Premise: Many artists have the desire to create comics but might not know where to begin when it comes to layout, style, or the techniques necessary for creating print and digital art. Mastering Comics is a textbook covering topics including character and reader perspective, storytelling, artistic techniques, conversion to screen, penciling, inking, lettering, and much more.
Themes: One of the main things covered in Mastering Comics is creating thumbnails as a sketch of what an artist is going to eventually make into a more detailed drawing through penciling, inking, and shading or coloring. The thumbnails are there as a guide as you go about telling the story without having to worry about spending too much time adding detail before the story or artistic details have been thought out.
Mastering Comics takes time talking about layout, especially as it pertains to how people will see the pages individually, as you turn the page, and as the composition as a whole. It looks at the visually pleasing aspects as you look at the page, as well as the natural progression of reading through dialogue boxes and narration, color schemes, and artistic style.
Another topic covered is considering the digital realm of publication. Mastering Comics talks about how to draw for the screen, especially with what resolution to scan at, how to save your documents for adding ink, color, and shading, and also for thinking about how it will be viewed on the screen when compared to the printed page.
Pros: Not only does Mastering Comics cover a wide array of topics for artists, it manages to do so in an easy to understand way. The artistic examples in the book are fantastic. I like that they offer extended examples and content on their website, especially if you haven’t read the previous book or are simply looking to expand your artistic knowledge. Having not read the previous book, I still felt like there was plenty of help in the drawing aspect to help a beginning artist, such as with perspective and size and placement relationships between people and objects.
Cons: Mastering Comics makes some assumptions about your level of artistic ability and knowledge, though it is fairly forthcoming about those assumptions. The authors give references to the previous book for guidance on art and beginning drawing techniques, though they don’t always go into much detail with those references. Some of the step-by-step instructions on creating computer graphics are not as clear as they could be (or should be in some cases).
Recommendations: This “definitive course in comics narrative” lives up to its claim. If I were going to look for a definitive place to research cartooning as a career or as a serious hobby, Mastering Comics would be a perfect starting place. There is so much in this book to talk about, it can’t be covered in a review, but must be experienced from reading through the examples and working through the exercises. After reading this textbook it made me want to get into starting a comic. I enjoyed going through Mastering Comics so much that I forgot I was reading a textbook.
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I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.