Please keep in mind that I'm NOT perfect when it comes to making comics, I really consider my own work to be mediocre at best. vR is much too fast-paced, and there's pretty much no character development, so you probably shouldn't look to it as an example for a "good comic."
1. The IdeaThere has to be some sort of reason you want to make a comic, and any reason is a good one! ...Unless it's just solely to copy someone else. DO NOT look at a comic you like and deliberately try to make similar characters, plot, and art style. It's really obvious, especially when it's a popular comic you're trying to copy. Getting inspiration is fine, I'm sure you know the difference.
If you're trying to come up with an idea for the plot, look for inspiration from movies, TV, other comics, and even music! Some things to look out for when making an animal comic is an over-done plot. How many animal comics are out there about an evil wolf pack fighting a good one? Or a "chosen one" with magic powers that comes to save the day? Or elemental guardian god and goddess animals? There's nothing WRONG with any of these ideas, but if you're looking to make something really original, just be aware that there's lots of comics already about these things!
[This graphic is funny, but actually pretty accurate.]
2. ScriptingIf you're trying to make a more serious comic, you'll probably want to plan it out first. I chose to script vR first in a word document, written like a half-assed novel so I knew what came next. In this stage it's a good idea to get feedback from friends about your story, and take critiques if you want it to be the best it can be. When you feel confident in your story, go back and put in the details such as dialog.
Here's a copy-paste of what I had in my script document:
"Never! Seir! Jun! Over here!"
They look up and walk over.
"Where the hell have you been? We've all been worried! You need to rest!" Never says.
"Shh! Stay quiet!" Risk says
"What's going on?" Seir asks.
Dee listens behind them out of sight.
3. ArtThe art style you choose for your comic is important! If you're looking to make a more light-hearted story, a simple style might be a good choice. If it's more serious, such as having bloody fight scenes and whatnot, you might want to draw more realistically, rather than chibis! My comic is somewhere oddly placed in the middle. It's like strange disney-esque dogs + bloody fight scenes so it's hard for me to pin-point my target audience ahaha... ANYWAY
Anatomy! You don't have to be the greatest artist in the world to make a comic, but if it's about a species you don't have much experience drawing, you'll want to look up references. It's not "cheating," I promise. All professional artists use or have used references, it's a learning tool. browse.deviantart.com/?q=anima…
Colors! Your comic doesn't need to be in color! There's plenty of great manga-style black&white comics! Using different shades of grey and tones will help differentiate characters and the background.
Backgrounds! Are backgrounds important to your story? Sometimes they're not crucial in every panel, especially if the panel is small. Would your backgrounds look better linearted, or painted, or a mix of both? I think it's important to remember that your backgrounds should not be distracting, and should complement the characters. Also remember that the colors of the background should show on the characters as well in some way, either in shading or lighting, so your characters don't look out of place. Example (please excuse the rushed picture):
see how in this picture, the wolf doesn't look "in" the environment? It's because the shadows are a different color from the background.
in the second picture, I used the colors from the background set to multiply for the shading, and added a green overlay to the wolf as well to make it fit more.
4. CharactersAhh, characters. I'm terrible at making characters so maybe I'm not the one to give advice on this. You may benefit more by searching for character help in the dA search or on google. I'll give a few tips though!
- Don't make a complicated design! Remember, you're going to be drawing these characters 1000 times in your comic, so make it easy for yourself!
- Make sure the character looks like its species. If it's a hyena, please don't make it look like a wolf, that's just silly.
- Be careful with strange pelt colors! I know you want your wolves to be bright red and purple, but will it make sense? If your story is otherwise realistic, odd-colored characters might not fit. Fantasy comics can sometimes get away with it. If your characters must be odd-colored, make sure they have an appealing design that isn't eye-bleeding!
- Try to fit in some character development into your story! Be better than me!
- Be careful of giving your character elvish/warrior-cat names such as "Bladefang" (made it up on a whim, sorry if you actually have a character named this!). They sure sound cool, but it's getting close to being overdone and it's pretty hard for readers to remember all those strange names. "Katzbalger" is an example of a strange name that nobody can remember, so I apologize for that!
- Speaking of names, try not to give the characters names that make their personality obvious. Example, a wolf named Blackheart probably isn't very nice. They may as well be named Dr. Evil. It's too obvious! Nobody would name their pup something like that. I also made this mistake with Katzbalger's name. It just sounded so ~cool~ haha. Maybe your evil character named themselves at some point (like Scar, who was previously Taka in TLK)? That might be more believable!
- ALSO ON NAMES avoid having characters with similar names to eachother. You don't want characters named Kristine and Kristina and Kristy because they'll get mixed up. Careful about naming characters after ones that already exist, too. Like "Sora," or "Simba," or "Balto." It leaves less room for your character to be its own, instead of a copy.
Unique Character Design Tips
In my opinion, these are the most important factors in any character design: color, concept, shape, simplicity, cohesiveness, repeatability, personality and uniqueness.
Color: Any design with colors all over the place creates too many places for the eye to look. Keep your color design very simple and zen. Looking at the colors shouldn't be jarring or confusing. This isn't to say only use one color, not at all, but try to make sure the ones you use are harmonious. Avoid mixing and matching different saturations of the same color or picking colors that clash with one another.
My rule of thumb: Stick to no more than three base colors and some value variations.
Concept: Your design should have inspiration, even if the inspiration is just your intended character's personality or an interesting object that represents them. Your character could be a bookworm, and that would impact her posture, her clothing, her hairstyle...pretty much everything about her! You can design
5. PanelingIn my case, I sketch out the page first in photoshop or sai, including where I want the panels, characters, and speech bubbles to go. I then use the "Line Tool" in photoshop to make thick lines to define the panels. To make a perfect straight line with the tool, hold shift. It should be clear which panel you're supposed to read first, second, and last. I used to think "the more panels the better!" because I was trying to tell my story as fast as I could in each page. That's why some older vR pages had up to 8 panels! Now I try to stay around 3-5. It looks less messy and cluttered.
Comic and paneling tutorials
and 's gallery for paneling ideas
6. FontYou might not think picking a font is very important, but it is! The fonts you use for dialog should be very legible and easy to read. In vR, I use black text on white bubbles for non-infected characters, and the opposite for infected ones to easily tell the difference between the two's speech. The idea behind it is that infected dogs have raspier, darker sounding voices. This is emphasized with Katzbalger's later speech bubbles because I use a "creepy" font for his dialog, to demonstrate his declining health and speaking capabilities. I recommend using comic fonts for dialog otherwise (NOT COMIC SANS), but maybe that's just my personal preference. Fonts like Times New Roman could also work, if you want, but I don't think they look quite as nice.
For things such as sound effects, I'd recommend writing it out yourself. It looks better that way, and makes it clear that your character isn't saying the word "Sigh" but rather is sighing.
Great place to find free fonts: www.blambot.com/ (I use "Kid Kosmic"), and www.urbanfonts.com/
and if you want to make your own fonts: www.myscriptfont.com/
Font/text/speech bubble tutorials
7. PublishingI get asked pretty frequently how I published vR. The term is actually self-published and I used a site called ka-blam.com, which sells my comic on indyplanet.com
I don't know a whole lot about REALLY publishing a comic with a company, but I know I turned away from the idea because of the expected deadlines that just wouldn't be possible for me.
If you plan on printing your comic, you have to remember that some things near the edges could be cut off, so don't put text right up to the edge of the page. Here's a helpful template I use from ka-blam: ka-blam.com/printing/front/?ca… and ka-blam.com/printing/front/?p=…
I've also learned that printing makes your art MUCH darker, so remember to lighten up your pages in photoshop by going to Images > Adjustments > Levels or Brightness/Contrast ESPECIALLY if you have nighttime or dark scenes.
Another tip I want to highlight is making your pages at 300dpi.
my pages are HUGE at full-size. This is so printing is easier and the quality is better. And, if you make mistakes on a picture that big, they won't even be noticeable when it shrinks down (to about 33% in my case)! This part isn't really necessary if you're not printing.
8. Misc TipsHere's a collection of some other tips and tutorials I think will be helpful for making comics:
Comic ResourcesSo, the most common note I get is the following:
I love your comic! I'm making one. Do you have any tips you could give me?
First of all, I can't say thank you enough to all the encouragement. You guys have no idea how much it helps when I'm up until 3am working on pages, to know that people care enough to leave nice comments and favs. <3
For all those that were too shy to ask, or for all that come looking in the future, I'm compiling a list of comic resources (and this is written for more graphic novels, as opposed to gag strip comics):
1. Why to make a comic/graphic novel:
Practice: There is nothing wrong with drawing or writing a comic for practice. Comics force you to use poses that you might not normally draw, and thus can vastly improve your skills. They also force you to think in a visual narrative, instead of stock poses with sly smiles and brooding glowers. You probably will
Try reading the comments on Akeli's journal for ideas on what people like and dislike about comics: akeli.deviantart.com/journal/C…
Droemar has plenty of writing tips in their journals: droemar.deviantart.com/journal…
If anyone has any tips or tutorials to add or criticize or ask about this guide please let me know in the comments! I'd like this to be as helpful as possible. Making this doesn't mean I want you to stop asking me how I do certain things in my comic, either. I really just want to help if I can.
I also want to state again that I'm not claiming in any way to be a pro at this stuff, I'm still learning too! I just wanted to share some things that I learned while making vR.
My comic is FAR from good, and I know there's plenty of mistakes and things that could be critiqued, so don't take this as me saying "all your comics should be like mine!!" because that's not what I'm trying to say at all haha.
ALSO HAVE A GOOD THANKSGIVING!..?? fff