How to Make a Webcomic Website

by Shea Laverty

The rise of webcomics has given budding comic artists the chance to share their work with the world without studio meddling or a publishing contract. Building your own webcomic can be a rewarding and sometimes punishing foray into the creative arts, one that requires dedication and hard work. After you decide to take the plunge, you have some planning to do.

Team Effort vs. Solo Enterprise

Webcomics can be solo efforts or exercises in teamwork. For example, Penny Arcade is a partnership between writer Jerry Holkins and artist Mike Krahulik, while VG Cats is created entirely by Scott Ramsoomair. If you have the skill to handle both writing and illustration, you can launch a solo comic. However, having a fellow artist involved gives you time to focus on a single aspect of the comic, while your partner handles the rest -- effectively reducing a stressful workload. These aren't the only useful elements to a webcomic team, however. As Cat-Nine author Kevin Dangoy points out, having a "Web guy" who knows how to build and maintain the site itself can be vital. Take on the roles you can handle but don't be afraid to branch out to willing collaborators.

Developing Your Comic

After you have a creative team in place or decide to go it alone, it's time to begin development. Work out what you want your comic to be about, who the primary characters are, what kind of narrative structure you want to use and all your character designs. Get a solid bead on just what your comic is and how it looks -- a slapped-together comic is less likely to succeed than one that is well planned. You'll need to master image-editing software like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP.

Finding Web Hosting

After you have your ideas all worked out and a few strips ready for the launch, find somewhere to host your comic. You can use a free blogging site like Blogger to start or one of the free Web hosting services. Take a close look at the free Web hosting services tailored specifically to webcomics, including Comic Genesis, The Duck, Smack Jeeves and Comic Fury. Free Web hosting has limitations; you may need to shop around to find one that suits your needs best. Premium hosting and domain services maximize performance and options; you can start with one of these services or switch when your comic grows in popularity.

Building the Site

Building the site itself requires some skill with HTML and CSS, even with free Web hosting. You or your Web expert will need to carefully tailor the site to work around advertisements and function smoothly while still making your comic easy to read and access. Depending on the desired complexity, the skill level required can be basic or advanced. You'll also need an FTP program so you can transfer the comics themselves to your website's server.

Helpful Tips

Artist Julie Miyamoto suggests that you create a backlog of comics and space out the release dates. By releasing your backlog incrementally over time, you have time to work on another batch or take a break. She also suggests that you avoid filler whenever possible, as fillers detract from overall plot progress. She suggests that you keep concepts broad enough to appeal to a wide audience without alienating your primary readers. Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes" serves as a good example; many of the strips require almost no reading.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Marili Forastieri/Photodisc/Getty Images