Casual consumers of comic books round the world often haven’t any idea of the work involved in producing the entertainment they enjoy. Effort and workload aside, merely the dimensions of the team required for a thought to manifest can boggle the mind. Dozens of individuals handle specialized roles from writer to penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, and editor. Printers are needed to supply the physical copies and a distribution network is required for those comics to finish up in your local comic shop.
Or maybe the comic in question is of a replacement breed — a webcomic — and most of the roles are handled by one person.
This article is meant to be a fast reference for the foremost common methods of comic creation, both from the professional side of things also as how those methods scale when applied to smaller projects.
Breaking Down the method
Comics undergo several stages from conception to completion. Read over this sequence to familiarize yourself with the overall components of comic creation, after which point i will be able to address a couple of elements in greater detail.
Stage 1: Ideation/Concept
this is often the start line of the project. to make an excellent comic you would like to first start with an excellent idea.
The central concept for a comic book can come from anyone, but is usually developed off of a writer or editor’s idea for a storyline.
Stage 2: Plot Development
the essential concept for the comic is expanded by the author into a workable story outline.
All of the story elements are arranged considerately for pacing and character development.
consider this because the drawing board for a way the story unfolds.
Stage 3: Script
the author , using the plot outline as a guide, writes the script for the comic.
There are two common methods for scripting a comic book , the Marvel Method (plot style) and full script (sometimes mentioned as “DC style”). i will be able to explain the difference between the 2 during a bit.
apart from tweaks and edits, this is often the writer’s primary window for determining the story. The script is that the basis for everything that follows.
In certain cases a writer may forgo this stage and instead give verbal plot notes to the artist, who develops the visual storytelling through thumbnails.
Stage 4: Art Production
Following the script-writing stage, multiple artists produce the comic based off of the writer’s script.
Pencilling happens first, followed by inking and eventually coloring of the comic.
These steps are sometimes done digitally, in whole or partially .
the dimensions of the art team on a comic book can vary greatly. In some cases, one creator will handle all aspects of art by themselves.
Throughout this process, the editor of the comic facilitates the varied contributors and oversees the standard of the merchandise .
Stage 4a: Pencils
The penciller is usually viewed because the primary contributing artist and determines the design of the comic. This person lays down the bottom drawing upon which all further art builds.
He or she starts by sketching thumbnails (practice panel compositions) from the script provided by the author .
After thumbnails are approved, the penciller illustrates the complete comic in pencil.
Some pencillers skip the thumbnailing stage and compute their panel compositions directly on the page.
the arrival of digital comic production affords artists the choice of pencilling within a program like Photoshop.
Stage 4b: Inks
The inker is liable for taking the rough pencils provided by the penciller and using them as a guide to supply the ultimate lineart of the comic in ink.
quite simply “tracing” the pencils, an inker makes choices based off of which lines are necessary for the finished image and may correct earlier problems within the pencilling phase.
Inkers use a spread of subtle techniques to affect light and shadow during a composition.
Some artists skip pencilling altogether and attract ink.
Stage 4c: Colors
the ultimate lineart of the comic is handed off to the colorist who uses a computer (in most cases) to paint the black and white images.
the thought for this stage is that the colours not compete with the lineart. Instead they ought to compliment or enhance it.
Comics intended to be black and white skip this step.
Stage 5: Letters
After the comic art is complete a letterer inserts dialogue balloons/boxes into the panels of the comic and places all of the text.
From the thumbnail stage onward, consideration is taken for correct placement of dialog balloons in order that they don’t compete with the composition or cover important art.
Letterers generally work on a computer although some letter by hand.
Stage 6: Editorial
While active throughout the comic-creation process, at this phase the comic’s editor gives it a final minute check-over so as to repair or resolve any remaining content issues before publication.
Digital comics, including webcomics, might not have an editor or be intended for release in print. due to this some or all of the subsequent steps could also be combined or skipped.
Stage 7: Printing
If the comic is being sold as a physical product, it’s submitted to a printer where a particular number of copies are printed based off of sales estimates.
This process can take several weeks counting on the dimensions of the order.
Numerous printers take small orders. Self-published comics are often financed through personal investment or fundraising through means like Kickstarter.
If your budget is particularly limited you’ll photocopy your comic at a business that gives printing services. FedEx is one such example.
Stage 8: Marketing
Marketing a comic book is an ongoing process that happens parallel to the assembly of the comic.
Marketing takes many forms: press releases sent to media outlets, advertisements (both print and web), sending advance copies to the media, and coverage on the convention circuit.
As a solo creator, marketing may be a different animal. Social media are often wielded to locate potential audiences for your comic. If you remain active and maintain a presence on the online , you’ll gradually attract interest.
Stage 9: Distribution
Once the initial order of your comic is printed, it must be delivered in how to the buying public.
Distributors — Diamond Comics primarily — have a network in situ for shipping comics to local retailers throughout the us (the downside is you would like to sell-through quickly).
There are alternative methods of distribution, like conventions or direct sales online (through services like Comixology).
For DIYers, the budget and scope of the comic determines the distribution needs.
Those are the essential steps for comic creation but times are changing. The makeup and process of an ingenious team varies wildly between traditional print comics and webcomics (or zines). I’ll explain how in only a moment , but first…
Full Script Versus Plot Script (Marvel Style)
There are two major schools of thought regarding how a writer prepares a script for the penciller to use in creating a comic book . The first, “full script style,” is traditionally how people consider movie or television scripts. They lay out all of the descriptions of the action fully detail, often with detailed breakdowns of what action occurs panel-to-panel. this is often a really thorough sort of script-writing that leaves little ambiguity for the artist.
Marvel-style scripting (also referred to as plot script style) may be a little different. within the 1960s, Stan Lee developed this method in conjunction together with his various collaborators as how of allowing one writer to juggle multiple comics at a time. The script touches only on the essential beats of plot and action, leaving much of the interpretation of what occurs on the page to the penciller. Then, after the art is completed, the author determines the dialog and text for the finished page.
The pros and cons of every sort of scripting are fairly straightforward. If you’re collaborating with an artist for the primary time as a writer, or are concerned that your vision might not be clearly communicated with a plot-style script, choose a full script. In most instances it’s the simplest choice. If you’re juggling multiple projects and wish to figure quickly, or trust your artist to collaborate fully on storytelling decisions, consider a plot script. All that matters is that you simply choose a method of script that communicates your vision clearly through all phases of development.
Let’s say you’re not developing a mainstream print comic. What then?
Generally speaking, most of the steps involved in producing a webcomic or something creator-driven are an equivalent as making a print comic for an enormous publisher. The difference is that the dimensions of the team is far , much smaller. As an immediate consequence of this you’ll need to fill multiple specialized roles with fewer people.
One common alternative to the mainstream method is that the writer/artist duo. It’s largely an equivalent breakdown except the artist handles both pencilling and inking duties, and in some rare cases could be liable for coloring the comic also . Typically a letterer assists the duo (as well as a colorist if the first artist doesn’t color). If the comic is destined for print there’s generally an editor involved, with printing/marketing/distribution all handled similarly to mainstream print comics. If the comic is destined for the online , the duo likely acts as its own editor and either submits the comic to a 3rd party (like Comixology or Thrillbent) to be distributed or hosts the comic themselves on a privately-managed website.
Some creators work alone — handling the script, art, and distribution/promotion by themselves. they’ll seek the recommendation of trusted friends but largely develop their comic alone. this manner of working can obviously be a serious challenge but affords the best creative freedom of all of the methods covered during this article. If you are feeling capable of doing all of the work yourself and have the discipline, consider giving this method a try.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of how you select to tackle your project, the core sequence remains an equivalent . Starting with the initial concept, develop a plot outline followed by a script. Create the art for the comic based off of this script by drawing in pencil, then inking, and eventually adding color (if your comic is in color). Add dialog and captions to the finished artwork during a way that respects the established visual flow. counting on the dimensions of the team involved you’ll be ready to skip or combine certain steps if most are comfortable with working during a more freeform manner. for instance , as a writer, maybe you trust the artist you’re employed with to compose panels without tons of oversight. If that’s the case, the artist might skip the thumbnail stage and move on to pencilling the page.
Ultimately, choose the tactic of manufacturing your comic that works best for you and your team.