This is not a tutorial on drawing technique, but rather a guide to the steps and technical aspects of creating professional-looking comic book pages. For a guide to drawing in comic book style, I recommend How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and for an in-depth guide to comic composition and story telling techniques, you can't beat Making Comics.
(Pictures will be added to this tutorial eventually)
• pencils (I use 2H and HB)
• drawing pens in several sizes (for line variation)
• black marker
• eraser (Magic Rub works well for me)
• illustration board (see below)
• sketchbook (or equivalent, such as a stack of printer paper)
That's all you really need, besides a clean, flat surface to draw on. Depending on whether you plan to color you pages digitally or using traditional materials, you'll need additional materials, such as painting supplies, markers or a good graphics program, but that's beyond the scope of this tutorial.
For a more in-depth discussion of drawing materials, I have an article for that.
The standard size of comic books is 6 5/8" x 10 1/4" (a strange size, I know). Most comics are drawn at a larger scale so that when they're shrunk down to the standard size for printing, the detail will be finer (and the mistakes less apparent) than if it were drawn to size. Depending on the project, I work at either 133% or 150%.
The edges of the panels should be about 1/4" from the edges of the page (at the final size), and any image that reaches the edge of the page needs to extend 1/8" beyond it. In printing terms, these are called the safety area and the bleed, respectively. Their purpose is to ensure that when the book is printed, if the printing or trimming is slightly off center, nothing important gets cut off, and no blank white paper is showing at the edges of the pages.
The actual sizes of the page are:
- 6 7/8 x 10 1/2 bleed
- 6 5/8 x 10 1/4 page
- 6 1/8 x 9 3/4 safety
At 133%, the measurements are:
- 9 1/4 x 14 bleed
- 8 7/8 x 13 5/8 page
- 8 1/8 x 12 7/8 safety
At 150%, the measurements are:
- 10 3/8 x 15 3/4 bleed
- 10 x 15 3/8 page
- 9 1/8 x 14 5/8 safety
Drawing paper and illustration board (such as bristol board) come in several sizes that can be useful for illustrating comics. Specifically, 11x14 is great for working at 133%, and 11x17 and 14x17 are perfect for working at 150%.
Alternatively, you can buy comic book illustration boards with the dimensions already printed on them in non-photo blue, but those are more expensive than penciling it in yourself.
Of course, there are plenty of comics and graphic novels that aren't the standard size. When working with a non-standard size, write down the size, then add 1/4" each direction for bleed and subtract 1/4" or 1/2" each way for the panel area. You should now have three sets of measurements. Multiply each measurement by 1.33 or 1.5 (depending whether you want to work at 133% or 150% scale) to find the measurements you should be drawing at. I like to round the bleed up and the safety down to the nearest 1/8", to be on the safe side.
It's important to sketch each page before drawing it, to work out the composition. You might have to sketch some pages 2 or 3 times. Don't worry about making them look pretty or including much detail. Just work out the position, size and shape of the panels, and the placement of the characters and major scenery within each panel.
Some things to consider while sketching:
• Does the layout flow well, from one panel to the next?
• Is the framing dramatic and dynamic where it needs to be?
• Are the visuals telling the story you want them to tell?
• Are there any images that might confuse the reader?
Measure out the page size and panel area on your bristol board and draw some guide lines. Then draw your panels, leaving about 3/16" to 1/4" gutter in between them. Even if the panels aren't supposed to be uniform in size, it's a good idea to measure them out with a ruler, to make sure the sides are straight.
Lightly draw the artwork with your 2H pencil. Focus on composition, shape and proportion. Detail work and shading can wait until the next step. If you have any images that are not confined to a panel and run all the way to the edges of the page, be sure to draw beyond the edge of the page, to account for bleed.
When you are satisfied with the light pencil work, draw over it with your HB pencil. Now's the time to do all the detail work and shading.
Once the pencils are done, it's time to ink. Trace over your pencil work with your drawing pens and use Sharpies to fill in large black areas.
Wait at least half an hour for the ink to dry and then erase the pencils, leaving only the ink. Don't erase too vigorously though, because it can lift some of the ink as well. After erasing, you might want or have to do some touch-ups.