Everything You Need to Start Making Webcomics for Free

Joel Lee 11-11-2014

The webcomic is the best storytelling medium for hobbyists. Its visual nature hooks readers faster than written form stories. Its serial nature allows for bite-sized consumption without sacrificing long story arcs. And best of all, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than making films or writing novels.


Given enough time and determination, anyone can make webcomics for free, and that includes you. Here’s how to get started right away.

What Makes A Compelling Comic?

What’s the most important ingredient in a webcomic? If you said art, you may want to guess again. While art is important—there’s no doubt about that—it must be said that storytelling trumps art almost every time.

Everything You Need to Start Making Webcomics for Free webcomic guide cyanide happiness strip

A comic with less-than-spectacular art can keep its audience hooked with strong characters, drama, or comedy (XKCD and Cyanide & Happiness are two famous examples). On the other hand, a visually impressive comic with no substance will be shallow and boring (I can’t think of a single successful webcomic that fits the art-but-no-substance description).

For best results, it’s best to focus on both art and storytelling, but if you must neglect one for the other, always prioritize storytelling.


Learning How To Draw & Write

Let’s say you’re a complete newbie. You have dreams to become a world famous webcomic artist but none of the skills necessary to take you there. Where can you go to get started?

The most important lesson is that there are no shortcuts. If you want to become a good artist, you need to put in the time and learn how to draw. If you want to become a good storyteller, you need to learn the craft of writing fiction. It’ll take years before you get anywhere good and that’s just a fact that you’ll need to accept.

Still willing to forge on? Great! Here are some helpful resources.

Everything You Need to Start Making Webcomics for Free webcomic guide digital art software


Learning how to draw. These comic drawing YouTube channels Top 6 YouTube Channels For Learning How To Draw Comics YouTube is full of such tutorials for anything from a smiley face to complex characters, but many of them are hard to follow or just plain bad. How can you know which channels to focus... Read More will teach you all about drawing cartoons. However, without a solid basis in art theory, you may not benefit much from them, so absolute beginners should start with these beginner artist YouTube channels Learn To Draw Anything Thanks To YouTube [Stuff to Watch] Whether you're having trouble drawing facial features like eyes or haven't got a clue how to tackle a 3D perspective, it's YouTube to the rescue! Read More and these art tutorial websites 10 Sites That Will Teach You How to Draw Well We all want to draw well. But, drawing skills can only come through daily practice. Go to these ten websites and their fantastic tutorials to begin your journey. Read More .

Learning color theory. Even if you plan on drawing in black and white, color theory is extremely useful to know. It applies to lighting, shading, and producing graphics that are pleasing to the eye. You don’t want to skip it. Here’s how to learn color theory in less than an hour How To Learn Color Theory In Less Than One Hour Basic knowledge of color theory can mean the difference between an "amateur" aesthetic and a "professional" one – and it really doesn't take long to learn. Read More .

Everything You Need to Start Making Webcomics for Free webcomic guide poof

Learning to tell a story. These websites will tell you almost everything you need to know about telling a compelling story 5 Sites To Learn How To Write A Book And Get It Published There are millions of people all around the world who want to be professional writers, yet only a tiny fraction of them ever make enough money to write full-time. It’s a market that is saturated... Read More . After all, the story that drives a webcomic isn’t much different than the stories of books, television, and movies. To kick your skills up a notch, check out these podcasts for fiction writers 6 Must-Listen Podcasts For Novelists, Screenwriters & Storytellers Are you stuck in a writing slump? Have you ran out of story ideas? Are you puzzled and confused over the publishing industry? Do you need guidance on becoming a professional wordsmith? There are lots... Read More and these creative writing prompts 6 Places You Can Find Great Creative Writing Prompts Writing can be difficult, and it’s not only full-time writers who suffer from "writer’s block". Students have papers to write. Programmers have documentation to write. Teachers have curriculums to write. Marketing agents have advertisements to... Read More .


Learning photography. Wait, photography? Yes! Webcomics are presented in frames and frame composition is a crucial element for telling your story in the way that you want to tell it. Learn as much as you can about photographic composition 9 Blogs That Will Make You Into An Amazing Photographer There's blogs which try to cover everything related to photography; there's specialized blogs that dive into the niches; there's blogs which only talk about gear, and there's blogs by talented photographers. Read More because there’s a lot of carryover into webcomic art.

Recommended Software For Comic Artists

Software selection is a touchy subject. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. Use the software that feels most comfortable in your hands and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you prefer using a pencil and pad, that’s fine too! As long as you have a high-quality scanner, you’ll be fine.

But if you don’t know what choices are out there, then here are some oft-recommended tools to get you started. Most are free, but some are not.

Everything You Need to Start Making Webcomics for Free webcomic guide learning to draw


Digital Art Software

Paint.NET (Free). This simple Windows program is an unofficial upgrade to MSPaint Paint.NET: The Best Image Editor Available That You Should Download We all edit images to some degree. Whether it’s a simple crop or resize, or maybe just adding some text, it’s nice to have an image editor that is reliable, fast, easy to navigate and... Read More . It has more features that provide for greater flexibility and artistic depth, but it’s not as powerful as Photoshop or GIMP. It’s a good middleground tool, plus it can be extended through plugins Using Paint.NET? Make It Even Better With These Great Plugins Have you ever needed to do computer artwork that involved more than simple crops and resizes? For a long time, your only real options were Paintshop Pro and Adobe Photoshop, although the rise of GIMP... Read More .

Photoshop CC ($20/mo). This program is the Swiss army knife of digital art; it can handle pretty much any kind of 2D art that you throw at it. There’s a bit of a learning curve (these Photoshop YouTube channels The 7 Best YouTube Channels to Watch for Photoshop Video Tutorials How do you prefer to learn graphic designing and Photoshop? If you prefer videos, here are seven awesome YouTube channels to check out. Read More may help) but the userbase is huge so you can find help almost anywhere.

GIMP (Free). Often considered to be the “poor man’s Photoshop”, GIMP is an open-source program 14 Free and Open Source Alternatives for Paid Software Don't waste money on software for personal use! Not only do free alternatives exist, they most likely offer all the features you need and may be easier and safer to use. Read More that fulfills a lot of 2D art needs. It’s slightly more complicated to learn, but our GIMP quickstart guide GIMP: A Quick Walkthrough Of Everyone's Favorite Open Source Image Editor Read More will get you up to speed. You can also use GIMP Paint Studio GIMP Paint Studio: A Great Addition To Make GIMP A Digital Artist's Playground Read More to ease the learning curve even more.

Illustrator CC ($20/mo) vs. Inkscape (Free). These two programs are vector image editors, meaning they create images using mathematic expressions rather than individual pixels. As such, vector graphics can be resized without any impact to the final image, making them great for digital comics. Check out our guide to Illustrator The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator Want to get started learning Adobe Illustrator, but feel overwhelmed? With easy-to-follow instructions and plenty of annotated screenshots, this manual makes learning Illustrator simple. Read More or guide to Inkscape Create Scalable Graphics With Open-Source, Cross-Platform Tool Inkscape Why does professional graphics editing software have to cost an arm and a leg? How about a free alternative to handle scalable vector graphics. See how Inkscape gives Adobe Illustrator a run for its money! Read More to get started.

Clip Studio Paint ($48). Claiming to be the #1 comic software in the world, Clip Studio Paint (formerly Manga Studio) is an art program designed specifically for comic artists. Its workflow and feature set provide the perfect environment for any digital cartoonist. Highly recommended and worth a try.

Everything You Need to Start Making Webcomics for Free webcomic guide learning to write

Scriptwriting Software

Trelby (Free). You can format your webcomic stories however you want, but the “proper” way to do it is to adhere to scriptwriting conventions. Trelby is an open-source script editor that’s feature-complete and easily configurable to your needs. Check out our Trelby overview Trelby: A Free Screenplay Writing Software For Windows & Linux Want to learn the art of writing a screenplay? Check out Trelby, open source screenwriting software you can try right now if you're a Linux or Windows user. Trelby is completely open source, meaning you... Read More for a deeper look.

Celtx (Freemium). Celtx is a free web-based app that makes scriptwriting easy, but also comes with paid tiers that provide more advanced features like storyboarding and built-in revision history. Definitely one of the best free scriptwriting tools For Your Next Great Movie Or Play: 16 Free Scriptwriting Tools & Resources Writing is hard. Most of us know the feeling of having to pull an all-nighter to wrap up a thesis paper due in the morning - and those papers rarely broke 40 pages. I can’t... Read More out there.

Final Draft 9 ($250). Final Draft is a professional-grade program that’s used for writing and organizing scripts. It’s really good but not recommended for hobbyists unless Celtx and Trelby just aren’t good enough.

Where To Host Your Web Comic

Fast forward a few weeks. You’ve soaked in as much knowledge as you can and you have dozens of practice comic strips crumpled in your wastebasket. You feel like you’re ready to begin an actual webcomic series, so you draw the first few strips… and they look good! Now what?

You have to get those strips hosted on the Internet for the world to see.

Webcomic hosting can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. It’s similar to hosting a blog, but due to the graphical nature of the medium, you’ll need more bandwidth per visitor than a blog would require. This won’t be much of an issue until you have a large audience, though, so don’t worry about it until you have to.

You have two choices: either someone else hosts your comic or you set up your own hosting. Each has its pros and cons.

Everything You Need to Start Making Webcomics for Free webcomic guide comic hosting

Hosting With Someone Else

If someone else hosts your comic, you don’t have to worry about the headaches of administration. All you do is draw your comics and upload them when they’re ready while the host worries about bandwidth, security, etc. And in most cases, you won’t have to pay a penny.

The downside is that you surrender some control to said host. What if the website goes down? There’s nothing much you can do except wait. What if you want a custom look to your website? Not always possible. Worst case scenario, what if the host decides that they no longer want to be a host? What a nightmare.

Despite the downsides, letting someone else host is a good idea if you’re a hobbyist or unsure if you’ll stick with webcomics over the long run. Here are some free hosts to consider.

Comic Fury. Because this host also doubles as a directory of sorts, you can get free publicity for your webcomic simply by hosting it here. Other benefits include customizable website layouts, author blog, RSS feeds, and reader comments.

The Duck. This site is more than just a free host; it’s one of the largest webcomic communities on the web. Not only do they provide writing and drawing tutorials for comics, but the front page spotlights various webcomics according to different criteria.

Comic Genesis. In exchange for one banner ad on your site, Comic Genesis grants free unlimited hosting for your webcomic. Benefits include custom website design, built-in content management, free forums, and a subdomain at


Hosting On Your Own

If you have self-hosting experience, or if you’re willing to learn, then self-hosting is the way to go. You retain full control over every aspect of your comic, which gives you the most flexibility for future growth, marketing, and even monetization. First, you’ll need an actual hosting service. There are many from which you can choose, but we’ve narrowed a list of the best web hosting services for those looking to start a simple website.

Once you have a host, you’ll want to look into WordPress. It’s the easiest way to start your own site since it handles all of the backend details for you, plus you can extend the functionality of it with useful free plugins The Best WordPress Plugins Read More . Note that self-hosting your own WordPress site is different from using as a host What's The Difference Between Running Your Blog On & With Wordpress now powering 1 in every 6 websites, they must be doing something right. For both experienced developers and the complete novice, Wordpress has something to offer you. But just as you start on... Read More . Need some help? Check out our guide to self-hosting with WordPress Setting Up A Blog Part 1: The DIY Self-Hosting Method There are an abundance of quality free "sign-up" blogging services scattered across the Web, with big names like Tumblr,, Blogger and Posterous getting increasingly popular as their numbers grow. It wasn't always this way,... Read More .

Once WordPress is set up, you may want to install the Panel theme. It’s a free theme that’s been designed specifically for webcomics, complete with comic strip archive, comic strip navigation, and a section for the author’s personal blog.

You may also want to look into the Webcomic and stripShow plugins which provide additional functionality for webcomic sites.

Publicity, Advertising & Marketing

After a while, you’ll probably have several strips up on the web… but no audience! What’s the point of producing a webcomic if nobody’s there to enjoy it? To solve this problem, you’ll have to keep pumping out those strips — you cannot neglect a regular upload schedule — but also start publicizing your material.

While this is easy in theory, it’s going to involve a persistent effort and it won’t bring you overnight success. Realistically, audience growth could take anywhere from 3-5 years and it’s going to be slow. Keep at it and don’t give up!


Learn about search engine optimization Demystify SEO: 5 Search Engine Optimization Guides That Help You Begin Search engine mastery takes knowledge, experience, and lots of trial and error. You can begin learning the fundamentals and avoid common SEO mistakes easily with the help of many SEO guides available on the Web. Read More . This will help to draw in organic traffic to your site through search engines like Google and Bing. However, since webcomics are image-based, pay special attention to these image optimization tips Rank With Your Images: 4 Ways To Make Your Images SEO Friendly Image searches drive traffic to your website if you know what you're doing. The trick is to understand how SEO works and format your images accordingly. Here are a few basic tips. Read More . If you’re using WordPress, consider installing an optimizer plugin like All-In-One SEO The All-In-One SEO Wordpress Plugin Is Still the Top of the Game Read More .

Submit your site to webcomic lists. Also known as an index or directory, a webcomic list is exactly what it sounds like: a repository that readers can browse to find the webcomics that most interest them. The Webcomic List, Belfry Webcomics Index, and Webcomicz are all good places to start.


Make your webcomics easy to share. Social media can unexpectedly bring in a lot of new visitors to your site. You can’t control when or how it will happen, so don’t bother trying to force your strips to go viral, but always include one-click share buttons for sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Swap ads with other webcomic artists. Allow them to put a banner on your site in exchange for putting your own banner on their site. This can be tough when you’re just starting out, but it’s always worth pursuing.

Participate in webcomic communities. Don’t participate for the sole purpose of driving traffic your way. Rather, contribute as much of your knowledge, help, and expertise as you can without expecting anything in return. The goal is to build relationships and get your name out there, which in turn will naturally bring recognition to your works.

Making Money With Web Comics

Before we talk about monetization, know one thing: making money with webcomics is HARD. If your primary reason for creating a webcomic is to make a living out of it, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. It’s a niche market (relatively speaking) and the competition is fierce.

That being said, if you’ve gotten this far and you’re producing strips on a regular schedule and you have a sizable audience, then it’s certainly possible to make some money off of it. Enough to work on it full time? Probably not. Enough to help pay off bills and earn some extra spending money? Sure!

We’ve covered webcomic monetization How Do Webcomics Make Money? The web is full of content ranging from general humor webcomics to webcomics for geeks. Whatever your genre, whatever your niche, you will be able to find an audience as long as you write well... Read More before, but here’s a quick rundown of possible options.


Web ads. The two most popular types are cost-per-impression, which typically pays a certain amount of cents per 1,000 ad views, and cost-per-click, which can pay upwards of a few dollars per ad click. Web ads don’t make much money unless you have thousands upon thousands of regular visitors.

Print sales. Once you’ve built a large backlog of strips, you can convert them into physical books and put them up for sale.

Merchandise sales. Merchandise includes T-shirts, mugs, posters, and more. If you have a beloved character or cast, you can feature them. The success of merchandise sales hinges on a sizable, passionate fanbase.

Donations. For some artists, donations can bring in a lot of money. For others, it doesn’t work at all. You’ll have to experiment and see how it works for you.

Now You’re A Webcomic Artist!

If you made it this far, congratulations! You now know enough to get started as a webcomic artist. The only thing left is to get out there and actually do it.

If you want to raise funds for your webcomic online, use these tips to reach your crowdfunding goals Crowdfunding 101: 8 Tips to Reach Your Crowdfunding Campaign Goals Running a successful crowdfunding campaign isn't easy, but with these tips you'll have a much better chance of success. Read More .

Image Credits: Pen in the man’s hand Via Shutterstock, Cyanide & Happiness Strip, XKCD Strip, Digital Tablet Via Shutterstock, Tablet Pen Via Shutterstock, Script Close-Up Via Shutterstock, WordPress Via Shutterstock, Search Field Via Shutterstock, Social Sharing Via Shutterstock, Comic Poof Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Comics, Digital Art.

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  1. Kasyrian Silver
    July 10, 2017 at 4:07 am

    Just thought I would add a little to help some people out... Webtoon is an app that is partnered with Discover and Patreon to get upcoming artists the publicity (and money) they deserve. I know this is a very old post, and there are probably more recent ones out there that mention Webtoon or Linewebtoon or whatever, but I stumbled upon this article and it's still SUPER accurate and helpful. Anyway, thanks for the help!

  2. Princess
    June 8, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    I know a webcomic that, unfortunately, fits the "pretty-art-but-no-substance" description (don't hate me for this): "Zoophobia", by Vivienne Medrano. Her art is among the most amazing art ever, but it's just your typical high school drama.

    • Joel Lee
      June 9, 2016 at 12:36 am

      Ah, that sucks. Eye candy can only take you so far! Eventually it loses its novelty, and its the narrative that carries you on. Thanks for sharing, Princess.

      • Princess
        June 9, 2016 at 6:51 pm

        No problem!

  3. Olivia
    May 15, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Thanks for this article, especially about the host websites. I'm debating on whether to start my own webcomics, because I love drawing cartoons for fun and it hit me that I should post them online. But, Photoshop isn't all it's cracked up to be, certainly not worth a $20/month subscription. is much better IMO.

  4. JLynn
    May 14, 2016 at 1:52 am

    Awesome info. I'm using Procreate app ($6.99) on my iPad Pro. It doesn't have font/text but is a beautiful, easy to use program for artwork. My only issue is getting the completed webtoon into a PDF annotator app ($3 to $10) to add the speech. The sheer size of the webtoon is creating issues (and mine is only half as long as most I read). I get it there easy but one program won't save the document at full screen, so the long page of images comes up incredibly tiny. The other PDF program I can set to full screen, but it has only handwriting options, no font. Any recommends on programs for adding text to a completed webtoon? Procreate has many save options for file type, so I should be able to get it most places.

  5. crystel
    May 8, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    I too want to start my comic but can you suggest an app which can be help full in drawing and is free..... I really could not find one. so please can you help me ;A;

  6. Simrohn Iftekhar
    April 1, 2016 at 2:23 am

    This was really helpful! My friends and I are planning on creating a webcomic together and have been writing rough drafts on like looseleaf. We plan on posting our comic on tumblr. I am definitely going to show this to them and send myself a link and use some of these sites you recommended! Definitely the most informative I've seen yet that doesn't focus on making money off the comics and keeps in mind those who may be doing this as a hobby.

    • Joel Lee
      April 12, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      Glad it was useful, Simrohn! Good luck on your comic. It'll be hard but well worth it if you stick with it long term. :)

      • Simrohn Iftekhar
        July 19, 2016 at 2:27 am

        Thanks! We are now planning on releasing the comic September, should everything go well. Instead of releasing our comic on tumblr, we are using this site called tapastic. It's a really good site for hosting a webcomic, in my opinion. So yeah, our comic is gonna be at . Thanks again for all the helpful links and advice!

  7. jheron100
    February 8, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    there is a program called Krita which isfree and really good for webcomic making it has tempates and everything allredy and has goo brush and pen options with pressure sensitifity for use with graphics tablets.

  8. Anonymous
    September 2, 2015 at 10:44 am

    This is one of the most comprehensive and well researched information articles that I've read in a long time. Self hosting is really about the only way to go since other options only drive traffic to other websites (kinda like working at a job and allowing someone else to collect your pay).

    It's just my opinion but I think that, for merchandising purposes, using Adobe Illustrator or one of the other vector-graphics software is great because of the lossless up-and down-sizing you can do when making graphics for products.
    Thanks again for making this very informative article.

    • Joel Lee
      September 2, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Wow, thank you Dave! That's a very generous compliment and I appreciate it wholeheartedly. You've made my day. :)

      And I agree, vector graphics really is the best way to go for comics. The ability to resize is so useful, and your point about merchandising is great! Good luck on your web comic adventures.

  9. Ryan
    May 26, 2015 at 7:03 am

    Wow man! Very Helpful, just starting to get into all this webcomic business and I would have been lost had I not found your help. Thanks!

    • Joel Lee
      September 2, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      I'm a little late on the reply but you're welcome, Ryan. Glad it could be of help to you! :) If you don't mind me asking, how's your web comic business going?

  10. Tony McGurk
    December 8, 2014 at 9:41 am

    I put my 2 webcomics on Belfry a couple of days ago & my pageview stats have exploded although very few of those visitors have bothered to commented. I initially found & still believe that the best way to get readers who also comment it to visit & comment on other webcomics. Not all return the favour but I've made many great friends amongst the webcomic community from amateurs like myself to those who are seasoned cartoonists. Plus you learn so much from other cartoonists techniques & styles.

  11. Rohan Shewale
    November 13, 2014 at 6:44 pm is also a nice website to host your comics. If people like it there you are good to get some reward from your viewers. For beginners tumblr can also be useful.

    • Joel Lee
      November 18, 2014 at 12:55 am

      Thanks for the recommendation. Good point about Tumblr, too! No setup necessary and lots of ways to be discovered by potential fans.

  12. Michael Rhodes
    November 11, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    First, Don't. Use. ComicSans. Go to and snag some free fonts. There's a few specifically designed for webcomics. Also remember that for comics most fonts are all uppercase with a specific exception: the uppercase (shift-I) "I" has serifs and is used for the pronoun "I" and the lowercase "I" is for regular use.

    And for lettering there's ComicLife ( for under $30. The current version can import your scripts if they're in RTF or plain text. I think of ComicLife as being InDesign for comics. You can create templates with pre-set styles for narration boxes, word balloons and page size. So you can create a template for a 4 panel horizontal layout. The neat thing is that you can have pages in your ComicLife file. You could create a file for a week or a storyline. And then export that file as individual image files (PNG, JPG) or as a PDF or CBZ (comic book reader file).

    Manga Studio (or it's big brother Manga Studio EX) is the best app to create comics with. I even wrote a book about it ( ). There's a free trial version you can download at [Broken URL Removed]. If you're thinking about other apps, remember that with Manga Studio you buy an license to use it forever (and get a price break on upgrades to new versions or for EX if you bought just the standard Manga Studio). Get on SmithMicro's mailing list. They don't send out tons of emails, but will let you know when there's some pretty great deals. So with Manga Studio there's no monthly subscription (which can easily exceed the cost of both Manga Studio and Manga Studio EX within a year!).

    Not mentioned is AutoDesk's Sketchbook app:
    There's quite a few webcomic artists who use it (and some comic pros like Skottie Young). It's good and paired with Comiclife, you got yourself a webcomic creation studio for under $100.

    And do keep in mind that it may take a while to get those all important page views, but keep on posting your comics, and promoting them (there's a lot of promotional noise out there to overcome). Project Wonderful, I've heard, is a good ad-based way to put up ads on other webcomic sites and allows you to promote yours for little to nothing.

    Happy 'tooning!

    • Joel Lee
      November 18, 2014 at 12:54 am

      Wow, what an awesome reply! Thanks a ton for the really nice suggestions, especially ComicLife and Project Wonderful. I hadn't heard of those before.

    • JLynn
      May 14, 2016 at 2:02 am

      Thanks for the excellent info. Looking into Manga Studio some months ago, I ran across a drawing app called Procreate which works beautifully on my iPad Pro, and was only $5 at the time (up a little now). The downfall is it doesn't have fonts. As a complete amateur, I'm now scrambling around trying to add the dialogue in PDF annotation apps, but it's been pretty fruitless. Does Manga Studio have text & speech bubble capabilities or is it strictly art?

      • Midtoon
        March 1, 2017 at 9:18 am

        Manga studio has options to add text and speech bubbles. I personally prefer to make my own in an old Photoshop I have, but Manga studio has a very functional system. I have MS 4, by the way, so I can't judge the new version.