Get your webcomic launched over a weekend for less than a cup of coffee.
Are you interested in starting a webcomic, but don’t know where to start and/or feel like it’s an intimidating thing to do? Great! That’s exactly how I felt 2 years ago and this guide will hopefully help you take the leap!
I created this based on my own experiences creating and growing my lesbian slice-of-life comic, Sesame But Different (SBD).
For context, I’m a huge introvert and basically had no online presence prior to starting my webcomic, so it was terrifying for me to think about publishing anything for the world to see. In hindsight, there were a few things that I wish I knew or considered before launching my webcomic -- hopefully, if you’re interested in creating your own webcomic or something similar, you can find inspiration or learn from these 8 simple steps and get started today!
1. Find a unique idea that you can generate a lot of content for.
What will your webcomic be about? Having a unique idea doesn’t mean you have to create content about a topic that has never been discussed before -- you can also take an every day theme but have a unique point of view, voice or style. The important part, and what makes creating a webcomic a lot of fun, is choosing a comic idea that you’re interested in and can derive a lot of material from in the long run.
After all, if I created a comic about washing the dishes, since it’s not something I’m super interested in, I would probably only be able to create one episode’s worth of content. But… perhaps you’re a dishwashing aficionado and you want to depict the adventures of your hero, SpongeBarbara SquareSkirt, as she encounters different plates and silverware that tell her the grisly details of how they were eaten off of -- hey, if that’s what you’re into, then pursue it!
In my case, because SBD is based on my life as a lesbian and the relationship moments with my long-term girlfriend, Poppy, I figured there would be no shortage of ideas to generate content for. Even if we’re just lying on the couch, that mundane, everyday activity can be converted into a comic with the right perspective.
Do you want your webcomic to be a continuous storyline that progresses overtime (so it’s important to follow each episode) or have each episode stand on its own?
For example, SBD is a slice-of-life comic, in which each episode shows a random snapshot of my life with Poppy. I prefer these one-off comics because they each encapsulate a moment, inside joke or experience and allow me to illustrate completely different topics from week to week.
On the other hand, I did take a stab at doing a short story for Webtoon, called Finding Poppy. It was a fun project, but I found it to be more challenging because I needed to link each episode together and map out the overall sequence of events. However, a lot of fellow comic artists have a great handle on this (check out I Met Someone) -- ultimately, there are pros and cons to both, so try to play to your strengths.
Finally, who are your characters and how do they fit into your idea? While this would seem fairly easy for a comic like SBD, which is based on my actual life with my girlfriend, there’s still a bit of “pruning” to present a cohesive webcomic series. We wanted to create light-hearted content that could add a bit of joy to our readers, so even if I spend a day unclogging a toilet, that probably wouldn’t be a snippet of our lives that I’d want to include. 😅
2. Define the look, style and vibe of your webcomic.
For starters, it helps to be a decent illustrator -- but anyone can achieve this through practice! I definitely didn’t start off as the best artist by any means (and I still have a long way to go), but I had a fairly good ability to translate what I pictured in my mind to paper (or the laptop screen).
Even throughout my two-year journey in creating SBD, if you take a peek at my very first comic and then compare it to my most recent comic, you can see that there have been a lot of improvements… I mean, in my first comic, if you compare my character, Chia, on the left to my girlfriend’s character, Poppy, on the right, she has a more proportionally-sized head and my head looks like it was borrowed from Easter Island:
That leads me to my next point -- what’s your preferred style and aesthetic and how does this complement your webcomic?
If I wanted all of my characters to have Easter Island heads, that could still work if I applied that look consistently.
Here are some factors to think about:
- What color palette(s) do you want to use? Or do you want to stick with a single color or just a few colors?
- Does your style and aesthetic choices go along with the vibe of your comic?
- What can you see yourself drawing or recreating repeatedly?
For example, I strongly admire and love reading graphic novels with detailed artistic elements and comics that are thoughtful about shading, colors and the use of different visual perspectives in every panel… However, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with that level of execution while adhering to a regular posting schedule and also not getting stressed to the point of disliking the comic creation process.
That’s how I landed on SBD’s relatively simple style -- I wanted to balance the line between realistic yet cute and heartwarming, so I employ a lot of pastel colors and have silly characters with noodly arms.
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer to these questions. It’s just about creating work that you find visually appealing and interesting enough to draw over and over again.
This process can also be easier if you're using the right tools -- I use Adobe Photoshop to create my comics, which is a very versatile and powerful graphics editor with a wealth of guidance online. If you're a student, you can get a free trial and discount on all Adobe Creative Cloud apps if you register with your school email. Alternatively, you can also get Adobe Photoshop as an individual app.
3. Come up with a name and get the social media handles.
So, now that you’ve come up with an idea and have an idea of what this comic will look like -- what will your webcomic be called?
While coming up with a catchy name that’s representative of your comic is important, don’t let that stop you from actually creating the comic. It’s not the end of the world if you have a better name later on and decide to change it.
Something tactical that can also help you decide on a name is checking to see if those social media handles and/or website domains are taken. For example, I originally wanted to name SBD “Same Same But Different”, since Poppy and I say this about each other all the time -- we have A LOT of similarities but we’re still different, which is why we work together so well.
However, this handle was already taken in most of the social media sites where we’d want to post and the website domain was already registered, so we ended up coming up with a Sesame But Different. You can see the story behind our webcomic name here.
4. Find your tool(s) of choice and create templates.
When I first started, I would draw my SBD panels with a mouse directly in Photoshop… but this process evolved a lot. Later on, I invested in an iPad, a stylus, and used Procreate to create my webcomic, which made it so much easier to replicate the paper on pen feeling (and gave me much more control over my dexterity), and I still love and use this method today! For those of you who also like the iPad/tablet experience, I recommend getting this matte screen cover which mimics the feel of drawing on paper (as opposed to glass).
Don’t shy away from trying multiple tools and software (many have free trials) to understand which one fits your needs the best. There’s also no need to delay creating your comic until you’ve found the perfect solution.
Between drawing with a mouse and finally committing to getting an iPad, I tried using a Wacom pad and even briefly reverted to pen and paper, but I still continued to post content -- it was the best way for me to see the difference in results week over week. Furthermore, it was easier to justify getting an iPad because I had built a modest following on social media by that time, which held me accountable to make sure I put the iPad to good use.
Once I landed on Procreate on the iPad, to streamline the creation process, I also created templates of my panels -- now, I quite consistently create a 4x4 comic strip and sometimes a 1x2 comic strip. Previously, I would draw my images first and then try to fit them into the panels based on the parameters that worked for where I was publishing. As you might be able to imagine, this made for clunky comics that were sometimes difficult to follow in the correct sequence, like this older one.
5. Create your first comic!
In general, getting started can be the biggest hurdle to any new project. Especially if you’re new to the process, there’s no substitute for getting comfortable with publishing your work than actually doing it. That also means it’s okay to not have absolutely everything figured out or be perfectly polished before you go live with your content.
As I’ve indicated multiple times above, in the beginning when I was still getting a handle on drawing SBD, Poppy and Chia had extremely large bobble heads for many episodes, but that didn’t stop me!
Don’t let imperfection prevent you from taking the first step -- the key is to keep aiming to improve your work over time.
6. Publish your comic on one or multiple platforms.
Once you create your first comic, now’s the time to publish it for the world to see! This can seem daunting, but there are a lot of welcoming communities that will engage with your content quickly and encourage you to post more. Ultimately, I encourage publishing on multiple platforms because you never know which one will take to your content more quickly.
For SBD, I launched my first comic on Webtoon and posted there exclusively before expanding to Tapas, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Patreon, Facebook and Twitter. Webtoon and Tapas are great publishing portals to get your feet wet because they are both specifically geared for the webcomic community; as such, the interface for uploading and publishing comics is more intuitive and consistent across both platforms.
Note that different social media options will likely optimize for different formats, so you may want to consider resizing or reorganizing your post structure. For instance, Webtoon and Tapas work best with a vertical scrolling comic format, which is quite different from Instagram’s carousel or single post format. Accordingly, depending on where you decide to post, you may need to prepare a few different versions of your work.
One platform that has allowed me to reformat and publish my work on multiple platforms seamlessly is Canva. On Canva, I’ve created multiple “designs” or templates for different purposes so that I can simply upload my work and drag and drop or resize it within the design templates:
In the screenshot above, from left to right, I have a design for:
- A 4 x 4 panel comic, which I use for my website, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter.
- A thumbnail image, which I use for Webtoon and Tapas.
- A square panel, which I use for Instagram and Facebook carousels.
- A long-form panel, which I use for Webtoon and Tapas.
It only takes a few minutes to pull my images into the appropriate templates and, after that, I download the files and post them to the appropriate social media platforms!
Also, having your own website is critical -- this is your place to have full creative ownership and curate all of your content. In addition to relying on webcomic platforms and social media sites that may have certain restrictions on what you can publish, you can generate blogs and articles that will drive traffic to your website, sell merch, and, hopefully, draw more attention to your comics!
I use Shopify for my website (the one you're on right now!) because it's easy to navigate, it has turnkey functionality for blogging and selling merchandise, and there are a ton of templates to choose from that are simple to modify.
Shopify is currently running a promotion with a free 3-day trial, so you can check it out to make sure you like it before committing:
7. Post consistently.
Imagine finding a webcomic that you enjoy but then noticing that it hasn’t been updated in months or years. Or you notice that it’s updated sporadically--one post this week, another 3 weeks later and you never know when the next episode will come out. You’d probably lose interest and find another webcomic to read, right?
That’s why posting consistently matters.
Establish a routine that you can stick to and not to be overly ambitious! I often found that when I committed myself, it was more likely that I’d end up missing a day of posting and even get discouraged and stop posting altogether for an extended period of time.
While I initially had lofty goals of posting once a day, because I had a demanding full-time job, I quickly realized that this posting schedule wasn’t realistic and turning my webcomic into a stressful activity. With some trial and error, I found that posting once per week (every Sunday) was the most ideal schedule for me.
In order to hold myself accountable to that date, I try to stick to weekly habits that ensure that I’ll have content ready by the end of the week. For example, I generally try to brainstorm ideas and figure out how to depict that idea in 2 to 4 panels in the first half of every week and I use the second half of the week to sketch out and finalize the comic for Sunday. This is probably a much slower process than for most other artists, but it’s the most sustainable schedule for me to be able to balance my day job responsibilities and my delight in maintaining a webcomic.
8. Stay organized.
Last, but not least, since the process of creating content for your webcomic and posting it on your preferred channel(s) is ongoing, I find that it helps immensely to be organized. The two primary things that I keep track of closely are (1) ideas for SBD and also (2) which channels I’ve posted on every week.
For webcomic ideas, I realized that inspiration would often hit when I least expected it and I’d often forget or lose the idea if I didn’t log it right away. Since my phone is generally nearby at all times, it made sense to capture my ideas on my phone, but it would be difficult to navigate and sort through a never-ending list.
That’s why I organize all of my comic ideas with Airtable -- it’s a flexible, well-designed, database platform that lets you organize virtually anything:
Now, whenever an idea comes to mind, I input it into my Airtable base and then when it comes time to put stylus to tablet, I can easily reference a list of my ideas that I can also filter through to pinpoint the perfect topic or theme for that week.
You can learn more about how I set up a system to efficiently capture my ideas on my phone and have that pipe directly into Airtable here.
As for keeping track of where to post, as I branched out and began publishing my content on more and more platforms, I’d occasionally forget to post on one of my channels. This might not seem like a big deal if you missed one or two out of eight or ten different social media outlets, but for that subset of your readers who only use one or two platforms to read their favorite content, the skipped week would be very noticeable. That’s why I also use Airtable to track when and where I’ve posted my content!
If you’re interested in using a template of my Airtable base (which I use both for logging ideas and also tracking if and when I’ve posted on various channels) as a starting point for logging your webcomic ideas:
- Here’s a referral link to try out Airtable Pro for 2 weeks (no payment is needed and you can continue to use Airtable’s Free plan after the trial period ends).
- Check out Airtable’s short “Meet Airtable” video and other educational resources here to understand how it works.
- After you create an Airtable account, you can get my template here.
Hopefully, you found these tips helpful and encouraging in starting your own webcomic!
Remember that few people get it perfect on the first try, but everyone can refine and improve their work over time. I still cringe when I look back at SBD’s early webcomic episodes, but I have since made ongoing efforts to get better at drawing and convey my ideas better and I think that consistent exercise has paid off. So, don’t let perfection get in the way of starting -- give it your best shot and don’t stop trying!