Art 101: Draw large and reduce
You don’t need a subscription to read today’s post!
If you’ve ever been curious about the kind of information, tutorials and advice that you’ll get as part of your subscription to Webcomics.com, this is a good example.
If you’d like to join the site, you can get a 12-month subscription for $30 — or you can get a one-month Trial for $5 … with no obligation after your 30 days expire. For less than three bucks a month, you can get a steady flow of information, tutorials and advice targeted towards your webcomic business — plus a private forum to discuss issues with other professionally minded cartoonists.
I took a question on Twitter recently:
Would it be wrong to draw my comics on A4 paper? I find it hard to fill big spaces.
My answer was, of course. that he should do what he felt comfortable doing. 140 characters doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for art advice. But it made me think that perhaps some artists don’t understand the benefit of drawing larger than the final size of the strip.
The primary benefit is that reducing the art tends to make the line work look cleaner and smoother. All of the little shakes and quakes of your hand are minimized, leaving your lines looking much more confident.
For a long, long time, I understood this concept, but I never put it to adequate use.
I would draw my original at 13×4″ and reduce it to 6×1.9″ (approximately) and then add the lettering, process for print and Web, and be on my way. The reduced lines looked great, but my master files we only six inches wide. That left me in pretty bad shape when I needed the strips (or individual panels) to be larger. Given the way I lay out my books, this came back to bite me a lot in the first few Evil Inc books. It also left me in bad shape if I wanted to use the master file for any merchandising or promotional purposes.
Finally, I wised up and made my master strips 13×4″. They still reduce before hitting newspapers or the Web, but when I use them at larger sizes (like when I’m designing my graphic-novelizations of the strip), I have a lot more leeway.
“…I find it hard to fill large spaces…”
Everyone has a size at which they find it comfortable to draw. Some people have to draw huge with grand, sweeping strokes, and others are much more comfortable with a compact space to fill.
In general, I think bigger is better. Beyond the reduction/line quality issue, I think that drawing small can sometimes be the result of a lack of confidence. And if that applies to you, then the only way to get over it is to challenge yourself to draw larger.
How big? Again, speaking in strictly general terms, I would advise most beginning cartoonists to aim for at least 75% reduction between original art and final presentation. Once you gauge the effect that that reduction rate has on your art, you can adjust it to maximize (a) your drawing comfort and (b) the line quality you gain.