Sunday, February 19, 2017

Intro to Comic Craft: Step by Step: Soliciting and Using Critique

  • Select a Group You Trust
  1. And don't kid yourself about who you trust.  Actually pick people who's opinions you respect, because if they say harsh things, you don't want to automatically brush that off.
  2. Sometimes the artists whose work you admire are not the artists most qualified to critique your work- they may have difficulty articulating issues, they may be dismissive, they may find it difficult to find suggestions for early-stage issues. 
  3. It helps to select people from a variety of backgrounds- not only creators of different types of comics, but people from other walks of life.
  • Send files out early-early stage revisions (synopsis, script, thumbs) are the least painful to make, as they're the easiest on your part.
  • Learn to critique your own work and catch mistakes- make notes on your thumbnails of things you personally want to change.
  1. Speaking from personal experience, if you can make notes of your mistakes early and available, you'll generally get better critique from your critique group.
  2. They're able to focus on other issues, rather than those most obvious.
  • If someone is reading your thumbs in person, colored leads for notes can be helpful, or providing print outs that they can mark up may lead to really insightful critique.  Colored pens are also good.
  • Upload your files somewhere that everyone can easily access- I use Google Drive, and make sure you enable access
  1. If you're working on a large project, setting up a Trello board can be helpful to make sure everyone is on track, and to keep track of what people have done.
  2. Google Docs allows users to make comments, and keeps everything organized in one place.
  • When discussing the critique, be open minded, take copious notes (I copy out relevant segments of the conversation for my later reference), and DONT take it personally!
  • If you don't understand something, it's ok to ask for clarification.
  • It's also ok to ask for suggestions on how to handle things better.  Sometimes people forget to provide alternatives.
  • Don't just write down the negative, make sure you write down what worked for them as well.  By the time you get around to making corrections, you will have forgotten the positive, and will only be left with a list of what doesn't work.  With this sort of list, its very easy to become discouraged.
  • Don't try to make corrections right away- sleep on it, and let your brain solve the problems for you while you're dreaming.
  • Be gracious, thank them for their time, regardless of how you personally feel.  You may be a little tender right now, but after a couple nights' sleep, you may realize that they were spot on.
  • Keep in mind that these people are doing you a favor- they want your work to be the best it can be.  If you've selected your group carefully and honestly, then you know that even negative criticism is meant to help you grow.
  • Make sure you're available to beta read for them in return.

When using groups for critique:
  • I've found that if three people say the same thing independently, it tends to be true and needs addressing.
  • If there's conflicting opinions, press for more information so you can gain a better understanding of the conflict.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

November and December 2016 Sketchbook Tour

Sketchbook tours are so much easier to share than sketchbook dumps.  There's no scanning, just a leisurely flip through filled pages.  You even have the opportunity to talk about the content as ideas come to you, rather than trying to write something for every piece scanned and shared.

My sketchbook contains so much more than what's shared to Instagram or Twitter.  It's a place for me to practice, to learn, and to make mistakes.  With sketch dumps, I often selected my favorite pieces, leaving out the dozens of filled pages that didn't quite make the cut.   Most of these neglected sketches are fine as sketches and studies, but a bit repetitive, and when scanning a sketchbook, it's easy to decide to skip 10 pages of gesture drawings, or 5 pages of figure studies.

That said, if you miss my sketch dumps, and enjoyed looking at my art and sketches at your own pace, please consider joining us on Patreon.  The next goal for community pledges unlocks monthly sketchbook pdfs for all backers, which means you'll see the inside of my sketchbook every month.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

7" Kara Webcomic Launch

It's been a lot of hard work, but I am so delighted to announce that 7" Kara has begun its life as a webcomic!

You can find 7" Kara on Tumblr at or on it's own site at  All of Chapter 1 is available to read, and 7" Kara will update one comic page per week every Friday.

In preparation for the site launch, I generated a lot of unique assets.  While we continue to develop the standalone 7" Kara site, I will continue to create assets, but I wanted to share some of them here.  This is a callback to the assets created when publishing Volume 1- my goal is always to create an environment for my comic that feels right.

While working on 7" Kara, my art has improved significantly over the years, so don't be surprised if early chapters look different from the work you've seen here or on my Instagram!  I find the art evolution that's apparent in certain comics to be charming and encouraging, and I hope you feel the same.

Sample page from Chapter 1

Sample Page from Chapter 2

Sample Page from Chapter 3

Sample Page from Chapter 4

Sample Page from Chapter 5

Chapter 6

If you'd like to help support and promote 7" Kara, please make sure to share it with your friends!  Below are some handy banners, if you're interested in doing a link exchange.  Please set the link to or  If you need a size not shown here, please don't hesistate to ask!




250x100 pix

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Intro to Comic Craft: Step by Step: Developing A Script

This series is also made possible thanks to the generosity and interest of my Patrons on Patreon.

My Patrons have expressed interest in content on the comic making process, and I am happy to oblige.  Comics are one of my passions, and they're the reason I began this blog in the first place.  It isn't always easy to share comic content here, but their generosity has made it easier to set aside the time and resources necessary to doing so.  Writing about comic craft in depth requires research, setting aside time during the comic creation process to document my progress, and a lot of thought, and I feel is best served through longform series such as the Intro to Comic Craft: Step By Step series.  If you enjoy this series, please take a moment to share it with your friends and loved ones on the social network of your choice, leave me a G+ comment, or send me an email using the sidebar form- your feedback is important to me!  If you have specific questions, please don't hesitate to ask via email.

As part of this series, my Patrons have exclusive access to behind the scenes comic creation content, including the entire plotform synopsis for 7" Kara, the 7" Kara beat sheet, the Chapter 7 Synopsis, the Chapter 7 tight script, and loads more.   If you learn best from working example, joining my Patreon will give you access to those files.

In comics, there are numerous ways of going from concept-comic, and multiple ways to write a script that works for you.  Today I'm going to share my method for writing chapter scripts for my long form comic, 7" Kara, but you may find other methods suit your needs better.  I recommend checking out the links in my Outside Resources section at the bottom of this post for more on scripting for comics.  If you're interested in learning how to script for a short comic or a mini comic, please check out the below video, if you haven't already.

Lets Make a Comic Concept to Scripting to Thumbnails to Roughs-Becca Hillburn 

For story and character development, please read Intro to Comic Craft: Step by Step: Brainstorming and Character Development.

Once I have a solid idea, and have done enough brainstorming to know the main beats of the story, it's time to start solidifying things into a synopsis.

Overall Plotform Synopsis

If you need a further example, here's a friendly reminder that Patrons have access to the full 7" Kara synopsis!

With the plotform synopsis, I start out pretty simple- beginning, middle, and end.  After that has been established, I work on fleshing out the sections, based on the 3 Act structure mentioned in the Brainstorming post.  Over the months, I've taken loads of story and worldbuilding notes, and this is a perfect time to weave them into a coherent whole.

My goal isn't to work particularly tight- as a story is drawn, it evolves, and I want to leave room for filling plotholes, new story ideas, and character development.

As mentioned in the Brainstorming post, it is key that you have an idea of how you want your story to end.

Once I've gotten a fairly fleshed out synopsis of my story, I begin to

Break synopsis down into arcs or books

This is more for my own benefit, so I have a reasonable idea of how much work is involved.  Of course, with 7" Kara, this is really just an estimate, and it's very prone to change.  That's ok!  Be open and flexible with your webcomic projects.

Once I've broken my synopsis down into arcs or books, it's time to

Break  the synopsis down into chapters

Again, this is really just an estimate, to give me an idea of how much content I'm working with, and how long each chapter will be.

I work on a chapter per chapter basis, and occasionally go back to the original plotform synopsis document and make additions, notes, and changes.

So when I'm ready to begin a new chapter:

When writing a chapter

Copy that chapter text into a new file/Google Doc

Another friendly reminder that Patrons have access to all current 7" Kara Chapter 7 files, including the Chapter 7 synopsis and fleshed out script!

Chapters should have a beginning, middle, and end as well.  For children's comics, I lead in with large establishing shots, to give the young reader time to adjust to the change in scenery, and an opportunity to immerse themselves in the world.

Begin fleshing that chapter out

Once I've established where the chapter is going (and this is usually already established by the synopsis segment I've copy and pasted into a new document), it's time to start adding details and flesh things out.

Get an outside view on the overall chapter

For me, this involves sending my chapter (via Google Docs) to a couple beta readers.  The earlier I can get critique, the more I'm able to make necessary changes and improve the story.

Break chapter into page units

Control Enter for each page, so every page is a fresh page.  Convert original text to italic, begin fleshing out page in normal font.

I break my pages down by:

A row of panels, almost always related.  Think call and response, question and answer.  This is based off a technique demonstrated by Kiyohiko Azuma in Yotsuba&!.

Individual illustrations on the page, usually surrounded by borders.  Try to limit your panel to ONE action, if possible, unless its a special shot.

In comics, dialogue is usually contained in speech balloons, narration is contained in boxes.  Try to stick to one type per page, if possible.  Dialogue can quickly overwhelm the page, covering up the background and characters, so limit it in scenes where you need to show action or scenery.

Include background and staging direction

For the full script, please join my Patreon for access to 7" Kara materials!

Send Google Docs link to Beta readers for comments

I enjoy using Google docs for writing as it allows for easy comments and editing.  I can save specific versions of files as an archive if necessary, and have access to these files on any computer and via my phone.  Google docs is free and is saved to cloud storage (although I can also download a PDF copy if I wish), so it's really a very handy way to work on comics when you're constantly traveling. 

As with synopsis edits, script and dialogue edits are an important stage in refining my work.  I try to stay consistent with who I ask to beta read my work, and am careful to pick artists/readers who are familiar with comics, familiar with my work, and feel comfortable being blunt with me. 

I've found that, if you are careful with picking your beta readers, the comments that sting the most are usually the ones that have hit home, and definitely deserve your consideration.  The sting often comes from the idea of having to cut your darlings- remove portions of the script that you love most, or edits that will take additional time to complete.  While these are painful, they're well worth considering.

This is just my method of planning and scripting chapters for 7" Kara.  What's important is that you try a variety of methods, and work with the methods that suit your comic best. 

Tips on Writing:

Leave time for revision- from yourself and from others.  This makes for a stronger story

Don't tight script (dialogue, panel descriptions) unless you know where the chapter is going, you'll script yourself into a hole.

Don't write checks your artist can't cash:
  • Too much dialogue per page, no room for characters/setting
  • Too many panels per page, for every single page
  • Too many characters per page, every page
  • Multiple actions in a single panel by a single character (this is just impossible)

Outside Resources:

Scripting Resources:
Sample Comic Book Scripts (superhero biased)
Friends with Boys Comic Process (YA graphic novel by Faith Erin Hicks)
The Comics Experience: Comic Script Archive
The Beat- Making Comics- Script Format

Scripting Programs

Microsoft Word
Final Draft- Screenplay and Script writing software

Oscar Wilde Comics- Word Template
How to Format a Comic Script- links to multiple templates

This series is sponsored by:

The images used in this installment of Intro to Comic Craft are all from Chapter 7 of 7" Kara, the second chapter in Volume 2.  To purchase your own copy of Volume 1, and help support my endeavors, please visit my shop for physical copies, or my Gumroad for PDF copies of Volume 1 or Chapter 5 (the first available chapter in Volume 2)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Watercolor Basics: Working In Batch: Securing Your Paper

This post was brought to you due to the generosity of my Patrons on Patreon.

Enjoy the content on this blog?  Want to help support the continued creation of longform series like Watercolor Basics and Intro to Comic Craft?  Join us on Patreon!  Your monthly contribution enables me to dedicate the time necessary to researching, purchasing, photographing, demonstrating, organizing, and writing everything that goes on this blog. 

Membership starts at just $2 a month, and grants you access to all sorts of goodies, including comics, comic process, backer exclusive content, and early access to popular series. 

In past Watercolor Basics posts, we've talked about conventional and unconventional ways to secure your watercolor paper while painting.  We've talked about why stretching is beneficial, and the materials used in the process.  In this post, we're going to talk about securing images in bulk for painting.  These 5"x7" cards are too small for stretching to be worthwhile, but they still need to be secured to prevent buckling.

Materials Used:
Corrugated Plastic
Blue Painter's Tape
Bulldog Clips
Binder Clips

Step 1:  Deciding on a Layout 

I want to secure as many cards as possible to my pre-cut corrugated plastic, as I don't have much room for drying images.

I try out a couple demo layouts, and find one that works well.

Step 2: Temporarily Secure Your Images 

To prevent shifting while handling.

Step 3: Tape down the full length of the sides

Step 4: Tape tops and bottoms

Along the edges of the corrugated plastic, I also use bulldog clips to help hold the watercolor paper in place.

Step 5: Repeat process as necessary

Step 6: Secure edges nearest edge of chloroplast with bulldog clips

Now your images are ready to paint!

Painting in batch can come in handy- I paint 7" Kara pages in batch, one scene at a time.  Batch painting allows for color consistency, as you mix your colors in large batches using welled palettes.

The Watercolor Basics series is made possible thanks to the generosity of my friends on Patreon.  Their support enables me to dedicate the necessary time and resources for creating quality tutorials such as those in this series.  If you have enjoyed this post, or any other Watercolor Basics post, please consider joining our community of artnerds, and funding future content.

This particular post was sponsored by 7" Kara, a delightful watercolor comic for all ages.  Join tiny Kara as she ventures into the large world beyond her dollhouse doors, meets humans, and rides cats.  Volume 1, written and illustrated by me, and full of the art you see on this blog, is available for $15+shipping from my online store.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Watercolor Basics: Working In Batch: Construction for Icons

Logo and icon reproduction may not be a skill you utilize often, unless you are interested in illuminated letters or decorative handlettering.  In this tutorial, I'll show you the very basics of copying iconography onto the paper of your choice.

Better options for reproduction:

Graphite transfer (tutorial)
Printed bluelines (tutorial)
Lightbox, computer screen, or bright window (for a cheap lightpad, try this)
Use of a projector (like this)
Transfer paper like this
Use of projecting equipment like this lettering guide

Unfortunately, none of these options were accessible to me at the time, so I had to reproduce my icons by hand.  These were created as a Christmas present for my mother, and the icons were selected by her.


  • Paper torn to size
  • H-HB Pencils
  • Erasers

These images are really logos or icons, and as I'm reproducing them without computer assistance (or the aid of a copy machine), I needed to be as accurate as possible.  These were reproduced from provided reference for the typefaces, so rather than freehand my images, I needed to setup guidelines.

Step 1: Divide your white paper in half vertically with pencil

Step 2: Divide your paper in half horizontally with pencil

Dividing your picture plane in this manner will help you align your icon.

I begin at the center line, choosing in the original that meet or are close to the center line.  If necessary, I add more guidelines to help with placement.  My goal is to keep everything in proportion, and ensure it fits the 5"x7" watercolor paper I've prepared.

Once I've drawn all the icons, and am satisfied with the result, I erase the guidelines.

The Watercolor Basics series is made possible thanks to the generosity of my friends on Patreon.  Their support enables me to dedicate the necessary time and resources for creating quality tutorials such as those in this series.  If you have enjoyed this post, or any other Watercolor Basics post, please consider joining our community of artnerds, and funding future content.

This particular post was sponsored by 7" Kara, a delightful watercolor comic for all ages.  Join tiny Kara as she ventures into the large world beyond her dollhouse doors, meets humans, and rides cats.  Volume 1, written and illustrated by me, and full of the art you see on this blog, is available for $15+shipping from my online store.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Guest Post: Nika Tan on Creating a Graphic Novel

So you want to write a graphic novel

Hi everyone! I’m Nika, creator of teen romance webcomic “Love Debut!” I just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a graphic novel version of the complete comic, and Becca was kind enough to invite me to write a guest post about some key lessons I learned along the way.

First off, let’s talk through why tackling a graphic novel may not be a good decision for you. One, you’re likely still very much developing your chops as a sequential storyteller, and committing to a single project that could take years to complete hampers your ability to experiment stylistically. Two, risk of burn-out is higher the longer your story is; it’s easy to lose sight of the progress you’re making and become overwhelmed with everything that’s still left to be done. This is especially true if you’re juggling school/a full-time job! Three -- you haven’t really thought through your story yet for this project. Staying open to new ideas is important, but you need to have an outline if your efforts are going to be successful.

So, before you read further, sit down and be honest with yourself: is this really the right time for you?

If you’re answer is still unequivocally YES then great! Keep on reading. And if you decide no, this doesn’t make you any less of an artist or a writer. Everyone is on a different path. As long as you keep creating, bit by bit, you will get to where you want to go.

Advice #1: Know Your Ending

I knew right off the bat how I wanted “Love Debut!” to end. From the very first page, the scene was vivid in my mind, and while I tweaked it a little from the original vision, it was an important guide for me as I created the story.

Why? Well, let’s think about what makes up an ending. It tells you clearly who your main characters are, and where their respective journeys will take them. A good ending should also encapsulate your Big Idea, the idea that is driving you to choose THIS story out of all the other stories. Once you have your ending, everything else falls into place. Not only does it help you set up your beginning, but now you have something concrete to measure every subsequent development to. You can ask yourself, Does this scene support this ending? Does it bring my characters further or closer from their goals?

In the beginning, Nick believes charm and friendliness will get him anything. Sara’s going to teach him it’s not so simple...

Inevitably, you’ll come up with new and exciting ideas along the way, and as long as you keep your sights on that ending, you will not stray too far off course.

Advice #2: BUFFER

If there’s one piece of advice you take away from this, it should be to BUFFER, BUFFER, BUFFER. Seriously, folks, your buffer is your lifeline. Real-life happens all the time, and if you’re cranking out your page last-minute hours before your deadline, you will not only do a sub-par job, you will be stressed as hell. And this does not make for long-term sustainability. Trust me.

Anecdotally, most of my comic friends might have a few weeks of buffer at any given time. This covers them if they get sick or have to study or take on extra hours at work. I went even further with this: I sat on “Love Debut!” for almost a year before I started putting it up online, which amounted to a 6-month buffer from day one. By the end it was down to only a month’s worth of updates, but it was still a huge relief to know that if something urgent came up, I wouldn’t have to worry about delaying my updates.

“Don’t worry, Sara -- Nika’s buffer is still going strong!”

In all likelihood, your buffer will dwindle over time. Keep an eye on it, and make sure your update schedule is realistic given your average page turnaround time. Also, take advantage of those chapter breaks!! Take a month off in between chapters to plan your story and rebuild your buffer. You might lose a few impatient readers in the interim, but any loss is easily offset by the new readers you will gain with your demonstrated ability to keep to your word and update on schedule.

Advice #3: Invest in Side Projects

Your graphic novel should be your number one creative priority at all times, but that said, setting aside time for smaller side projects is a valuable way to improve your creative chops. This requires more discipline -- you need to be realistic with how much time you have and vigilant with not overextending yourself -- but the payoff is worth it.

Because of my generous buffer, I was able to work on a 14-page comic for a groundbreaking anthology, complete two short novels, organize a Pokemon Go fanzine, AND take a comics production class. I couldn’t do it all at once; this was spread out over the course of 3 years, and I had to be incredibly careful with my time. But it was absolutely worth it. My comic workflow improved and I got the chance to meet some very cool people along the way. Plus, even better, this let me stay excited and freshly motivated to finish the story I had set out to tell.

Advice #4: Sleep..., drink, and exercise. Taking care of yourself is SO important, and it starts with taking care of yourself physically. I’ve definitely had some late nights working to meet my production deadlines for “Love Debut!”, and those nights left me drained and useless for days afterward. Not a great way to run a years’ long marathon. Keep an eye on yourself and make sure that one-off exceptions don’t become routine.

Nothing beats quality sleep!

Also, if you’re a digital artist like me, sitting at your computer staring at the screen is undeniably bad for you. Make sure to hydrate, give your eyes regular breaks to ease the strain on them, and get up and stretch every now and then. Most importantly, listen to your body. It sounds stupid, but you can seriously hurt yourself if you don’t pay attention, and then you’ll really be kicking yourself later.

Good luck!

Making a graphic novel can be a frustrating but also incredibly rewarding journey. You’ll learn so much about yourself along the way. Be patient with yourself when you fall short of your expectations, and work hard to stay excited about your story. No one can stop you from telling your story unless you give up on yourself -- so don’t! The world is a better place for having your voice in it.

Have any additional tips for new creators? Comment below!

Like what you see?  Here's more information on Love Debut! and the Love Debut! Kickstarter Campaign, going on now! 

Teen Webcomic “Love Debut!” Launches on Kickstarter to Fund Graphic Novel

Teen webcomic “Love Debut!” launched earlier on January 25th on Kickstarter to fund a limited print run of the complete story. The story will be printed as a softcover book with 200+ pages, including bonus material that will expand upon the original characters.

“Love Debut!”, created by Deandra “Nika” Tan, follows the story of Nick Thomas, a rising pop star, who meets Sara Hofmann, a snarky loner in Nick’s class who used to be a child star. When they discover they have more in common than they thought, they team up to turn the music world on its ears. “Love Debut!” is published online on both LoveDebutComic.Com and the comics website Tapastic, where the series has amassed a following of over 6,500 readers.

The Kickstarter campaign for “Love Debut!” will run from Wednesday, January 25th to Friday, February 24th. Backers who pledge above the $25 softcover book tier will also have the chance to snag new merchandise, from print sets to custom charms. Recommended ages for readers is 13 or older.

You can back the Kickstarter here, or navigate here to read the story.

You can follow Nika on Twitter @onelemonylime, or back the “Love Debut!” Kickstarter here.

Thanks for reading. Check out these products.