This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions from people who are looking to start in comics. If you’re looking to draw o write comics, then you probably want to know if you need to get “qualified”. For most people, the obvious equivalent of this would go to school or getting a degree in comics.
The simple answer is – No!
However, you will need some level of training or self education if you do not decide to go to school. There are advantages to both paths.
In this post, we’ll go over the advantages and disadvantages of going to school for comics and some alternatives.
Advantages of Going To School
Some schools do offer classes, or a degree path specifically focused on comics. Other than those programs, you can find creative writing or visual art programs at most universities or community colleges.
Learn The Rules For Your Tools
The biggest advantage of the school path is that you get context around the skills you develop. You get the history of different creative skills and how they developed. This allows you to know the rules for what makes objectively engaging art and how to break those rules to make art more impactful.
Applicable Skill Development
Schooling also provides a training path for practice and development. The assigned classwork and curriculum will challenge you in new ways and incentivise you to create a lot of writing or illustrations. This is a great way to find the encouragement to create.
Day Job Credibility
Something that new comic creators need to be aware of is that you will probably need a day job. Comics are not the most lucrative trade. Of course, the goal is to make comics your full-time job, but starting out, you will probably need another source of income to cover your needs.
Having a degree gives you a tool to get a day job that you can still find fulfilling. Plenty of our creators have day jobs in graphic design, copywriting, or art education. Having a creative day job is a great way to keep your creative juices flowing all day long.
Disadvantages of Going to School for Comics
There are, of course, downsides to going to school.
Cost of Admission
College tuition prices seem to go up every year if you live in a country where those are a thing. Especially for private art schools that offer degrees tailored for comics. That makes it impossible to recommend the college path to everyone in good faith.
At the top, we mentioned community colleges do also offer classes. These are usually the typically creative writing or visual art degree path, but sometimes you see specific comics class. Community College could be a good low-cost alternative.
Degrees take time to earn. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from creating comics with your free time, but your degree path will lock you in for 2 to 4 years. If you want to get straight into making comics or have a family to provide for, then you may not have the required time to go through the program.
You could look at night programs. These will allow you to create or work during the day and then attend courses at night or even online at your own pace.
Not every state has a school that offers programs for comics. You can probably find one for creative writing or illustration, but if that’s not what you are interested in, you may not do as well as you would in a program that aligns with your interests. Not everyone can fly to a new state or country to go to school, and that’s valid.
Online programs can bridge some of that gap now that those are more common. Another option would be to seek a more seasoned creator out, either locally or online, and ask for some of their time on a call or otherwise to learn from them.
So what are some alternatives to going to school for comics? There’s actually quite a lot.
Some of the most pursued options are:
- Translating Adjacent Work
If the cost, time, or availability of school are prohibitive, then you can always educate yourself. There are tons of outstanding books and resources out there to teach yourself how to make comics. We try our best with our podcasts and craft series. The secret is that books on how to make comics rarely cost much. The same books they use in school, you can just buy for yourself.
There are a lot of comic creators in the world. A lot of them have some sort of online presence, go through the convention circuit, or they may even live down the road from you. You could always ask politely if they can teach you a thing or two. Sometimes they’ll stick with you to guide you along, other times they’ll just give you a few pearls and send you on your way. Either way, you’re more knowledgeable about making comics.
Here’s a secret: You don’t have to learn how to make comics to make comics. You just have to be a fan of the medium and know what comics are. Words on art in panels on pages. If you have experience writing any other form of fiction or drawing anything else, you can translate that to comics. However, you’ll need some practice to get the idea of sequential art down.
There are plenty of people who just stumbled into making comics after illustrating cartoons or writing commercials.