Over the past several years, as we’ve all spent an increasingly immense amount of time on the internet, web comics have exploded in popularity. It makes sense: They’re quicker to read than traditional comic books, they’re easy to digest, and they often cover universal themes that everyone can relate to, even if the characters themselves look nothing like their readers.

You may have even considered creating your own web comics online, but aren’t sure how to get started. Luckily, it couldn’t be easier to set yourself up for success, with plenty of help all across the World Wide Web. Here’s a crash course on how to create a web comic.

Top Web Comics

Before you get to work creating your own masterpieces, you’re probably wondering what the best web comics online look like and why readers love them so much. There are quite a few beloved examples all over the internet, but here are just a smattering of what readers gravitate toward.

Funny Web Comics

Yes, it’s a little on the Not Safe For Work side, but if you’re looking for a funny web comic to serve as creative inspiration, look no further than Explosm’s Cyanide and Happiness. The illustrations are created by a rotating group of different cartoonists every day, but they’re all hilarious, clever, and absolutely worth taking a look at. 

Internet Humor/Online Web Comics

Sometimes the best route to go with an online web comic is a more meta one, like Chris McCoy famously does in his Safely Endangered series. Some of his cartoons make absolutely no sense in the best way (and feature protagonists who are dogs, dragons, and more), but that’s why his fans come back day after day: to see the fabulous absurdity he creates. The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating web comics, and McCoy’s cartoons are a reminder of that.

Slice-of-Life Web Comics

No one has mastered the art of slice-of-life web comics like Jeph Jacques, who’s well on his way to publishing his 5,000th post in his series Questionable Content, which he started all the back in 2003. His graphics are simple and the storylines are straightforward, but all of them are fun observations of how various characters deal with life, relationships, and more. The series has changed over time, but its accessible core vibe has remained the same.

Learn About the Web Comic Process

Creating Webcomics: From Sketches to Final Comic

How to Make a Web Comic

So, you’ve lurked around the internet and seen what all of these cartoonists are up to. But how do you actually make a web comic? Is there some kind of web comic maker that makes everything easier? Let’s answer all of those questions.

1. Getting Started: Brainstorming Your Theme

Before you dive into finding the right software to create a web comic, one of the most important things you need to do is figure out the theme of your work and who you’d like your characters to be. 

In a way, this is a similar process to what you’d do if you were working on any other kind of creative writing project:

  • What is the purpose of your work? Are you trying to make people laugh, make them think, or just generally entertain them? If you don’t have an exact theme in mind, it’s harder to do a gut check with every idea you have and every comic you create to ensure that there’s a common throughline. Readers like predictability; they want to know what they’re going to get when they see your cartoons regularly.
  • What’s the setting of your web comic? Does it take place in a physical space like home, school, or work, or is it a cartoon that exists without a specific setting in mind?
  • Who are the main characters? What are the traits that drive them the most in their lives, what are their major flaws, and what are their goals? How do they interact with each other? How does who they are fit into the larger overall theme of your illustrations?

Cartoonist Sarah Andersen of Sarah’s Scribbles highlights the importance of making time for character development in her introductory web comic class. “Take a moment and think a little bit about your character before you start drawing them,” she says. “Don’t try to make a character that you think other people will like. Think of something that feels like a good representation of yourself and your ideas.”

2. Choose a Topic 

What type of scene should you draw first? Here are a few ideas to get going.

Describe a Day at Work or School

Slice-of-like comics are so popular on the internet because of their universality. Almost everybody’s dealt with classroom bullies or a terrible boss at some point in their lives, so it’s easy to create scenarios that can ring true for people from all walks of life.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by what you could create for various comics, but basic premises that take place at work and school are not only simpler for beginners, they’re also among the most well-followed cartoons out there.

Write a Love Story

Ever noticed that so many traditional works like Archie Comics as well as tons of well-known newer releases are centered on romance, love triangles, and dating? That’s not by accident. People love a happy ending and the very long journey to get there. Plus, much like slice-of-life cartoons, love stories are often much more accessible to larger audiences who can relate to the trials and tribulations of falling for someone.

Not to mention, many readers get invested in certain pairings over a long period of time, which can create opportunities for spinoffs or side storylines of their own. The possibilities are truly endless!

Get Random

If you think about it, a traditional comic like Garfield is popular because the exchanges between the eponymous cat Garfield and his human owner Jon Arbuckle are so strange that they border on absurd. 

While it may feel like these types of web comics might be easier than ones that require more storylines and character development, striking that balance of existentialism is actually a more difficult skill set. Nonetheless, it’s still an incredibly fun way to go with your creations.

Need a little help? Cartoonist Ryan Hudson’s class on making funny web comics is one to join if you’re trying to get in the right mindset.

3. Outline Your Plan

While you may be itching to just start drawing, the best web comics are those that are planned with intention. After all, you don’t want to begin adding all of the bells and whistles and then figure out you’re missing a few frames or that you’re having trouble replicating your characters.

Before that, create a rough storyboard of your comic. Sketch out your individual characters so that you have something to reference, determine the goal and plot of each frame, add your dialogue, and then be sure all of that circles back to the main purpose of your comic. Is it cohesive? If not, keep making tweaks.

4. Get Drafting

Now it’s finally time to start drawing! The last step is figuring out which comic maker you want to use to make your vision come to life. If you don’t feel ready to go freeform and start creating comics in Photoshop or Adobe (they can be overwhelming!), there are plenty of places online to draft cartoons for free. Canva, Make Beliefs Comix, and Pixton all offer software and don’t require any know-how to start messing around with illustrations.

Now, the Fun Begins!

Thanks to so many different free resources all over the internet, starting a web comic couldn’t be easier! All it takes is some patience (and a little help from a Skillshare instructor or two). You could be well on your way to creating the cartoons of your dreams. Be patient, build up your skills slowly, and remember to have fun!

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Written by:

Lily Herman