Letters to Unicorn Jelly
How is the comic drawn?
How are the Alternate Universe Strips made?
I want to do a comic, but my art is not as good, what should I do?
of all, I loooove your character, Uni-chan!! So
cute... *collapse* But anyways, I would be very interested to know
how you achieve such a professional look with your comic, especially
by the backgrounds. How do you draw the comic?
I almost exclusively use a paint program called 'DPaint 2', which is a very old, out of print program. Runs in DOS, for goodness sake! However, it is the same basic program as I enjoyed back in the days of the Amiga computer, and even today, I believe it to be the finest paint program every created. it's primary virtue is that is was created by an artist, and so does NOT use the Apple convention (used now by all paint programs in print) of a 'Clip Board'. Instead, the program uses the idea that a 'Brush' is literally anything. One can simply pick up any part of the background, with or without transparency, and literally paint or draw with it. All instantly, with but a single swish of the mouse. This alone, as you can imagine, makes illustration directly on the computer very, very quick and fun.
The closest thing available to my precious DPaint is called 'ProMotion'.
A few images in my strip have been scanned in, from the notebook I carry, but for the most part, I draw directly on the computer. I attempt to simulate the effect of working with my beloved imported brush pen. To do this, I use a DPaint brush that is 2 pixels square, and draw thickish lines. Then, I go back with a one-pixel brush and alternately thicken or thin portions of my own line work. This is easy, because I can set one mouse button to the color black, and another to the color white. I have studied how scanned ink brush art looks in pixilated form, and do my thickening and thinning to match that memory.
I have decided to make my comic entirely out of nothing but black and white. No greys of any kind are used. I chose this because I wanted to feel I was doing -inside the computer environment- the same utter and stark purity of black and white art that is accomplished with ink on paper. Thus no anti-aliasing or other effects are used by me. In order to simulate shading, I have created my own 'computer Zipatone'. I sat down and created a set of pixel-dot patterns, which, because of DPaint's ease in handling cut and paste (brush) operations with a click of the mouse, I can effectively shade my art without using any grey. I also then paint white over my black dot patterns, to create highlighting, specular light effects, and so forth.
For lettering, I simply use the 'comix' font that came with DPaint. It is not the best font, but it is serviceable. For the sound effects, I have created a vast set of pre-drawn 'stamps' (if you will) that include many Japanese manga sound effects as well as English comic book sound effects. I try to use the manga effects, because they feel more natural (and fun) to me, but I also use the comic effects too. 'Jiri Jiri' for crawling is easily interpreted by the non-manga-fan, as is the 'Doki-Doki' of a heartbeat. However, I doubt anyone unfamiliar with manga would feel emotion from a brilliant 'TSU-YA!' denoting a shining state of being refreshed from the words alone, but they might get the idea from context.
I begin work on a blank comic strip template I have created. I fill a given panel with a color other than white, then lock out -mask- all but that color. This allows me to draw and spray pixels with impunity. I begin with the characters, then the background details, if any. Rarely, if a scene calls for a very elaborate backdrop, I do the background first, draw the characters separately, and then paste them in on top of the background. Because of DPaint's masking ability, I could do this in reverse too! Then I re-mask the image, so that I can apply my pixilated 'Zipatone' or just spray pixels. I can then draw in opposite color to make further effects on top of that. This is how I do things like highlighting of buildings, or putting a glow around things, or putting light leaves against dark ground. Then I add speech bubbles and text.
Lastly I make sure all of my 'scaffold' color is erased, and the strip is all pure white and black pixels and nothing else. I touch up what needs to be fixed. Then I save it off. Next I load up any previous strip, so as to gain a drawing window exactly the size of the finished strip, switch to an alternate screen of the same size, and load in my new strip. This instantly cuts off all the excess margin and now I can save the image off as a final work, process the format to .GIF format (using Paintshop Pro 4 and Microsoft GIF Animator -a two step process because Paintshop does not save GIF's properly, but CAN translate from DPaint to an intermediary state ), and it is then ready to be used online.
What a wonderful series you have here! ^_^ The characters are adorable and it's evident enough that you know your manga. As for the alternate universe strips (forgive me if the answer is already posted on the page. Aieee, gomen!), were they done before, after or simultaneously with the "real" strips?
Thank you for your kind words!
In answer, the Alternate Universe strips are done simultaneously. Basically, I started the strip with a scanned in napkin, which is why the first episode looks kind of different, then proceeded from there. I no longer scan anything in, but draw directly on the computer. After the first few strips, I wondered if there might be an easier, lazy way...since drawing on the computer can be a bit of work. So, I created a 'Hello Kitty' style ultra-SuperDeformed version, composed of pre-drawn 'stamps' that I can whip together in seconds with cut and paste features. This seemed so easy and lazy! However, one of my spouses mentioned that he liked the original art better, because it was so detailed. Waaaa! Another of my spouses said she preferred the Alternate Universe because it was funny. Waaaa! I liked both styles, but the simple style was soooo easy! Still, I had to admit that the shaded, detailed stuff WAS kinda good. SO, rather than save myself effort, now I am doing 1 and 1/2 mangastrips because I did not want to just abandon the stamp-creation work.
Now, folks are divided, according to the mail I get. Some folks like the Alternate Universe strips better. Some like the main strips and detest the Alternate ones. I like both, so I do both.
However, it is strange, but I find that the main strip writes itself...it is a story that 'wants to be told'....but the Alternate Universe strips are hard to think up, and come only as a gag that derives from the main strip. It's weird. The lazy strip is hard to write, but the difficult-art strip is easy to write!
I am trying to write an online comic. And people say my ideas are great, but my artwork isn't that good. I asked other people to try and draw the pictures, but the pictures just don't feel the way I intended them to feel, what should I do?
My advice is to ignore anyone who puts you down, INCLUDING yourself. Now useful criticism is OK...stuff that actually teaches you HOW to do or draw something better... but people who just complain about your art are not to be listened to.
You see, the important thing in art, in cartooning, in anything really, is heart. If you can tell a good story, if you have a good idea, if you have something to say, then it really does not matter whether you can draw like the best artist in the world, or whether you can just do stick figures. Heck, some of the most clever works I have ever seen are essentially stick figure art. It is not important how skilled you are, what is important is how talented you are.
Let me explain....skills are mechanical perfection. Being able to draw a face like the corporate artists at Marvel, or buildings like an architect, or flowers like a botanical illustrator. That is skill. Skill is useful, and it can be very, very impressive. In the end, though, it is soulless, it has little emotion, and emotion is the power of art.
Talent is what makes a scribble convey a feeling, or makes a single line in the face of a Charley Brown cartoon make you care about what happened, or what makes you feel that the characters you are reading about matter. Skill can be learned by just drawing and drawing and drawing, and taking classes, and practicing all the time for years and years. Anyone can learn skill, if they are truly determined. Seriously. Even if they say they cannot draw. But talent....
Talent come from the heart. Talent can be enhanced with skill...that is true. But....talent is such that it can still communicate even with minimum skill.
I have only moderate level art skills. I am undisciplined, and do not have the study habits to face learning truly great skill. But I have talent. I use what skill I have, even if I am somewhat sloppy, or my characters are not perfect, or I can clearly see that some other artist is better than me...by far even. I use my talent, and I try to make people feel things. If you can make people feel, feel at all, then you win their heart. Win their heart well enough, and they will not care if you can only scribble blobs of ink.
Draw your strip, just DO it. Right now, walking in the world, are some of the greatest potential artists, scientists, doctors, whatever, the world will ever know. Only these people are not artists and scientists....they sell cars, or work at Burger King, or whatever. They do this because they listened to the people who told them that they were not good enough, that they could not do what they wanted to do, that there was no point. Yet, there also are successful people, people whose work is loved and cherished, who have half the ability, even talent, of those other artists.....only because they just said "Screw you, I am going ahead anyway, and I am going to do the best I can, with whatever ability I have". That is why they won.
A genius that does nothing is useless. An ordinary person who actually tries, will always beat the useless genius. I am not the best artist, and I never will be. Yet I make websites, do cartoons, design and illustrate computer games, and even make toys and games too. I do the best I can with what I have, and I only listen to useful advice. Anyone who tells me I cannot succeed, that I should not try at all -INCLUDING the little voice inside my head of my own doubt- I try to tune out. I try to ignore any blanket condemnation.
Besides, just by doing something, you are practicing. Check out any cartoonists earliest work. It stinks by comparison to their later work. That's because by actually doing the cartoon, they got better. Along the way, though, they gained fans.
That is how things work. So go do your idea, and ignore the doubts.
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