How to Make a Comic Book About Your Family Stories


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Even someone with basic drawing skills can create a compelling family comic book. My mother and I adapted her years of family history research into a format that engaged my children in our family culture, while capturing historically unique stories about life in rural Newfoundland.

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  • Carla asked for just a paragraph – Mom wrote a whole book! And then Carla made a few comic strips for a Christmas present and Mom made a whole book! See the pattern?
  • Started with the pig’s bladder story – Mom told the story to Owen and then I told it to the kids as we were walking to school – they wanted more – comic books was their favorite way to read
  • The best stories
  • Have folks share if they wantProvide a short worksheet for writing down notes?
  • Hand out 2-3 papers with empty panels for them to do the next activities
  • How to Make a Comic Book About Your Family Stories

    1. 1. Making a Family Comic Book By Carla Brown & Gloria Brown, July 2013
    2. 2. Russell Andrew – named after Gloria’s grandfather Andrew
    3. 3. First book – Text and Photos
    4. 4. Christmas gift – a few comics
    5. 5. Materials for Family Comic Book Making • Photos of the people and where they lived • Pencils • White eraser • White cardstock & paper • Ruler • Thin and wide black Sharpie markers • Scanner and computer • Photoshop
    6. 6. How we made our comic strips 1. Choose / find a story 2. Divide story into 3-8 moments 3. Draw comic book panels on card stock 4. Sketch story lightly 5. Make the dialogue authentic (historically, culturally) 6. On a fresh paper, draw story in pencil 7. Trace with Sharpie, except text 8. Scan comic 9. Colorize and add text in Photoshop 10.Make a book and get it printed at!
    7. 7. Choose / Find Your Story • Who - Hero – 2 at the most • What - Change of Direction – something happened and now you did something you couldn’t have predicted • When - Short time - one minute, hour or at most one day • Where - Vivid Details - you can experience with 5 senses • Why - Emotion
    8. 8. Change of Direction
    9. 9. One Moment in Time
    10. 10. Work with a partner Identify at least one story from your life or your family history that has the five elements 1. Hero or two 2. Change of Direction (something unexpected) 3. Vivid Details (5 senses) 4. Emotion 5. Short period of time
    11. 11. Divide the story into 3-8 moments
    12. 12. Draw comic book panels on card stock Why card stock? The thicker paper is less likely to rip if you need to erase and re-draw a few times.
    13. 13. Explanation at the Top We put a short explanation on our comics. This is optional, but we found it helpful because we felt the grandchildren would not be able to relate the the reality of their great-great grandparents at first glance.
    14. 14. Draw the story in pencil • Draw the minimum to tell the story • Circle for the head, basic facial features • Can start with stick figures and give them thickness
    15. 15. Drawing the Human Figure • Keep it simple • Upper Body = rectangle or square • Female Dress= Triangle • Legs = 2 lines, Arms = 1 line • Hands & feet = ovals
    16. 16. Make the dialogue authentic • Culturally • Historically • Sayings • Jargon • Pronunciation • Emphasis Ask people from where your family members lived to check your work.
    17. 17. Dialogue can impact the drawings You may find that you adjust the drawings to make the dialogue flow. When you draw each frame, leave space for the dialogue.
    18. 18. Continuity Keep clothing details and color the same on each person from one panel to the other If the kitchen walls are yellow, they must stay yellow throughout, but you can make it slightly darker or lighter for visual interest. When Russell saw the first draft of this comic, he told his Nana there was a “continuity” problem – the girl was missing her buttons in one of the panels. He was five years old.
    19. 19. Prepare for Scanning • Trace with Sharpie, except text • Scan black and white high contrast – you want the Sharpie lines to appear in your scan, but no forgotten pencil lines • Spend time erasing before you scan - it will save you time later.
    20. 20. Every Space Must Be Fully Closed Note the tiny gap Here’s what happens when you use the paint can tool in Photoshop due to the gap Gap corrected Photoshop now puts the color only on the hat
    21. 21. Colorize & Add Text in Photoshop Even if you are careful to close every space, you might need to touch up in Photoshop. The scanner is not perfect. Our font is only in Inkscape – Movi – but use whatever Color palettes – will your series have a color palette? Foreground colors must contrast from background
    22. 22. Colorize Most of the time, you use flat color. But consider a gradient like in this example. You could also consider just doing some color, not every nook and cranny.
    23. 23. Pencil Crayon Colorization 1) Use pencils on the sides of their leads 2) Think “Shade to Fade” – Press harder in the darker areas, lifting pressure as you move farther away. 3) Do not color the whole area.
    24. 24. Even kids can do this