lego man stepping out of comicHow to create your own Lego brick comic?

Last updated: August 28th 2018

Have you been thinking about creating your own Lego comic? This article can help you get started and will discuss the most important elements needed  to create a Lego comic (or brick comic as it called within the AFOL community).

Eventually, all that is written here is what I learned working on the Foolish Lego comic. So you don’t need to make all the mistakes I made during the course of my own comic. Although, to be honest, maybe making mistakes and learning from them is the best way to go. My workflow certainly changed over the years.

Table of contents

This article is meant as a general overview of the process and will be regularly updated to reflect the latest insights. Also, over time I will discuss most subjects mentioned in this post in separate more in-depth articles.

1. What budget do you need to create a Lego comic?

To decide what budget you will need, you will have to decide first wat quality comic you would like. Afterwards you can think of the amount of money and time you will need to budget to create the comic according to the standard you’d like.

1.1 What quality do you want your Lego brick comic to be?

The quality of your Lego comic is important to consider early on. First of, there are many aspects where quality comes in; the core story, the photography, composition of the comic, your website and consistency of publishing being amongst them. And all elements ask for differing skills. Ultimately, in the beginning you are probably going to have to prioritise and concentrate on one or two elements. Eventually, over time, the quality will improve when your comic is up and running and you start adjusting here and there.

Consequently, the level of quality you want to bring to your comic will determine your budget. Many people will only consider the financial budget. However, there is another, arguably more important, commodity you will need to budget; your time!

Man thinking about the budget for his comic
Contemplating the budget for his comic

1.2 What will your financial budget be?

First of, you don’t have be a millionaire to create a Lego brick comic. For example; you could create a brilliant comic with a couple of minifigures in a ‘normal world’ backdrop. For this, you can use natural lights or the lamps you have lying around. Also, you can use your smartphone as a camera. Furthermore, there is free software available to do some post-production on your photos as well as for creating the actual comic. Finally, you can publish your brick webcomic on a free website. There are quite a few awesome Lego comics out there made on a small to modest budget.  And some, if not all, of them started small and grew over the years.

On the other end of the spectrum you can go for professional cameras including several objectives, studio lights combined with smaller specialised lights, soft-boxes, tons of Lego, a computer with premium software, etc…

Ultimately, Keep in mind you can make it as expensive or low-cost as you want. I recommend start small, focussing on one or two elements. And, eventually expanding over time, each time focussing on a certain aspect of your comic.

1.3 What amount of time are you willing to spent?

Anticipate the time you want to put into creating your Lego brick comic! At first, I myself gravely underestimated the time that went into creating my comic. Especially since I am a real nit-picker.

I assume the end of all Lego comics have to do with time-constraints. So, balance your time and be realistic about it! Basically, you will have to accept there will be mistakes and not everything will turn out as anticipated.

2. What equipment do you need to create a Lego comic?

There are some essentials you will need to get your Lego comic up and running. I can advice you on what kind of equipment you’ll need. However, I can’t advice you on exactly what equipment to buy. A lot depends on your specific needs, location and funds. Besides, there are many specialised reviewers out there that can do a far better job than me on advising you on the incredible quantity of equipment on the market.

So, what equipment do you need to create your Lego comic? Listed below are several options.

Lego: goes without saying. Though, surprisingly, there is an example of a Lego comic produced without the use of Lego. The artist uses the Lego Digital Designer (LDD) software. He’s still working on it and I’m hoping he’ll publish his comic somewhere next year.

Photo Camera: Anything goes; a smartphone, compact camera, system camera or a Digital Single Lens Reflex-camera (DSLR). Each camera has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some equations you can ask yourself are: What quality do you need?  Should your camera be pocket-size or can it be larger? How flexible should your camera be? What configuration options would you like? And of course, what is my budget. Arguably, if you decide on a DSLR I also recommend getting a macro-lens. The moment I got my first macro-lens resulted in a landscape shift of quality of my photography. Before I forget, one of my favourite accessories is the camera remote! First it helps with keeping the image stable. Second, it sometimes provides me with a extra hand, since I can operate the remote with my teeth (not recommended ; ) ).

Tri-pod: Crucial to get the sharpest pictures! A tri-pod is also essential for some of the trick photography if you are into that.

Lighting: My favourite light comes from natural light sources. But if you want to have any control over your lighting I recommend using artificial lighting. At first all sorts of light in and around your house will suffice. If you want to step it up; it is good to get daylight lamps. These lamps emit a spectrum of light near that of emitted by the sun. And the use of the right lamps is important for consistency and post-production purposes. Other options for lights include smaller specialised lighting.

Softbox: Is helpful for decreasing reflections on your Lego minifigures. Besides, using light boxes creates a more diffuse, softer lighting of your Lego scenes.

Studio: Well, not exactly a studio, but it helps to have a dedicated location in your house to use for your photography. A place where you can leave everything as it is between photography sessions.

Computer + software: I know some people create and upload their comic only using their smartphone. Yet, a computer with image-editing-software, comic-creation software, or other software you might want to use is much more superior. Especially if you want to upgrade your technical quality. Also a computer is essential if you want to create and maintain your own website.

‘Other stuff’: tape, fun-talk, paper-towels, clips, backdrops, a bit of wire, etc…

3. How to get ideas for a Lego comic

Finding ideas for your comic can, at times, be challenging. For me at least, this is one of then harder parts. But first things first.

3.1 What kind of Lego comic do you want to create?

First you will have to decide what kind of Lego comic you want to create. Will you develop short stories, or long epic stories? Maybe an ongoing series with specific characters or will it be one specific setting? A soap-opera maybe? Or would you rather create short 3-4 panel gags? A combination? There are many possibilities. Each of these options will have different consequences for the way you want to develop your story.

3.2 Story idea, character and conflict.

To start with you will need an idea that will enable you to create a story out of the idea. Essentially a useful story idea consists of two parts; character and conflict. Essentially conflict is your story or at the very least drives your story. Furthermore, the conflict needs to be directly tied to your character, he or she needs to play a central role and be essential for moving the story forward.

3.3 Write down your ideas for a story

Ideas for stories come at the most peculiar times. So I’m always prepared. Sometimes I cary a good old fashioned notebook with me, yet mostly I have a cross-device-syncing writing or notes app. Many people use Evernote, also great for research. Yet, my favourite writing app is Bear (Apple only). Many simple note taking software will do. So, as long as it synchronises fast between your phone and your computer, you’re good to go.

3.4 How to get inspiration for a story

There are many approaches to discover useful story ideas and I will present you a few of my favorite techniques.

The most obvious advice is to simply watch a lot of movies, read books and comics/ graphic novels! Whilst doing this look at the story on a higher level, aiming to find out what the movie, book or comic really is about? Are all these stories really different, or can you find the common themes amongst them? When using this technique be sure to create your own story, do not simply copy/ paste the story itself. Nevertheless, you can copy the basic story structure, as many storywriters will probably have used a commonly used structure themselves. More on story structure will follow lateron.

The aforementioned technique is a great way to get inspired. However, to do this on a regular basis you need a lot of time, which I don’t have. So, alternatively, I read the flaps of books, abstracts and such. Concerning movies I scroll through the synopsis on the net, like IMDB or wikipedia. Both of these can be done anywhere, however I prefer to read the flaps of the books in an old-fashioned bookstore (over here in Maastricht we’ve got a great bookstore), in the process, just for fun, buying a few books too.

You can also combine the basic ideas of books, films and comics. For example; “A zombie run bar” = Walking Dead meets Cheers; “Two bad-ass cops blow thing up in space” = Lethal Weapon meets Star Trek. There are endless possibilities.

Popular amongst Lego brick comic creators is using a well know setting and creating a Lego counterpart. There are for example Harry Potter Lego Comics out there, or comics based on a mixture of Star Trek and Star Wars. This is a simple way of starting out in fleshed out world with established characters, though, mostly, during the course of your comic most things will probably change according to your own personal preferences.

Another possibility is doing research on things you like. The Internet makes this very easy, there is soo much (obscure) information to be found. For me subjects would include; Mythology (I particularly love Greek Mythology), mysterious places in the world, local folklore, secret organisations, etc. Reading up on subjects you like, will probably spark basic ideas.

What I sometimes do is set an alarm clock for ten minutes and then just start writing, ideas words, connections, names, ect. It does’t really matter what you write, there is no right or wrong. You need to keep writing for the whole ten minutes, don’t stop, don’t cross anything out, don’t think. Then, after the ten minutes are gone, you may take a look at all the stuff you wrote down. And only then make connections and see if anything viable is in there. Most of the times, you will be amazed by what your brain can bring up!

In conclusion; there are countless techniques to get inspired for your comic of which I mentioned only a few possibilities. However, using (a combination of) these techniques should get you going.

3.5 Character-driven story or plot driven-story

Besides stories (in this article character-driven stories) there are situations (plot-driven stories). As you will read about in Paragraph 4, a character-driven story needs all kinds of elements to be classified as a character-driven story.

The main difference is the your central character. In a character-driven story, your character drives the story and as a result (s)he undergoes a substantial change. Your protagonist at the end of the story is a different from the person at the end. In a plot-driven story (situation), your protagonist gets into a situation (s)he has to solve. The story is driven by the plot and not by your main character. (S)he mostly reacts to what is happening, but does not  really change as a result of that adventure. In the end, everything is essentially the same as in  the beginning.

The story-development-section of this article is mainly about character-driven stories, however, maybe you’d rather have a comic about a situation/ plot-driven story (as many brick-comics and blockbuster movies and series are).

4. How to develop a story for your Lego comic

Developing your story can be done in several ways. However, not all believe this is necessary.  Some develop no story at all and simply start shooting their comic, seeing where it’ll end up. Others write a basic story-line and leave the minor elements for later. Lastly, some develop each and every detail before starting shooting pictures.

I tried all of them. The first Chapter of the Foolish Lego Brick Comic was written on the fly, the second one has a basic story-line. The third one will probably be fleshed out relatively well before I start shooting it. All the methods have their own pros and cons and it’s up to you to choose. Be flexible though. I mean If you start with a story, you might want to change the script on the fly. This will most likely improve the story you had in the first place.

Whatever option you choose, I would like to give you one specific recommendation; ‘write or create with the end in mind’. Try to think of an ending of your story right at the beginning. It’s good to have a goal to work towards. The first chapter of my Lego comic was created without an end in mind and, oh boy, did I mess up the ending.

4.1 Premise line

I suggest you start developing your premise line before you start writing your story or script. You need to know what  your story will be about and the premise line is a primary guide for developing your story. The premise contains, amongst other components, the primary story structure, important character(s), the conflict and ending. If you develop a good premise line, you can always return to it if you’re stuck writing your story.

A brilliant book on the premise line is: “Anatomy of a premise line” by Jeff Lyons. It comes highly recommended. Basically the information in this book will help you identify the core structure of your story.

The basic template for a premise line is as follows;

When some event provokes your main character to act (not react), your main character joins with one or more people acting on some desire until your main character’s actions are met by opposing force – creating the adventure – leading to a transformation of your main character, for better or for worse.

Developing a good premise-line can take a long time. Yet, in the end it’ll all be worth it. See it as a map to your story, a map to find your way when you get lost writing. And remember that if your premise-line doesn’t work, you’ll probably get stuck writing your story too.

4.2 Story structure

Then develop the story; write the outline. For this purpose you might want to take a look at several proposed story structure templates that are out there. Some are written for movies -like ‘Save the Cat’- and some are more general -like ‘The writer’s journey’.

I myself like using the structure as described in ‘The writer’s journey’ by Christopher Vogler. This book also comes highly recommended.

Some people argue that using these templates may lead to formulaic writing. While that may be partly true, many of the stages described in such a template can be very broadly interpreted leading to numerous variations. Beside, you must keep in mind, that you can always deviate from templates, you can change hem, add elements or leave parts out. Nobody will force you to use all components. In the end, these templates are here to help you, and if you get stuck in your writing, it is nice to have some structure to fall back to.

Man developing the story and writing the script of his comic
Developing the story and writing the script of his comic

5. How to write a script for your Lego comic

In a script you will write the field of view, action and dialogue, including key elements that need to be in a panel or on the page. And at this point my individual panels come to life in my brain. I can see the photographs before I set them up and shoot them.

The most essential component of the script is getting the dialogue clear. Knowledge about how many and who’s dialogue goes into what panel is crucial to the composition of the photographs. Will person A need to be on the left or right from person B (who talks first?), how much room will I need in the photo to be able to place my intended dialogue, etc.

I usually don’t have the script for the whole story ready before shooting. But it is good to have at least minimally one complete scene scripted before shooting one or more episodes within that scene.  Sometimes I stray a little from the script when need arises, but mostly it is pretty accurate.

6. How to build stages for a Lego brick comic

Once you know where the characters in your comic will be going you are going to have to build one or more stages, assuming that you will build your stages from Lego bricks. Sometimes it won’t be necessary to build Lego stages; for example when you situate your comic in a real world environment, or when you only use existing lego sets.

When building sets, think about what will be in the panels. Don’t build the stages too large if you will only use a small part of them (you will be amazed about how small some stages can be), on the other hand, don’t make them too small if you plan to use long shots or have a lot going on.

Also, think about how many sides you need to build. Usually two sides/ corner is enough, but these days I build complete rooms with four removable walls, so I have the freedom to shoot from different angles.

Finally, think about the amount of details necessary. This will will partly depend on your planned camera shots and angles besides aperture settings.

I build Many stages in the past, some better than others. I wrote a blog on The stages I build for the first chapter of the Foolish Lego brick comic if you want some examples.

7. Photographing Lego

How to photography Lego is a much heard question. Essentially, it is not that different from ‘normal’ photography. However, photographing Lego for the purpose of a comic comes with a few extra issues to keep in the back of your mind. Of course you can choose to ignore all these issues if you want too. Simply because you are the boss. However, using guidelines to work with these issues can really improve the technical aspects of your Lego brick comic. Following are a few aspects to keep in mind when shooting the panels for your comic.

7.1 Camera shots and angles

Changing the field of view, using differing camera shots and camera angles is at first good simply for the purpose of making the episodes look a bit more attractive. Many Lego brick comics have episodes showing multiple panels with nearly the same photo, whilst only the dialogue changes. Thus, visually not very  stimulating.

Yet, there are more compelling reasons for changing your camera shots and angles, they are very effective for adding subtexts to your panels. For example, you can help the readers focus on the elements in the panel that are important for the story at that moment. You can also create tension, drama. Also, you can manipulate, deliberately confuse or mislead your readers.

Camera shots are about how much of the subject and its surrounding area is visible in one panel. Using the relatively well-known long shots, medium shots and close-ups will take you a long way. Camera angles provide the camera shots at different angles, adding the subtext. At first remember to try and photograph the minifigures mostly from their perspective/ eye level and not from above. So, get down to their level!

7.2 Composition

Composition is the way you arrange your scene. Again, there are several compositional guidelines you can use to increase the impact of your scene. Remember, these are not rules and you may deviate from them if you want. As a matter of fact, sometimes the deviation from photo composition guidelines is what makes a particular scene come to life.

Many people can create amazing photo’s without knowing anything about  compositional rules. However, I often hear or see that people unknowingly/ instinctively shoot their best photos keeping to one or more of these rules.

Some of the more well-known guidelines are: the Fibonacci-spiral, rule of thirds, golden ratio, centred composition/ symmetry, leading lines, rule of space, balanced elements and the use negative space. If you’d like to step up your photography, at least knowing these guidelines exist is welcome, but they are not essential. However, for the shooting of comic panels the following elements of composition are crucial;

7.2.1 Have your subject in focus.

See to it that the main subject of your panel in focus! It’s a small effort, but makes your photos look so much better! It is one of the first things that readers will notice, even if they don’t care about anything else described in this blog. Blurry faces of the main character within that panel looks as if you did a rush job and don’t care about quality. Of course there are exceptions, but remember that exceptions are intentional!

7.2.2 Make important subjects stand out.

Isolate the subjects. Thus, making it clear from the beginning what or who the main subject in a panel is. You can use several methods to achieve this. An important one is controlling your depth-of-field, by changing your aperture-settings. For example; you can give lesser elements in the panel a more shallow depth of field. Or by using a shallow depth-of-field combined with a minifigure in focus will make that minifigure really stand out of the hazy background.

Other methods for isolating your subjects include the placing of the elements in your panel, exposure and background-elements. For instance, busy backgrounds will make your subject stand out less.

7.2.3 Pay attention to your background

Try and make the background as fitting to the story you’re telling as possible. It’ll help engage your readers. Of course, you can also play a little with the background; are there lesser stories in the background for the readers to find? Maybe you want to include something that is important to you, or a bit of inside information in a panel. Maybe there are people or objects that will play an important part later on in the story. Anything goes.

7.2.4 Dialogue

As mentioned earlier, do not forget to leave room for dialogue! it helps me to create the text-balloons before i shoot the pictures. That way I can already visualise the space necessary for text, besides helping me decide if I should cut back on text.

7.2.5 Relationship between panels

Finally, when dealing with multiple panels within one scene consistency is important too. Remember where everybody should be from panel to panel. And don’t forget to move the the world along with the central characters within the scene. If you only move your characters and leave everyone else untouched it will look like time has stopped.

man photographing Lego for his comic
Photographing Lego for his comic

7.3 Lighting the scene

In the beginning it is mostly important to see to it that your central subjects are well-lit and not too dark. Second, you will want some consistent lighting between panels and episodes of your Lego brick comic. And when you’re getting more experienced you’ll be wanting to do more. Below are a few elements you might want to keep in mind.

7.3.1 Lighting setup

There are many guidelines describing how you could light your scenes and characters. A the very least see to it that your main characters are well-lit. And pay attention to the background too, especially if there a re important elements in the background, see to it that these elements stand out, for instance by putting an extra light on it.

7.3.2 Exposure

Exposure deals with the amount of light captured by your camera and is directly related to the bright- and darkness of (parts of) your panels. Normal exposure is similar to what our eyes see, overexposure happens when too much light is reflected into the camera, resulting in a brighter panel and underexposure happens when little light enters the camera, resulting in a dark panel.

However, the right exposure is not the same as normal exposure. Maybe you purposely want to over-or underexpose (parts) of your panel, related to the mood you want to create in your panel.

The three factors you can use to control exposure are; changing the amount of light on (parts) of your stage, changing aperture settings (also influencing depth-of-field) and changing shutter-speed. Remember, slow shutter-speeds combined with using a tri-pod are mostly no problem since your Lego  scene overall will be pretty static. Changing your ISO-settings can also brighten your photo. However, it is not a part of exposure itself, since it does not influence the amount of light that reaches your camera sensor. It solely brightens the image after the sensor has already been exposed to light.

7.3.3 Color temperature

Color temperature is crucial to convey the mood and atmosphere of a scene. You can use color to influence your readers. For example; if you shoot a panel in yellowish light, you will convey a sunny day, maybe even happiness of your characters. Shoot the same panel in white blue-ish light and you will convey coldness (or a distant relationship between characters). Red may convey warmth or danger, a minifigure shot in a green environment might look sick (or it might seem like the environment is sick or something is terribly wrong).

7.3.4 Dealing with reflections

Lego bricks have the annoying tendency of overly reflecting. Especially the heads of Lego mini figures have this problem. Just when you think you’ve got your scene lighted correctly the reflections are posing problems. I try to get them out of the shot by moving the lights ever so slightly (or tilting the lights), or by turning/ moving/ tilting the object that has the annoying reflection. You’ll be amazed how often it helps to tilt a minifigure just a little bit. Another option is diffusing the lights, for instance with a light box.

In the end, you probably can not get rid of all unwanted reflections. In that case, just see to it that no crucial parts show the reflection (like the middle of the face or some other important printed part). Thereupon, you can get the reflections out by using software like photoshop.

8. What post-production is necessary?

After you have photographed all your scenes. Mostly you’ll want to do a little post-production. I always use Adobe Photoshop -combined with one or two plugins- but of course there are various options to choose from. A high quality free solution is  the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). Eventually, using the software of your choice, there are several aspects you might want to take a look at.

8.1 Cropping

Through cropping you can correct or fine-tune a panels’ composition if need be. I don’t do this very often. Usually, I try to get the composition right in camera. Lastly, note that when you resort to cropping, your photo should be large enough in pixel-size otherwise you might loose quality.

8.2 Removing reflections or other imperfections

I discussed the reflections in the paragraph on cinematography. Mostly the ‘other imperfections’ comes down to removing specs of dust. Especcialy macro lenses suddenly show dust  I often didn’t notice with my bare eyes.

8.3 Color correcting

Color correcting is necessary whenever I don’t have the right colors available as lights. If your camera has a RAW-setting, shoot your photos in RAW. Thus, the most (color-)information is incorporated in the photo which is important for post-processing. If not available, always shoot in the highest quality.

8.4 Lighting corrections

Sometimes a photo doesn’t come out like I wanted with respect to lighting. I try and correct those issues in post-production. Sometimes lighting up certain parts of the image to get more attention to that part, or darkening some part(s) of a picture. This takes some practice, and if done right it looks pretty good. However, never as good as lighting a scene correctly ( in my case 😉 ).

8.5 Special effects

Special effects are always cool to incorporate in a comic, as long as you don’t overdo it and keep it related to the story. Ghosts, lightsabers, light-beams, lightning, rain, flying objects/ minifigures, explosions, walking through walls. Whatever you can think of, it is possible. From time to time I will be posting (Photoshop) tutorials.

9. Put the Lego comic together and save it

In the end everything comes together when you create the actual comic. You have the script, you thought of a basic panel layout, you have for photos and you have the texts you want to use. In this step everything comes together. Tweak each page and panel until you’re happy with the result and you’re good to go.

Again there are several options to put the comic together.  Some use photoshop, GIMP or similar software. But, these come with a learning curve. I myself use specific software to create my comics: ‘Comic Life’. It’s not free, but it saves a lot of time for me.

After you have your comic completely to your liking, consider adding copyright-information, save it and don’t forget to optimize the image for the web!

10. How to share your Lego comic

I presume you want to share your comic with other people in stead of keeping all your awesomeness to yourself. Again you have several options, each with their own advantages and disadvantages:

10.1 Your own website

As the creator of a Lego brick comic, I believe you should try and set up your own website. Sure it can be a lot of work at first, and it may be difficult to get some traffic towards your website. But in the end your Lego comic deserves its own little home on the Internet. A home where you as creator are in charge and you are not dependent on how others believe your creation should be treated.

These days it is fairly simple to get a simple website going. There are many options for websites. You could also work with a (low-cost) provider. I recommend using WordPress with the comic-press or panel theme or another theme of your choice combined with the comic-easel plugin.

10.2 Social media like instagram

There are a few Lego brick comics published media. Yet i myself am not a fan of giving all control of my comic to a third party.

I only know that there are Lego brick comic on Instagram. On the one hand, there are a few disadvantages. For instance, instagram messing up the chronological order of the comics. Besides, there is no adequate navigation. Just try and get to the first episode of each Lego comic listed below as fast as possible. On the other hand I hear it is easy to build a large audience fast. Currently, I don’t recommend social media for posting your comics. But who knows what the future might bring.

10.3 Forums

I have seen a few comics shared on a forum. This outlet may be nice if you have a few experimental comics and you want some feedback from likeminded people. However, if you are getting serious about posting a longer run of Lego brick comics, you should go for one of the other two options.

11. Go and get your Lego brick comic up and running!

I’ve given you an overview of many aspects to consider if you’d like to create your own Lego brick comic. Not all aspects are equally important and of course it is up to you, how  you want to organise things. The most important aspect, of course, is to simply have fun! Enjoy conceiving, creating, publishing your own comic.

So, what are you waiting for? Go off and create your own comic! And don’t forget to let me know if you do! That way I can read your comic and add your production to the ultimate list of Lego brick comics.

I will update this article periodically and link to in depth articles on several subjects.

Other posts on Foolish Bricks that might interest you:

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