Questions About Backgrounds

Discuss the art of creating art here. Share tutorials and tips with your fellow comic creators.

Questions About Backgrounds

Postby Bloomer » September 25th, 2016, 11:13 pm

Hello, sorry if this is in the wrong sub-forum, or if these questions are silly.

Out of all the how to comic stuff I've read they all say that you should make your backgrounds more simplistic compared to your foreground and focus points. I've noticed I enjoy making the backgrounds stand out with as much importance as the foreground (while not being very high in quality), I haven't seen other people really do this and it feels... odd. Like, I feel as if I'm screwing up.
Is it bad to make detailed backgrounds and environments? Should the focus stay on the characters?
User avatar
Posts: 109
Joined: April 28th, 2011, 7:53 pm

Re: Questions About Backgrounds

Postby Pandapartypc » September 26th, 2016, 1:54 am

Doing detailed backgrounds is alright, but you have to be able to pull it off well and still have the focus be on your the main points/characters. A great example of this is 8 Bit Story. Most people say not to do it because they are not good enough to pull it off (myself included) and in the world of art, when a majority of people can't pull something off, they just say it's bad art to try and restrict themselves from having to do it. But as long as you can make it look good and/or tell a good story, your art has no restrictions or rules. Good luck :)
User avatar
Posts: 2
Joined: September 17th, 2016, 12:08 am

Re: Questions About Backgrounds

Postby eishiya » September 26th, 2016, 8:39 am

You're not doing it wrong, but you could be doing it better.

Backgrounds can be complex as long as you employ some way to push them back into, well, the background. In your case, I think using lighter lines rather than black would help a lot. Grab a sepia pen for warm scenes and a dark/midtone blue pen for cool scenes, and I think you'll see the readability instantly improve.
Thinner lines on the background and thicker lines on the foreground is another method. Your lines are mostly all uniform, which is not only a bit boring, but it makes it difficult to work out the spatial relationships even when things are otherwise drawn well.
Using brighter colours with deeper shadows on the foreground and duller colours with less contrast in the background is yet another. You're already doing this, but you could probably push it further in some scenes, particularly the better-lit ones.

You could employ any number of these.
You can also use these methods to convey scale. It helps scenes to look larger if they "fade out" a little with duller colours and less detail in the parts that are furthest away because it resembles atmospheric perspective, so use that to both clean up your compositions and to make spaces feel larger. For spaces meant to feel cramped, you can still have things duller or use any of these methods, as long as it's applied more consistently without an obvious transition from "near" to "far".

Lastly, it's helpful to not think of your background as a single monolithic blob of detail. Things are never uniformly full of detail, there are always busier and emptier areas. Lay your pages out in a way that lets you have the detail you want where it can be seen and where it isn't overlapped by the foreground, and have the naturally empty parts of your background around the foreground objects/characters. My current comic is pure B&W and has a lot of night scenes, so I can't rely on value and colour or line weight, so I rely mostly on positioning characters against the emptiest parts of the background to keep them readable. Here's one of the really obvious examples, the character is positioned against the white (lit) tarmac. The scene could've felt a little better and more 3D if he overlapped some elements in the scene, but then it would've been difficult to read. In colour, where you have more options available to you, you don't have to be as extreme, but this is still something that you should think about.

I mentioned this last because it's something you have to think about before you even sketch the panels, since you have to think about how to frame your shots to allow your characters to overlap the emptier parts. I saw a few panels in your comic where you positioned your characters over the busiest parts of the background, hindering legibility, when you had empty areas you could've used had you thought about this when planning out the scenes.
User avatar
Posts: 9863
Joined: December 5th, 2009, 11:17 am

Re: Questions About Backgrounds

Postby Bloomer » September 26th, 2016, 6:45 pm

Pandapartypc wrote:snip

Thank you for the advise! Yeah, it takes a patient person and a lot of still life studies to do detail. Which still life is the worst thing ever.
It's true, art totally has no rules!... unless you want to get really into it, then there are a lot of rules.

eishiya wrote:snip

Lol. Oh god, from the sounds of it you went through my comic(s). I'm so sorry you went through that garbage, I was hoping people would be too lazy to find it. xD

I normally ink with blue, then re-ink with black after everything is coloured (all the lines tend to get drowned out), so I could see how it would be boring and non-dimensional. I focus on trying to make it visible, or not a colourful mass, but don't think about what parts should stand out. All your suggestions are really good ideas, I didn't consider using different coloured pens for re-inking... which is sad since I have every colour of pen under the sun. It is certainly difficult for me to make the visuals as grounded in "real life" as possible while realising I am attempting a comic, and it should also be readable.

Also, I know what scene you're talking about. I'm one of your mindless followers.
Thank you for the list of suggestions and light criticism, you didn't have to take the time to type all that but you did, and that's really nice. Maybe someday, if I work hard enough, I'll be able to comic like the cool kids. and make enough money to pay my rent.

Sorry if this came off weird, I just got off work and I'm pretty damn exhausted.
User avatar
Posts: 109
Joined: April 28th, 2011, 7:53 pm

Re: Questions About Backgrounds

Postby Guest » January 16th, 2017, 7:19 am

I love detailed backgrounds! The thing that probably gets on my nerves more than anything else is artists being lazy with their backgrounds.

I think as long as your important elements still stand out, have at it. it always makes for a more immersive and believable read imo.

Re: Questions About Backgrounds

Postby DavidPerry » March 12th, 2017, 1:30 am

I'm a detailed background sort of person, too, though I look at it this way:

For establishing shots and shots where the characters have moved to a new location, I'm more detailed with the backgrounds. In quick back-and-forth dialog, I simplify the backgrounds and focus on character expressions. There are a lot of ways to do detailed backgrounds without taking away from the characters. I tend to use framing techniques, so I can do a detailed background but frame the characters in emptier spaces within those backgrounds--in the bounds of a bush or a section of walling, etc.

It's all about composition.
Posts: 19
Joined: September 23rd, 2016, 5:00 pm

Re: Questions About Backgrounds

Postby StanleyComics » February 1st, 2018, 4:26 am

I personally do more simplistic backgrounds. because it's kind of easier for me, since backgrounds aren't really my strong suit (despite attempting to draw something more detailed in some of my strips). But that's more of a necessity to me. I feel like you can still make incredibly detailed backgrounds AND make the characters pop out. You can do that with a little thing I like to call aerial perspective. That just means you can make the background with thinner lineart than the characters, you can use more vibrant colours in your foreground, and more pastel ones in the background, contrast decreases in the background, while in the foreground it's stronger.
User avatar
Posts: 124
Joined: August 24th, 2017, 9:13 am

Re: Questions About Backgrounds

Postby rhodaperdition » May 24th, 2018, 8:28 am

Try thinking of them as environments rather than "background" because "environment" encompasses foreground, middle ground, and background. Thinking of an environment as a background automatically puts it in the realm of a flat theatre backdrop and makes it less believable spacially. But also, one cool way of constructing good backgrounds is imagining you're a set dresser on a movie or a play. Say you only have a $1000 budget, but you have to convey what kind of space this is. If it's a character's living space, what items do you populate your set with to reveal what kind of person they are? If it's a hospital, what items do you need to make it seem authentic without going completely overboard drawing every piece of medical equipment known to man? What props necessitate spending $500 versus props you can skimp on or cut out entirely?

Here's the thing: Your $1000 budget represents your drawing time and energy. If you blow your budget every single panel, you're going to have to ask the financiers for more money. In other words, you'll burn yourself out, get frustrated, and shelve your comic until you feel like doing that amount of intense detail work again. Balance your budget. Spend like 50% of it on big set pieces, like establishing shots with details that really enrich the reader's understanding of that place/ character/ event, and then disperse the rest among your other panels using foreground or simple background items to keep reminding the reader where the characters are.

Always remember: Your environments are a storytelling tool and are just as important as character action and dialogue!
Posts: 1
Joined: November 28th, 2017, 11:30 am

Return to Art Tutorials & Techniques

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 9 guests