Want To Learn How To Make Comics? Here's a Self-Learning Path

A question came up on an online forum, asking how can one begin to learn how to make comics, given very little knowledge in both writing and art. I decided to write my answer as a blog post.

I've been drawing comics on and off for more than 20 years, but I've been drawing far longer than that. I'm primarily self-taught, and had regarded drawing purely as a hobby. As far as the writing goes, I started writing professionally by working in corporate public relations.

Even though I've been writing and drawing for a very long time, I was only able to make my first comic book as both writer and artist at 31 years old. Now that I've gained success as a comics creator, I would sometimes wonder how I should have done things differently.

Is there a method, a "curriculum," that one could follow to learn how to make comics?

Sure, there are tons of books out there about how to make comics, and they cover a lot of topics. However, a lot of them don't look at progression, or the step-by-step way of learning for someone who's starting from scratch.

So I tried to think of something on my own.

With all the things I know now, this is what I would tell my younger self. These are the subjects to learn over six year-period--the first four will be mostly about education, the next two will be mostly about application. Though I don't give much detail, it gives specific areas of focus. For most of these subjects, there are a lot of free and for-pay books and online tutorials available.

Year One

Form Drawing: Building, Slicing, Contouring
Light and Shadow
Materials Drawing (fabrics, stone, metal, etc.)

For Writing: Journaling
For Marketing: Establish relationships online and offline

At the end of Year One, you should be able to draw a variety of forms and materials with confidence, as well as render them in inks.

Being able to do this quickly and confidently sets you up for greatness. :-)

Now, you might ask, "Isn't one year too long?" It's only as long or as short as how much work and practice you put into it. This is foundational--your ability to draw and ink simple and complex forms with speed and confidence will make the rest of the journey easier. Plus, form drawing is crucial in learning to draw everything else.

A very quick drawing. By combining and contouring basic forms, you can already draw a lot.

Year Two

Perspective Drawing: one-point, two-point, three-point
Landscape / Nature Drawing
Art and Comics Composition

For Writing: Journaling
For Marketing: Build relationships

You've spent a year drawing all sorts of forms in different configurations, so you're now ready to tackle placing those forms in perspective. Not only that, you'll also be moving towards drawing locations in perspective--interiors, exteriors, and landscapes. You'll also dig into the topic of artistic composition, or how to arrange elements that results in an aesthetically pleasing drawing.

At the end of Year Two, you should be able to draw a variety of locations confidently using different perspective views. You should also be able to create artwork/comics that follow sound composition principles.

Year Three

Cartooning: Character Design and Expression
Color Theory and Basic Digital Coloring

For Writing: Storycraft: the Principles of Story
For Marketing: Build Relationships

At the end of Year Three, you should be able to create your own unique and expressive cartoon characters. You should also be able to do basic digital coloring based on your knowledge of color theory.

Year Four

Human Anatomy
Online Marketing / Content Marketing
Print and Web Production

For Writing: Scene Writing
For Marketing: Build Relationships

At the end of Year Four, you should be able to create unique and expressive characters that follow human proportions. You should also have gained working knowledge of online marketing principles and techniques, as well as how to create artwork for print and online.

Years Five through Six

Consolidation / Styling / Fine-Tuning of Drawing Knowledge through single plates and short comics (three to six finished plates a month)

For Writing: Writing complete stories + script for your first graphic novel
For Marketing: Create "official" online channels for your work

Years Seven

Make your first graphic novel.


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