Monday, June 23, 2014

Don’t Skip Character and Background Design

So you’re reading a webcomic, and you can’t help but notice that the main character’s eyes are drawn differently from the way they were at the beginning. Their hairstyle has changed for some unexplainable reason, and every time the character goes home, their house looks totally different.

As a comic artist, it’s important not to confuse the reader with drastically changing artwork. One way to fight against this is to create a detailed character and background design sheet. Not just a character sheet. A DETAILED character sheet.

I am like a huge offender when it comes to this. For my last two comics, I created character sheets that were not thought out very much. I drew a front view, side view, three-quarter view, and then a full body view from the front. That was it. I didn’t think about what kind of clothes the character would typically wear, or even what style of eyes would fit the best. I felt that if any changes needed to be made, I’ll do it while drawing. That kind of thinking lead to some very noticeable style inconsistencies that I’ve come to regret.

Part of the reason why I worked like this is because I felt like spending a lot of time on character sheets is just holding me back from working on the story. In the past I’ve attempted creating comics that had extensive character sheets. I spent so much time on the character sheets, I had no motivation to start the story. Now looking back, I think the problem wasn’t the character sheets, but that I just wasn’t into the story.

With this new manga that I’m working on, I’ve made many changes to the characters. At first making changes annoyed me, but now I see that every change I make on the character sheet is one change I won’t be making mid-comic.

Also, I used to draw all of character sheets in one day. Big mistake. Turns out, as I work on the characters my perspective of them tends to grow. If I take my time, I can reflect that growth on the character sheets, not in the middle of the story.

Setting and background should be given the same attention as the characters. Knowing and drawing the details of where the characters are and what kind of neighborhood they live in creates a clearer picture of the world of the story. Planning the details of each house the characters live in is important. The reader will know which house belongs to which character because when they arrive home the surroundings will look the same.

I’m still working on character sheets right now (it’s a long process), but I’m looking forward to sharing some more of them as I finish. I’ll also share the background art too once I get going on that.

Have you ever read a comic with inconsistent art? How did it make you feel as a reader?