Creating Comics & Graphic Narratives: A Walkthrough for Beginners | Aubrey Hirsch | Skillshare

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Creating Comics & Graphic Narratives: A Walkthrough for Beginners

teacher avatar Aubrey Hirsch, Writer/Illustrator

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (17m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Turning Text into Thumbnails

    • 3. Creating Your Layout and Artwork

    • 4. Digitizing Your Art

    • 5. Adding Image & Text in In Design

    • 6. Exporting & Saving

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About This Class

This course is designed to give you all the technical know-how you need to create a comic or graphic narrative without any fancy digital art equipment. This 20-minute course covers making your script, sketching thumbnails, digitizing your natural medium art and optimizing it in Photoshop, layout and text overly in In Design, and, of course, exporting your work for sharing or submitting! 

I developed this course with the beginner in mind, so you don't have to have any previous comics experience to follow along with this class. You'll just need your computer and your cell phone.

You will need In Design and Photoshop installed on your computer. If you don't already have them, you can download them instantly for a free trial at

Meet Your Teacher

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Aubrey Hirsch



Aubrey Hirsch is a writer and illustrator living in Berkeley, California. She is the author of Why We Never Talk About Sugar, a short story collection, and This Will Be His Legacy, a flash fiction chapbook. She has written stories and essays for the New York Times, American Short Fiction, Third Coast and others. Her comics and graphic narratives have appeared in The Nib, The Florida Review, Black Warrior Review, Barrelhouse and elsewhere. She has taught fiction writing and digital storytelling at Oberlin College, the Colorado College, the University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere.

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1. Introduction: My name is Robert Hirsch, and I'm a writer and illustrator living in Berkeley, California My comics and graphic narratives have appeared in print and online at Mid Florida. Review. Barrelhouse, Blackwood Review and elsewhere. I've been reading fiction and nonfiction for many years, and about a year and 1/2 ago I began to notice comics popping up more and more literary journals, and I thought, I want to try that. It seemed like the perfect way to marry my passion for storytelling with my interest in visual art, which had always been more of a neglected hobby. The only thing stopping me was the realization that I had literally no idea how to actually make a comment like, How do I make the swears? How do I get my drawings into my computer? How do I turn a page full of drawings into separate panels that I can manipulate and move around? I spent a lot of time online looking for tutorials, but I couldn't find anything that just told me what I needed to know in order to get started. It was actually really frustrating. I would say it took me about 30 hours of research to figure out the very basic elements of creating a comic that I could send to journals for publication. But now that I know how I can teach you to do it in about 20 minutes in this course, I'll talk you through how to translate your text into a script. How to make a thumbnail she wanted digitize your natural medium artwork and clean it up photo shop so that it looks really nice. How did lay everything out and add text, your images and in design, and how to export your work for sharing? Since this course is really aimed at beginners, you don't need any fancy digital art equipment to complete your project. Just your computer and yourself. You will need photo shop in design installed on your computer. If you don't already have these programs, you can download them instantly for a free trial at adobe dot com slash downloads. My favorite thing about making comments is just having a completely new way to engage an audience with story. There's so much opportunity to create emotion and energy with images, and once you know the process, they're actually really fun to make. I hope you enjoy following one with this course, and I can't wait to see what you make 2. Turning Text into Thumbnails: The first step in the process is to generate the actual narrative or story. When I'm making a comic, I always find it's easier to come in with the rough text already prepared. If I try to write the story while also thinking about images and panel layout, I lose the thread of the narrative music language, so I always start with a text only version first. Starting from the beginning, divide your text into what will later become your panels. You want to limit text per panel to just a sentence or two. You might even have a single sentence that spans multiple panels. If there's a lot you want to represent visually, bear in mind that you might be able to eliminate some of your text. If the image will convey that information more effectively, you might also want to have some silent panels that are only image and no text, so make sure you make yourself a note of that as well. I like to go back and forth between breaking up my text and sketching my thumbnails one page at a time. This helps me think about the fluidity and variety of my layout and allows me to notice any problems that are popping up before I get too far in the process. Once I have enough divided text to feel like a page, I get started on my thumbnail. She a thumbnail sheet is a rough layout that you create to plan out what your comic will look like in its final version. I sketch My thumbnails is roughly and quickly as possible because there's generally a lot of revision involved in this step of the process. When you're making thumbnails, keep in mind the dimensions you're aiming for in your final version. Seven by 10 is a pretty standard size, so you can use that as a default. If you aren't sure this is less important if you're creating your comic for the Web. Since there aren't pages in the traditional sense a notebook or sketch pad that roughly reflects the final dimensions you have in mind, it's fine for this step. We'll work with more precision when we moved in design. Don't forget to think about where your text and dialogue balloons will go in each panel. Make sure you leave some space so that your text is readable and isn't covering too much of your artwork. If you like, you can snap a picture of your thumbnails and upload them to the project page. I always think it's fun to compare my early thumbnails with the final versions of my cage. Once you're happy with your thumbnails, you're ready to move in design. That's what we'll be working on in the next lesson. 3. Creating Your Layout and Artwork: Once you have your thumbnails mapped out, it's time to make a more precise version of your layout in in design. This will be the document that house is your final comic. We'll build it a piece at a time, starting with frames open in design and create a new file. I recommend using seven by 10 as the dimensions. If you aren't working with a particular magazine, respects, you know to be different than that. Showing the document grid and enabling snap two guides will help you make sure everything is lined up nicely. Keep your thumbnails next to you to use as your map. The rectangle tools are what you'll be using the most. This one with the X won't create a border, which is helpful if you want an open panel that is a panel with no frame in your comment. Rectangle frame tool will create a border for you. Click and drag until you're happy with the size. You can adjust the thickness of the border by accessing stroke money. Make and move your frames until they match the layout you created in your thumbnails. When you're happy with how it looks, you can use the dimensions of these frames to guide you as you draw your panels. When you click on each rectangle, you can see it's with and height in the properties menu at the top of your document. This rectangle is roughly three by three, so all want to draw this panel as a square to fit nicely inside of it. If you're drawing on a tablet, you can copy and paste that rectangle directly into Photoshopped to use as a guide and put your drawing layers beneath it. But I'm going to assume for this course that you're working without any fancy digital art equipment. In that case, you'll want to record these numbers when I'm creating natural medium drawings, all later digitize. I like to draw them at 1.5 time scale. That way, if I need to adjust them a little bit up or down, I have some wiggle room before they start to look pixelated. So this three by three inch square is going to become a 4.5 by 4.5 inch square. Use a ruler and a pencil to mark the edges of your panel. Remember, in design will draw perfectly straight and uniform border around our final panel for us. So this is just so you know where the edges of your drawing should be. You'll erase these lines later. You can arrange these drawings however you like on the drawing paper will separate each one into its own file when we digitize them. Now that you have the proportions you need to create your drawings, go ahead and complete the artwork for your panels. Don't worry about including the text for now. We'll use in design to add that at the end. But do make sure you leave room in your panel for the text in the next lesson will transfer our natural medium art to photo shop and clean it up so it's ready for in design. 4. Digitizing Your Art: the next step is digitizing your art so we can import it into in design. Your scanned art will probably need some cleaning up, so I'll show you how to do that, too. If you have access to a high resolution scanner to scan in your drawing, Obviously that works best. But in case you don't, you can get a not quite as good, but definitely good enough. Scan of your art by taking a photo of it with your cell phone. I'll use an image I transferred from my cell phone for this video so you can get an idea of the quality you can expect. Try to find a spot with good lighting and try to avoid any dramatic shadows falling over your art as you're photographing it. Also make sure the angle of your photograph is a straight on as you can get it to avoid warping your images. Then you can text or email these photos to yourself to transfer them to your computer. Open your first image in photo shop. It may need to be rotated until it's facing the right direction. If your heart is black and white, you could get a leg up on adjusting it by changing the color mode to gray scale. Now we need to clean it up. Start by adjusting the levels to make the background a brighter white and the blacks a deeper black. You could pull the sliders around until it looks pretty good. Don't make the whites to white here because you risk washing the detail out of your design . It won't be perfect, but that's okay. We have a couple more steps that will make it look a little nicer. You can use the eraser tool to erase any stray pencil marks for smudges you may have made. Or if you accidentally included a piece of a neighboring image in your photo, the right and left brackets will increase or decrease the size of your a razor. Now we'll use the paint bucket tool to make the background a uniform white. Set the color to the whitest white. Clicking on an area with a paint bucket tool will cause all the pixels of the same color to change toe white. You can increase the tolerance of your tool to make this go faster. If the light on your art is very uneven, you may find that erasing a shadow in a darker area also erases your line. Work in a lighter area. If that's the case, you can use the lasso tool to make a selection and Onley change the pixels in the selected area. Sometimes it's helpful to zoom in and make sure your lines really clean. Once he balanced the background, you can do the same thing with your blacks or any other colors that need touching up. Just make sure you change the color of your paint bucket tool to match the look you're going for. When you're happy with the way it looks, save it with a name you'll recognize. If the dimensions are different than the dimensions of your frame, that's perfectly fine. Will be able to fix that and in design. If you like, you can upload your digitized art to the project page. You could even share a comparison of your digitized art before and after cleanup In the next lesson will move our newly digitized art into our frames and in design 5. Adding Image & Text in In Design: Now that we have digitized versions of our art, it's time to move them into our frames in in design and add the text. You can start by hiding the document grid for now so you can get a better look at how your page is shaping up. It's handy again to have your thumbnails next to you to use as reference, so you put the right panels in the right places. Click on the panel you want to feel first, then goto file place or hit Command D To bring up the important menu, select the file you want to insert and click the frame again toe. Add the image. Clicking the circle that appears in the middle of the frame will allow you to click and drag the corners of your image until it fits inside the frame. Holding down the shift key will constrain the proportions so your line work doesn't get worked. You can let up on the shift key if you need to distort it a bit for a perfect pick. Grabbing the circle will allow you to move the image within the frame until it's centered properly. You could also use the arrow keys to nudge it into place. Repeat this process until you place the artwork in each of your panels as your populating your panels. The images may look pixelated or blurry in design. Downgrades their quality while you edit so it can process your work more quickly. If it bothers you, you can go to view, display performance and change the quality to hide. To get a better looking preview. If you need to see what the final quality will look like, you'll need to print a sample page or export your work to a pdf. When your images are in place, you can work on adding your text. Now you want to have your script nearby to use for a reference. You can also turn the document grade back on. If you're particular about the alignments of your words, there are lots of different ways to add text and in design, but I'll show you to that. You'll probably use the most if you left lots of open space in your panels for text, you can simply click and drag with the type tool to make a text box and then type inside of it. You'll be able to adjust this box at any time by pulling the corners. So don't worry if you accidentally make it too big or too small. While you have the type tool selected, you'll see a menu at the top of your documents where you can change the font and size of the lettering. Make sure you switch back to the direct selection tool when you're done typing. If you want to see what your panel looks like without the blue box around your text, you can switch your screen to preview mode. You'll be able to make changes in preview mode as well. I know that in design doesn't have an integrated spell checker, so you may want to copy and paste your text from a word document to avoid type heirs. If you need to add texture. A panel that doesn't have an open, light colored area. You could make a white box for the text to sit inside. Start by making a rectangle just like we did when we created our original layout. You can use the stroke menu to add a border. If you like Thisted time. We're also going to add a fill to make it a solid box rather than a frame. You can change the fill color by double clicking this watch. You can use the type tool to type directly inside this box. If you'd like more control over where your words sit inside the box, you can create a text box elsewhere on your image and drag the text on top of your solid rectangle. Go ahead and finish adding your text in our final lesson. I'll show you how to export your comic for sharing for submitting and how to do a final touch up in photo shop for color art. 6. Exporting & Saving: If your work is in grayscale, your final product is ready to export and share how you export your comic will depend on what you plan to do with it, but PdF's air pretty versatile. So let's use that for now. When you're pieces ready to go, go to file export and choose PDF Print as the format. Make sure you're exporting all pages and range and in design will automatically save it as a multi page PdF that's ready to go. If you're working in color, I'd like to recommend one additional optional step. When you clean up and color, balance each image separately before combining them. And in design, the resulting page can sometimes look a little unharmed. Own ius If your colors air looking classy when you've got the whole thing laid out, there's a quick and easy Photoshopped trick to make your work look more cohesive. First, you'll need to export your in design Huges as J pegs, your pages will automatically be saved to your destination as a series of J pegs so you can work on them one at a time. Open your page in photo shop. What we're going to do is a by a color layer over top of your artwork in text so that all of your colors end up with a more similar tone. Make a new layer above your artwork and set the mode to color. Select the paint bucket tool and a color that matches the mood of your page. Filling layer with the paint bucket will change all of your colors to varying values of the same. Hugh. Turning down the opacity will let your original colors show through more strongly. You can adjust this until you feel good about the way it looks. You can toggle the visibility of your color layer on and off to see the before and after. When that's done, save the file as a JPEG or PdF. Now you'll need to merge those pages into a single PdF for sharing. You can do this online with a free pdf murder or by using the thumbnail view in preview, Simply drag your pages into the sidebar and make sure they're in the right order. Then use the print menu to save it as a PdF. Now you have a sensible, she terrible version of your comic, ready to go out into the world. Please take a minute to upload your comment to the project page. So others who take this course can see what you made. Thank you for following along, and I look forward to seeing your comments.