This is the second post on Kickstarter advice based on what I’m learning from my own campaign. The previous post was on setting a reasonable goal amount:

As I ran my campaign, I made sure to regularly communicate with all of my donors through frequent updates and by responding to as many personal emails as reasonable. They don’t tell you about this part on the Kickstarter site, but maintaining communication, especially during the actual fundraising portion of the campaign, is important to build trust with donors.

Most of the donors don’t know that I’m a trustworthy person, so without going through my fiscal background, they trust me with a donation of real money. They make the first act of trust, and in my case, they were saying they would trust me with their funds for six months before they would get their rewards. The least I could do is keep them up to date on the project, even though I don’t really have time to produce constant contact.

The updates allow me to communicate with all 1,725 donors, and I can show them my due diligence by inviting them in to the process of both running the Kickstarter campaign as well as the construction of the project, in my case, a book. So I showed them images we were scanning, even showing them mistakes that we needed to fix. I got an outpouring of personal thank you’s from the donors and I was surprised to found out that other campaigns didn’t regularly communicate with their donors.

This advice comes with two warnings. 1. Some donors will send too many emails! I had to gently remind them that I couldn’t respond to every piece of communication, but I try to take care of big questions and big problems that multiple donors are asking about. 2. Don’t give too many updates! Every update sends a Kickstarter reminder to every donor and they can feel like the communication is too frequent and bothersome. If I didn’t talk to the donors for a few weeks I thought to myself, “If I donated to a campaign, I’d want to know if the guy was still alive at this point.” Usually there was some point of progress I could put together and send it out to the donors.

Ghostopolis, Creature Tech Commissions

Inks (before adding a wash) of The Bone King from Ghostopolis and Dr. Ong from Creature Tech.

Doug TenNapel Commission - Black Cherry

This is a quick ink of Eddie Paretti before erasing the pencils and doing an ink wash.


“Thank you. I can not tell you how grateful I am for you to be in this world, you are my inspiration, you are my hero. About 2 years ago I lost one of the most important people in my life, he committed suicide. his name was Jacob (he was a very close family friend). I wiped away all faith in everything, my art, my friends/family, and my personality. I was truly terrified of life and what scary things come with it. The pain i felt is hard to explain. My mom took me to the book store and said to buy something, anything, to make me happy. I bought your book called Ghostopolis. I had never red anything better in my life. And still to this day I cry thinking that it turned out this way but I am OK that it happened.


P.S. Don’t ever, ever stop making books. Do you Promise?”

I promise.

Doug TenNapel – Comics

January 3, 2013

This letter from a fan was a real punch in the gut:

I just wanted to thank you for restoring my enjoyment of comics. As a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s I loved comic books. But they became so expensive and grim I gave them up by the mid 1990s. I always missed them, but I just couldn’t find anything that made me feel the same sense of wonder and fun I’d felt as a kid. That was until I checked out a copy of Tommysaurus Rex from my local library. What a fun read. I shared the book with my autistic nephew (I’ve been caring for him since my sister passed away Autumn of ’10) and he loved it too. Since then I’ve managed to find Monster Zoo and Power Up also at my local library and loved them both. Books are I and my nephew and primary source of entertainment. We don’t get out much (I too am disabled). But we really love sharing a good read and talking about it. Thanks for writing such excellent and entertaining stories!

I do my comics for my own story telling reasons, but I really do want to make my audience experience something good. So my internal motive is the cake, but these readers are the frosting. Cake is a lot better with frosting.

This is the final post in a three part series on how I ink a two page spread comic page. Make sure you’re familiar with the post on penciling pages…

…and spotting blacks…

Now that I’ve got the pages penciled and have spotted the blacks, it’s time to make the final ink details. It’s important to make sure the foundations of an artwork are right before going on to detail. As I critique a lot of portfolios of up-and-comers the most common mistake I see is a poor foundation. That is, and artwork isn’t likely to gain strength if the foundations are weak. A bad start will limit the greatness of a final work. I observe this problem across almost all disciplines including writing, music, sculpture and even marriage! No amount of detail and finesse can completely cover a bad start. As an impatient artist, I’m tempted to go straight to detail because I want the thing to start looking good right away. Experience has taught me to avoid going to finish right away.

Here’s a look at my final inking tool; the Winsor Newton Series 7 brush (size 3):


You don’t have to use this brush, or this size. Some people do great work with tech pens, and I’ve even done final inks using a twig! What I like about committing to a reliable tool is that I can get to know its weak points and strengths then get on with the task at hand. Having experience with an imperfect tool will often get better results in the short term than superior tools with less experience. I’m always trying to get better and better tools, but it comes time to do the work, I use what I’m familiar with over something “better” I’m not entirely trained to exploit.I like to ink detail in one of two ways, from the upper left hand of the page down to the lower right, or I start at the most important part of the illustration: the focal point, and work my way out to the less important parts of the page. Starting with the focal point means my best and frostiest attention is given to the first thing, then when I’m fatigued by the end of a drawing session, I can slop in less important material.Treat the brush like a pen, and treat a pen like a brush is an old artist’s saying. When I’m inking with a brush, I’m using it like a dramatic pencil:


Detail: (
Notice that I’m not trying to give everything the same amount of detail. Nature doesn’t present everything to the natural eye with identical weight, and our perception isn’t trained to look at everything the same way. As an artist, I want the picture to look natural since I’m trying to convey reality to the viewer. That means I’m not just expressing whatever I want from inside my head, I need to address my audience and consider their perception of the work. This is particularly true of mass media works, the bigger the mass that I want to read it (everyone) the more I have to hold that masses hand through the reading of the work. When I’m doing pencil doodles in my personal sketchbook, I don’t consider an audience other than myself. That will necessarily produce different content and presentation.

Below shows how well those spotted blacks hold up against the new detail. Oh, I almost forgot! Just as you spot in chunks of blacks to hold the page down, we also have to preserve large chunks of whitespace for contrast. I  learned that from doing watercolor painting, because once you paint over white in that medium, you’re never going to get it back. So we “preserve the white pace” in inking because putting black marks on a paper is generally a one way trip. You can always add more blacks to white, but it’s hard to pull them back out if you over detail something.


Detail: (
This page is getting close to done. I’ve worked from the upper right focal point to the left, where I’m at the end of my drawing session and I can easily blow in some detail and be done with it. If you squint your eye, there should still be a good amount of blacks and whites to create an interesting, solid, cluster of shapes to hold the page down. Then upon closer look at the page, the details emerge and a story is constructed in your mind.

Once again, we can ink details with confidence if the foundation of the pages are done right. If I find something wrong with the page at this point, I can usually trace it back to a weakness in the pencils, or thumbnail composition, and it’s rarely due to the final inking phase. The final inks reveal strengths and weaknesses that were there all along at the start.


Detail: (
Once the page is done, I can go in and do some tidy up with white out or further blacking in sections that can handle it. Then I erase the pencils, and it looks like I just threw down a well structured, gestural landscape. But now you’re in on the secret… even the apparent spontaneity of final inking detail was completely reverse engineered from the start.

Doug TenNapel – Nnewts

December 18, 2012

Doug TenNapel - Nnewts

Ho-hum, just another day in the world of Nnewts.

Now that we’ve got this two page spread penciled (see pencil post:, it’s time to go to the inking.

I have a concern before inking every page and it’s that the page will come off all chopped up with separate bits of black all over the place that don’t make the page look good as a whole. My way to address that is by spotting blacks. What is spotting blacks? It’s blasting in large chunks of black ink to hold the page down. I’ll look for any large section I can make black. Shadows are your friend when spotting blacks. They hold the character or object down on the paper and make it look solid.

Here’s my tools… a bunch of cheap, junky, Japanese horse-hair brushes:

Here’s the page after I finished spotting my blacks. I blotched in a bunch of trees, then hit the left side of every mountain, building and tree. This automatically sets the light source to the upper right so the volume of every shape will subconsciously register with the viewer:

This is a detail that shows how much fun I’m having with those horse hair brushes. Every artist is tempted to go straight in to detail, and that can be a bad tactic. But when people see the page, they’ll wonder how you were so bold with your inks. This is where the drama on the page comes from. Drama doesn’t come from the amazing detail, that’s where the finesse and secondary reads come into play.

More detail. You’ll notice a lot of trees and buildings are not hit with a shadow. If I treat every object with an equal shadow, it may be more accurate, but it’s bad for creating a focal point. Not all objects are equal in the arts. Some things aren’t useful to draw the eye across the page so to punch them up is a disservice to story telling. By treating things unequally, the reader will naturally read them unequally. It makes the story easier to read with clarity.

I could go into these buildings a put a HUGE core shadow down the left side of the entire structure. That might even be accurate. I mean, there are huge mountains here that I just outlined with a single line. I blasted in those big core shadows on GEAR and it starts to make a cartoon, light, fun world look like a heavy, dark, film noir atmosphere. This is where genre starts to dictate how you might render one story over another. Stories by Frank Miller or Mike Mignola are darker and justify heavy shadows, but a lighter fairy tale like Bone or Chicken Hare wouldn’t have these heavy noir shadows in a scene full of daylight.

My next post will go into the detailing of this two page spread. Until next time, spot those blacks!

Doug TenNapel – On Comics

November 30, 2012

Question: Thanks for the logical kick in the proverbial pants Doug. I’ve wanted to create a graphic novel using my own characters since I was 13. At 37 it’s still on my someday/sometime list. Now, with 2 kids and one on the way, it seems extremely unlikely, but given your advice, I think I’ll try to commit a small portion of time during the week and just get it started. Any advice on using small portions of time during your day to make progress on your story? I feel like it takes me a long time to warm up creatively.

Answer: Small increments are your friend. Commit to 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week for a year and you’ll be a more prolific comic artist, piano player, or carpenter than most others who long to do the same. The key is in the longevity of your commitment, not in the amount of time you are committing. Set aside 20 minutes a day, preferably in the morning before work, and only work on your graphic novel. Do this for a year and you’ll start seeing profound results.

The problem is that we aren’t used to seeing our art as a craft or a skill that needs practice and discipline, not inspiration and feelings. On any given day my feelings come and go about my faith, my commitment to my marriage, my place in the world, my sanity, my desire to draw or not draw, my care about you as a person, but my values do not change. Try to find the values-shaped handles on your art, not your feelings. Tell me that you will commit to it, that you will simply do it regardless of how you feel about it and you’ll accomplish a lot over time.

The ant is stupid. He has one millionth of your intelligence at best but moves one grain of sand until it is placed at its destination. Ants rework the whole world. The little termite can completely dismantle your house, not because of his passion, but because of his tedious, regular work at small, repeatable tasks. If you want to do something big, then the ant’s way is one good way to try.

Come to my Art Show!

April 20, 2012

Come to my Art Show!

This is the largest display of my comic work in over 20 years! I’ll be displaying 100 original pages of my book in progress Hixon Bragg.