Comic book illustration careers span across the print and digital industries. Many of the artists work at newspapers, magazines or are self-employed and work as contractors or freelancers. Natural talent is key to having a successful career in the field of comic book illustration. However, a professional education at an arts school or at a four-year college is generally required before you can earn a substantial salary.
Digital illustrators create comic characters and backgrounds scenes using computer technology like Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or Corel Painter. Publishers and editors generally assign comic book digital illustrators the storyline and provide information on the characters when the illustrator is hired. Depending on the nature of the comic book, as an illustrator you might be asked to have a solid understanding of sports, science fiction, animals or mythic creatures so that you can bring characters and the storyline to life on the page. Digital illustrators freelance or work with websites, newspapers, magazines or book publishers. A four-year degree in art, illustration or computer design is preferred. Flexibility and a strong, growing portfolio of illustrations are components of the position established illustrators possess.
Comic book cartoonists draw characters, particularly caricatures, for comic strips that often appear in syndicated newspapers and other popular print publications. Other places cartoonists are employed include T-shirt and coffee mug designs and greeting card companies. Cartoonists work with or without storylines. Most cartoonists create their drawings alone. However, if you are a cartoonist for a comic strip you might be asked to work with a team of writers and editors to extend the comic's storyline weekly or monthly, however frequently the comic strip is printed for publication and distribution. Solid pencil drawing skills are required for this position. A sense of humor is also a plus as many cartoonists create comical drawings and distorted characters. A two- or four-year degree in drawing, illustration or art and design is preferred.
Comic book colorists or inkers create comic book outlines. The colorist or inker is provided the script for the comic book in advance. As a colorist or inker you then color code the pages of the comic and prepare the strip for print. You also write or type the characters' dialogue, including lines of introspective character thought, onto the comic strip and outline the dialogue with a comic balloon. A large number of colorists or inkers filling this role are freelancers and work alone, but are required to be flexible should they be asked to work with a team of editors and writers. A two- or four-year degree in art or design is preferred.
Comic book writers create storyboards that clearly describe scenes so that readers can readily comprehend the plot. As a writer you must have solid experience telling a story visually using action scenes and lively dialogue. As a comic book writer you must know how to write using panels and understand the six different panel transitions. You must know how to write and move a story forward using moment-to-moment transition, the type that portrays the same character over a period of time. You must also know how to write using action, subject, non sequitur, aspect and scene panel transitions. Comic book writers freelance, work as contractors, or work at newspapers or magazines. A two- or four-year degree in creative writing, art or design is preferred.
Comic book editors review the work of writers, drawers, inkers and colorists to ensure that the work flows well and presents the storyline in an engaging and convincing manner. Editors make corrections to punctuation, spelling and character voice. As a comic book editor you are expected to keep up with a comic strips storyline for as long as you work with the comic and annotate changes for the writer to make around dialogue, plot and pace. Flexibility, openness and balance are required to be successful at this job as you must value a writer's contributions while you suggest ways to improve the storyline. Typically, comic book editors freelance or work at a newspaper, magazine or book publisher. A four-year degree in creative writing, copyediting or motion graphics editing is preferred.
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