Ever since I was fourteen I’ve always wanted to become a comic book artist. Throughout my childhood I was always considered a good artist. In High School I started to take my craft seriously and was introduced to a book, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. For a kid who wanted to draw comics that book was a blessing. I still use it today, but over the years my need for information on the subject grew. And so did my collection of How To Draw books.
In fact I have a pretty huge collection of How To Draw books. From the How to Draw Manga series and various How to Draw the Human Figure books. To the must haves by Will Eisner and Scott McCloud that really break down the sequential process into more detail. However all these years of reading, studying, practicing, and the rare occasion of actually making something, I realized there was something missing. How to put it all together.
Now don’t get me wrong. All the books I mentioned are useful tools to have. No artist ever has enough information. For years though I felt that something was missing. It wasn’t about how to draw figures, how to write stories, or how to display them. It was about putting all of that together in one process. This might be confusing so I’ll elaborate. Most of us will have a story and characters. From there we make thumbnails to get an idea of what it will look like. When we’re satisfied, we draw it out either digitally or traditionally, and with a little luck we even finish it.
What I’ve discovered is that every book I’ve read skips the most important process of making a comic book. Can you guess which part it is? It’s the thumbnails and overall structure of the book. You might be thinking that I’m wrong. That some books and experts will say make two or three different thumbnail sketches and pick out the best one. That sure does sound like a good idea, but that’s not giving us too much information on the process.
Now if that sounds confusing it should. Because it took me years to discover what I was doing wrong every time I sat down to make a comic book. I wasn’t balancing between my artwork and my writing. As we all know comic books are a combination of those two. Any time you rely heavily on one over the other, you run the risk of making a bad comic book. I say risk, because you can make something good relying on just artwork or just the writing. However doing it like that creates inconsistency. And if you’re like me and want to be a creator, someone who does both writing and drawing, then you’ll need to be able to consistently balance the two mediums every time and all the time.
My method of making a comic book breaks down the thumbnail process using both writing and drawing to create structure and consistency. With that consistency you can quickly start a new project up once one is finished. Thus putting more and more titles under your belt. And the more comic books you make, the better you’ll get at making them. If you’re still confused let me explain what I’m talking about.
If you’re reading this you’re probably an artist. So let’s talk about how we as artists draw people. Well we start with a light sketch of a person in a pose. Then go back over it to make sure everything is in proportion. And finally when we’re happy with how it looks proportionally, we finish it up with the detail. In other words, we have a process of consistency we follow when drawing people. Well, we need that for making a comic book as well.
Most of us take a story and characters, and do thumbnails. That in itself is a process, but it’s missing one thing. The proportions. When we draw a person we use proportions to make sure a hand isn’t too small, an arm isn’t too long, or the features of the face are in the right place. Our comic book needs proportions as well. Those proportions play a role in the thumbnail stage. And if they aren’t done correctly we can end up with a comic book that’s out of proportion. Does it make sense now? Good, because learning how to make a comic book in proportion isn’t that hard.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve read a lot of How To books and everything I’m going to describe was found in them. Not all in one book, but in pieces. One piece of information would be in one book, and another piece in some other book. Overall I found everything I was looking for was in about six different books and various online resources. Books and tutorials that varied from both manga and western styles. So the information I’m about to teach covers not only all styles of comic books, but all genres as well.
My discovery made me dig deeper on where to truly start with this method and all signs led to one place. The One-Shot. The One-Shot is probably the hardest thing to make, but it’s a necessity no matter what style, manga or western, you decide to use. There’s no way around it, if you want to make it as a comic book artist, writer, or creator you have to make One-Shots. And in most cases, like me, a lot of them. So let’s take that first step in making a comic book in proportion and lets talk about the One-Shot in more detail.