These days it seems like the internet was designed almost entirely for people to tweet about things they just ate, post photos on Instagram of things they’re about to eat, or find things on Facebook they’d like to eat in the future. In between, some people also like to read webcomics. And sure, webcomics have been around since the internet was just a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye, but it seems like they’re only just now coming into their own thanks to popular webcomics like Penny Arcade and The Oatmeal, which are read by millions of people each and every day.
About a year ago, my friend Pol Desmarais and I decided it might be fun to create our own webcomic called HUMAN/NATURE, which is about an office where cartoon humans and animals work side-by-side (sort of a Richard Scarry meets The Office vibe, with a few poop jokes thrown in for good measure). While the original idea for the webcomic was Pols’, we both come up with ideas for new strips (which we keep in a shared document), after which I write the final script, while Pol (who is a classically trained animator) handles the art. It’s been an interesting learning experience so far, and while I’m by no means a webcomics expert, below are five simple steps which we followed, and which you can too, in order to get your very own webcomic up and running.
Step 1: Find a concept: If you don’t already have an idea as to what your webcomic is going to be about, take a quick look around the internet and get a sense of what’s out there. Sites like TopWebComics.com are a great place to start and can provide you with a list of some popular strips that might help get the creative juices flowing. Also, not to worry if you can’t draw. While there are some incredible, visually stunning webcomics out there, some of the most popular webcomics around – such as XKCD, and Dinosaur Comics – look like they were drawn by a hyperactive six-year old, and yet have millions of fans around the world. Write or draw what you know and what interests you. Also, don’t worry too much about figuring every little detail out right away. Chances are your webcomic is going to evolve as you go along.
Step 2: Create some sample strips: Before you post your first strip online, it’s generally a good idea to whip up at least 5-10 sample strips first. Doing so will give you a chance to get down your style and figure out what exactly your strip is going to be about. Think of it as valuable practice before the big game. It’s also the perfect time to figure out what tools you’ll be using to create your strips. Since your comic is going to be appearing in an online digital format, tools like CorelDRAW and Painter are a great way to put your comics together. Getting a few strips down also means that you’ll have some material to post and won’t be scrambling to get new strips done once your webcomic is up and running. In addition, by creating at least five to ten initial strips, you’ll also be able to gage how long it takes you to create a single strip. That will help determine how often you’ll be posting new strips and whether your webcomic is going to be a daily, weekly or even monthly publication.
Step 3: Get a web domain: Once you have an idea as to what your webcomic is going to be about – plus 5-10 sample webcomics in your back pocket that are ready for posting – you’ll need to snag a web domain. There are a number of great sites out there, such as Go Daddy which offer domain names for relatively cheap and can also provide you with additional elements such as web hosting or personalized email. Just be sure to choose your website’s name wisely as it’s going to be the first thing people see when they hit your site.
Step 4: Create your site: Now that you have your domain name in place and a few webcomics ready to go, you’ll need to put together a website. If you’ve never created a website before, not to worry, it’s easier than ever thanks to tools like Corel Website Creator. There are also a number of pre-made web templates out there which are free to download and will let you get a website posted without having to do any coding yourself. ComicPress for example, is a popular WordPress template that has everything you need for a webcomic already set up for you. If you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, you can find a ton of helpful information out there that offers free information on how to create your own WordPress website from scratch. As a last resort, you can always just post your comic on social media sites like Tumblr or Blogspot. If, on the other hand, you’ve got a solid technical background and decide to create your own website from scratch, you’ll want to include things such as an About page, an Archive page and a Home page which features your latest strip (don’t forget include a navigation bar under your comic so users can find old and new strips quickly and easily). You might also want to include an RSS feed, a page for links and possibly a shop if you want to sell things like t-shirts and art prints at some point further down the road.
Step 5: Post Content Regularly: Once your website is up and running, you’re ready to start posting content. One of the golden rules of webcomics is to post consistently in order to keep your readership engaged and growing. If for example, you decide to post your webcomic each week on Monday morning (which we do with HUMAN/NATURE), make sure you always post on time. If you want to know when the best time is to post, you can actually use Google Analytics, to track visits to your site on a daily, weekly and even hourly basis. You might also want to write a blog which offers news about what you’ve been up to and a little more information on your webcomic. It’s also a good idea to set up a Twitter and Facebook account so you can link to your webcomic and hopefully attract more readers. Don’t worry too much about promoting yourself online once you get started. On average, it takes a webcomic about a year to get off the ground and establish a solid reader base. Focus more on producing a webcomic that people will hopefully want to read. In other words: if you build it, they will come.
And so there you have it, creating your own webcomic in five easy steps. Good luck, happy comic creating and most importantly of all, have fun!
Are you a webcomic creator? Post a link to your website in the comments below!