This article was orginally published on Ko-fi on Nov 4 2021.
So! You have a comic idea, and you’re ready to turn it into the next big hit that gets picked up by Netflix and whisks you away to Hollywood and turns you into the future generation’s Stan Lee!
There’s only one problem!
You don’t draw comics.
You might be thinking, that’s not a problem! I’ll just draw it myself! In which case, you’re free to go and can leave this blog post behind!
But some of you may be thinking, I want someone else to do the work of drawing it! Then this is the place for you!!!
When should you decide who will draw your comic??
AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE.
When should you include the artist in your comic writing process?
AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE.
First things first, hot shot, before we get into the tips you need to know what a comic artist is for!
A comic artist isn’t your employee! And they don’t just take orders and draw pictures. Think of an artist like your writing partner.
You’re hiring them for what they bring to the table and their unique artistic point of view to create the visual representation of your narrative which is how people will be engaging with the story.
First, make sure they’re someone you trust with your story and someone who trusts you to know what you want. You will need to be in sync together at all times and both understand the story if it’s to be successful. You should also make sure it’s an artist whose art you like and whose comics you like, you will have to trust them a lot with how your story looks, it won’t be good to decide later you don’t like it!
Its like symbiosis!
Comic artists have a special set of narrative design skills, an eye for page layout, experience with character acting, ability to decorate and style settings and characters, writing skills, formatting skills, lettering and coloring skills! Even the most novice of comic artists is already much better trained for sequential layout than just an illustrator is. There are even degree programs just for comic art now, so the standardization of comics processes and understanding of the medium is deepening much further!
Now that we understand what a comic artist and have a healthy respect for them! We can move to the first tip.
TIP 1: understand the comic making process
People who write screenplays understand how movies are made. People who write comics should understand how comics are made. The general outline of a comic production process is 5 sections:
1. Thumbnails: small draft drawings used to layout each page
2. Pencils: the actual drawings that will go in each panel
3. Inks: going over the pencils in black ink (this is NOT tracing)
4. Color: coloring it in! (Very time consuming!)
5. Lettering: adding in dialogue bubbles and text. (Also very intensive!)
These days comic artists tend to be one-stop-shops. So they learn how to do all steps together! (Amazing we are such geniuses…) And they use great digital tools like clip studio paint.
A digital process for a single artist might look something like:
2. Lettering. (Lettering is ideally done as early as possible to avoid any design conflicts with the drawn images)
3. Layouts (this could be pencils or something like putting down 3D objects or both!)
4. Inks (the pencils and Inks together are called Lineart)
Once you understand how a comic is made you can see which decisions to make and what questions to ask when working with an artist.
For example, you might be inclined to add a space scene to the first page, but if your artist colors slowly it would be a huge burden to put it at the beginning and not in a later spot so they can work on it slowly over time.
TIP 2: Make sure your script is ready for comics!
Here’s the tough part for writers out there! Don’t get precious with your script, DaVinci! It’s just a blueprint for your baby, which is the final comic. Nobody will lay eyes on that thing except you, the artist, and God. A smart comic writer knows that the goal is to make a good looking COMIC not a good looking SCRIPT.
In real comic production, there isn’t much time for reading the script. There isn’t a current standard for how to format a comic script, but you need to always have these 3 things:
1. Who is in the scene
2. What are they doing
3. When they are doing it
Some writers let their artist even write the dialogue! But that’s super old school style, nobody really does that.
Once you write your script you have to do a final pass to make sure there’s no major design errors. Big ones to watch out for are:
– sentences that are way too long!
– unnatural dialogue (this depends but usually comics dialogue is written how it sounds when you speak out loud NOT how it’s supposed to be written. Examples: “gonna” “wanna” “reckon I’m goin’ ta town” “ya feelin lucky… punk?” “Youse guys” adding in stutters or filler words “uh. Um. Like…and so… so like, but uhh. That’s like totally like awesome, omg.”)
– too much detail! (This makes it much harder to read and much harder to design avoid including details like: descriptions of anything, camera angles, placement of props, specific character acting cues unless it’s essential like a tic or something).
– AND! The first person to speak on a page in a panel has to be the first person to speak in every panel on that page! (This is so that the balloons never cross over each other and the art can stay clean and consistent)
Panel 1: Ahad and Beau are walking in the graveyard at night.
Ahad: I love graveyards!
Beau: Yah! They’re so romantic!
Panel 2: suddenly, a hand reaches out from under the ground at Ahad’s feet! (SFX: GGRACK!)
Beau: Holy Shit! Whatthehellisthat!
Panel 3: The hand holds up a finger as if to say “wait”
Beau: I think it’s…like…doin something?
Panel 4: The hand does a majestic flourish.
Beau: A magic trick?
Panel 5: The hand produces a scraggly looking rose 🌹.
Ahad: Aw! Friggin adorable!
Beau: (rolling eyes) Must be my dad messing with us. Again!
As you can see in this example, whenever more than one person is talking Ahad always talks first. This is because Ahad is the first one who spoke on this page!
Also take note of how acting is written inline similar to a play script. And sound effects are included in the script as well.
Small details about setting aren’t needed unless absolutely necessary. You should discuss things like settings and characters personal style with your artist and see what their thoughts are and work together.
Design starts with the script!
TIP 3: Always be beeping! I mean… Communication Is Key!
Hey! Stop reading comics! This is serious!
Make sure you have your artists contact information and good times to contact them! Develop a good rapport with them! Make friends! Tell them your hopes, your dreams, what size pants ur characters wear! What their vibes are! Your inspirations! This will help them feel ownership and confidence with the comic and help it be the best it can be! Also it helps to grow ur network and build a stronger and friendlier comics community in your area!
In comics we are all equals! (Comrade)
Now take this advice and go!! Hire an artist! Be free!!