Hi, everyone! It’s Jake, and today, I’m here to show you how to make pages for a webcomic.
Now this isn’t a tutorial about how to go about writing your story or how to build characters or how to make a good, compelling webcomic. This guide is all about time-saving tips and tricks that I’ve picked up over time working in Clip Studio Paint that not only save you time but can help you learn a thing or two about the tools you can and should try to utilize to accomplish that. Clip Studio is practically *made* for making comics, and I’m excited to show you what it has to offer.
(For the best experience, please watch along to the YouTube video linked below!)
Getting Started / Step 1: Format
Hopping into this, we’re going to assume you’ve already got a story ready. Your characters are ready to go, your script is on hand, and you have a basic idea of how you want your story to play out on a page. But before we begin putting pen to digital paper, the first and arguably most important step of the process is the base format of your comics.
There are stories of many artists who just jumped into their comics without considering this because all they expected to do was to upload on a website and call it good. Later down the line, when their audience has grown and they want to expand and turn their webcomics to print, they discover their early works are not print-friendly and they come out looking really bad on paper. This could be because of poor resolution, dimensions that aren’t accepted by comic printers, or any other number of reasons.
So when you start your webcomic, it’s really important to consider tuning in to the *option* of the possibility that you may take it to print. You will be much happier with yourself if you do and save yourself a LOT of headache in the future!
What’s really fantastic about Clip Studio is that there are lots of options for the kind of format you want for your comic. There are many presets you can choose from, including the size of the paper and if you want color or monochrome.
When you upgrade to EX, it gives you even *more* options, such as how many pages you want, where you want the binding, your author details, etcetera.
Upgrading to EX is not a requirement to make comics, but it does make it more streamlined and guarantees better uniformity through your webcomic.
For this tutorial, I chose to go with a standard A4 size, which is accepted just about anywhere. If you already have a specific publisher in mind, go with what they recommend.
Step 2: The Rough Sketch
Now that we have the format out of the way, we’re going to create some rough sketches!
If you can’t decide how to compose your pages, a good rule of thumb is that you just need a means to get your idea on paper, so don’t be afraid to make your first sketches messy! They will not perfect, and that’s okay! But you also don’t have to be stuck to one idea.
The goal is to just put it to paper, and you can always fix it before you ink. Some people also do roughs of most if not all the pages of the chapter before they dive right in, but this is not a hard and fast rule. I like to make my sketches blue, which you can do by going to the layer property window located on the right and clicking the blue and white icon. You can change it to any color you want, and this works for most any normal layers and folders, but I like to stick with blue because it’s the default.
TIP: Print Lines
Now you’re probably wondering, “Jake! Why are you ignoring the elephant in the room? What are these random lines around the page?”
Those are print lines!
They are guides to help you monitor what shows up in the final print should you decide to take it to a publisher. Even if you don’t, they’re helpful in keeping consistency across your pages.
Each line represents something different – the inner-most line is the safest space for your comic. This is where you want most of your text and action to appear. The two furthest lines are crop marks – the space between them is a buffer. Because not all prints are the same, this buffer represents the margin of error of what may and may not be cropped during the printing process. When you sketch out your pages, you want to pay close attention to these lines when you think of how you compose your scene.
Step 3: Panelling
So once you’ve gotten your basic idea onto the page and you’re satisfied with it, my next step is to go in with the panel tool and square out your panels. What’s really nice about Clip Studio’s panel creation is that, once used, it automatically blocks out an area and put it in a folder. This is super useful because it already saves the few extra steps it would’ve taken to do that. On top of that, you can still edit the size and shape of the panel, and it adjusts accordingly.
Step 4: Detailed Sketch
Next is to sketch the details of your drawing. Again, I turn the sketch blue because it makes it much easier to use as a guide when you go to ink. Some artists are skilled enough to immediately jump in to inking and skip this step entirely, but I am definitely not one of those artists. And you don’t have to be! It’s entirely about your comfort level and how quickly you can dish out your work at the skill level you’re at.
Step 5: Inks
Now comes my favorite part – inking! This is where personal preference and style can really shine. For my lines, I’m using one of the default brushes, called Real G-Pen. I really like this pen because of the slight jaggy edges that simulates how a paper absorbs the ink of a pen and gives it a little personality. If you haven’t yet, you should experiment with the different pens the program offers and find what you like! And if the defaults don’t do it for you, there are tons of free and paid options in the asset store. I’m personally perfectly happy with the defaults because they’re still great and get the job done.
A good tip for this part of your project is that you cannot let yourself get too caught up in too many details. The keyword here is *speed*, especially if you plan on making a webcomic that releases on a certain schedule. You’re allowed to be a little messy with your lines, and you don’t need to be pedantic. A good rule of thumb is this: the farther away the character is, the less detail you want to put in. On the other hand, the closer the character is – or the more they fill the page – the more details you’ll want to include. Save your beautiful detailed masterpieces for the cover art!
You might have noticed that as I finish inking, I use a tool to block where the colors are going to be. For this I use a tool called “Close and Fill,” which is under the paint bucket/fill tool. With my lines in a separate layer or folder, I select my lines and click on the lighthouse icon, which says Set as Reference Layer. You can only use this for one layer or folder at a time, so if you want to reference a different layer or folder, you need to have it highlighted and click the lighthouse again to set it as a reference point.
Then, once you do that, you look under the options of the Close and Fill tool. Under Area Scaling is the option Multiple Referring. Toggling any of those icons can indicate if you want the fill tool to refer to all layers (option 1), reference layers (option 2), checkboxed layers (option 3), or anything within the same folder as the layer you’re working on (option 4). Make sure the second option with the lighthouse is selected. Once all of this is done, you take the Close and Fill tool and circle it around the line art, and it automatically fills in the closed spaces! For this to work, you need to be sure that the lines don’t break, or it will not take.
The reason I do this is because it gives me an easily accessible block of color on a separate layer that I can use as a base for when I move on to my coloring phase. Once I’m finished with my lines, I create a separate folder where I can keep all my colors organized by panel. Because we used the panel tool, there are already folders available for us to organize into.
Step 6: 3D Assets (optional)
So my next suggestion may vibe differently with different people, but I know this works best for me.
My biggest weakness and time consumption are backgrounds and objects. Some artists are skilled enough to completely freehand everything, but again, I’m not one of those artists. I want fast, good-looking, and efficient, and I don’t want to cry over backgrounds for every single panel with them in it. But I also don’t want my characters to be floating in an empty void!
Luckily, there are tools in Clip Studio that help streamline that process as well. Clip Studio has numerous 3D assets – from buildings to small objects – for its users to implement in their comics and illustrations. The program already comes with some default sets and objects, but you can find even more user-created assets in the store, both free and paid. Even better is that many come with adjustable parts, so you can open doors, open windows, crush cans, move wheels, etcetera, for whatever you need to fit your scene.
When you want to use a 3D asset, it’s as simple as clicking and dragging from your materials folder onto the page. From there, you can move the object around, play with perspective, and shift the 3D space until it fits into your scene. This step can really come at any time in your process as you need it.
For this step, I used a paid locker asset created by user G-BLACK, which costs 20 GOLD. 20 GOLD is equivalent to 20 cents, so it’s super-duper affordable for such a quality item. Once I drag it into my page, I adjust as I see fit until I’m happy with it.
This next step is unique to 3D assets. Once I’m satisfied with the adjustments, with the 3D layer still selected, I go to my toolbar and click Layer > LT conversion of layer. The window that pops up gives you options on how you want to convert your 3D asset into 2D! You can adjust depth, line thickness, shadows, and even tone. When you do this, make sure to checkmark ‘Preview’ so you can see what it’ll look like when the conversion’s complete.
Again, play around with these options and find what you like! Because I’m focusing on colors and not tone, I want to keep the lines and the lines only. When you’re done, click OK, and Clip Studio will create a new folder all that layer information converted into 2D layers. If you messed up, don’t worry – the original 3D layer is still there! If you need to fix something, you can always go back and make adjustments and convert it again.
Step 7: Masking & Coloring
Now here’s another time-saving trick: the masking tools. What masking does is take another layer or selection as a reference and it will only paint inside the confines of that reference.
At our layer tab again, we’re going to click the icon next to the lighthouse. It has two circles, and it will say Clip to Layer Below. By clicking this, it will tell the layer you’ve selected that you want it to pay attention to ONLY the layer below it. This can also work for folders if you have multiple references or if you have multiple layers you want to have the *same* reference.
Unlike the lighthouse option, this option can be toggled across multiple different layers. I use this over the traditional masking tool because it is very quick to use and easy to edit. There’s a *lot* you can do to play around with clipping and masking, so feel free to experiment until you’ve gotten a better feel for it.
I use this clipping tool to refer to the block of colors I used earlier to stay in the lines and to color quickly. “But Jake, why don’t you just use the regular fill tool instead of all these extra steps?” Well, I’m glad you asked. The fill tool on its own has many merits, but unfortunately, it’s not perfect. When you use a regular fill tool, there’s a high chance that it will miss filling parts of your drawing. This includes sharp, tight corners of your line art it can’t quite reach, which can leave you with white spaces in and around your line art. It’s fixable, but fixing it will take up your time, and we want to avoid unnecessary backtracking.
Now back to coloring. One thing I’ll reiterate is – much like with the line art - you should *not* spend too much time sweating over the details. Remember that the amount of time you spend on each page of your webcomic is going to be the same amount of dedication your audience will expect from each and every page. If you find yourself worn out from finishing a single page and you have twenty or thirty left to go, consider simplifying your steps that’s the easiest and most enjoyable for you. You want to be proud of the work you put out, but you also don’t want to turn it into a slog and a chore.
Final Step: Dialogue
Now that the coloring is done, my final step is placing the dialogue balloons! You can use either the balloons already provided for you in the materials folder, or you can draw them yourself. I chose to draw them freehandedly because I feel like it gives it a little more personality than if they all looked the same with the presets. You can do this by going to the balloon icon in your tools and selecting Balloon Pen. Much like the panel tool, it’s a little more streamlined. When you make a circle, it auto-completes the line and fills the space in white, ready for text input. Additionally, you can use the tool to freehand the balloon tails, or you can use the Balloon Tail brush to give you a quicker point to your characters.
When you’re done with that, you can select your text tool – which looks like a capital A – and click directly into the middle of the balloon, and the text you type in will automatically lock in the middle of the balloon. You can easily adjust the size and spacing of the text and still even move it around however you see fit.
Make sure that the font you choose is readable to your audience. Ask a friend or a test reader to take a look before you upload to be sure! If the text is too small or the font is too unusual, it won’t matter how skilled your art is or how compelling your story is, because you will not retain an audience if they can barely read your comic. Clip Studio uses whatever font you have installed on your computer, and there are tons of comic fonts to choose from online. The world is your oyster!
Once you’ve made the finishing touching of your comic, you can export the pages from File > Export (single layer) --- or File > Export multiple pages, if you’re using EX --- and save to the location of your choosing, et voila! You’ve finished a page of your webcomic!
Webcomics are as simple or as complex as you want them to be, but it’s also meant to be an enjoyable experience. By using some of these time-saving tricks, you’ll be spitting out comic pages in no time!
If you enjoyed this tutorial, please consider liking and subscribing to my channel! Thanks for watching, please be safe out there, and enjoy!