Sunday, April 23, 2017

Conventions, A Blessing and a Curse

Way back in 2010, when Heidi and I were attending SCAD as wee baby graduate students, the writing was pretty much on the wall.  With the manga influence our styles shared, we'd be hard pressed to find work in the comic industry of the time.  With our backs against the wall, it was Heidi who suggested we give anime cons a shot.  Surely our styles would appeal to that audience?

Seven years and about a hundred conventions later, Heidi was right. 

It wasn't a perfect start- I had to build up an audience by doing conventions in the same location, year after year, filling commissions and chatting up my comic, 7" Kara, over and over again.  Conventions are work if you sell original products, and I've never minded a little hard work, especially when progress is apparent.

After five years of doing conventions, I really felt like I'd hit my stride. Copies of 7" Kara were selling well.  People recognized my work from Tumblr and Instagram, even if they couldn't pin it to my brand name (Nattosoup).  I had a steady influx of repeat customers and referrals.  Teenage girls swooned over my comic.  Although I, like so many comic artists, dreamed of this response, I'd never gotten it from my friends or while in grad school, and I'd leave conventions like Mechacon and MTAC feeling empowered- eager to make art, comics, and create educational content.

Conventions have worked so well for the both of us that it became tempting to lean on them as a income-crutch, assuming that they would be a fairly reliable source of money.  We justified our increased focus in a number of ways- starting How to be a Con Artist to collect our tutorials and con recaps (community and audience building, right?  Nope), we prepped as though editors were going to be there (spoiler:  If it's outta NY or SF, aint likely, especially not at anime cons), we made promo materials to help promote our online projects.

Although we attended dozens of cons, filled hundreds of commissions, and  met thousands of people, I found that there was a huge disconnect between my online audience and my convention audience.  I went through box after box of business cards, going from Moo cards with several designs (people would take one of each, without a thought as to what that cost me), to cheap Overnight Print business cards with a single design (they brag to me about putting the cards up on their wall, with no intention of checking out my work online), to promotional postcards to even 7" Kara stickers.  It seemed like no matter what I did- handwritten notes, enthusiastic endorsements, adorable promo materials, I couldn't get my con audience to engage me online.  I began to worry that I was creating an unsustainable business model built on the impulsivity of convention attendees.

Despite those misgivings, I continued with my con prep, continued filling commissions, continued trying to make connections.  I figured it was a numbers game, and perhaps the conversion rate for conventions is just abysmally low.

Unfortunately, the convention climate has changed in many ways.  The Southern Con Circuit, which is my stomping grounds, has finally seen an influx of print walls, print Walmarts, and collectives where none of the artists are actually present to sell their prints.  Last year's Mechacon was particularly pernicious, with attendees having a difficult time exploring the alley, as megabooths blocked out the sun...I mean view.  The economy has been on shakey legs since 2009, and 2016 was a rough year for many families, which restricted the disposable income that constitutes most kids' allowances. This combination meant that at many cons, sales were lackluster, and the reliable source of income wasn't so reliable anymore.

Even at the best of times, convention work was pretty much convention only- that audience did not follow me back to my Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Youtube, or even my webcomic.  While they were delighted, even enraptured sometimes, to see me at the show, and sales kept me so swamped I couldn't go to the bathroom for eight hours, those sales and that praise ended when the con closed Sunday afternoon.  No matter how much promotion, prep, or panels were prepared, the conversion rate was embarrassing.

During this time, I had shifted my focus away from industry work (so many non responses and rejections) towards self employment, and this meant that the proverbial con floor dropping out from under me caused quite a bit of anxiety and stress.  For awhile, I tried more impulse buy items- amped up sassy button production, more stickers, more mini prints, more ribbons and other cutesy knick-knacks, but the battle for the buck felt futile, as I spent more and more time on meaningless con assembly, and less time on comics or art. 

Something had to give.  I had no intention of competing with print-walls by upping my fanart print quota, no intention of treading in copyright waters with fanart charms or printed bags.  I had to remember why I started doing conventions in the first place- to sell original art, to create commissions, and to engage others, and focus on  pushing that in my daily non-con life.

In a way, the drop was beneficial- I launched my Patreon ), I launched 7" Kara as a webcomic, I launched a Youtube channel, I started pushing Amazon Affiliate links. Although all of these sources of income are fairly minor, they could earn money in the background while I put together a kidlit portfolio.  I focused on working on 7" Kara, and a pitch comic for a publisher's contest.  I stopped relying on the convention audience, who were so enthusiastic at the show, but so invisible after, to help me build a career, and started all over again, from scratch.  The financial pinch is still ever present- conventions changing really hurt my bottom line, and none of the above have come close to bridging that gap, but I think I'm also in a better place to start a career.

If there's something you can take away from this, it's that if you enjoy art and illustration, if you want to make a career as a comic person, don't allow conventions to distract you away from your end goal.  Don't allow one weekend of great sales to shift your focus from original content to nothing but fanart, because eventually, that floor may fall out from under you, and without original content, you have little to show for all those years of work.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

So You Want to Sell at Craft Fairs

I've done anime, gaming, comic, and even a few furry conventions over the years, but at my seven year mark, I feel like I've hit a bit of a dead end.  Sales are GREAT at the show itself, but there's no follow up, no post con interaction, and I felt like I was burning myself out.  These events usually run from one to three days, are indoors, and are limited to one table, and tend to only attract people interested in that niche.  Most of these events also charge entry or badge fees, and many of the three day events encourage attendees to book a hotel room or pay for parking as well, making the cost of general attendance quite high.

Although I've had success at anime and comic conventions selling my comic, 7" Kara, and my mini comics, I wanted to try family events, as my focus is kid lit and kid friendly media.

This weekend, I broke out of my comfort zone, and tabled at the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival.  I wanted to reach a new audience- parents with small kids, grandparents, general art fans, and I wanted to start tabling at craft fairs.

I offered to share my tent, tables, and booth fee with a couple other Nashville artists, who shot the idea down as being too risky.  We all sell paper goods, and they feared the weather would conspire against us, and that sales would be poor.  Despite their misgivings, I carried on anyway, and I'm so glad I did.

I've stopped doing convention reviews on this blog due to the massive time it takes to compile the information, but if you enjoy posts like this, and would like to see more convention reviews, as well as convention tutorials, tips, and tricks from an expert, please consider backing my Patreon.  My work for How to Be a Con Artist (Nattosoup) is pro bono.

Prep before the show:

Before ever applying to Cherry Blossom Festival, I'd found a large beach tent for sale on Slick Deals- exactly the size I needed to do outdoor events.  I already owned a 6' table as a 'demo table', and a 4' table had been purchased when I was planning on acquiring a laser cutter.  I also had a couple folding outdoor chairs that were kept in storage.

I've applied to Tomato Arts Festival and TACA (as a paying member) for years, with no acceptance, so this year, I decided to create a demo setup on my driveway, to show proof of concept.  The demo setup took an entire afternoon, but helped me solve many problems in advance, and provided a necessary blueprint for at show setup.

When applying to Cherry Blossom Festival, I added these photos to my convention portfolio and mentioned that they should focus their attention on the craft fair setups.  I feel like this demo setup really helped me gain acceptance, as it showed that this little anime con artists was capable of more than just con commissions at indoor shows.

At the show:

As you can probably see, I really amped my branding up.  Banners, banners banners!  There's a standing banner, my 6'x2' con banner, and my 6'x3' banner.  Since Cherry Blossom wasn't providing maps, I wanted to make it crystal clear whose booth this was!

When applying for Cherry Blossom, tent walls were an option that wasn't offered for those who brought their own tent, but I lucked out- the tent behind me did pay for a tent wall, providing a nice backdrop!  My modular gridwall helped me block off space from the next table (anime figurines), and helped define the space as a coherent whole. 

I wish that I'd had time to plan out a themed booth a bit better (I had big plans!) but March and April have been a huge crunch for me.  Next year, I'm going all out!

As you can see, I'm lost when I'm sitting, so I opted to stand, which allowed me to better engage customers.

The cute little shelves are actually matching shower shelves that I picked up from Marshall's!

Perhaps if the minis had been on the main table with me, customers would have been more likely to pick them up and flip through them.

Those of you familiar with my convention setup will recognize most of what's on the tabletop- the only real difference is that with the extended space, I can display more originals and give things a bit more space!

For Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival, you don't need to own your own tent, chairs, or tables- you can rent them, but owning them, especially if they're purchased in advanced on end of season sale, can really help cut down on your costs.  Purchasing my blue tent for $85 cost less than renting a tent, although I was responsible for set up at the show (though there were wonderful volunteers to help!)
Setup was from 8:30-9:30, with the Cherry Blossom Walk beginning at 9:30.  Sales didn't really start until around 10:30, but were steady until 5:30.  Fortunately, Joseph was there to help- he handled sales while I ate, went to the bathroom, or was busy conducting other sales.  Bringing an assistant who is familiar with your merchandise and your work methods can be a HUGE help.

Con Recap

What Worked:
  • Mini prints (both fanart and original)
  • Stickers
  • Charms (all original)
  • Original watercolors
  • 7" Kara
  • Japantrip
  • Pre-Sale Commissions
  • Standing for the majority of the day- otherwise I was lost behind the table!

What Didn't:
  • 31 Days Under the Waves Coloring Packs (I think people didn't know what they were)

What I would change:

  • Load in-load out- I need a folding wagon, hauling stuff is for the birds!
  • Better gridwall for gallery- the modular grids are a little too shakey for bigger shows
  • Heavier signage- wood or laminate
  • Raise tent higher

What Worked, but was out of my control:

  • The weather was amazing!  Very mild all day long
  • The crowds were dense, and happy to be there.  I've attended CBF for four years now, and this was the best crowd yet
  • A lot of my MTAC kids were at the Cherry Blossom Festival, which allowed for con pre-orders
  • Free admission meant people were willing to spend a bit of money

Differences Between Indoor Comic Shows and Outdoor General Shows:

  • Weather can make or break the event for outdoor shows!
  • Admission cost comes out of your pocket too- free admission shows that are established mean people are often willing to spend more on vendors
  • Scale your setup to fit your tent
  • For one day events, bring your A-Game from the get go!  There's very little downtime, but your sales window is much smaller
  • There's a good chance you'll be setting up your own tent, tables, and chairs, so keep that in mind when planning your time
  • Tent events tend to have larger spaces, so you can really spread out and maximize your display

  • A good setup can really help make your sales for you
  • Always. Have. Business. Cards (or postcards, or stickers)
  • Bring an assistant if you can

Craft Fair Starter Kit:
  • Mass market merchandise (like my wooden charms, children's comics, or watercolors)- merch that appeals to a more general crowd
  • Table+table cloth
  • Folding chairs
  • Display supplies- easels, plate stands, tiered stands
  • Larger display items- gridwall, floor easels, print racks
  • Your change box, method of recording sales, commission book (if you offer commissions)
  • Business cards!
If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends, or to your favorite social network!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Fountain Pens for Artists: Noodler's Konrad

Last week we covered the Noodler's Flex and the Noodler's Ahab.  This week, we're talking about the Noodler's Konrad.  There's a lot in common between the Ahab and the Konrad, so if you're torn as to which one is right for you, keep reading!

Noodler's Flex: $16.55 on Amazon
Noodler's Ahab: $21-23 on Amazon
Noodler's Konrad: $21-25 on Amazon



The Ahab and the Konrad are fairly similar- both hold a lot of ink, both feature a size 6 fountain pen nib, both have an ebonite feed.  The real difference is that the Konrad is like a larger version of the Flex- so if you enjoy the Flex's more streamlined body and piston fill but would like a larger body, the Konrad might be the pen for you.

Unlike the Ahab, the Konrad has a piston fill system- remove the back cap by unscrewing it, then screw the knob on the back to  extend and retract the piston mechanism to draw ink up into your pen.

As with the Ahab and the Flex, the nib and feed are friction fit, meaning they are removable for cleaning your pen out thoroughly.

Noodler's sells replacement nibs and feeds through Anderson Pens and Goulet Pens, so if something should happen to your nib (say you drop it) or to your feed, it's a quick and easy replacement.

Like the Ahab, the Konrad is a generous writer, as they use the same nib and feed system.  The piston fill can hold a fairly generous amount of ink, so it can more than keep up with the nib and feed.


  • Inexpensive
  • Flexible nib
  • Produced by a very small company in the US
  • Easy to find online
  • Fairly easy to maintain
  • Great way to learn about fountain pens
  • Can hold a lot of ink
  • Produces thicker lines than the Flex
  • Comfortable in the hand

  • Strong smell may be repulsive to some
  • May require some tinkering/additional cleaning

Surfaces the Konrad can easily write on:

Cellulose based watercolor papers such as Maruman, Holbein, and Fluid
Tracing paper
Sketchbook paper such as Blick Studio and Strathmore
Japanese notebook papers

The Verdict:

The Mama Bear of the Noodler's family- not too big, not too small.  My Konrad is a bit more finicky of an inker than my Ahab, but still a pleasure to use.  This is the third installment of my Noodler's fountain pen collection, and until I get a Neponset, probably the last, although honestly, I could quite happily own an entire pencase full of Flexes, Ahabs, and Konrads.

So which Noodler's Pen is right for you?

Fine lines, smaller lineart, delicate details: The Flex

Wide range of lines, huge ink capacity, ability to convert to eyedropper: The Ahab

Wide range of lines, easy to clean: The Konrad

More on the Konrad
Gourmet Pens
Fountain Pen Network
Fountain Pen Network
Built from Ink and Tea

For more inky goodness, check out my Fountain Pens playlist!

Get Your Own

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fountain Pens for Artists: Noodler's Ahab

In our last fountain pen review, we started off strong with the Noodler's Flex- a nimble little number that's a perfect introductory pen.  Today we're looking at the Noodler's Ahab, the Flex's older brother.  Only slightly more expensive, the Ahab has a huge ink capacity to match it's far larger nib.

Noodler's Flex: $16.55 on Amazon
Noodler's Ahab: $21-23 on Amazon

Vegetal Resin


Like the Flex, the Ahab has a sturdy screw on cap (this is something that artists will have to get used to if they're going to use fountain pens) that posts and features a metal clip.

The nib is approximately a size 6 nib, which means with some finagling, you can swap the Noodler's flexible nib out for something even more flexible, like a G nib.

The Ahab is a piston filler- which means you depress the piston, and pull it up to draw ink into the body of the pen.  The pistol holds a generous amount of ink but you can convert the Ahab's resin or acrylic (depending on the model) to an eyedropper filler for even more ink.

Noodler's sells replacement nibs and feeds through Anderson Pens and Goulet Pens, so if something should happen to your nib (say you drop it) or to your feed, it's a quick and easy replacement.

The Ahab is a fairly generous writer- the larger nib is capable of wider strokes, and the ebonite feed can usually keep up with the flow.  This is handy when using the Ahab for inking- this pen is capable of fairly fine lines, as well as wide strokes with a bit of pressure.

  • Inexpensive
  • Flexible nib
  • Produced by a very small company in the US
  • Easy to find online
  • Fairly easy to maintain
  • Great way to learn about fountain pens
  • Can hold a lot of ink
  • Produces thicker lines than the Flex
  • Comfortable in the hand

  • Strong smell may be repulsive to some
  • Many owners have difficulty getting the nib and feed back into the pen
  • May require some tinkering/additional cleaning
  • Some reviewers could not ever get the Ahab to work

Surfaces the Ahab can easily write on:

Cellulose based watercolor papers such as Maruman, Holbein, and Fluid
Tracing paper
Sketchbook paper such as Blick Studio and Strathmore
Japanese notebook papers

Shots of art inked with an Ahab

Inking over graphite with an Ahab is easy- and inking with the Ahab is very satisfying!  Although I have small hands, the Ahab isn't too large, and it's much easier to ink with than the Flex. 

The Verdict:

The Ahab was my second Noodler's pen, and my second flex, and if possible, I love it even more than my Flex.  Very comfortable to write with, a joy to use for inking, a huge ink capacity, even easier to clean out than the Flex once you know what you're doing.  I recommend the Ahab to anyone moderately familiar with fountain pens, who's looking for a good all-rounder, or someone with larger hands or arthritis problems.  My Ahab LOVES pigment ink, and will put down enough ink that most lighter opaque inks (like Storia Lion) will shade a bit, for lovely effects.

More on the Ahab
Tyler Dahl Pens
Well Appointed Desk

For more inky goodness, check out my Fountain Pens playlist!

Get Your Own

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fountain Pens for Artists: Noodler's Flex

In Cheap Thrills, I went over a handful of fountain pens that I enjoy using for my own art.  For each pen covered, I gave a mini review.  Hopefully in that post, I turned a few of you on to the idea of using fountain pens for your art. 

I realized that if Cheap Thrills did its job, some of you might be interested in a bit more on using fountain pens for your art.  The recommendations for an artist vs an enthusiast differ greatly, and as an artist who has amassed a small collection, I was in the privileged postion of being able to share the best of both worlds with my readers and friends.

Today we're taking a look at the Noodler's Flex- the quick brown fox who jumped over the lazy dog.  Small, flexible, and nimble, this little fountain pen is a great start for any artist looking for the pen to fit their needs.

The Noodler's Flex is a small pen- about five inches long, and approximately the same circumference as a technical pen.  It has the potential to hold a fair amount of ink, and needs no additional accessories save the ink of your choice.  It is piston filled, meaning you turn the screw on the back to raise and depress the plunger, has a removable nib and feed, and is perfect to pop into your pencil case for sketching on the go.

The cap screws on, which may take some getting used to for artists used to caps that snap on and off, and features a pen clip.

The cap posts to the back of the Flex, extending the length of the pen a bit, and may make it more comfortable for those of you with larger hands.

Noodler's sells replacement nibs and feeds through Anderson Pens and Goulet Pens, so if something should happen to your nib (say you drop it) or to your feed, it's a quick and easy replacement.

The Flex is a fairly small writer, with an estimated lineweight between .2mm and .5mm, you could achieve .7mm at the risk of permanently damaging your nib.

As you can see, on the heaviest stroke (requiring the most pressure) the flex began to railroad, as the ink couldn't quite keep up with the flex of the nib.

  • Inexpensive
  • Flexible nib
  • Produced by a very small company in the US
  • Easy to find online
  • Fairly easy to maintain
  • Great way to learn about fountain pens

  • Strong smell may be repulsive to some
  • Very small pen may cause cramping
  • Difficult to clean all of pigment ink left in pen, as it settles behind piston

Surfaces the Flex can easily write on:

Cellulose based watercolor papers such as Maruman, Holbein, and Fluid
Tracing paper
Sketchbook paper such as Blick Studio and Strathmore
Japanese notebook papers

I love the effect of fountain pen ink on tracing paper.

Inking over graphite with the Flex is easy- with pigment inks, there is no resist effect from the graphite.  The above piece was inked with my Noodler's Flex filled with Platinum Pigment ink in Rose Red, and once the ink had fully dried, the graphite was erased and watercolor was applied.

The Verdict:

While I know the Flex is not for everyone, it's definitely for me.  Not too big, not too small, can run through ink fairly quickly, so I'm not left with a huge barrel full of a color I'm done with.  Loves pigment ink, easy to maintain- a great starter pen for any artist who enjoys the pen and ink arts. 

More on the Flex:

Gourmet Pens
Wonder Pens

For more inky goodness, check out my Fountain Pens playlist!

Get Your Own

Today's Sponsor Today's sponsor is Shooting-Stars, a wonderful Photoshop brush resource!  All brushes on Shooting-Stars are free to use, provided you follow the license.

Shooting-Stars is run entirely by the wonderful Kabocha, a fellow comic artist, art supply enthusiast, and friend of mine.  You can check out more of her wonderful work by reading her webcomic, Linked.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Intro to Comic Craft: Step by Step: Environment In Roughs

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, backgrounds are sometimes an afterthought to the characters.  It makes sense- if you're world is this world, and your time period is this time period, your readers will be able to fill in those blanks easily enough.  But what if your world is fantasy, or viewed from the perspective of an outsider?  Then environments are an important part of your story, and deserve the same attention you give your characters.

Think of your environment almost as you would your own characters.  Your evironments need to be developed and populated.  For 7" Kara, it's important that establish two different worlds- the world of Kara and other Lilliputians (mainly her parents), and the human world.  These worlds have to be distinct- while there can be some similarities, you need to know at a glance which world we're in.  I shift focus frequently in later chapters between a Lilliputian's eye view and a human eye view, and even both views have unique characteristics and set pieces that give the reader clues as to how the character sees that world.

For 7" Kara, I've had to design numerous environments- the yard (from a human perspective and a Lilliputian perspective- very different views and feelings!), the sheds (one of which contains and protects Kara's home), two dollhouses as inhabitable spaces (a wooden Victorian inspired dollhouse, and a modern plastic Barbie dreamhouse), and a human sized home (gigantic to Kara).

Designing Naomi's home proved an interesting and fun challenge.  The original house and yard are strongly based on the house my mother grew up in- a house her father designed in the early 50's.  I don't have access to photos of that house, and I lived in Savannah, GA at the time, so I relied heavily on Google Streetview for reference for the exterior, and heavily on my own memories of the house for the interior.

Of course, since this is set in modern times, I did need to renovate a little.  Naomi's room is a complete fabrication, as will be her father's bedroom and his home office.

Whenever I'm designing environments for comics, I set the comic in a place I'm familiar with, and have some personal attachment to.  The house in Foiled (link) and How to Meet a Martian is the house I spent my teenage years.

I highly recommend you don't wait to design your environments- its easiest to design them during the concept and planning phase of your comic creation.  I cover environmental and worldbuilding in some detail in my Intro to Comic Craft: Step by Step Brainstorming and Character development post.

If you are a writer, providing your artist ample reference is highly recommend.  There are a number of ways you can do this, but I've found setting up Pinterest boards specific to the project has been very helpful for me.

Here are my boards that are relevant to 7" Kara:

Character Driven
Kara Inspiration
Meldina Clothes
Kara Clothes
Male Lilliputian Clothes
Naomi Clothes

Environmental and World

Naomi's House
Naomi's Room

House Design (established in Chapter 1)

Referenced Images:

The house Naomi and her father live in is based on the house my mother grew up in- a house my grandfather designed.  The house is no longer in family hands, so I relied on Google Streetview for enough reference to design the house.  I will not share those images here, out of respect for the current owners.

Exterior Of House

When designing Naomi's home and yard, it needed to be the sort of environment that could support a Lilliputian family who refused to steal from humans to get by.  My grandfather was an agricultural major who dabbled in farming his entire life, and every property he owned was scattered with fruit bearing trees, gardens for vegetables, and edible flowers- so this seemed a very natural setting for Kara's family.

As it appears in the comic:

Floorplan Blueprint

Above are concept sketches of Naomi's house, the various sheds in the yard, and Kara's house.  The two houses in this story reflect two different worlds, and I took that into account when designing the houses, the interiors spaces, and the objects within.

For Kara, the yard is scary but exciting- a representation of the intimidating outside world that she's curious but not prepared for.  It's also where the majority of her food is grown- from the various trees around the yard to plants she and her mother cultivate.

For Naomi, the yard is fairly common place- it's just a backyard with grass, trees, and a couple old sheds.  Until she meets Kara, there isn't much of interest in the backyard.

For Pancake, the kitten, the yard is a place to explore and play- his domain.

Back Porch

The back porch is the middle ground between Kara's world and Naomi's world- the first taste of a world purely intended for humans.  The front porch is on steps (set apart from the yard, which Kara is somewhat familiar with) and concrete- an unnatural environment for a Lilliputian.

Back Yard

This is a shared space, and reflects two worlds- the world of Naomi, a Lilliputian, who sees the yard as a gigantic space that encompasses the majority of her needs, and the world of Naomi, a human girl, who sees the yard as just a greenspace.

As it appears in the comic

Kara's Dollhouse Home Vs. The Dollhouse Introduced in Chapter 7

Kara's Home:

  • Made of wooden and chipboard
  • Very lived in
  • Repurposed human objects for furniture, decoration
  • Objects are mainly utilitarian- for use and enjoyment
  • Although this was originally a toy for human children, Lilliputians have made it their own

As is, it is located in a shed, and protected from the worst of the elements- does not get directly rained on, is in the shade, out of the sweltering Louisiana sun, mostly protected from the damp.

Naomi's Barbie Dreamhouse:

  • Very plastic
  • Lots of open spaces- no protection from elements
  • Plastic, scaled furniture
  • Nothing actually works- all very fake
  • It looks like a home, but is not- nothing has been changed or customized
  • Clearly a toy

Interior of Naomi's House

Kitchen Design

Given Kara's scale, even the refrigerator is an environment in chapter 7.

Living Room/Dining Room Design

Before painting this page, both of these pages need to be pulled out to better show the environment.  Shot choice can be particularly important in determining how your reader views the environment in your story.

Hallway Design

Naomi's Room

When designing a bedroom for a 14 year old girl, it needs to reflect her character.  For Naomi, it needs to reflect a major upheavel (the move from New Orleans to a small rural Louisiana town on the other side of the Mississippi River), the looming move into the world of adulthood, her reluctance to leave childhood and safety behind.

Initial Room Design

The Room as it appears in the comic

Naomi Scale:

Kara Scale

So as you guys can see, Naomi's bedroom would be a different experience for a 7" tall person, and it's important that I capture that experience to some degree in this chapter (although I will have the opportunity to continue it in later chapters as well).  I need to show everyday objects in a new, exciting light, as Kara is encountering most of these things for the first time.

Setting Up Your Environment:


Commonly Used in 7" Kara:

1 Point

Bottom Panel

2 Point

 Top Panel, Second Panel

Top Panel
3 Point


Bottom two panels

How I Set Up Perspective Grids

Other Options for Setting Up Your Backgrounds and Perspective

Faking It:

Tips and Tricks for Setting Up Environments
  • High horizon line- shows mostly floor
  • Low horizon line- shows mostly sky
  • Draw your background tight in your thumbnails- it's easier to tighten up an existing background than to start from scratch
  • Blueline Sketching with a Non Photo Blue Pencil:

These roughs are enlarged copies of the thumbnails that have been converted to non photo blue and printed at draft quality.  This makes using a non photo blue pencil to refine details fairly easy- I can see what I drew, and I can see what I'm drawing, and the two aren't confusing.  Once I've tightened up my details, I finalize in graphite.

  • Draw Through Your Objects

Environments are a fairly dense topic, as well worth exploring as character design and story creation, and I hope that you will explore the links provided in this post, as they cover specific topics in depth.

I hoped you enjoyed this focus on environments during the rough creation process!  If you have any questions or requests, please feel free to email me using the form in the left hand sidebar.  I hope I've convinced you to try something new, or to rethink the place environments have in your panels.

Resources for Set Design/Settings

Creating Dynamic Backgrounds for Comics: Part 1: Drawing Thumbnails (outside resource, video)
Creating Dynamic Backgrounds for Comics: Part 2: Two-Point Perspective Images (outside resource, video)
Creating Dynamic Backgrounds for Comics: Part 3: Rules of Illusion (outside resource, video)
Creating Dynamic Backgrounds for Comics: Part 4: Implied Realism (outside resource, video)

Speaking of resources, if you make comics, you're going to want to check out Kabocha's Photoshop and Manga Studio Brushes:

Kabocha's brushes are free for personal, comic, and illustrative use, and I regularly use them myself!  There are loads of effects brushes, from rain to lace.  And if you enjoy Kabocha's brushes, please check out Linked, her webcomic.

Thanks for reading. Check out these products.