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7 Things I Learned Making My First Comic!


Spongebob trying to write an essay while mrs puff yells

Key & Zan - Stolen Introductions is now available! Here are some of the things I learned in comic making.


1. Motivation is just a matter of doing something.

I have an all-in-one laptop. If I don’t set it to tablet mode, no artwork will be done. When it’s in standard mode, I’m just scrolling the internet.


Also, you can’t always wait for the perfect song to play. I get so much done just with no music or just white noise. The time I spent looking for a good replayable song or a video essay that I wasn’t too distracted with wanting to see the images referenced or the YouTuber’s expressions could have gone to work on my art.


2. Have easily duplicable designs/characters. 

You’d think this one’s obvious, and I did all right until I got to the hair. Goshhhh, Zan’s ‘not the bayang’ bangs are inconsistent. Key’s box braid - cornrow - locs fusion at the top could’ve easily become the bane of my existence. I told myself I didn’t want to make intricate braids with rows, so I made the chunky rolls at the top. The problem is those aren’t consistent either.


I often stalled the comic-making process from not wanting to put in the time to render the characters and get everything right. Times I just didn’t want to open my art software program. Or, weeks spent on one page!


3. 3d models are a godsend but stiff!

SUPER helpful for positioning the poses or getting an idea for placements, but CSP (Clip Studio Paint) models can be wonky at the joints. And little things will be off like a pretzel twisted neck or too small hands. Still, the good outweighs the bad.


4. More thumbnails and multiple storyboards!

More of a personal note for me. I storyboarded the whole story from beginning to end, but I could’ve further divided the ideas into panels. For some of my storyboards, an image took up an entire page. Sometimes, I played with the panels and composition on the fly in CSP, which wasn't bad but added to the labor due to not having the composition outlined.


5. Keep it Simple

I actually succeeded with this one. For my first serious foray, I kept the cast to two characters (Key and Zan) mainly and four in all that physically appear (Key, Zan, Key’s dad, and Key’s Mom).


Simple plot. Key’s stuff goes missing, and she tries to find out who took it and why. Zan takes Key’s stuff but not for the reason she thinks. They become friends. The end.

In book form, there would probably be way more I’d explore. But with my current art ability, I kept the story short and the set design easy. There are three set designs: Key’s bedroom (where we spend 90% of the story), outside Key’s house, the family car, and a cameo of Key’s school.


Would it have been nice to have more locations, characters arcs, and subplots? Uh, do you need to toast a marshmallow to make a s'more? Yes, of course, but I think the narrow focus kept me on track. Even now, I see some areas I could’ve cut or edited for better cohesion.


From what I’ve read, comics are like writing your first story. It’s never going to be perfect. We do it because it’s fulfilling and to take the experience to the next project, which will be better.


6. Don’t try to do it all at once.

Even for finished pages, I’d go back and see something I need to change to make it flow better or something to add. Or a blemish needing correction. Many comic resources say this puts artists in an infinite loop of wanting to redo pages because their skill level has increased. Our eyes get tired. I tend to want to push through and finish a digital work, especially if I’m in an art-making mood.


“Ehh, that eyelash looks off, but I’m almost done, so who cares!😩”


But when I force myself to look at it later with fresh eyes, I’m less likely to compromise on things because I’m tired.


7. Zoom out

I was constantly teetering between I want excellence, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Because I work so zoomed in, the average person isn’t going to notice or care about the small things. I just hate seeing the bucket tool leave the corners uncolored ahhhhh. Or a loss in continuity. Ex: He’s supposed to be wearing a hat, but some scenes forget to include it.


8. Your First Comic (Story) is Just a Stepping Stone

I see a lot that could be better, but I’m pleased with this now. I finally completed a comic from start to finish! With a curious girl, an elf boy, and a missing cell phone. oh my!


I enjoy lighthearted stories, and I devour comics like candy. I hope someone enjoys this story as much as I did to create it.

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