Books For Comic Artists (Part 1)

I’ve been making art for… essentially my whole life at this point, let’s be honest. When I hit college, I started collecting books about making and understanding art, both as requirements for class and out of personal interest, because for some reason up to that point it had never occurred to me to look at books on the subject. Most of my learning was done online, which in the late 90s – early 2000s was pretty different to what it is now. That said, even though we live in an age of tons of free information (another topic I’ll cover in another post!) there are still a lot of books I stand by and still refer to. This series of posts is going to be a list of suggestions and recommendations, especially if you’re new to art making, or looking to improve your skills. 

Today’s post is an expansion on a short video I made about books specifically for comic artists, or comic artists in-the-making. If you are one, or know one, these are books I’ve found to be extremely helpful with various parts of the process and can personally recommend! 

  1. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland

Art & Fear is a book I was required to read in my first year, first semester of college drawing class, and it’s a book that’s stuck with me. I re-read it from time to time pretty regularly because it gently takes you step by step through the anxieties of making art and sharing art with an audience. My copy is pretty beaten at this point, with dog-eared sections and underlines everywhere, and I have the digital version just because. I recommend this book to essentially everyone I know, simply because I’ve personally found it so helpful in my long-term career as an artist.

This book is really useful when you’re starting out making art, or just starting out posting your art online or otherwise sharing in a public setting. One of the most important lessons in the book is that it’s necessary to learn to separate your art from yourself, at least on a moral level. If you make something and it isn’t as well-received as you hoped, that isn’t a reflection on you as a person, which is a totally reasonable fear to have with something as personal as artwork. For me, this is doubly true when it comes to things like comics. With webcomics especially, it’s tough to grind out page after page and learn to accept that not every page will be perfect; it’s simply an issue of time. Add to that the fact that the average reader will probably only spend a minute at most on any given page, and it becomes imperative to balance working speed with the realities of comic reading. Knowing that not every page will be your own idea of a masterpiece can be difficult to feel good about, but it’s an important skill to learn. And it is a skill, in a way, to be able to look at your work constructively, as separate from yourself. 

Anyway, if I had to reduce my praise for this book to just a few words, I’d say that it’s a great tool for strengthening yourself for hearing what others think about your work, especially if the thought of that gives you anxiety. It provides an excellent route to having confidence about what you do, especially for something as personal as art. The book is a quick read and its ideas can be applied to most forms of art, including writing, in my opinion. It’s an excellent read for anyone who makes art of any kind. 

Find it on Amazon:

  1. Perspective! For Comic Book Artists by David Chelsea

Perspective! For Comic Book Artists is a book about perspective in comics…told through comics. (This will become a running theme here.) I’m gonna let you in on a secret: I have a problem with my eyes that makes it difficult sometimes to judge depth, and drawing in perspective can be a literal hell in some instances. I’ve had criticism pointed at me for my imperfect perspective, not wrongly, and it stung a bit — I won’t lie. So I decided to double down and look for resources on perspective drawing, because ultimately it’s just a mathematical thing; once you learn where to set up your vanishing points, and why they work that way, the entire process becomes much clearer.

In my searching, I found a recommendation for this book, and it’s helped immensely, alongside digital tools like the perspective rulers in most drawing programs these days. Perspective! For Comic Book Artists literally walks you through the way that perspective works, examining all aspects of the process almost as if you’re walking around a 3D object. The writing is simple and light, and what can be tricky to understand (especially if you’re like me with a slight vision issue) becomes more of a mechanical process than the guesswork it can feel like at times. I have certain sections of this book permanently bookmarked, simply because I know they’re types of perspective I struggle with and I can quickly refer to them again if my brain can’t wrap around where the points and lines need to be.  

This book is great for anyone just learning the fundamentals of perspective for the first time, or if you struggle with understanding more complex perspective setups, like 3-points and beyond. It’s a handy reference to keep around, and walks steps by step through the reasons why perspective works the way it does, so there’s no wondering “how did that happen?” in between steps of the process. 

Find it on Amazon:

  1. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud

Thus begins the first of three Scott McCloud recommendations from me. Yes, they’re frequently recommended for new comic artists, but there’s a good reason for that. Again, we delve into a book about comics told in comic form, which just serves to strengthen the arguments made within for interpreting comics as art. This book is a classic, and an outstanding breakdown of all the little bits and pieces you don’t notice while you’re reading a comic, but which cause you to read it the way you do. Comics are a magical medium, where perhaps nothing moves on the page, but using clever design tricks and illusions, one can manipulate the imagination into viewing the page the same way it might watch a movie. 

Understanding Comics is a highly accessible way to understand not only comics, but visual art as a whole. This book is essential for gaining a basic knowledge of the visual language of comics, and learning to create comics using this language in your own voice. 

Find it on Amazon:

  1. Making Comics by Scott McCloud

Since I’m already recommending this trio of books by McCloud, let me go one step further and recommend that you read Understanding Comics first, and then Making Comics after. This is because Making Comics functions more as a how-to from the creative aspect of the process where Understanding Comics provides a basic grounding in visual storytelling tropes and functions. Making Comics builds on this foundation to create a set of tools to add to your personal kit by examining many ways to apply these ideas via not only things like character design and expression, but also understanding where you exist in the greater pantheon of comic artists and creators throughout history. 

The book is, again, extremely accessible and entertaining in its methods, bringing together an enormous amount of history, technical details, and means to apply this information to your own work. Making Comics is a book I’ve read multiple times, with multiple sticky notes inside for my continued reference. If I could only choose one of McCloud’s books to recommend to a beginning comics creator, I’d likely choose this one, although it benefits from following Understanding Comics. Making Comics is an excellent course in telling your story visually, and will strengthen your existing skills while pointing out details you’ve never considered before. 

Find it on Amazon:

  1. Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud

Rounding out the trio of books by Scott McCloud, I recommend Reinventing Comics to anyone who makes webcomics or webtoons specifically. If you’re making comics mostly for an online audience, this is the book for you. Although it is on the older side, and certain pieces of information may be dated by today’s standards, it still contains a wealth of information about publishing your work online, and the many considerations involved in doing so. It includes major discussions about copyrights and rights ownership in comics, as well as business models for comics. It also breaks into the more unique aspects of publishing digitally, more specifically concepts like the infinite canvas, which seems especially relevant to creators using Webtoon Canvas or similar platforms with vertical scroll comics today. Particularly useful in my opinion is the information about publishing online. I’ve always maintained my own domain name and hosting for my comics, and I’m a strong believer in this method, especially in the current day and age of social platforms behaving wildly on a constant basis. Overall, Reinventing Comics is a strong starting point if you’re interested in breaking away from the big comics platforms and going it on your own. 

There are many advantages to maintaining your own web home for your comic or art portfolio work, despite the slight learning curve, and it’s something I plan on writing about specifically in more detail in the future. Reinventing Comics discusses many of these points, again in comic form, and in an entertaining and encouraging voice. If you’re starting from scratch with publishing online and want to do something more custom with your work and website, while taking care to look after your rights, this book will get you on the right track. 

Find it on Amazon:

This is merely the start of what I hope to be a longer series on books about art and comics, so let me know if you’d like to see more! I’m planning to group them by topic if possible… Most of my books are currently stuck in box purgatory after a move with nowhere to put them, so it might be a minute before I get to the next edition, but I’d love to hear your feedback if you have any! I’d also love to know if you pick up any of these books and what you think about them. Most are available from your local library, and I’ve also included Amazon links if you’re so inclined. 

(Disclosure: these are Amazon affiliate links and I will receive a percentage from any sales from these links, but the price will remain the same for you. This helps support the creation of my comics and helps keep all of us at Chio HQ alive!)

Chio Chronicles – August 2023 Edition

What’s Up?

Hey folks! It’s definitely been a minute since I’ve made a proper newsletter, let alone a news post. It’s been a rough summer so far for me — I thought I was dealing pretty well with the health issues I’ve been having, but a series of coincidental problems coupled with the summer heat have really knocked me flat. I summoned the energy to make a goofy little doodle comic about it, which you can check out here if you like. It might turn into an ongoing series, because sometimes all I can do is laugh at the situation.

I am (as usual) doing my best to get back on track with things like Follower updates, but it’s been difficult. A major part of my problem is joint issues, which can vary wildly from day to day, so sometimes drawing is rough. I’ve been trying to at least put my creative energy into other projects when I can’t draw, like some Tiny Art Vlogs from time to time. You can view those on my Youtube channel here!

Mostly, I am trying to figure out how to work with a body that’s kind of unreliable, when I’m trying to do something that requires a certain amount of regularity, like posting a comic update every week. I haven’t figured it out just yet, but I’m doing my best. I may need to eventually move to a monthly update of a few pages at a time rather than work under the pressure of weekly updates, but I haven’t decided that for sure just yet. 

Anyway, on to the news!

What’s New?

What’s Next?

Here’s what I’ve got on the table for upcoming projects, roughly in order of priority:

  • Follower updates! I can’t believe it’s been as long as it has since my last update. I’ve been slowly working at the next pages while doing my best not to overdo it with my hands. It’s a difficult balance.
  • Follower Volume 1: I’ve made it into edits for chapter 2, and I’m finishing off the last few drawn revisions for chapter one. Those’ll get posted for Chio Club folks first. Once I get through chapter 2, things will move a lot faster on this project.

Community News

There hasn’t been much new lately in the community, but the Discord is always open and new folks are always welcome! It’s a slow-paced, quiet chat, but we keep it friendly. Click here to join!

Thanks For Reading!

Thanks so much for checking out the latest news from us this month! Here’s hoping the next one will be more comic-heavy. 🤞

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Bug’s Top 5 Favorite Free Clip Studio Assets

I use Clip Studio Paint to make about 99% of all my comics and comic-related work. Occasionally I’ll use something else, but there’s really nothing comparable to the specialized features Clip Studio has when it comes to making comics. 

One of the best features of the software is not really directly part of the software itself, but part of the related services provided by Celsys: the Clip Studio assets site. You can find downloadable materials you can use in your art and comics, from brushes to 3D models to patterns and textures. Some of these assets cost money, but there are a LOT of free assets available, and there are some really great ones out there. 

Here are a few of my favorites, some of which are complete lifesavers.

1. The Only Perspective Grid You Need by OutlawEric

The Only Perspective Grid You Need (TOPGYN) is a tool made by OutlawEric (@0utlaweric on Twitter) that helps you more easily adjust your perspective grids. I can never get my vanishing points placed exactly the way I want, and this asset helps immensely. You just drag both parts into your canvas, and then move the target around until the perspective looks like way you want. More detailed instructions are available on the Clip Studio Assets site.

2. Height scales by various creators

Theoretically, this is something I could have made myself, but sometimes I’m lazy and this is convenient. These height scales allow you to set up 3D models so you can make them scaled properly with one another. For example, I recently set up a batch of 3D models customized to match the heights and builds of most of my comic characters. I used these backgrounds to get them all looking like the correct height when stood together in a lineup.

This is a super useful reference when I’m putting a bunch of characters in a scene together, to make sure every character stays more or less “on model.” I’m not usually super concerned about that, but it really makes a difference when you need several characters to look consistent across several pages or an entire chapter. This has been especially useful in the past few chapters of Follower, where I’ve got multiple adult humans of different shapes and sizes, plus Leah, a kid, among them. 

Here are a few different scales I’ve made use of:

3. Close and Fill Tools by K96

There are several of these tools made by K96 and they all sort of work in a similar way. You make lineart, you put a layer underneath it, you use the lasso to select around the lines you want to fill, as casually as you like, and it automatically fills the layer. Super simple for doing quick fills. 

They also have these cute ice cream cone icons so they’re very easy to identify in your toolbar.

4. Erase Along Reference Edge by pharan

Seriously, a lifesaver. Set your lineart as reference, select the color layer beneath, use this eraser and it’ll erase everything outside of the lines. Nice for doing quick, easy cleanup. Made by @pharanbrush on Twitter!

5. MaaBlur Brush by 774─

Sample image from 774-‘s page for MaaBlur brush

This blur tool is set up just right for making parts of your drawing look like they’re receding into the background. Use it to draw your focus to parts of the scene you want viewers to, well, focus on.

Try Clip Studio Paint for free

If you’ve never used Clip Studio Paint before, and want to try it out yourself, you can get a 30 day free trial by clicking the link below. If you buy a standalone (desktop) version of the software, or a subscription (mobile) version, I’ll receive a commission, so it’s a win-win for everybody. I recommend CSP to basically everyone I talk to digital art about, and I come from a long Adobe-using background. The price is unbeatable, and the features are constantly improving. I can’t say enough good things about it.

Maybe my next article will be about my favorite brushes! There are so many….

Clip Studio Paint - Shop Now!

If you found this article useful, you can also help support future content like this by joining the Chio Club as an ongoing member or as a one-time tip! Check out these options!

How I Color Comics

I made a video about how I color comics! Someone asked about this a while ago, and while I lost the original question, I did take the time to record some clips while I worked on the latest Follower page.

Here’s the transcript of this video:

Hey, I’m Bug and I’ve been making webcomics since 2004! Let me share my knowledge with you!

When I’m coloring a comic, my goal is to work as quickly and efficiently as possible, so I’ve found a lot of useful tricks to speed up the process. This is a basic version of how I color.

I color in Clip Studio Paint, but most of these tricks will work in any drawing software. 

First, I take my lineart and set it as a reference layer using the little lighthouse button in the layers panel. That means I can color under it, and the fill bucket will act like the lines are on the same layer. 

Under the fill bucket’s tool properties window, make sure that “refer multiple” is also checked and set to the lighthouse icon. Play around with the other settings to get a fill style that you like, but here’s what my settings look like.

Now I can use the custom color palette I made for my comic and quickly zip around to fill everything in the panel. Flat colors: done!

Next, I make a new layer above my flat colors. Set this to multiply. Click the icon on the far left of the layers tab that looks like two squares. This will make the multiply layer “clip” to the layer below, so you can only paint where there’s already color. 

This is going to be my shading layer. It’s kind of cheating, but I usually pick a shadow color that’s opposite my light color on the color wheel. If that doesn’t look right, I cheat some more and pick something that looks “right.” I use the lasso tool to quickly fill big sections of shadow. The lasso works in combination with the ink layer, so it won’t fill past the lines! Then I use a pen to color in smaller detailed areas of shadow.

Next, make a new layer the same way you made the multiply layer, but instead set the blending mode to overlay, screen, or glow dodge, depending on the effect you want. Pick the color of your light and paint in your highlights.

You can keep adding more layers this way to refine your highlights and shadows, but that’s the simplest version of what I do!

Art vs. Artist 2021

I don’t usually do these because I either miss the fact that the hashtag is going on, or I start having doubts about posting pictures of my own face online, but then I decided that it was acceptable to use a self portrait I did recently, so I did that instead.

2021 was a terrible year for existing, but somehow it turned out to be a decent year for art. I made a lot more stuff than I expected to, and a significant portion of it was comics. I learned some new techniques and improved on others, and that’s about all you can ask for as an artist.

To help me keep making more new art in 2022, or to get some custom art of your own, join the Chio Club! I’m also available for one-off commissioned art, and you can find out more about that on my Ko-Fi page.

Webcomics & RSS: Like ice cream and hot fudge

…or cake and frosting, or pizza and pepperoni. These things just go together. You get what I’m saying, right? Two good things combine to make one super great thing. I’m feeling passionate about RSS these days. It’s not as popular as it was back in the middle-ish 2000s, but it should be. RSS is to webcomics what cats are to the internet. They just go together. There’s probably an RSS feed of cats out there, somewhere. Anyway.

But what is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication – it’s basically a way for a website to create a feed of posts (or podcasts, or webcomics, or whatever) in a standardized format. Usually these will end in .rss or .xml. For example, the RSS feed for this site is located at and probably looks crazy to you unless you understand XML or look at it with an RSS reader or aggregator.

So let’s say you plug that URL into an RSS reader. What happens is basically this: your reader knocks on’s door and is like, “hey my guy, what’s new?” and is like, “sup my friend, check out these 3 new things I wrote,” and your reader is like “hey thanks, I’ll just put these in a nice neat envelope and tell my pals.”

In this example reader’s pals are, uh, you. The reader takes the stuff in the feed, neatens it up, and posts a little notification that there’s something new to read. Easy!

In this example using the feed from my comic Follower, you can see the list of recent posts in the middle with a single post view on the right. The reader I’m using is NetNewsWire, a free RSS reader for iOS and Mac.

Different readers, of course, have all kinds of different options. You can get notifications in different ways. It’s almost like reading an email delivered right from a website to you, so you know right away every time there’s something new to check out.

So what does this have to do with webcomics?

Plenty! Does it ever bug you that social media sites don’t show posts from your favorite creators in order, or sometimes not at all? RSS solves this problem by removing that social media middleman. You can get your content straight from your favorite creator, delivered right to your desktop, or phone, or whatever. You don’t have to worry about missing an update because RSS isn’t going to lie to you or hide the post or show it to you days later.

Most webcomics sites have RSS built in, especially if they’re using WordPress/Comicpress/Webcomic. You can check to see if adding “/rss” at the end of the URL brings up an RSS feed, or look around the website for an RSS icon. It’s the little thing that looks like this:

Sometimes this icon will be a different color, or might be stylized to match the site, but it’ll generally always look something like this.

Copy the RSS feed URL into your RSS reader, and boom. Now you’ve got instant comic updates that no one can goof around with. Everything in chronological order, all the time. Magic!

Adding an RSS feed to your reader will probably look something like this. It’s not very complicated.

What kind of reader should I use?

This comes down to personal preference. There are a ton of readers out there, not all of them are good, but many of them are free! Some are fancier than others. Experiment and see what fits your needs.

I am a Mac user and am currently enjoying NetNewsWire because it works on my phone and my computer, and it’s free. The design is basic but nice, and it does what I need. I’ve tried some other readers and they just didn’t click for me the way this one does. I also appreciate the authors’ philosophy on supporting the app, you can check that out here. 🙂 I don’t have any recommendations for Windows or other platforms because I don’t really use them, but there are undoubtedly good options if you do even a basic search.

I hope this little post gave you some information on using RSS, and maybe even encouraged you to download a reader and add your favorite webcomics to it! RSS may have fallen out of favor in the age of social media sites, but I think it’s time for a big comeback. Get in control of what you’re reading!

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