Drafting a Webcomic: From Script to Sketch | Mary Marck | Skillshare

Drafting a Webcomic: From Script to Sketch

Mary Marck, Comic artist and writer

Drafting a Webcomic: From Script to Sketch

Mary Marck, Comic artist and writer

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8 Lessons (22m)
    • 1. Introduction and Project

    • 2. Tools and Materials

    • 3. Word Balloons and Panels

    • 4. Establishing Shots

    • 5. Characters

    • 6. Focal Points

    • 7. My Workflow

    • 8. Conclusion

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About This Class

Starting a comic can be very intimidating. But this class is all about how to quick your webcomic script into a rough draft!

These sketches won't be cute, but we'll cover the basics of page layout, composition, and so much more! This is primarily aimed towards artists who have never created a webcomic before, but comickers of all levels will find something of value. We'll talk about characters, establishing shots, tonal value, and other elements of a comic page. If you've been wondering how to turn your written word into drawing pictures, this is the class for you!

Grab your script, some pencils and paper, and let's start that webcomic!

Meet Your Teacher

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Mary Marck

Comic artist and writer


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1. Introduction and Project: e everyone I missed Mark and welcome to my skill share class on drafting a Web comic in this class, we're going to cover the basic fundamentals that go into creating a comic page. It's not really a how to draw class, but more of a how to arrange class. We'll talk about the elements that make up a comic page and how you can use those to create a visual narrative that will keep your readers engaged. Artists of all levels will find something useful in these lessons, but I think this class will be especially useful for new artists who have never drafted a Web comic before. Together we'll be drafting the page rubs for five page comic. These pages air gonna be very rough, very loose and very messy because they're basically just a map for penciled pages later on , our goals for the pages Air Simple established, the setting introduced the characters, illustrate the character interaction and conclude with a small cliffhanger. I recommend watching all of the lessons before drawing because each panel is gonna have its own role to play. It needs its own set of rules. If you watch all the lessons, it will help you be more aware of the possible options and all of the creative choices. Speaking of options and creative choices, let's go ahead to the next video and talk about tools and materials. 2. Tools and Materials: tools you're gonna need for this class are really pretty simple. It's basically whatever you already like to sketch with. So for me that would be graphite pencils, card stock paper made by Georgia Pacific. Get the 8.5 by 11 and then I cut it in half a couple of good erasers cause you'll be needing that a lot. And then sometimes I need post it notes or paper clips just to keep all the pages organized . Three. Other thing that might be handy. It's a good pencil sharpener. I always have that close by. These aren't absolute musts for you. You don't have to get the same things or the same brands, but I will put descriptions of all of them in the handout that you can download with this class. If you decide you wanna go digital instead of traditional, you are gonna need a tablet of some kind. It's really essential that your hand could do the natural movements of drawing and sketching, which you can't really do with a mouse. But something simple, like this little bamboo tablet should do just fine for software again. Whatever you're comfortable sketching with something that maybe has layers and pressure sensitivity, that'll be just perfect 3. Word Balloons and Panels: The first thing you need to consider when you're drafting a Web comic is actually the dialogue. It's not the pictures for me. My scripts are pretty rough. There generally just descriptive paragraphs. I don't actually write out the dialogue word for word, but in this stage of drafting, I do write it out. And the reason for this is that sentences and dialogue are not as flexible as art when it comes to editing. If you decide that an illustration is too big for a space, you can shrink it and it'll still work. But if you decide that there's not enough room for a full sentence, if you shrink the type, it gets hard to read. And obviously you can't just crop it. You need all of those letters, so I start off with the panels and the dialogue. Now here's some general rules that I follow. When I'm drafting my page, the word balloon should take up less than 50% of the page. You don't want just a wall of type for your readers to look at. Those are called novels in general. No more than three sentences in a single word balloon. More than three sentences is really a paragraph, and it's just hard to read. So try breaking up. An exception to this would be like a monologue or something that serving its exposition. Those could be a little bit longer. My kind of guide for creating where balloons and panels is to create a rough zigzag pattern between the word balloons. It's left to write, moving downwards for actual panels and pale shapes. This is something that there's no specific guide to on what shapes or what size go wear. But what I tried to keep in mind is the dialogue and how much space that character and their actions or facial expressions are gonna need. So it's really important it gets a bigger panel. If it's less important, it gets a smaller bail. So for your project, we're going to try and end on a cliffhanger. But cliffhangers don't necessarily have to be a giant moment of who done it. Quick fingers come in lots of sizes. So, for instance, if a page ends with hey, steve dot dot dot We wonder what they're gonna say to Steve if it ends with hasty. Can I ask you something when we wonder what the question is gonna be. And then if the person says, Hey, Steve, did you steal that money? Then we're waiting for Steve's reaction. And then if the last panel did you steal that money, we see Steve's face. We're waiting for his words. So those are just some examples of how you can create small to large clothes hangers on your in your comic. This is especially helpful if you're gonna update at intervals and you want your readers to come back the next day or the next week for the next episode or page or chapter. So for this class, my cliffhanger was gonna be a little bit bigger. But then I realized that my script kind of had too much happening for five pages. So I changed it to a small cliffhanger, which you'll see towards the end. Where is basically just the characters reaction. And we want to know you know, the same thing that she does, where trust is baffled as she is, and we want to know what happened. So I toned down the cliff hanger for this one. But basically the most important thing to get out of this is space for your dialogue in a panel flow that allows the readers I to flow naturally 4. Establishing Shots: the beginning of each comic chapter or episode needs to tell the reader two main things. Where does the story take place and win? This opening panel, usually kind of bigger than the rest, is called an establishing shot, and it really quickly gives your reader the setting for the story. Now, in my case, I'm using a fictional forest, so it's not something you're going to recognize easily because it doesn't exist. But in my imagination, I picture this being a forest that sort of wedged in between a mountain, a couple mountain ranges and the trees sort of creep up from the roots of the mountains. So for my drawing, I'm just quickly doodling that out these air, not super realistic trees or mountains. It's just address scribbles, but it's enough information so that when I go to pencil the page, I know what's most important and what has to be there to convey a clear image to the reader . Now, I would use a caption on this and actually put the words Eastern Forest. Unless you're doing a super recognizable cityscape like New York or San Francisco, you probably need a label so that your readers will recognise it and remember it later on with the second thing that this panel needs to dio is established. The time This may not seem like that big a deal, but if your story is gonna take place over time, over the course of a few days or months or even years, you need to make sure you show the passage of time. So alternating between daytime scenes and night time scenes is a really great way to make your readers feel like they've actually been with the characters for a while. In my case, I am just making a black night time sky, and that's all I need to do the next. Establishing pain. All I do and a few pages could be daylight or could be even later in the night. Time to show how long the night has been, and that's pretty much all that you're establishing panel needs. It doesn't have to be super complicated. Just tell your readers win and where just to show you how to establishing shot comes to life in the actual comic pages. I thought I'd show you this from another project that I'm working on. This basically show you it shows you the difference between the quick little sketches I do as a rough and then a file inked page. Okay, now that we have are setting completely established and we've given our readers a context, let's start putting in some characters. 5. Characters: thing is your character's first appearance in the comic. There are two shots that you really want to include a medium close up of their face so we can see who they are and a full or mostly full body shots. So we basically see their whole character design. Now these concomitant either order but the full body shot. It's kind of a good first impression, so I tend to put it first and then the close up is more personal, so I tend to put it second. But you kind of do whatever works for your story as you go through your rough draft, adding in your characters, you may need to work. Move your word balloons around. But it's important that your dialogue, where your word balloons flow with your characters and your art doesn't interrupt the flow . So again, I'm still sticking to that sort of zigzagging left to right pattern, even as the added characters, I'm still thinking about that, so it's basically still connecting the dots. I'm just adding more dots after your characters introduced, and we sort of know what they look like. The next thing I think about his body language now in a rough draft. I'm basically just doing like, fancy stick figures. I'm not getting super detailed. I'm not drawing their accessories, their costumes, really. I'm just focusing on their basic idea of their movements in a typical project. After this, I would go to a full size draft with pencils, and that's what I would use, maybe photo reference for the poses, and I would flesh out their costumes little bit more. As you're thinking about body language, feel free. Just stick with stick figures. You don't have to get super elaborate If it helps act out the dialogue yourself and know your own movements. You could even film yourself If you need a visual reference for me, I just try to focus on what they would be doing and how I can use that to connect one word balloon to the next. In general, I try to place the characters next to their own word balloons. Using off panel, where balloons were having really long tails on the water balloons adds a big gap between what's being said and who's saying it. So in general, I try to keep those together as much as possible because the rhythm is a little bit more smooth that way. It's also less confusing if you have more than one characters speaking, and you want to make sure that your readers Comptel, who is saying what So keep the weird balloons close to the character speaking? I think the biggest word of caution that I could give a new Web comic artist is to avoid too many talk show host panels, also known as just talking heads panels as basically, just where all you could see is their head panel after panel after panel, I like to use hand gestures, head angles and different camera angles to keep the rhythm from coming to monotonous or boring. I also sometimes use props or background elements as focal points, which I'll talk about in the next video. Another quick note about camera angles is, don't move the camera too much. It tends to suggest that the character is moving. So if your characters just staying and still don't move the camera angle too much, you could move up and down little bit, moved to the left and right a little bit. But for the most part, try to be consistent. Although there's no specific formula or guide to how many close up shots you can have and how many distant shots you can have. The formula that I tend to use that works really well for me is basically two or three medium shots, one close up, one distant shot and then a couple warm medium shots. It tends to give me the variety I need that keeps my pages from being too static or too boring. Basically, what you want to avoid is having too many similar panels in a row because then itself just becoming a rhythm, it becomes a predictable pattern. And it's just that visually as interesting once your characters Aaron take this time to go back to the start and re read the comic. The important thing is that you want to make sure that your eyes naturally flowing from word balloon to character toward balloon. You don't want your eye to automatically jump ahead or skip pages or skip important dialogue or movement. In the next lesson, we're gonna go more in depth with focal points and directing the viewer's eye 6. Focal Points: after you have your speech balloons and your characters in place, it's basically time to decide what's going to stand out and what's gonna sort of fade to the background for me in general, I want the character who is leading the story at the moment to stand forward. So after I have everything more or less placed, I'll go through with a heavier, darker pencil and make them stand out a little bit more. What I'm thinking about during this stage is actually thinking I'm gonna do later on. So basically, this is my way of making a little note for myself to say, to use heavier black outlines on this character and everything else in the panel and maybe even everything else on the page is gonna be lighter and thinner outlines. The other thing I like to do in the stage is really clearly defined. The panels. When I first started out, I draw them very lightly and loosely, and they're usually pretty sloppy. But during this stage, I'm really deciding what is gonna be light. What is gonna be dark. So I solidify the panels a bit more. You may notice that I'm just now failing in a couple pounds, and the reason for this is I'm not really sure what all of the panels need until I've decided the key moments. So, for example, this character's being introduced, and so I have a panel with her sort of popping out in front of the panel borders. That's the most important panel. Everything else that I draw now is gonna be a little less dominant. That panel of her popping out literally does pop out. It's the most intense heavy panel on the page. The next single focus on is the overall value. As I mentioned earlier, this is a nighttime scene, so I kind of already know it's gonna be dark. Which means if I want the characters to stand out, I need to pay attention to highlights and lighter values and use them strategically to make the character standout, especially that more close up shot of the main character. I want that to be the focal point, so that's where my life's values are going to go. As I'm working, I tend to just sort of shade in lightly and gradually build up the darks. I don't dive in with the blacks too early, on until I have some grey mid tones down. As I was drawing, I decided that the gutters, the areas in between the panels should be black to sort of enhance that nighttime effect. Since I knew those were gonna be heavy black and went ahead and drew those pretty dark, I went ahead and continued to finding the pails a little bit more. And I kind of realized that some of the characters were sort of fading back a little bit too much. So I went over them again with the pencil kind of added heavier, that outlines just to remind myself not to let those characters fade away too much. The next thing to work on was that establishing shot. It was too light for my taste, and it seemed to draw away from the main characters introductory panel. So I just went through an added some rough tones to all of the different elements of this panel. I don't want this panel to be totally dark because I want the effect of sort of being moonlit. There is gonna be some strong highlights, but overall I want it to be dark, so I just quickly sketch out some gray tones. The main thing I want is that one mountain comes forward in front of the other. There's a dark night sky, but none of it stands out quite as much as the second panel with the close up of the main character. Remember, these are not your finished comic pages. They don't have to be clean. You'll do a full scale pencil version before you go on to Yankee. So Trace. Make sure you make a note of any information you might need before you go on to pencilling . 7. My Workflow: it might seem like I have a clear order for all of the steps of drawing a Web comic page, but the reality is that it's not always that neat and clean. So I thought in this lesson I would include some footage of me just working on pages without really worrying about what order I did all the steps in. Now, for the most part, I did start with the board balloons and the characters, but was generally tend to be the things I want to figure out first. As I added in the other focal points and the values, I kind of just let everything get pushed and pulled as I saw fit. I wasn't tied down to my initial drafts or the initial way that I laid it out. I just kind of ran with whatever inspiration hit me at the moment. This particular page doesn't have a whole lot of dialogue, which, honestly, those air kind of my favorite pages to draw because I just like the characters do the acting. And this is where the characters discover that the strange noise they heard was actually just a dog, and so I just kind of wanted Teoh, slow down the pace a little bit and take out the dialogue and focus on the discovery of this cute little puppy in the woods background for most of these panels is basically the same. It's trees. And at this stage of the drafting, I'm not gonna bother drawing all of the trees and the leaves in the branches. So basically, I just indicated the trees by vertical scribbles. That's the only detail that I need. I know when I go in to do my pencils, I'll have to work more slowly and actually draw the trees. But for this draft, vertical scribbles will do the trick. E did make sure that the vertical scribbles that are basically the background of all these panels, um, kind of the gutter. I made sure to make that a darker black, but I would remember that on the outside of the panels is truly black and inside the panels with background the forest a slightly lighter tone. With this next page, it's a bit more dramatic. There's a lot more attention in this page, so I tried to reflect that in the way that I drew. I tried to work quickly and loosely and then that's something that I'm going to try and keep when I going to do the final pencils and the thinking. As you can see, I started laying down the tones before even had the rest of the characters in. That's basically because I wasn't sure what the characters would be doing in the next two panels, so I basically just cleared up what the first panel Waas. That kind of told me what I needed in the next two panels. So basically the top half of this page is a close up of each of the three characters in the story. And because it was three close ups in a row, I decided to make the next panel be something a little bit more distant. It's more like a waste up or like from the knees up. Then I wanted the last panel to have a big impact because there's a big moment. It's a big moment in the comic where character has a big realization. So I did another close up, but I'm allowing that pale to be mostly light. Everything else is gonna be dark, have trees, the background, But this pain I was gonna have a lot more lighter values for this last page. I was pretty aware that the last couple pages had a lot of, like medium close up shots, so I tried to work on getting a bit more of the characters in here instead of trust their faces and a little trick. If you feel like you're Penal doesn't have a room for your character. What I usually do is just let the character come out of the panel and overlap. It's a trick that has saved me a lot of times, so the panel doesn't really take up much space, but the character can take up a little bit more space than the panel does. So the only actual close up on this page is the dog, as the third character picks him up, magically disappears out of sight way. Cliffhanger on this is gonna be that the the first character, which is the main character of the comic, is just kind of shocked because this person has mysteriously disappeared with the dog once again for the background. I'm just adding vertical scribbles to indicate trees. I'm not worried about the details thistles just basically my notes for what I going to do? Find out pencils later on a full sized piece of paper, Right? So the last thing I done this page waas because of all my scribbling, the original drawings were character drawings were starting to disappear. So I went through with my four B pencil and really dark and everything up to clarify what needed to be bold and noticeable and what didn't have to be quiet. And that's pretty much my workflow. So as you can see, it's very loose. It's very scribbling in real time. These each page probably took me about 10 minutes or less. It's not something that you need to spend forever on. It's just a real quick map of all the visual elements for your common page. 8. Conclusion: starting a Web comic could be a very intimidating project. But I hope in this class I have shown you how it's possible to just die right in and not worry about how clean or how neat your drawings are. The important thing is that you just start getting your ideas jotted down on paper. I also wanted to show you comparison between my rough pages and a finished inked page. This is from my comic days on Eleanor. The most important thing for me with the rough is leaving room for the word balloons is that the text has plenty of room to be readable. I also draw my pages a lot larger than my ruff's, so I could get a lot more detail in with ANC work. But even though the rough zehr still very messy, I think it's pretty obvious to see how they help guide the final product. Make sure you check out the link below for a pdf that includes notes on each lesson as well as high resolution scans of my own rough pages. I'm so grateful that you chose to watch my class, and I hope that you continue to find it helpful as you go forward with your own Web comic, don't forget to let us all know how you're doing by posting your own rough pages in the projects below Thanks and happy drawing.