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Comic-making shortcuts

HippieVan at 12:00AM, Sept. 4, 2015

After a long comic-making hiatus, I’ve had several ideas for comics in the last little while. Working on the first one, though, I’ve realized that unless I get a heck of a lot faster at drawing it's unlikely that all of my ideas will ever come to fruition. For amateur comic artists, one of the toughest parts of webcomicing can be keeping a regular update schedule. With less time to spend perfecting their art, very few will become as efficient as the professional artists who churn out manga and superhero comics. Sometimes you just have to find ways to make your work faster.

Simple art featuring characters who can be drawn in a few lines can be a shortcut in and of itself, but not all comic stories are suited to that. Backgrounds are often the bane of the comic artists' existence, and so I used to use a recycled background pretty consistently in Izzy Wanders (see above!). Some artists may even recycle entire panels. I don't have a big issue with that practice, but I do always have an extra little bit of respect for artists who take the time to re-draw a scene even when it's identical to a previous panel. And of course there are the little things you can do to save time, like keeping a colour palette handy in photoshop.

What shortcuts do you use, or have you used to make your work more efficient? Are there any shortcuts that you consider “cheating,” or that you think compromise the artist's work?


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cdmalcolm1 at 7:19PM, Sept. 7, 2015

Now, I do cheat on my backgrounds sometimes. I use pictures and convert them to pencil art. Then I go in and ink the newly created pencils from the photo. ( go to YouTube and search "photos to pencils in Photoshop." ) now what I did was create an action for turning a photo to pencils. (It's a lot of steps.) I don't do this for paying jobs or commissions. I would however look at the photo and redraw everything for commissions. So basically, I use actions to cut out setup for pages. I still to this day look for coloring short cuts and I only found one that really works for me. But to be honest, layout flats is the biggest pain in the @$$ for me.

cdmalcolm1 at 7:05PM, Sept. 7, 2015

Actions in Photoshop helps cut out setting up your pages. What I do to create bubbles speeches. For lettering: create an action called "bubbles" ( it's the bubbles for speech.) press record. Next, create new layer. Click 'FX' box at the bottom of the layers list. It opens a new window with layer options. Select "stroke". Then near the top, a drop down menu with say, "outside", "center", "inside". Select "center". Set your stroke line to "5" pixels thick. Next, Click ok. Finally select the color black as your forground color and press stop record in the action. Now what this does is surround any mark you make with an even stroke all around. I use the marcee circle and fill it with white. Instant bubble. Then I use the pen tool to make the tail to the speaker and right click to "fill" with the foreground color. Now I have my setup forever.

cdmalcolm1 at 6:35PM, Sept. 7, 2015

As I'm reading this, and read everyone's comments, finding shortcuts is always helpful if you know how not to make it look like you took a shortcut in creating a comic. First off, creators are doing the job of up to 6 people. The writer, pencilier, inker, colorist, letter and editor. What I try to do is find shortcuts in lettering, writing, coloring and completed lineart. I cut out detail pencils by just shaping everything out including the panels layout. Once is see a very basic pencils, I jump on the inks. Next is Layouts and layer setups in Photoshop. I use actions. How it works. I create an action and call it "pre-comic setup" & press record. Create a pencils layer and lower the opacity to 25%. Create A color layer with no changes. And finally, create an ink layer and change my filter to Multiply. Then stop recording. Now I have that action setup for every page I make by simply pressing 'play' in the action you select.

Banes at 10:03AM, Sept. 7, 2015

It's that '"cheap - good - fast", pick two' thing, right?

SaraKpn at 7:28PM, Sept. 6, 2015

Though if you make awesome art, people are willing to wait longer.

Banes at 6:49PM, Sept. 6, 2015

I go for the shortcuts generally...but no pie tossing from here. You guys make a very good point (I remember you sayin it before). Y'aint wrong...

Abt_Nihil at 2:20PM, Sept. 6, 2015

I agree completely with Ironscarf (this way, I get to keep the pie).

usedbooks at 5:50PM, Sept. 5, 2015

Another other thought... I will make blue prints, maps, and schematics before I start a story arc. It helps me keep the setting consistent without having to sift through pages to find consistency. I try to keep character references handy too. A lot of time can be wasted trying to keep a story, setting, color scheme, etc. straight. Making references for yourself is super helpful especially once you've been working on a story for a couple years. (Although when you have, you really are not good at this speed/efficiency thing. :P )

usedbooks at 5:46PM, Sept. 5, 2015

One other thought, I couldn't copy-paste backgrounds if I wanted to because I try to avoid using the same angle for two panels in a row. If I do it's usually small panels fr effect (like showing a sudden or minute change).

Ironscarf at 6:47AM, Sept. 5, 2015

What I will say is, every copy/paste could be a little lost opportunity to hone your style to the point where you can say all you need with a few confident strokes, in less time than it takes to position that copy. I'm now going to duck down while you all throw pies in my direction!

Ironscarf at 6:43AM, Sept. 5, 2015

The only time I re-use anything would be on individual background elements, like the beer pump clip in my latest stip, or certain paintings on a drawing room wall, that sort of thing. I create them as seperate elements and once the background is drawn I'll drop them in and bend them to the correct perspective. This doesn't really save me much time and I only do it because I enjoy a bit of design sometimes. Even then I have to resist re-making them each time because they could've been done so much better. Time saving is not my strong point!

VinoMas at 9:14AM, Sept. 4, 2015

All I so is many shortcuts. I'll draw a character, cut it out and reuse it over and over again. All of my drawings are actually photos in a templated background. Funny enough, it all still takes a lot of work! lol

usedbooks at 7:12AM, Sept. 4, 2015

I also have a few "resource" files saved for use in editing. A color palette and some textures. Including scans of pencil rubbings in case I seriously screwed up my handdrawn art and need to fake it.

usedbooks at 7:11AM, Sept. 4, 2015

I found one shortcut a couple years ago, as suggested by my DD friend Locoma. It adds a step to the process but makes everything much smoother. I draw a full-size draft page with rough gestures and not caring an iota about presentation, just getting all the angles, expressions, and perspectives right. Then I use a clear plastic clipboard to trace the entire thing (in polished form) onto the finished page. It makes for less erasing, no slow, tedious work, and the final image requires far less digital editing. (It also makes the art more expressive, imo, because the first draft is drawn so freely and uninhibited.)

usedbooks at 7:05AM, Sept. 4, 2015

I feel like digital art provides more opportunity for shortcuts than traditional (non-digital art). The strip I used to make was digital, and copy-paste was my friend, especially for backgrounds. But UB is handdrawn, essentially in final form and then edited and colored digitally. The couple times I've used copy-paste were for effect, not for saving time.

Banes at 6:52AM, Sept. 4, 2015

5. I hesitate to reveal this for some reason, but digitally scribbling in a rough background, with various colors and shapes, after everything else is on the page...and then blurring the background works pretty well when no specific background is needed...and it's fast and fun, too.

Banes at 6:48AM, Sept. 4, 2015

4. I've found it helps to figure out my panel borders, dialogue, and scribble in very rough characters before drawing. So the whole thing is set up on the computer before I pull out the paper and start drawing.

Banes at 6:47AM, Sept. 4, 2015

3. I often copy/paste a character, but then make several small alterations in the expression, mouth, and even the line work in general, to make it look non-identical.

Banes at 6:46AM, Sept. 4, 2015

2. If I could stay on target and use any free time to build a library of EXTRAS (as in, non-series regular, random people), that would be great. There are a few times I've wanted a crowd of people but am short on time. It would be awesome to just drop a pre-existing crowd scene in, with maybe a few alterations/specific characters/recoloring.

Banes at 6:42AM, Sept. 4, 2015

1. Great topic! Some comics seem to work better with copy-pasted panels, while some don't. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of several character pics, by reusing them, particularly if the character is just standing there, not involved in the main action. That's a HUGE time saver. I would like to have more character drawings I'm happy with. Only a few are usable. Slowly putting a library together, of the main cast in various angles, would speed things up more and more.

KimLuster at 5:04AM, Sept. 4, 2015

Oooo this is a good one! I war between finding shortcuts vs. trying to do it well regardless of time!! So I don't have a frickin' clue - but I look forward to suggestions!

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