Make Comics Serazard The City

How to Make Indie Comics: How to Storyboard


Storyboarding is a crucial step in the comic book creation process, allowing the creator to plan out the visual narrative of the story. The main objective is to break down the story into smaller segments or panels and arrange them in a logical sequence to create a cohesive and visually appealing narrative. By doing so, the creator can effectively communicate their vision to the rest of the team and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Just a heads up, storyboarding is a filmmaking lingo, which is my personal background. In comic book creation, the process is called creating thumbnails. As my approach is rooted from filmmaking, I will use the term ‘storyboard’.

For indie comic book creators, it’s particularly important to distribute responsibilities evenly throughout the team to optimize the creation process. Storyboarding is an ideal task for the writer to take on, as they are typically the ones who have the clearest understanding of the story’s intended direction. By preparing the storyboards for the illustrator in advance, the process of creating the comic book can flow much more efficiently. It also helps to minimize the need for back-and-forth communication, as everyone has a clear idea of what they need to do. If this is not the case, and you as the writer or primary creator have complete trust in the illustrator, allow the illustrator to carry out the process.

Moreover, storyboarding provides an opportunity to experiment with different layouts and panel configurations to find the best way to visually tell the story. The creator can also use this stage to identify potential issues with pacing, composition, or continuity and make necessary changes before moving on to the next phase of the process. Overall, storyboarding is a critical step that lays the foundation for a successful comic book, and in indie comic book creation, it should be a responsibility that the writer should consider taking upon.


Comic Book Storyboard Basics & What I Learned So Far

Although I’ve storyboarded rough sketches for films in the past, I lack confidence as a drawer. Nevertheless, I learned that clear storyboards are crucial during the back-and-forth stage, so I pushed myself to draw as clearly as possible. Clear storyboards help convey the intended scene to the illustrator, providing a starting direction that can drastically reduce the amount of back and forth. However, keep in mind that the storyboard may not always be the right way, so be open to suggestions from the illustrator. They often have insights into the best way to visualize certain moments. Here are a few tips to help you with the storyboard process:


  1. Set a page count. If it’s the first issue, start with a manageable test. For The City, we started with 12 pages as a test run. It was our MVP (minimal viable product) and proof that we can work together on the next issue.
  2. Break down the script. Start by breaking down the script or story into individual scenes or sequences. Then, divide each scene into smaller segments, which will form individual panels on the page. Label each scene to individual pages within the page count.
  3. Plan the layout. Plan out the layout of each page, including the number of panels and the composition of each panel. In comics, composing panels with negative space in mind is uber important. You don’t want the illustrator or the colorer to do extra work when their work will be covered by a word bubble! Think about the pacing and flow of the story and how each panel will lead to the next.
  4. Start with a prompt. This is something I learned as I got into the groove of things, around Chapter 3. For each issue, I read through the script and identify what is visually a defining moment. There could be a few per issue. Start sketching that out first then consider how they will look in a panel. Should it be a double spread? A page flip reveal? Or a 9 panel sequence on 1 page?
  5. Use references. Use an action figure and your phone camera to make rough sketches of each panel and visualize how the action will look on the page. Keep in mind the characters’ positions, expressions, and movements, as well as the background and setting. Revisit mood boards from your concept art development stage, or create new mood boards that can help the illustrator. Don’t worry about drawing the details accurately, illustrators are very good at catching what amateurs are trying to draw!
  6. Add wee little details. Once you have a rough layout, add more details to each panel. This includes where the letters and bubbles will go, or little Easter egg bonuses for the careful reader.  Think about the overall mood and tone of the scene and how you can convey it visually. Maybe adding a bit more debris on the street help emphasize the tone. If it’s important, write it down on note form so the illustrator understands its importance when penciling or inking.
  7. Communicate. Clearly convey your direction or be open to take it from your team members. Especially if it’s a collaborative process, be mindful of everyone’s intention. The completion of the project should be the first goal. The rest can be iteration and learning experiences for everyone, whether or not someone’s approach may have been more effective.



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