How Web Comics Work

Creating a Web Comic

Web and print cartoonists share a lot in common. Most of the terms used in Web comics come from the world of print comics. Press play below to see the process illustrated.

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Here's the typical process for most Web cartoonists:

  • Sketching: In this phase, the artist makes a rough sketch and can experiment with everything from characters' expressions to the perspective of the strip (what would be the camera angle in a movie or television show). When the artist is satisfied with the sketch, he or she can move on to the next phase. For some artists, this includes using a scanner to convert the image into a digital file. Other artists move on to the next phase before scanning artwork.
  • Inking: Next, the cartoonist finalizes the art for his or her comic by inking it. For artists who scan their sketches, this is done by using image editing software. The artist traces over the sketch, replacing the rough drawings with what will be the final art. At the end of this phase, the artist deletes the sketched art from the comic, leaving only the inked image. Artists who ink their strips on paper and then scan them in follow the same process as print cartoonists. They use ink over a sketched drawing to finalize the comic, then scan it. Artists often will sketch using blue pencils because most scanners won't pick it up, so there's no need to erase sketch marks from a finished inked drawing.
  • Coloring: If the cartoonist wants a colored Web comic, the next step is coloring. While there's nothing stopping an artist from coloring a comic by hand and then scanning it, most Web cartoonists prefer to use image editing software to color strips. With the right software, an artist can add complex shading effects that would be difficult to replicate by hand. It's also easier for an artist to keep colors consistent using image editing software.
  • Lettering: In the last step, the cartoonist adds words to his or her comic. A few cartoonists hand-letter their comic strips, meaning they write in each word by hand. The artists then ink over the letters just as they would the sketched drawings, then they scan the finished artwork. Other artists prefer inserting text after converting the drawing into a digital image. For one thing, it's easy to edit text this way. An artist can add or delete words, change the phrasing of a sentence to put more emphasis on the right words or even replace one joke with another.

With print comics, a mistake lasts forever -- or at least until the next reprint. With Web comics, artists may have the option of fixing a mistake without having to completely recreate the comic.

Now that we know a little about the process, let's take a look at some of the tools artists use on the next page.