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Balancing speed and detail

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, May 28, 2021

It is a balancing act when it comes to the level of detail we comics artists like to include in each page and the speed at which we can complete said page. Sitting back and seeing a beautifully coloured render of your work may be satisfying, but is the level of effort required to create going to be sustainable over the long term? I myself have struggled with this and, even to this day, I find myself agonizing over details that are barely noticeable in the final product. The question then becomes where does one sacrifice detail in favour of speed? Here are some considerations that can help you answer that question and, hopefully, assist you in getting a page out in time without burning you out.

How long is your comic?
If you have an epic planned over 50 issues/chapters, you’ll want to seriously consider the level of detail on each page. This is where outlining, plotting and thumbnailing comes into play. By laying out what story beats you want to hit and where, you can begin to see where the detail will really pay off. A sweeping establishing shot, a thrilling action scene, a character’s death or a tense romantic moment will be all the more impactful if your detail is concentrated there. This allows you to grant yourself some grace when it comes to drawing more basic backgrounds for conversations or points of little action.

Consider how long you want your work to take
When you sit down to plan your next shiny project, set yourself the task of deciding how long you want this project to take, ie when do you want it completed by. If it is a short, one-shot comic, or a series of four panels, is it one you want to finish in a matter of weeks or do you want to take a bit longer? Setting a timeframe helps you determine how much time you want to take to tell your story, as well as keeping you focused. If it is a one-shot over a series of months then you can take your time with the detail. If not? Then you need to consider the shortcuts you might have to take such as pre-drawing backgrounds, character sheets and gathering assets.

Set yourself up for success
You’re going to need breaks. Plan your hiatus by building a buffer, if you can. This can be helped along by having an outline, thumbnails and a clear update schedule. If you know an update is going to need more time, give it to yourself. Be prepared to have life disrupt your most well intentioned plans. As they say, hope for the best, plan for the worst.

Come to terms with the fact that detail vs speed is a compromise
As you develop your style and skills, you’ll eventually find it easier and faster to produce pages. However, even the pros cut corners to get more work out. Till then, try to be realistic when it comes to your expectations about your work and don’t be afraid to sacrifice a little bit of detail for speed and vice versa.

Is your comic incredibly detailed or do you try to keep it super simple? How do you speed up production of your comics? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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Socratatus at 12:14PM, June 1, 2021

I have learned to balance between detail and speed. If I want to get work out on time I have to. I think I'm getting better at it. It used to take me about 3 days, now it takes me two to get 4 pages out complete. Sometimes I consider going B/W which would make me much faster, but right now I stick with color.

fallopiancrusader at 10:42AM, May 29, 2021

I definitely keep speed in the forefront of my mind as I strategize my production techniques. I cut every corner I can, and I use every dirty trick I know in order to fool my readers into thinking that I spent more time drawing my comic than I actually did. For me, the most important thing is taking a long time to look at the blank page in order to develop a plan before ever laying pencil to paper. As the old cliche goes: “think more, draw less”

Jason Moon at 2:06PM, May 28, 2021

I don't think it's so much about speed as it is about commitment, for me at least. To enjoy creating enough that you will sit and draw/color for at least 6 hours everyday. To be honest a huge fuel for me in making art is smoking pot. If I don't smoke I have absolutely no interest in drawing or coloring or creating anything. I have a really physically demanding job, I run a landscape business, and even 5 hours a day of that can be exhausting, but if I come home and smoke I'm totally recooperated and can draw for hours. So the weed is my secret tool in drawing like superman.

hushicho at 1:29PM, May 28, 2021

Great article! It's especially important for artists, most particularly beginners, to understand that a huge amount of detail is lost in sequential art. There's never anything wrong with using image materials and, perhaps more importanting, REusing image materials. It's easiest in digital production, where you can simply copy backgrounds or objects from one panel to another. In any case, very well done, and heartily agreed. It's important not to make every panel dense with detail, and crucial to balance detail with efficiency and production speed.

marcorossi at 7:32AM, May 28, 2021

Years ago I believed that I was slow because I wasn't very used to drawing, and that with timie I was going to be much faster. But in reality, while on the one hand I became faster on some things, I also started to care more for details that I didn't see before (not just stuff in the background but, for example, being more precise with the shape of faces or poses). So in the end the time I need to complete a page staid the same or perhaps marginally increased! And I don't even have a very detailed style, yet it takes me around 8-10 hours per page (that seems to be on the upper end of drawing time, according to the answers I got to this question on another website).

theRedDeath at 5:44AM, May 28, 2021

I really liked this post because it didn't just talk about the concept, but offered advice and solutions.

bravo1102 at 5:02AM, May 28, 2021

You can always trace and reuse backgrounds. Even redress the background rather than create a whole new one. Put it on a separate layer and put the characters into it. Used to use tracing paper and overheads but it's nothing new.

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