How to start from scratch - idea to illustrations?

  • Hi Forum :),

    First things first: I dont know jack about illustrations. Not a great start, I know ...

    Well, on the plus side I have a little boy for whom i would like to illustrate his funniest and weirdest thoughts & stories. This honorable project has brought me here and I thought to myself, let's start small, maybe some 3-panel-stories or a standalone illustration.

    I´ve already attended all four Level 1 classes but I am missing some guidance how to start at all, how to create a graphic story from the idea to illustration.

    For example, I started to draw a funny goat character (which seems to be Juniors all time favourite) but once finished (and somewhat pleased with the result) I got stuck how to procede with the story in the other panels. It also turned out that I should have drawn the goat in another perspective to better suit the story so I had to erase it (good old pencil work) and restart. For an absolute beginner like me this takes quite some time.

    So any advice how to convert a tiny, little story into a graphic story? Somehow this must have been missed in the Level 1 classes 🙂

    Thanks a lot!

  • @Chris Hi 🙂

    The curriculum is not yet completed -it will take you from start to finish. On the understanding that that will take time. I would suggest writing out what you want each of the panels to be about, then go about doing some thumbnail sketches of how you would like to compose each part/panel to ensure it all flows together like you want it to (there's a class on composition), if you have your character already decided on (how will look) having compositions and understanding what type of perspective you'd like to have them in then you can proceed forward.

    That's a quickie though, I am doing 2 pg spread and it's going to take me at least a month. Anyways, have fun!

  • @Chris Hi! Welcome!

    I illustrate comics professionally, usually 2 different 4 page comics a month so lots of experience here. My begginning process is all about thumbnails, which are super small sketchy drawings that you use just to figure out what you want your nice clean drawing to look like. For comics I like to do thumbnails for each individual panel, but also for the whole page layout. They are SCRIBBLES they are NOT good drawings they are "thinkings" they make ZERO SENSE to anyone but me (and sometimes to me too if I don't label them 🤣). This stage is all about figuring out the pacing and often the camera angles etc.

    Here is an example of a page of thumbnails I did recently to give you an idea of how rough and sketchy you can go:


    After this I do another "rough pass" so it's still sketchy but understandable by others. After that you do a clean version and if you're working traditionally then you'd ink it.

    Hope that's helpful!

  • Hi @Heather-Boyd & @carlianne

    Thank you - that sounds helpful. So its basically a screenplay-script with sticky figures :). Meaning: to keep it as simple as possible then get more into details. Ok, remembering the Lvl 1 classes I should have thought of this by myself ... but good to know that even the whole comic is broken down to the basic prinicples.

    Will also take a look at the composition class - theres never too less learning :).

    Thank you both!

  • @Chris For comics, the way you break up the story/dialogue delivery/punch line etc. carry more weight than the art itself. That’s why you have so many creators with terrible drawing skills but amazing at telling stories through comics!

    Here are some steps you can follow:

    • decide what story you want to tell
    • write down significant moments of the story (dialogues, actions, reactions, silent panels etc)
    • assign panels to those moments (panels can be different shapes and sizes also if it’s a multi panel page)
    • plan thumbnailing of those panels using stick figures (composition, perspective, zooms etc.)
    • review all the panels and add/remove to get maximum storytelling
    • start character designing
    • do a cleaner pass of your comic based on thumbnailing and character design and text placement
    • refine

    Best of luck! 😊

  • @Neha-Rawat Thanks, this is also helpful. Really like your approach of assigning panels to the story moments. Curious to see that beginner drawing skills with unknown story telling skills will result in 🙂

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