The art of drawing comic books and graphic novels is complex and challenging, but it’s also an indispensable part of the ever-growing comic book industry.
The demand for graphic novels and comic books is growing, so if you are a comic book artist, now might be a good time to put your skills into practice.
Of course, if you become part of the comic book industry, you will continuously have to practice, learn new things, and sometimes, adapt your drawing style to publishers’ demands.
Obviously, knowing how to draw is just the first step in becoming a well-known artist like Stan Lee or Adam Hughes. Speaking of them, you may wonder how you could reach at least some of their greatness.
Working in the comic book and graphic novel industry is not an easy task, so you should get ready to face the challenges that come with the territory.
Here are six things you should consider before joining this industry.
1.The basics of comic book and graphic novel art
The movies based on Marvel and DC comics have been a huge hit over the last ten years. As a result, the comic book market continues to grow both in sales and demand.
In fact, the comic book industry has reached an all-time high in terms of sales, with more and more comic book collectors willing to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for collectible editions.
As a comic book or graphic novel artist, your job is to either create an entire comic book or contribute to illustrating certain parts of it. You can either work on your original idea independently or with a whole team.
Graphic novels and comic books usually tell a story that can be humorous, dramatic, realistic, supernatural, inspired by real-life events or placed in a made-up universe.
Since some comic book ideas require a lot of time to develop, it’s common for an entire team to get involved in the comic book creation process.
For example, one comic book artist works on the key characters, another on backgrounds, etc. They all need to collaborate with the writer who creates the script.
Since the entire comic book industry is very competitive, you have to be extremely talented to succeed. That means your first job may not be that of a comic book artist. But don’t let that discourage you. You can first try working for a publisher and use that time to hone your skills. All you learn will later help you advance your career.
2. Essential artistic techniques
If you wish to become a comic book artist, you must possess an artistic ability because talent for drawing and conceptualization are essential for successful artists.
But having talent isn’t enough. You have to work hard and perfect basic drawing skills. That includes shading, lighting, rendering, as well as conveying body language and facial expressions.
In terms of artistic techniques, we don’t necessarily refer to a specific popular style but rather a collection of artistic techniques every aspiring artist must master. It’s what separates a true artist from someone who draws as a hobby.
Another thing you should be mindful of is that, nowadays, most art is created on computers. That means you’ll need to know how specific graphic software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop works. You’ll probably start on paper, with a simple pencil and some sketches, but you’ll probably have to switch to a Wacom tablet at some point.
Regardless of the medium you create your works on, remember that true artists develop their own drawing style characterized by details unique to them. That’s what you must work hard and practice on, be it on paper or computer. You have to learn how to make the most of your skills and style.
There are a lot of ways to break into the comic book industry as an artist, but earning an appropriate degree should be your first step. It’s not mandatory to graduate college, but the training you receive in school can help you when you start looking for a job.
You can go to a college or university or choose a private art school, for example. Some art schools have specific classes where you learn more about web comics, graphic novels, manga and anime.
3. The basics of storytelling
As a comic book artist, you need to be able to tell a story through your art. After all, comics are all about building a great story through illustration and compelling writing.
Terrific illustrations alone are usually not enough to attract readers. Neither is a plot, be it romantic, violent or filled with action. You can create amazing drawings, but if your story doesn’t intrigue or attract the reader in some way, it’s back to the drawing board for you.
There are a lot of different styles of storytelling you can implement in your comic books. Try to find the one that works best for the particular story you want to tell.
4. The portfolio
One of your best ways of landing a job as a comic book artist is to showcase your work. If you have a portfolio or a website where you presented your previous works, be it personal projects or commissions, you’re closer to your dream job.
Of course, your style will change and evolve over time and that’s completely fine. Your portfolio will reflect all the changes you went through, showcasing your progress and skillset. Just make sure to work on improving your portfolio as much as possible. It should include a variety of pieces to showcase your talent as well as your ability to adapt to the needs of clients, agencies and companies you worked with.
Focus on getting as much experience as possible to grow your portfolio. If you prefer freelancing and wish to enter the comic book market alone, organize your schedule well so you can timely complete all tasks.
However, don’t forget that freelancing jobs often lack regular payment or require you to work long hours which can take a toll on you and your creativity.
Before you become a part of the comic book industry, remember that you must prove yourself first. Chances are, you won’t be successful as a freelancer from the start.
As you build experience and reputation, your income per page can increase from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars per page. Comparably says multimedia artists and animators in the US make an average of $61,063 per year. Salaries usually range from a little under $20k to $145k.
Your salary as a comic book artist depends on several things, including the country where the company you wish to work for is based, its size, whether your work is printed or published online, and also if you are employed or working freelance. There are a lot of important things to consider before making a decision.
Your success in the business is dependent on your motivation. When you have your own studio or work from home, you can create an ideal schedule that best meets your needs. In such cases, you’re usually free to craft the work schedule you’re comfortable with, as long as you meet your deadlines.
When organizing your schedule, you should know that graphic novels take much more time to create than strips or regular comic editions. A single novel can take more than a year to create. By contrast, a one-page comic strip can be done in just a few days.
To ensure you complete your tasks on time, you have to be motivated to put in the work and be in the right headspace. Otherwise, you can get stuck in the details and needlessly prolong the creative process.
Nobody starts with a portfolio or years’ worth of experience, but consistently drawing over the years can be of tremendous help for your career. Create as much as you can and learn as much as you can about the art of comics.
Test your skills with a webcomic first. You can post it online to see what kind of reaction it gets and use the feedback to improve your work if needed.
Another thing you should do is enrich your portfolio with your best works. Add as many of your comics as you can to show your skillset. That way, you will show comic book and graphic novel editors what you’re capable of. Your portfolio and experience should become your calling card.
Consider going to comic book conventions where you can meet famous publishers and editors that work for the best publications. You can also get advice on how to hone your skills and become successful from the best manga, webcomic or comic book artists.
Every year, there are a lot of comic book conventions all over the country, so there are plenty of options to choose from.
Consider going to some, mingle and meet people who could help you become the famous comic book artist you were meant to be. Plus, you can also apply for a job at the companies participating at comic book conventions.
Of course, it might be a bit difficult to get a job with some of the greatest publishing houses, such as Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse. For starters, you could consider working at an independent comic book company that may be more inclined to take you in at the early stages of your career.
Working as a comic book artist is exciting and dynamic, but it requires a lot of hard work and dedication. You should start by gaining experience in school as that will help your career in the long run.
Focus on your technique, create a portfolio, stay motivated and gain as much experience as possible as that will bring you closer to your dream job as a famous comic book artist.