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Drawing the Invisible

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, June 16, 2018

It's hard enough drawing things we can see… what about those we can't see? How do you portray invisible things in a webcomic like magic, wind, earthquakes, scorching heat, invisible people, and so on?

One way is to draw the invisible thing's normally, only making it seem opaque (the background somewhat visible through the thing) without normal colouring or shading that exists in the rest of the panel, like Invisible Woman here:

Alternatively we can show the impact of this invisible thing in the environment instead of drawing it at all, thus making it visible by virtue of the reaction of other things to it, including how they are positioned as they are ‘floating’ in the panel space. Like we can tell this invisible guy is looking up.

There is also the option, especially when the invisible thing is energy, like in magic, to make the magic moer visible either by giving it a glow or portraying it like assorted rays or designs of light.

But when it comes to things like earthquakes, perhaps a combination of everything has to be employed, to give an impression of the massiveness of what is basically an invisible phenomenon of great impact. And of course, sound fx words.

What method have you got for drawing invisible things?



Amelius at 6:50AM, June 18, 2018

For example, Tony is an Alp and becoming invisible is part of his shtick. There are many scenes where he is interacting while invisible, and since I enjoy drawing him, we get to see through his invisibility in a way the characters present do not. He is a sneaking character and drawing objects "floating" to imply he is there simply would not do. He's not an idiot! When appropriate to the situation he is fully invisible, as when he arrived for a rescue or pretends he is another character's conscience talking to him. That panoptic view is situational!

Amelius at 6:32AM, June 18, 2018

I like to render it 2 ways, depending on situation: Predator-style distortion where you can just see reality rippling around a shape, and the lowered-opacity "ghost" method that implies invisibility but does not deny the viewer a look at what's going on. Unless a character is always invisible, I prefer to see what actions they are taking in their invisible state. There are times when full invisibility is applied as a surprise to the reader or to punctuate the invisible state as seen by the characters. Much like seeing into character's thoughts and flashbacks, invisibility is one of those things were I've granted the reader a panoptic view of the proceedings.

Jason Moon at 10:24AM, June 17, 2018

I would keep the character completely invisible and you would see it's presence by it harming people or breaking objects.

KAM at 3:01AM, June 17, 2018

On the other hand I never questioned Clark Kent secretly using his vision powers despite being drawn and visible to the reader. But since no one ever wondered why Clark had colored beams coming out of his eyes I never thought about it until that one story stating the beams were normally invisible. Funny, huh?

KAM at 2:58AM, June 17, 2018

Bravo's comment reminded me of something. When I was a kid I was reading a Superman story where he was fighting another Kryptonian and the author mentions that their heat vision beams were so hot they had become visible, which surprised me since I hadn't realized they were supposed to be invisible.

cdmalcolm1 at 6:42PM, June 16, 2018

Normally, I use colors or just have another character feel or hear the person or thing around them. Like if it was a ninja comic, I would either show the invisible watching their prey or if the story was from the person being watched, say that they “feel” someone is watching. In DBZ the powerful characters can feel the others power level. My character SolarCell “bubbles” is invisible to the other characters in the comic. And DarkBeauty dark matter lightening is also invisible to the ppl in the story but they feel the power. I guess there are a number of ways to not show the invisible.

Ironscarf at 4:18PM, June 16, 2018

That two panel sequence of the invisible girl is interesting. If Kirby had simply not drawn her at all in the second panel, I think the impact might have been even greater - the balloon tells you where she is anyway. Jack didn't have that luxury I suppose, since he didn't letter his own work and who knows where that balloon could have ended up.

Tantz_Aerine at 3:48PM, June 16, 2018

Thank you VinoMas!!

bravo1102 at 12:07PM, June 16, 2018

Blurring and showing the effect of the invisible thing. And lots of glowing. Sort of stuck with sci-fi tropes a lot of times with rocket exhaust or lasers. There are loads of things that are transparent rather than invisible that are drawn as visible. One example is gunfire. Some guns don't have muzzle flashes but we always get these huge things as if everything was a PPSh-41(Known for a tremendous muzzle flash that even comes out the sides of the muzzle end) And what says that magic is invisible? I just did an entire sequence where the mage sees everything but the mundane folk see nothing. Guess you could call that "Need to know" invisibility?

VinoMas at 8:47AM, June 16, 2018

Great post Tantz! A shout out to all the artist / writers who post articles on the DUCK. Love the diverse nature of the topics. Truly a website to visit and learn from!

Albino Ginger at 5:10AM, June 16, 2018

KAM at 4:23AM, June 16, 2018

I use invisible ink. It works wonderfully. But be careful. If you make a mistake it's tough to find. ;-)

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