A Webcomic Tutorial Primer

So you draw and/or write a webcomic?

No matter how good you are, there’s always something more to learn. One way to learn is to read a lot of webcomics. You can also learn a lot from countless free tutorials created by some truly talented artists.

There are guides to almost all aspects of creating a webcomic and publishing it on the Internet. The best tutorials combine a set of clear visuals with simple explanations that do not assume the readers already know everything the teacher does. "Make sure that it touches upon something that people will actually use: a simple skill set or function that you can teach. Avoid insanely complex things, or at least break it up into little chunks that people can absorb," explains Jim Zubkavich, creator of The Makeshift Miracle. "Make sure that what you’re writing makes sense. The concepts you’re delivering may seem straightforward because you already have the knowledge."

In this article, we present a short list of tutorials and resources to finding more places to learn about making webcomics. This initial list should get you started, but it is far from complete. It would take a much more extensive effort to list every useful tutorial as there are literally hundreds of other equally valuable websites to find such guides (For example, many of your favorite webcomic creators probably have a webpage explaining their process for creating a webcomic). Some good places to start looking for tutorials include Comixpedia‘s list of tutorials, Rocketbox, and Carson Fire’s (creator of Elf Life) Webcomic Clinic. Rocketbox is a community of webcomic creators founded largely to create a site for the exchange of information about webcomics. It has a page devoted to webcomic tutorials. It also has an active forum devoted to the exchange of tips and techniques for making webcomics.

Fire’s forum may be less active, but it still offers lots of information and a solid source of discussion on writing and drawing webcomics. Fire started the forum in response to the ‘how do I start my own webcomic?’ emails he often got: "I always felt that there were too many things to consider to reduce the answer [to that question] to one easy-to-email document, so I started the Webcomic Clinic forum so I would have a place to dump ideas as they come to me. [The] nice thing about doing it on the forum is that others can (and have) chimed in with their own experiences." In addition to his forum, Fire has a nuts-to-bolts, very helpful tutorial that shows how he creates his epic fantasy webcomic, Elf Life.

Tutorials on Scanning and Uploading

Maybe you don’t need a refresher on scanning and uploading your webcomic, but if you do, there is help out there. Buzzcomix has tutorials on FTP (which is how one loads a file to a website) and scanning your webcomic. Other sites with good tutorials on scanning artwork into your computer can be found at Polykarbon and at the Makeshift Miracle site.

Tutorials on Writing, Storyboarding and Drawing

Although no one ever said it was necessary to be able to write, draw, or even form a coherent thought in order to create a webcomic, it does seem to help a little. You may not find anything on the Internet as comprehensive as a decent life drawing class (or book) or a writing seminar (or book), but there are some helpful sites online that will allow you to brush up on your creative process. For example, K Nickelson’s guide to making webcomics includes useful, self-contained sections on scripts and dialogue, drawing, inking and coloring.

Other creators with useful general tutorials include Clay Butler who provides a nice overview of his working methods, Zubkavich, who has a good tutorial on using thumbnail sketches to plan out a webcomic, Barry Smith, who has a whole series of useful tutorials including one on layout and penciling, and Scott Kurtz who has a great page on how he creates PVP.

Tutorials on Digital Tools for Art

Now of course you’ll want to clean up, color up, and jazz up your formerly simple, scratchy artwork, right? Well, there are a number of informative tutorials on using your computer and its software effectively in creating art for your webcomic.

If there were a comprehensive overall tutorial site for online artistry for webcomics out there, it might just be Polykarbon. Polykarbon features several self-contained tutorials on materials, as well as basic and more advanced life drawing skills. On top of that, it also showcases excellent coloring and effects tutorials for Photoshop, for those creators beyond that ‘beginner’ stage who want to get to that ‘next level’.

Another excellent tutorial on coloring and finish work in Photoshop is a video demonstration by Mike "Gabe" Krahulik of Penny Arcade. In this video, Krahulik shows his methods of working with the tools in Photoshop and how to make effective use of layers. Other artists with tutorials that drop some serious educational science on the use of Photoshop include Ian McConville who spends some time explaining from here.

A number of Zubkavich’s tutorials include a focus on coloring and effects in Photoshop. Justin Pierce, creator of Killroy and Tina, praises Zubkavich’s "Coloring In Layers" tutorial in particular as a big help when he was starting out. "It’s simple enough so a novice could figure out the concepts," said Pierce, "but isn’t condescending."

Finally you should also check out this forum post from dDave that shows both the finished comic and image shots of the layers he created in Photoshop, Richard Campbell’s tutorial on creating screentones, Clay Yount’s tutorial on creating screentones and Buzzcomix’s tutorial on coloring in Photoshop.

Another useful skill to perfect is creating the text balloon and lettering the webcomic. Comicraft’s Balloon Tales website is a useful place to start if you are looking for help here. In addition, Figma has several tutorials on comics art, including a good one on creating text balloons. Blambot‘s own Nate Piekos also does a good job of demonstrating the proper creation of a text balloon. This is really only a scratch at the surface of what is out there.

One final additional source of tutorial resources available for further exploring is hosted here by Applied Multimedia Training Centers.

As with many articles at Comixpedia we hope you read this as the start of something and not the sum total. In fact, we hope you will continue to send links to excellent tutorials to Comixpedia so that we can highlight them for readers and expand the usefulness of our links directory.

Xaviar Xerexes is the Publisher and Executive Editor for News.

More Details

Xaviar Xerexes

Wandering webcomic ronin. Created Comixpedia (2002-2005) and ComixTalk (2006-2012; 2016-?). Made a lot of unfinished comics and novels.