Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

tea_green at 9:44PM, Feb. 10, 2007
posts: 292
joined: 6-23-2006
I suck at drawing backgrounds but I'm drawing them and practicing. Anyone got any tips or advice. I'd surely appreciate it.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:08PM
ozoneocean at 11:27PM, Feb. 10, 2007
posts: 24,789
joined: 1-2-2006
The way I do them is to visualise my character's surroundings in 3 dimensions and think about where they are in relation to everything in their environment; be it in a room or outside. That way I know what to draw and where to draw it.

Never do the background last! It makes it too hard… Do the BG at the same time as the characters. You might even have the characters interacting with the BG, like a bed, a door, a car, etc.

For what the BG is meant to look like just think about what's appropriate for a BG in that situation: Bedroom- wardrobe, bed, clothes on the floor, dressing table, mirror, doorway etc.

Colours in a BG can be lighter or darker than the characters but should probably contrast less with each other; be less striking and bold against each other than the characters colours are.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:25PM
LunarYouko at 10:52AM, Feb. 11, 2007
posts: 102
joined: 12-11-2006
I don't feel I'm good with backgrounds either. I agree with ozoneocean in that it is easier to not draw the bg last. I've found that when the character is the focus, I like to draw them first and draw the bg to compliment them. If the point of the shot is to give the reader an idea of the surroundings, then I focus on the bg first and then set up the characters within the environment. Try to think of the bg as part of the scene, and interacting with the characters, not something to be tacked on at the end.

I don't know too much about using color in comic bg's as I prefer to work with black and white. But I agree that it helps to keep the tones of the bg duller than the characters so they don't distract from the main point, unless the bg is the main focus of the scene.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:49PM
Priceman at 9:35PM, Feb. 11, 2007
posts: 521
joined: 11-2-2006
Excellent advice Ozone. I usually draw the characters first and the backgrounds last. I'll have to try it your way on my next page.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:47PM
Kristen Gudsnuk at 10:02PM, Feb. 11, 2007
posts: 1,340
joined: 10-4-2006
yeah, you really shouldn't wait till the end to do a background bc it'll make your piece look disjointed. My tips would be, if you're not confident in your background skills, don't focus on lushly detailed backgrounds as much. Maybe just a dresser, a chair, or something, as a means of practicing. Try to establish a vanishing point in your pictures, it'll really make them look a lot more multidimensional.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:22PM
Akumyo at 5:35PM, Feb. 13, 2007
posts: 19
joined: 8-18-2006
Always color your backgrounds first. If you color your characters first, they won't really mesh with the rest of the page. I forgot this and quickly came to regret it.

Sometimes really busy backgrounds will just conflict with the characters. Remember that it isn't always necessary to show everything, especially in panels where it is just the characters talking or some such. Splashes of color, or even patterns will work nicely too in situations like that.

If you are having difficulty drawing something particularly complex like a castle or indoor scenery, practice it first by drawing it seperately from the comic. Build a layout, and plan where your characters will be at any given time, so everything will make sense when you put it down on paper.

Unless it is an establishing shot, never make the background very detailed. If your characters are the focus, don't stick something like a really shiny light, or a pile of glittering gold in the background. It will just confuse the eyes.
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:48AM
Shingo at 7:13PM, Feb. 17, 2007
posts: 36
joined: 12-27-2006
This was extremely informative. I've been trying to make my bgs too complex and that's why they don't look so good. I'm trying it this way now. :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:34PM
Terminal at 4:53PM, Feb. 19, 2007
posts: 5,505
joined: 1-6-2006
Never detail your backgrounds too much, and never lack too much detail.

If you add too much detail to the background, it blends in with the characters and meshes all around. (That can be solved by thicky outlining your characters, but still…) A perfect example of this is this page.

If you lack too much detail, you'll end up in a blank void that feels empty. If a character is next to a wall, make sure to add a poster, a picture frame. Anything. I have one example of this. In this page, on the last panel. If I were to take away that poster, the arrow, and that little square-ish thing at the top, the page would look really empty. As you can see, this page is somewhat perfect combination of background and characters, neither meshes into neither.

The background also have to appear lived in, draw a wall, make sure to add little line signifing dirt or wear and tear. Never add too many shadows, only add to the stuff that's important (i.e. extremely noticeable) That's a lesson I learned the hardway, I remember I would add shadows to everything.

My last tip? Use reference. Your imagination is fine and dandy. But sometimes, make sure to use reference, it makes things alot easier.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:11PM
ShadowsMyst at 2:11AM, Feb. 20, 2007
posts: 218
joined: 1-9-2006
I've recently come to think as my ‘background’ as a character unto itself for my comic Shifters in the Redux. It deserves just as much attention as the characters do, and its a really good way to convey world information without ever having to say anything. It is really amazing what people pick up on in your BGs, or what they miss as a result of not having them.

Its good practice to do the backgrounds first. If you work digitally I suggest keeping the characters and backgrounds on seperate layers. I generally do all the work on the BGs before doing the figures, because they tend to take the most time. But it REALLY pays off to spend the time.

Perspective, reference, and practice are required. Reference is a MUST. The difference between having reference and not having reference is like night and day. It makes a huge difference.

If you have an inherantly busy/detailed background, it is possible to do a very detailed background, but it requires some forethought to the compositions so you can create focal points and white spaces where the character figures will be placed. So the background can be complicated without becoming overwhelming. People's eyes get lost on a page when they lose their focal point. If a page consists of panels of all relatively the same size, with characters in the same positions, at the same sizes, with no real focus, it looks busy. If you plan it well, you can create strong focal points on the page which moves the eye around more easily and gives it a sense of flow.

I have a webcomic making blog! Check it out.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:32PM

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