Forum > Webcomic & Art discussion > Background Knuckleheads
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"Background Knuckleheads", 6 days ago, 3:37 PM #1
CrosEL

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Got pushed into finally posting this, thanks to this thread: it mostly got me to stop being lazy about it, lol!

Um.. yeah, does anybody else HATE drawing background characters? Like, you
got your mains, supporting and side characters (maybe even foreshadowing and offscreen ones!)
but when your small or large cast is doing what they do in a public place...
YOU HAVE TO DRAW PEOPLE so the place won't look dead, or even on a smaller
scale, you hafta draw clerks, workers, civilians, ect… And they take
forever, and they have to look human? Or whatever is the dominant species in
that comic universe, but who cares?!! I wish there was a app to place
background people instead drawing the mains then everybodyelse that has
nothing to do with the story/situation! It takes forever, even longer than backgrounds!


How do you deal with it? Do you tediously push through it
or is every line wasted on people that are little more than
background or a obstacle annoying the main character(s)?
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6 days ago, 4:20 PM #2
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I love drawing background characters! it's always fun to make them look clumsy, fight each other, or similar shenanigans while the main characters are talking. and it's a priceless opportunity to bring back underused characters or species.

I can see why it might be an impossibly tedious task though. so I got two suggestions. you can either...

1) find the funniest possible way to draw them (like the things I mentioned above) so it becomes more like playing with toys...

2) or set your stories in remote locations whenever you can get away with it!

↓ oh yeah that works too. let's make it suggestion #3.
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6 days ago, 4:22 PM #3
Timelapse11
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I always hated drawing background characters, that's why I now cheat by drawing these weird grey people XD

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6 days ago, 4:31 PM #4
lirvilas
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-Get fast at drawing people in profile.
-Trace crowd scenes from Google images.
-Paint values vice draw lines.
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6 days ago, 6:20 PM #5
fedoramoron
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i think the weird gray people thing often works! i would just make very sure that they're human-shaped and don't look ultra sloppy - maybe give them their own silhouettes and special characteristics, and make them interact with each other? i would not give them proper shading, though, or else they'll look too much like they're supposed to be walking mannequins rather than a symbolic placeholder.
that's all what i've done so far, anyway, so judge for yourself


they don't have to be pure gray, either; you can mess with colors and gradients!

if they're closer to the screen, however, i'd probably draw the details in but just gray them out somewhat so the focus characters still take the focus - like a mix between normal drawings and whatever silhouette method you chose
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6 days ago, 9:03 PM #6
Eve Z.
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I just... draw and color them like any other character, just.... smaller and with less details.

I can't really tell if I love drawing them or not, but sometimes they're just necessary if I want my comic's universe to look "alive".
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6 days ago, 9:06 PM #7
The Letter M
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I ask the forum to submit background people and then draw them in. That way everyone looks unique and they can turn up again.
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5 days ago, 12:20 AM #8
mitchellbravo

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I have a few go-to's for this process

1. Mr. potato head- just jam some variety of facial features together and slap a hat on it
2. Base off people I know - good if I'm feeling sassy
3. Base off characters from a tv show or movie
4. Base off characters from previous comics- less fun to do these days as I've used up most of them lol though I'm sure no one would care

For a while I also had one old couple who kept showing up whenever i just needed a pair of randos for the background, but I don't remember the last time I drew them and Idoubt anyone would isolate them absent me mentioning it.


Idk, there's times where i dread drawing a crowd* (and if I have to draw it more than once, forget it), but I still ahve this drawing I did back when I was in like 5th or 6th grade that was just this dense crowd scene I did in my art class of all different sorts of people. I was really proud of it and that nice feeling just sort of hung around with me.

One thing that can be tough is when the crowd is really large (and/or the people in it really small), varying up poses so that not everyone is just sitting there with their hands on their laps watching the same action, or all calmly walkign straightfaced ahead in the same direction. It's easy to draw a bunch of blobs and color it some neutral/background color, but it's more of a challenge when you actually try to bring it to life.

*it's like it requires a certain mood, a certain type of creativity
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5 days ago, 1:05 PM #9
CrosEL

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mitchellbravo:I have a few go-to's for this process

1. Mr. potato head- just jam some variety of facial features together and slap a hat on it
2. Base off people I know - good if I'm feeling sassy
3. Base off characters from a tv show or movie
4. Base off characters from previous comics- less fun to do these days as I've used up most of them lol though I'm sure no one would care

For a while I also had one old couple who kept showing up whenever i just needed a pair of randos for the background, but I don't remember the last time I drew them and Idoubt anyone would isolate them absent me mentioning it.


I kinda do the Mr Potato head thing sometimes, but maybe having reoccurring people would make it less annoying?



mitchellbravo:*it's like it requires a certain mood, a certain type of creativity


I think I have it when I start during a ...City streets or "Huge fun event" scene, but the mood dies so
fast when they have to be redrawn over and over and over and over and over....

Merged Doublepost:

The Letter M:I ask the forum to submit background people and then draw them in. That way everyone looks unique and they can turn up again.


I second this: Copy/paste background clutter is exactly what I need!

Merged Doublepost:

Timelapse11:I always hated drawing background characters, that's why I now cheat by drawing these weird grey people XD

Image


Merged Doublepost:

fedoramoron:i think the weird gray people thing often works! i would just make very sure that they're human-shaped and don't look ultra sloppy - maybe give them their own silhouettes and special characteristics, and make them interact with each other? i would not give them proper shading, though, or else they'll look too much like they're supposed to be walking mannequins rather than a symbolic placeholder.
that's all what i've done so far, anyway, so judge for yourself


they don't have to be pure gray, either; you can mess with colors and gradients!

if they're closer to the screen, however, i'd probably draw the details in but just gray them out somewhat so the focus characters still take the focus - like a mix between normal drawings and whatever silhouette method you chose


Both sound tempting: I draw human shapes and small features, but this'll sounds faster and smoother

Merged Doublepost:

lirvilas:-Get fast at drawing people in profile.
-Trace crowd scenes from Google images.
-Paint values vice draw lines.


Google images helped with drawing some poses, maybe it's
time to ask it for people.. lot's of people..

Merged Doublepost:

Matt Comics:I love drawing background characters! it's always fun to make them look clumsy, fight each other, or similar shenanigans while the main characters are talking. and it's a priceless opportunity to bring back underused characters or species.

I can see why it might be an impossibly tedious task though. so I got two suggestions. you can either...

1) find the funniest possible way to draw them (like the things I mentioned above) so it becomes more like playing with toys...

2) or set your stories in remote locations whenever you can get away with it!

↓ oh yeah that works too. let's make it suggestion #3.


Having them run away when a fight's beginning? Lol, since you have a suggestion 3
prompt here!

Seriously, I hope to have some of your enthusiasm when I
have to draw a crowd again!

Merged Doublepost:

Eve Z.:I just... draw and color them like any other character, just.... smaller and with less details.

I can't really tell if I love drawing them or not, but sometimes they're just necessary if I want my comic's universe to look "alive".


Looking at your comic, I noticed I'm doing a even less detailed version of what your doing.
For instance, yours look human, mines look humanoid: which means they have heads and something under it
that stands in as a body...
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5 days ago, 3:56 PM #10
marcorossi

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Recently I came up with this idea (I don't know if it will work though): suppose that I have to draw a group of characthers that are not going to be detailed in the whole story, for example a character runs into a group of policemen.

Then I would like to draw them in a way that gives them some personality, not that they like exactly one like the other.

So my idea is to have some sort of set of things that are often represented together, like fire/water/earth/air, or the seven sins, and then I try to draw the secondary characters inspired by each element.

I'm not sure if this would work for a large crowd, though, unless one cycles the same small group of elements.
Also this doesnt't solve the issue that drawing a large group of charachters takes a lot of time.
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5 days ago, 5:53 PM #11
CrosEL

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marcorossi:

I'm not sure if this would work for a large crowd, though, unless one cycles the same small group of elements.
Also this doesnt't solve the issue that drawing a large group of charachters takes a lot of time.


Lol, it doesn't much, but... it did inspire a idea, kinda…

When I trudge through drawing background characters, I often use a "system" (Which I just now realized)
Long hair, short hair light hair dark hair. This pattern is often repeated and in colorless comics, it's much easier.. Yet
it's so freaking tedious..

But what you said makes me think: Maybe I'll have a: "man, woman and child" set-up and draw them in that order everytime,
repeatedly.. making like a pattern to do, rather than having to fill in space. Then it'll be easier and not so annoying?
When drawing the main characters, there details are kinda tedious, but I think nothing of it because I love them, they're
fun to draw! But, if I "trick" myself into thinking this pattern has a fun result at the end, then it won't feel
so annoying and time consuming, despite being annoying and time consuming!
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4 days ago, 7:20 AM #12
Amazing Chris Godbey
formerly DrFurball
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Due to my comic being a wacky comedy, I try to have a lot of fun with background characters. Hell, with backgrounds in general.

Sometimes I use them to add a gag where there's not one in the script, like this panel following Phil running down the hall:



Most of the time, I just fill the empty space with...whatever goofy things I can think of:



mitchellbravo:
3. Base off characters from a tv show or movie

I don't do this one very often, though I was watching Power Rangers Hyperforce while drawing some of "Queen of Clubs", and that's how Peter Sudarso ended up walking behind a nerd being interviewed for a school club:
image

As for actually drawing these kinda characters...I tend to do my backgrounds in grey so my black foreground stuff stands out more. I used to do them in pencil, but I found that using color ink and then scanning it in greyscale made them come through a lot clearer.
My main problem is trying to come up with these characters. I don't want the silliness in the background to distract from the joke I'm doing in the foreground, and I sometimes have trouble coming up with random background characters on the fly.
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4 days ago, 9:12 AM #13
Reapeageddon

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Depends on how far away the characters are. If they're close enough to the camera, they're gonna be low-detail characters I draw on the fly. If they're far enough, they'll be blobs.
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4 days ago, 3:18 PM #14
Firefly Jelly

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Three time-savers that I've heard and seen used by various artists over the years:

1.) Go to a silhouette. Either make background characters into silhouettes, or do an entire panel in silhouette. This is especially useful when you have an ongoing conversation and you know who is talking- it saves drawing time, gives an interesting visual contrast, and also puts the emphasis on the words, where you want it.

2.) Similar to the silhouette, make the background characters featureless "dolls." This works better than you might think because it's what the human eye does naturally. If you're eating at an outdoor cafe and your companion is speaking to you and you're concentrating on their face, how do the faces of others passing by actually look to you? Outside of the center of your field of vision, they're essentially featureless. In the comic panel, the reader looks at the main characters and lumps everything else into the background.

3.) If you're in a crowd scene, establish it and then don't bother with the others. Make the following talking head panels and simply don't use a background at all. One complex background per page, to establish setting or to show a critical prop, then blank or hatched / shaded backgrounds only. Think about how many times you've seen this in classic four-color comics. Our hero is speaking to the boss in his office, which has yellow walls, then there's a closeup of the boss and BOOM, featureless pink background. Next panel, hero's reaction, BOOM light blue featureless background. If you establish the office in the first panel, we don't need to see it, or anything else in it, again, except when there's a change- the hero storms out, so we see him opening the door, but that's it.
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4 days ago, 3:22 PM #15
Shannon

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I HATE drawing background characters. It is the biggest pain since 1) I have to keep track of them, 2) They don’t get to be in the spotlight so I don’t get attached to them, and 3) Sometimes I have to draw a lot of them.

I’m really regretting having a city in my newest webcomic, honestly.
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4 days ago, 4:25 PM #16
CrosEL

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Shannon:

I’m really regretting having a city in my newest webcomic, honestly.


I regret having my protagonist move to New York in my newest webcomic, lol.

Merged Doublepost:

Amazing Chris Godbey:Due to my comic being a wacky comedy, I try to have a lot of fun with background characters. Hell, with backgrounds in general.

Sometimes I use them to add a gag where there's not one in the script, like this panel following Phil running down the hall:



Most of the time, I just fill the empty space with...whatever goofy things I can think of:

[spoiler]Image
Image

My main problem is trying to come up with these characters. I don't want the silliness in the background to distract from the joke I'm doing in the foreground, and I sometimes have trouble coming up with random background characters on the fly.



I'm starting to try this too, after the creation of this thread..
It makes things go a little bit easier!

Also, the tripping down stairs in the background thing was hilarious!
Personally, I know you didn't want it to, but... It kinda distracted me
from the mains, lol!

Merged Doublepost:

Reapeageddon:Depends on how far away the characters are. If they're close enough to the camera, they're gonna be low-detail characters I draw on the fly. If they're far enough, they'll be blobs.


Same, despite what I only just said... my background people are still blobs that're
doing goofy junk now!
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4 days ago, 11:45 PM #17
mitchellbravo

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Amazing Chris Godbey: I don't want the silliness in the background to distract from the joke I'm doing in the foreground, and I sometimes have trouble coming up with random background characters on the fly.


I know other people are likely more astute but I read your comic and didn't notice the man with the word "face" for a face so you're probably inthe clear

Firefly Jelly:
3.) If you're in a crowd scene, establish it and then don't bother with the others. Make the following talking head panels and simply don't use a background at all. One complex background per page, to establish setting or to show a critical prop, then blank or hatched / shaded backgrounds only. Think about how many times you've seen this in classic four-color comics. Our hero is speaking to the boss in his office, which has yellow walls, then there's a closeup of the boss and BOOM, featureless pink background. Next panel, hero's reaction, BOOM light blue featureless background. If you establish the office in the first panel, we don't need to see it, or anything else in it, again, except when there's a change- the hero storms out, so we see him opening the door, but that's it.


Yes! One panel to set the scene (and it doesn't HAVE to be the first panel) and then you can get creative with the rest.
However- since talking heads can get dull for the reader (and IMO aren't so fun to draw)-
I'll counter that I *do* try to put a proper background in as many panels as possible, only because I went thorugh a phase where too many panels had bizarre and intense abstract backgrounds so the pendulum kind of swung the other way for a while. But a proper background doesn't encessarily mean a particularly detailed one.

This page is probably the best example that springs to mind without digging to find a better one. Since they're at a football game I even made one of the panels just be the actoin on the field- don't be afraid to turn the "camera" away to something else to vary things up a bit (which also helps to set the scene), or zoom in to an object they're fiddling with (I could have zoomed in on eddie's hadn plucking a kernel of popcorn or something). Notice I also "move the camera" in every panel so I don't have to worry too much about drawing the same backgroudn people over and over.

Just some options. Also depends on the style of your comic.
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3 days ago, 6:48 AM #18
Amazing Chris Godbey
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mitchellbravo:I know other people are likely more astute but I read your comic and didn't notice the man with the word "face" for a face so you're probably inthe clear

You're right, I think I'm just overthinking it. I wanna do stuff like what MAD Magazine does, with all kinds of goofy crap going on in the background all the time, with lots of silly gags:

image

(Though 43-Man Squamish, one of my all-time favorite features they've ever done had a hilarious foreground joke with the "students" attending the 2-Man Squamish game: )

image

But yeah, I feel like if I limit my background jokes to panels that don't have a punchline going on in the foreground, I think I'll be all right. It's not like readers can't look back and reread the previous panels if they were distracted by the background shenanigans.
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"Drawing is hard.", 3 days ago, 9:43 AM #19
Cope

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I like background characters because I only have to draw them once. If I have to draw a character multiple times, I end up discovering all the terrible mistakes I made in the design process
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3 days ago, 2:00 PM #20
CrosEL

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mitchellbravo:

This page is probably the best example that springs to mind without digging to find a better one. Since they're at a football game I even made one of the panels just be the actoin on the field- don't be afraid to turn the "camera" away to something else to vary things up a bit (which also helps to set the scene), or zoom in to an object they're fiddling with (I could have zoomed in on eddie's hadn plucking a kernel of popcorn or something). Notice I also "move the camera" in every panel so I don't have to worry too much about drawing the same backgroudn people over and over.

Just some options. Also depends on the style of your comic.


I as trying something like that in UBERNATURA--changing where the camera points and angles ect.. But people got confused easily..
They assumed something happened to the landscape?
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Forum > Webcomic & Art discussion > Background Knuckleheads
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