How To Break Into Comics: Penciling

by Omar Spahi

Okay, so you want to be a comic book artist?
Full disclosure, I’m probably not the best person to talk to about this, seeing as I have little artistic ability.
But I have interviewed some of the top names in comics and learned a ton through our conversations. What I can do is convey what I’ve learned to you.
As you’re well aware, there are pencilers, inkers, and colorists working on comics. For this article, we are just going to focus on penciling. For the others, I’ll make a dedicated article for each of those.
So, you want to work for a major company?
The first thing you need to do is draw, draw and keep drawing. Practice drawing until you’re sick of drawing. Then, draw some more.
Draw everything from faces and expressions, to things around you like chairs, food. If you can think about it, draw it. Practice on things you don’t like to draw to get better. It’s easy to focus on one thing over and over again, but when you master things that you don’t like to draw, that’s what helps you grow as an artist.
The first step would be practice. Practice. Practice.
You can learn a ton from others as well, since comics have a certain flow. Make sure the panels are set up the right way. I would strongly suggest going to an art school to learn from others that have done it. That will also help you network with other artists.
But we can’t all afford the time or money to go to art school, so I would suggest watching Youtube tutorials from comic art creators. They’ll teach you how to lay out pages, and what the particular tendencies of the page are.
Self-reflect on where your art stands in comparison to other creators. Is it in the same ballpark? Some friends may say that your art is great in order to be nice, or because they don’t know any better.
After you’re well-practiced, take your portfolio to editors. Some people get hired right on the spot, but that’s the exception, not the rule. Most of the time, the editor has too many artists in hand and can’t be bothered to keep your submission.
You need to go up to every booth at comic cons and show your portfolio around, and also carry cards with art samples, prepared to get left behind. Don’t be shy about asking for their info, either. It’s great to keep in touch after a show has ended because if they liked your work, they will hire you eventually when a spot opens up.
To be a comic artist, the most important thing is to be good. Since it’s a visual medium, the most important thing is to work on your craft and make professional quality art.

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