In this program, students learn to create and reproduce comics on their own with commonly available materials.

Get starting by reading Part 1 and Part 2.

Presentation and Notes!

Start here, watch the slides and read the notes to learn about making comics!

Why DIY vs. digitally created, professionally printed comics?

– Digital software and professional printing is expensive. Printers also require large numbers of prints, and you have to learn how to use the design software.

  – Most comic artists get their start by making books this way, especially indy-comix. 

You need to learn the basics of comic-making first. If you are learning how to skateboard, you don’t start by dropping in a 20 ft. tall half-pipe.

-Do-it-yourself means that you design, draw, handprint, fold and bind the comic yourself! Meaning, there is a sense of craftsmanship to the finished product.

Step 1) Get your storyboard and ideas ready

-You have your idea for a comic after brainstorming, but before you even start drawing, inking, coloring, or lettering you need a storyboard to follow!   

A storyboard is a combination of words, symbols, and pictures that is a visual guide for an idea.

Why do you need a storyboard?

Think of it as a track for a train (the train is your idea). The track is really good for getting the train from point A to point B quickly without interruption. Remove the track and you have a mess.

A storyboard will help you make the comic:
        1) You know exactly how the story plays out.

        2) You know the number of pages, including covers

        3) Following the storyboard, you know the basic layout of pages and panels, or how the comic looks page-to-page.

I have my storyboard, but I don’t know how best to make it into a comic?
-Read guides, online or in books!

-Jessica Able, author cartoonist and educator. Won two Harvey Awards and Best Comic of the Year 2006 by Time. Teaches at the Pa. Academy of fine arts, and is chair of the illustrator program. Her website has some guides for comic making: drawing process, materials, lettering, etc..
The best way to learn is by reading comics! Look at layouts, or how the comic is put together and how everything is arranged. If possible, go to comic fairs and talk to creators or write them an email/letter!

Step 2) Know what format you want

Think of the size, shape, dimensions, and how the comic will be folded and bound.

3 basic formats (Reference, “DIY: Making Minicomics,” Able):

1) Digest= standard printer paper 8.5” x 11” folded horizontally in half. 4 sides.

        2) Mini= Digest folded in half. 8 sides.

        3) Micro= Mini folded in half. 16 sides.

-However, there are no rules, they can be any shape or size you want! (e.g. you can fold them vertically instead of horizontally)

Other considerations for format:

-You need to leave a ⅜” gutter (blank space) between the art and the end of the paper when photocopying because copies tend to shrink.

    – You also need to consider how you are going to bind (i.e. join together) pages: saddle stitch is fine, but you need to account for space where the comic will be stapled.

Step 3) Make a list

How many pages will your comic run? Remember to count:
a) 1 piece of paper folded in half = 4 pages.   

b) front, back, and front inside and back inside into page count.   
-Here you have a cover, contents page and/or empty pages on the insides. You always end the comic on a left page, so that there are an even amount of page numbers. It’s okay to have a blank page at the end!
    –Remember: this is where storyboarding helps keep us on track!

Step 4) Cover design!

– This is what people see first. You can use colorful paper, paint, stickers, add texture etc. Try different paper stocks or even different materials, such as fabric!
– Be creative, but remember you have to recreate the cover for multiple copies. You can make a test cover with different material and then copy it to see how it prints on regular paper.

Step 5) Photocopying art to size, or copy art together

(Reference, “DIY: Making Minicomics,” Able)

-If you are resizing art = if you drew the artwork out larger than it will appear in the comic book, you can photocopy the art to a smaller size (this is where gutters, formats, and storyboards are extremely important!). Ask someone familiar with the copy machine for help.

    –Black and white is the cheapest. But, no grays= no subtlety/nuance (e.g. shadows and detail are lost). Light parts end up lighter, dark parts end up darker.   

    –Pencil will get washed out or look faint/faded on the copy. So, make sure to draw in pencil and then trace in ink.

    -Not all copy machines are equal in quality. All differ in how copies will turn out, and all have different settings. It’s best to test a few copies and ask for help.

Step 6) Make a mock-up

This step is extremely important, as it shows you what order to copy and print your comic and how to put it together. 

    Example: 12-page comic, Digest style. Every single piece of paper = 4 pages, so there are 4 pieces of the paper total. This includes the front and back covers (three pieces of paper = 12 pages on the inside!)

-This is also important if you are double-sided printing. Page numbers on a single sheet of paper aren’t necessarily consecutive, or in numerical order.  In our example, the first piece of paper after the cover is pages 1, 2, 11, and 12, not 1, 2, 3, 4.

Step 7) Make the master copy

This is what you will use to make duplicates of your comic!

-Like a game of telephone, if you keep copying each duplicate, the quality of your next copy will decline.

-Literally cut and past art, copy (words) unless you decide to handwrite them.

-Follow the mock-up and past everything in the order you want it to go.

-A ruler is handy to help you find the center between two pages (i.e. the middle of a sheet of paper)

Always double and triple-check with your mock-up before pasting!

If you have access to a scanner and design/pagination software, then you can do this all digitally.

-Once the masters are made, you are ready to photocopy! Ask for help when double-sided printing.

Step 8) Folding

(Reference, “DIY: Making Minicomics,” Able)
NOTE: Do not fold the master! It is used for making copies. If you fold it, the crease will show up in the copies.

Folding tool = bone folder. Yes, some are made out of actual animal bones. You can use a ruler or flat, smooth piece of plastic instead. 

  1. Hold the piece of paper so the spine is toward you and bend it upward. But, do not fold or crease!

2. Put your index fingers (i.e. “pointers”) inside and bend to align corners.

3. Use non-dominant hand to hold a corner in place so it can’t move.

4. Put a crease in the center of the spine with the bone folder.

5. Using a sweeping motion, go from the crease to the corner on the side of the paper where your hand is holding the corners together. Pull toward you each time.

Step 9) Binding

Again, do not bind the master copy!

The best and easiest way to bind a DIY comic is by stapling it. However, the digest size can’t be saddle-stitched (stapled on the spine) with a conventional stapler. So, you can stab/side stitch (a staple on the side of the spine).
    -Again, this is why that gutter is important.

Other kinds of binding:
-Saddle stitch with a needle and thread (if you can sew). 

-Hole-punch and tie with yarn or thread. 

-Stab/side stitch with a sewing machine (Ask for help!)

-Use brass tacks. Or anything else you can think of! But, glue and tape tend to be messy and don’t hold up well over time.