by a professional printer, consider a small area around each page disposable. The trim is the area that is cut after the pages are printed — anything past the trim is lost.

i** Safe area: The area of the page that's in no danger of getting trimmed by the printer. It's suggested that you keep all of the dialogue and most important artwork inside this area.

jSpreads: Art that spans over two pages in a book. (See Figure 2-3.)

f* Layout: Usually a very rudimentary sketch placing what you want on the page, including the number of panels and the basic action you want to show in each. (See Figure 2-4.)

Figure 2-2; A bleed panel extends all the way to the edge of a page.

Comic Action Figure Drawing Tutorials

Bleed panel

Figure 2-2; A bleed panel extends all the way to the edge of a page.

Bleed panel

Figure 2-3:

You can really get your reader's attention with a two-page spread.

Figure 2-3:

You can really get your reader's attention with a two-page spread.

Roughs: A term for the unrefined pencil or pen sketches that you use to get a "rough" idea of how you want the page to look. Roughs tend to be more detailed than layouts but can still be pretty messy, compared to the final work. (See Figure 2-5.)

i>* Loose pencils: Very rough pencil sketches. You aren't worried about the sketch being clean — you're more focused on getting the general "feel" of what you want to draw on the page. (See the leftmost image in Figure 2-6.)

f Tightened pencils: Cleaner, more refined pencil work. These tend to look more refined than loose pencil work. (See the middle image in Figure 2-6.)

f Screentones: Tiny dots that are used in black-and-white artwork to depict shades of gray. (See Figure 2-7.) Screentones are featured quite heavily in manga and some independent comics.

V Breaking the border: This refers to panels where a figure or object "breaks" beyond its borders. This causes the illusion that the figure is "popping" out of the confines of the page. (See Figure 2-8.)

Figure 2-4;

You use layouts to get a basic idea of the page down on paper, And I mean basic.

Figure 2-4;

You use layouts to get a basic idea of the page down on paper, And I mean basic.

Manga Studio Basic

Establishing shot: A panel that depicts where the scene you're drawing is taking place. It gives the reader an anchor of sorts. This can be a city skyline, a country meadow, or the exterior of a futuristic spaceship flying through space. (See Figure 2-9.)

Figure 2-7: Screentones are heavily featured in manga.

Figure 2-7: Screentones are heavily featured in manga.

Figure 2-8:

A character popping out of a panel is "breaking the border."

Comic Page Establishing Shot

ArtwoA courtesy Jason Masters (character tElBrandon Thomas and Jason MastersI

Figure 2-8:

A character popping out of a panel is "breaking the border."

ArtwoA courtesy Jason Masters (character tElBrandon Thomas and Jason MastersI

Figure 2-9: An establishing shot can help setup the scene on a page.

Drawing Fight Scenes Comics

Figure 2-9: An establishing shot can help setup the scene on a page.

Storytelling basics: It's harder than it looks

Drawing comics can be hard. Telling a story can also be hard. Telling a story in comic book form is extremely difficult. You might be thinking, "What's he talking about? I draw panels of people fighting or talking and I'm good to go!" Actually (while I do love a good fight scene) there's a bit more to storytelling than just a series of boxes on a page.

I'm certainly not going to pretend I'm an expert in the field of storytelling. (In Chapter 16,1 mention a few books that you can check out that offer a much better and thorough explanation on the subject.) But, I thought I'd mention a couple of tips that I've picked up over the years that you may find useful as you start working on your first pages.

»** Panels aren't just images in boxes. When I draw (what passes for) comics or manga, 1 tend to not think that I'm drawing comics. Instead, it's more like I'm storyboarding the scene of a movie. So, as I lay a page out, I try to think about how the camera would capture what's going on in the page.

When working on my own comic, I've found that this helps me visualize how the page should be laid out. (Actually, this helps when I'm working from someone else's script as well — just in a more structured "this is how many panels you're to draw" way.) By thinking this way, I get a better feel for how I want to pace the story, where the characters should be in the scene, how the scene should be lit, and so on. 1 also know not to confuse the reader by suddenly switching character positions or drawing from crazy angles just because I think it looks cool. If it wouldn't work in a movie, it probably wouldn't work in a comic.

As you start laying out your first pages, try to think about why you want the page to look a certain way as much as how you plan on drawing it. That way, if it makes sense to you, it will make sense to the reader.

V You're going to have to draw backgrounds to help the reader understand the scene. Backgrounds aren't the easiest things in the world to draw. They can be downright maddening to work on, especially if you're working on something that's incredibly detailed. It's much more fun to draw figures — after all, that's what the readers will be focusing on, right?

To a degree, yes — the characters you draw on the page are what entice the readers to read the comic. But if you don't give the readers a basis for where the characters are, they aren't going to know the context of what the characters are doing.

In Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels (published by Harper Paperbacks), Scott McCloud suggests that you shouldn't look at backgrounds as backdrops to a scene. Rather they're environments that you're creating for your characters to live within. So try not be afraid to draw them, as difficult as they may be. You don't want your characters to exist in limbo, do you?

i>* Take as inany pages as you need to tell your story. If you plan on being the artist for someone else's book, odds are you'll get a pretty tight script telling you exactly how many pages will be in the book and how many panels per page. If you work on your own book or webcomic, you get a bit more freedom.

One of the ways that I feel manga differs from the DC or Marvel comics of the world is the impression that there is more freedom in the way the artist tells the story. What an American creator may tell in one or two pages, a manga artist may tell in ten or twelve. I always felt when reading certain manga that there was more of a "cinematic" pacing, almost like I was reading a movie (if that makes any sense).

If you're planning on creating your own book or webcomic, try not to feel as though you have to tell your story within a set number of pages. It's your story to tell — tell it however you'd like, with as many (or few) pages as you want to.

If you decide to become an independent creator, keep in mind that you have the freedom to use as many panels and pages you want as you work on your story and eventual layouts. It goes back to the first suggestion I make in this section: Try treating the comic as though it's a movie and you're the director. You get the chance to tell your story exactly as you want it to be told.

A feu1 other odds and ends you might find useful

These suggestions don't really have anything to do with Manga Studio. You don't need a computer program, or even a computer, for these tips. For the beginning artists out there reading this, i can only guess how excited you must be about hunkering down and getting to work drawing everything that you have going on in your imagination. As you go along though, you may find times where this isn't quite as fun as you thought it would be. I hate to say it, but it may even feel like work. You may get frustrated that things aren't coming out quite as you want them to. You may, after a while, just decide to throw your hands up in the air and walk away.

It's natural. Every artist goes through that at one point or another. I know I do on a regular basis. But I try to keep at it, even when I feel like I don't want to anymore, and I'm sure you can do the same thing, too. So, in the following subsections, 1 compiled a few suggestions and tips you may find useful if you start to feel frustrated or stressed that things aren't going quite as well as you hoped.


1 used to hate that word, if only because I really hated to actually do it. 1 found it extremely mundane and boring, going over something again and again and again. I just figured that if I drew a figure once, that's all I needed to do. As I grew older, I finally started to realize why practice can be a good thing.

The only way to get better is through repetition and practice. Whether it's drawing hands, eyes, heads, or buildings, as you repeat the process again and again, it becomes second nature. Eventually you may get to the point where you can draw a cityscape or large group of characters without breaking a sweat.

But you aren't going to get there unless you keep working away at improving those skills, and the only way to do it is to go over the process again and again and again and again and again.

Find your Voice

Take a look through some various comics and manga. What's the one thing you notice? I'll bet the major observation is the difference between how artists draw and/or pace their work. If you look at Ken Akamatsu's style (1mve Hind), his work looks nothing at all like Yasuhiro Nightow's (Trigun), who's work in turn is completely different from Jim Lee's (Alt-Star Batman and Robin), who's art doesn't look at all like John Romita Jr.'s (World War Hulk), who's style looks absolutely nothing like Joe Madureira's (Battle Chasers).

That's because each of those artists has found what 1 call his "voice." This is the artistic style that each artist has developed and nurtured over the years. They took what they learned or admired and built upon it, creating something uniquely their own, this fueling the next generation of artists to do the same thing.

There's nothing wrong with emulating the style of your favorite artist at first. (Heck, 1 started out as a Jim Lee clone when I first started drawing comics in high school.) But if you want to really stand out from the hundreds and thousands of other artists out there (and not be constantly called a "so-and-so clone"), you'll eventually need to find the style of drawing manga and comics that you can truly call your own.

Above all else, as you find your voice, don't be afraid to take chances. If you really want to create a unique style, you may have to push your artistic boundaries in ways you never thought of doing before. Who knows? Maybe as you grow and mature as an artist, you too will influence someone else to get into the business. And how cool would it be to say someone is a "clone" of you?

Look for inspiration

For those times when you feel artistically drained or you feel like you're out of ideas, try flipping through some comics, art magazines, or even the Internet. See what others are doing. You may feel yourself getting jazzed up just by looking at new and different kinds of comic or non-comic-related art styles and techniques.

Getting a fresh perspective on how others do their work may help you to look at your own work in a new light, allowing you to tackle things in a way you never thought of before. Besides, you may even find you can do a better job than what they've done, and a little artistic competition is never a bad thing.

Don't be afraid to use references

When you get stuck on how to draw a particular figure, background, or object correctly, use a reference image! It could be a photo of your friends acting out the scene or an image you've taken off of the Internet of a cityscape, tank, or airline jet. Whatever the case may be, using some kind of reference material as you draw gives your art that much more realism and believability, which may help your readers become more engrossed in the world you've created.

Accept and (earn from criticism l believe the old saying goes, there are no wrong answers. Well, that's wrong.

Of course there are wrong answers! It's the yang to the yin: You aren't going to know or understand what the right answer is if you don't stumble upon the wrong answer. It's probably odd to suggest that there is a wrong way to draw a manga or comic, when it's such a subjective genre in and of itself. But as you go along your artistic journey, you're going to encounter times when you work on a piece of art, take a step back, and you (or someone else will) say, "Well, that didn't work at all!"

It happens. Not everything you create can be a touchdown. There will always be instances when you throw an incomplete pass or worse yet, fumble the ball. (You can probably tell that football season started at the time of this writing.) I think, more than anything else in this book, that ground rule needs to be established because (hopefully) that will help you as you try to push your artistic boundaries.

Criticism is one of the things that you face when you create art for public view. For every one person that likes what you make, there's someone that hates it and dissects every little nuance that's "wrong" with what you've done. It comes with the territory. Some are going to be harsher than others, and it can be very easy to get discouraged when you get a scathing e-mail or message board post stating that you "stink."

When that happens, you just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and decide if there are any nuggets of information within the criticism that you can use to learn and improve from. Of course, I could be completely wrong about this.

It's a marathon, not a sprint

The longer you work on a comic, the more you may become bored and tired of it. That's understandable; it's a grueling and daunting task to crank out page after page after page. I think that's why many independent comics out there don't seem to go past three or four issues — eventually the creator just gets bored and decides to stop.

My only suggestion when you feel like you don't want to do this anymore is to try to focus on one page or issue at a time. It's a long, arduous process, to be sure. But if you can mentally prepare yourself for what could he a very long road ahead, you may find yourself at the end looking back at all you've accomplished before you know it.

A(u>ays remember why you're doing this

I'd say that if you purchased this book and the Manga Studio program (at the very least if you purchased the program) that you want to be a comic/manga artist. You want that chance to live out your dream — and hopefully at some point, you'll get to do that. Always remember that feeling because there will be times when you wonder why you're doing this to yourself.

Being a comic artist is, 1 believe, one of the luckiest jobs in the world, even if you don't get paid for it. (Although, making some money is nice.) You get to create brand-new worlds and characters. If you're fortunate, people will get to read and enjoy what you've put your heart and soul into. If you get the chance to create something that will make people laugh and/or cry, I feel that's what makes all the sleepless nights and marathon drawing sessions worth it. Never forget that.

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  • michael
    How to make comics in engineering drawing?
    3 years ago
  • pandora baggins
    What to cut off from a comic panel?
    2 years ago
  • s
    How to draw cool Manga fight scenes?
    1 year ago

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