How to Create Comic Strips

Comic strips, especially the three panel strips mostly found in newspapers and magazines, are complex works of art and aren’t easy to make. This is because the main obstacle is that you are trying to tell a good story with relatable characters using limited page space. You can only fit so many drawings, panels, and text in one page so each one has to consistently be of use in telling the story.

To successfully create a good comic strip or even a complex comic book you will learn that there is a step-by-step process that most comic strip makers follow. You don’t have to follow it strictly dot per dot but it does help in organizing the way you work the comic out.

Stage One – Development Phase

This is the more fun phase of making a comic strip. The development phase is where you create the backbone of your comic strip, from the way the story develops to the way it looks. Take some paper and draw concepts for your main characters, their locations, and develop a style that will define your comic strip. During this stage you’ll want to develop the story as well. Focus on what your characters say, their mannerisms, the basic premise of the plot, and more.

Stage Two – Script Writing

Yes, even three-panel comic strips require a script. The script for a comic is slightly different from a movie screenplay. You still have to write in various “camera” angles and blurbs to guide the artists on what they need to emphasize on. You don’t need to put in all the dialogue yet, just the basic lay-out of words and plot progression so that the artists can visualize how the panels should be arranged and what each drawing should focus on.

When doing the story for a three-panel comic, you’ll want to focus on a basic setup: introduction, build-up, and punch line. This works great for funny comics like Popeye, Garfield, and others. When you write the script you have to take that structure and develop it on paper.

Stage Three – Penciling and Visual Layout

Other than the writing this is where most of the work goes to when it comes to making a comic strip. The pencil artist is the one who will take the script and turn it into a visual piece of art. It will be their responsibility to talk with the writer in developing the layout of each page and of each panel (especially for superhero comic books). When the layout is done, the pencil artist will then draw and they have to draw everything except for the visual sound-effects and dialogue.

Most critics look at the work of the pencil artist. After all, they were the one who were responsible for the art of the comic strip. They design and make the very look of the comic strip. Make sure the writer and the pencil artist work hand in hand to get the design, layout, and look just right.

Stage Four – Inking

The inking process is where another artist (or sometimes the pencil artist as well) will finalize the pencil work. The inker will add depth by using black ink and trace over the lines, giving each piece a three-dimensional look and make it come alive. It is their responsibility to take the work of the pencil artist and turn it into a finished product.

Stage Five – Coloring

The coloring process is usually done either by hand using special ink pens or via software tools like Photoshop. Most comic strip publishers turn to computer coloring because it also allows the computer expert to correct mistakes while they add colors. The color artist also has to add shades to the colors to give depth of field to the art.

Stage Six – Text

The final stage is also commonly done on the computer and this is adding all the text boxes for narration, all the sound effect text, as well as all the dialogue and thought bubbles. To do this the artist usually has to go back to the script as well as the footnotes of the artist that indicate what words go in which panel. The writer usually works in this stage, supervising the process to ensure the right words are placed properly. They can’t place all the words they wrote in the script so careful planning is required in order to deliver a good story with few select words.

 

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Keep in mind that practice breeds perfection. Do not loose heart if your drawing does not look professional. Keep on learning and practicing soon your creations will not only satisfy the perfectionist within you but also amaze others.