Disclaimer: A bit of ranting on the first part but it’s very important. This will save you and your chosen artist from some heartaches and angry discussions if you get this right.
I actually wrote this article a year ago for Upwork but I guess they’re so nice to remove it (sarcasm intended… I’m really pissed off because they did that without even notifying me.) So now no more (important) articles for anyone to post that they would just end up removing later…
This post is dedicated to all authors who are planning to write and make their own comics with a help of an artist. Of course a comic is largely 70% visual but we all know an image is nothing without a good story… but how a good write up is something I would leave for the fellow authors to write about because I’m no writer. What this is about is when an author decides to make a visual representation of his work, like a book illustration or comics/manga.
A word of advice: If you want your comics to be good, great, hire a professional artist. And if you want to do that be sure you are prepared to pay, in money of course. A real professional artist dedicates his time and effort to work on any piece requested, consuming also his resources like internet, electricity and, yes, he also eats, drinks, takes a bath and sleep. Like any other profession that means you have to pay for his/her services. I have encountered so many prospects that says:
“My story is bad-ass and if we can pull this off you’ll get 50% of the royalty.”
“This is good portfolio for you. And I’ll even recommend you to people I know if you do this for free.” – And then what!? These people would also ask to have their pieces worked on for free as well?
“I’ll advertise for you.” – I can do that, thank you very much. Not even Mc Donalds can convince me to eat there everyday
“I have limited budget… can I pay you later?” – You know what? Come back to me later when you have the money. Working on your piece for a pay later won’t feed me. It’s like asking Burger King to feed you and then you pay a year later…
So basically, though this is not included in the list but the MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU NEED TO PREPARE is MONEY TO PAY YOUR ARTIST
With that said, if you’re still reading thru this part, you probably already have that settled on your side and 100% ready. Let’s make this short and informative as much as possible.
Things you need to prepare by priority – Author Side
- Character Descriptions/Profile – this will include all of your characters information for the artist to be able to properly convey them in visual form: like what they look, how they behave, etc. In turned using this information would help the artist prepare the design sheets. This is very important for main and important side characters in the story.
This is normally how a Character Description looks like:
Character Name: xxxx xxxx Age: xx Race: xx (can be real world eg. American, Japanese... or fiction eg. elf, dwarf) Height: xx Body Type: (eg. petite, thin, fat... we don't really need the weight unless it's integral part in the story) Hair: (color and style) Eyes: (shape, color) Skin: (color) Special Features: (can be about scars, tattoos, etc...) Fashion: What kind of fashion the character usually wears. Some reference pictures can help you and the artist make this right. Personality: (a short description of the character's personality will help the artist work on the expressions. eg. aggressive, cool, patient, hot-headed.
- Summary of the Story – Having an idea of how the story will unfold would help the artist get a good grasp of what kind of approach he would go for. Indicating the genre is 1 thing and a paragraph of how things happen is good enough summary.
- Converted Script for Comics – You can’t expect the artist to do that for you! You can’t make him/her read the whole thing as writing for comics is different from a novel. If you’re not quite familiar with how here is a sample template and a sample for one page so you can convert it on your own (which will probably save you money) or ask a fellow writer who is familiar to do it for you. (and if you do, please pay him)
Page 01 Panel 1 [scene description] Character 1: *dialogue Character 2: *dialogue SFX: *if any Panel 2 [scene description] Character 1: *dialogue Character 2: *dialogue SFX: *if any I recommend not having more than 6 panels each page. There are some scenes that I recommend 1 whole panel dedicated for intense scenes or 2 that really depends. If you need help on which panel can be highlight with bigger panels and which can be small I can do that for you when I have the script reviewed
Sample Comic Script
Page 01 Panel 1 [CU of Stallone] Stallone: I'm sorry... I really am... Mother: You should be! SFX: *sound of mother's hand slamming the table Panel 2 [Mother walks near the window to look outside at the other children. Stallone is crying] Mother: Look at them! You should have been playing with them right now but here you are! If you had finished your studies first then it would have already been over by now. Stallone: *sniff *sniff (crying)
Things you need to prepare by priority – Artist Side
This is very important regardless which artist you choose to do which one. You will be commissioning an artist to work on these and working around it will not only make things not only complicated and slow things down…. but if in the event your hired artist decided to call it quits, for reason let’s say, school? It will be easier to pick things up.
Unfortunately I encounter this all the time. People hiring young, student artist to do work for less budget and with less preparation (most skip these materials) that eventually leave them hanging because it’s just a side job. If you want this done seriously and professionally then hire a professional, simple as that. Asking other artist to comply with the art style of the previous one is unlikely to happen and conformed… it is bound to look a little different. So if you want it to be consistent then make sure that you take care of your artist just as much as he cares for your work.
Now on to the stuff. The things you need are:
- Character/Prop Design Sheet – Very important for you main and side characters that always appear in the comics. You and the artist will use this as reference sheet as you work on to story page by page. If, like I said before, the comics needs to change artist for reasons, then fret not about your characters having to wear different clothes and hair looking different as this will be their guide. Of course these sheets are not free. (Depending on the artist how much each character would cost)
- Rough Draft/Storyboard Sketch of the Comics based on Script – Now on to the first phase of the comics! It’s the rough pencils of your pages, where layout is decided, how the lettering (dialogue and sfx) would go about each panel, and the scenes are sketched. On a personal note: I have 2 clients that does the storyboard and it’s very helpful. It doesn’t have to look well drawn (as that would be your artist’s job.), it can be just stick figured with character names on them. But your artist can do this for you and can be included in page rates rather than separate.
And that’s it! If you have all of this prepared then working on your comics would be easy, more efficient and more accurate, in all technical and creative sense.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to drop me a comment and I’ll be sure to help you out as much as possible.