How to Make a Comic Book

Five Parts:Making Preliminary SketchesDeveloping the CharactersForging a StorylineComplete the Comic BookSample Comics

Do you have a great story to tell with pictures and words? Why not write a comic book? For help with sketching, developing characters, writing a compelling story, and synthesizing all these elements into book form, use these guidelines and pointers.

Part 1
Making Preliminary Sketches

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    Sketch your characters or character ideas. Since comic book characters are very much defined by how they look, making a few quick sketches is a great way to inspire yourself to create a unique character – and might even give you plot ideas. You can start with pencil, crayon, or even a digital design program depending on what gets your creative juices flowing.
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    Practice drawing the characters, locations, and objects that will be in your story. The pros call these "model sheets." The more you practice, the more consistent the drawings will be, making it easier for your reader to "read" your artwork. Making sure you know how each character looks from all angles will help your readers identify them, even if there's a lot of action around them on your pages.
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    Practice drawing different facial expressions, postures, and situations for each character. This will allow you to make your characters look smoother and will help you work out the few kinks in your technique. To practice, draw your character with four most important feelings (happiness, anger, sadness, and fear) in five different ways each (mildly happy, kind of happy, happy, very happy, extremely happy, hysterically happy). This is a good way to practice drawing your character's facial traits. Since comic books are full of action, you will also need to draw each character in various action poses.

Part 2
Developing the Characters

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    Flesh out your key characters. Developing your characters’ backstory and personality is crucial to making a good digital comic book. Even if you choose not to reveal much to the reader at this point (ex. Wolverine), it’s important for you to have a sense of the character’s roots so that you can make their behavior realistic and organic; their past experiences, victories, hurts, and failures should inform their reactions in new situations. If your comic book hero will be a superhero, read How to Create a Super Hero for advice. Otherwise, read How to Create a Fictional Character from Scratch.
    • Develop your antagonist/rival/evil person's personality, but don't go too much in depth in the story itself. Over-explaining the antagonist takes away their intrigue (which is why Joker remains so interesting) and dulls the larger conflict of the story. On top of that, since comics have to cover a lot in a limited time, there is no time for the reader to be distracted by someone other than the protagonist. In the example of cartoons like Biowars, the protagonist is actually biology-related, so don't feel compelled to keep your storyline based solely off human or monsters.
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    Make the different characters very different physically. If you're a beginner, it will be hard to make specific facial traits to your characters and you don't want your reader confusing your rival and your hero. If your protagonist has short, blond hair, make your rival have long, black hair. If your protagonist wears shorts and a T-shirt, make your rival wear jeans and a lab coat (or anything else). Match your character's attire with their general demeanor, if possible; bad boy clothing, etc.
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    If this is your first story, don't put in too many characters. A common mistake in beginner comics is that too many characters make your reader lose interest in the main character's story. Keep it simple. For a very short story, a good number is three characters. These can be the protagonist, the antagonist and the protagonist's helper if your story is about a quest or it can be the protagonist, the rival and the protagonist's crush if it is a love story.

Part 3
Forging a Storyline

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    Introduce a key character. This is usually the protagonist, but if your villain is particularly intriguing, you might want to open with him or her (especially if you want to set a tone of corruption, decay, or terror for the entire story). You will need to cover who (s)he is and what his/her life is like at this point to allow the reader to connect. Remember to cover all the important details of that character's life. You may have thought about this story for a very long time, but the reader is discovering it and may not understand well if you skip over some details.
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    Introduce an element that starts the action. This can be something that causes a disturbance in your main character’s daily life. Be sure to show why this is different from what the character is used to.
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    Send the protagonist on a quest. This is your character's adventure to setting things right (or, if you’ve chosen an anti-hero, to set things wrong). This is where you can add a lot of twists and turns to keep your reader interested. Remember that you want your reader to stay interested but you don't want to lose him so keep an idea of the world your character is evolving in.
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    Build the conflict to a climax. This is where your main character either chooses or is forced into a huge confrontation that leaves all parties involved forever changed. Avoid the temptation to show off how capable your hero is by making victory seem too easy; the best confrontations are ones where the participants are very evenly matched and the audience truly fears for the character(s) they love. This is the moment when the reader will be holding his breath to see what happens.
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    End the story. This is when the reader sees everything falling into place. Make sure that the end gives you a feeling of accomplishment, of catharsis. If it works for you, it should work for your reader.

Part 4
Complete the Comic Book

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    Make thumbnails for the story. To help you out, write a timeline with each step or event in the story in it and write in advance how many pages you will devote to each event: that way you won't make the mistake of making an unimportant event have more pages than the climax. Then, make thumbnails based on how you’ve distributed you events. This doesn't need to be a full script based on what you've written: thumbnails are small, sketchy versions of each page. Use the thumbnails for your "plot breakdown" - decide how much of the story you will tell on each page and in each panel. Think about how to compose each panel and how to make your point to the reader. Don't be afraid to try lots of different thumbnails, organizing your story in different ways. Since they're small and sketchy, you won't have to spend as much time on them as you would a fully drawn page.
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    Cut out the good panels. Compile these (in order), toss out the rejects, and made additional panels if necessary. If you like certain aspects of a rejected panel, be sure to trace them into your other attempt(s).
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    Draw the panel borders for your final pages. Use your final thumbnails as a guide. This can be loose at this stage, as you begin to place your final artwork in the space of the page. You may decide something from the thumbnail needs to be slightly larger, or smaller, or be emphasized more or less. This is the time to make those last second decisions.
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    Lightly write in the lettering. You may be tempted to start drawing first, but you need to make sure there's room for your text boxes and word or thought balloons. Planning the placement of your copy now will save you many headaches later.
    • Watch out for the position of the speech bubbles. A reader will naturally read a bubble on the top and on the left first. Keep that in mind when you position them for a dialogue.
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    Sketch in the drawings. Make sure that everything in each panel is clear and works the way you want it to. Are drawings crowding the lettering so it's smushed into one corner and hard to read? Is a word balloon covering an important detail in your artwork? Is everything clear and easy to understand? This is called "penciling." Try to use a sharpened pencil so people can read your comic. Maybe a mechanical pencil would be good. Some artists use non-repro blue pencils to rough in their characters and panel designs. The reason is that this very light blue pencil is invisible to photocopiers and black and white printing processes, so there's no need to erase them later. Then you can refine the artwork with your pencil. Work light - any lines that overlap your ink work will show in the final comic pages.
    • Remember to make someone reread each page to make sure it's clear enough. If your friend asks you any question like "What do you mean by that?" or "How did the character get here?", the page isn't clear enough.
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    Finish up your pencils. Add details to the characters, objects, and backgrounds.
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    Ink your finished pages if desired. Some artists just leave the work in pencils ("Hero bear and the Kid" is one example). Most comics, however, are inked over the finished pencils. Use whatever you feel most comfortable with - or consider handing the pages off to someone else to be inked (like the big companies do). Using Penstix, Rapidograph, or quills, brushes and India ink will bring life to the work. Pay close attention to line weight - generally, outside or defining lines are thicker, while details like facial lines and fabric wrinkles are lighter and more delicate. Ink in the lines of the borders.
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    Set your type or ink your letters in. Lettering is extremely important - it tells half of your story, while the pictures tell the other half. Hand lettering can be time consuming and difficult, but it looks superb when done by a talented calligrapher. Use pencil to rough in your letters - nothing looks worse than running out of room in a word balloon. Or consider using Word or something similar, and a font like Comic Sans to make your letters perfect and legible. Don't forget to spell check!! Grammar is important in writing.
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    Find a title for your story. This isn't always as simple as it sounds. If you've already found one, good. If you haven't, start by writing as many words that can relate to your story as you can. Try writing around 50 to a 100 for a short story or 100 to 200 if it's a long story. (It’s tedious, yes, but it will stretch the limits of your imagination and force you to come up with something a little more creative).Then, combine words together to make a title. After having made a few combinations, choose the ones you like best and have some friends help you. Always have a second, third, fourth or even fifth opinion. Ask your friends which title makes them want to read the comic most.
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    Decide whether or not to publish your comic book. If it turns out really well, you might even be able to sell it at Comic Con. If the results aren’t that spectacular (or just you aren’t interested in publishing), you can make a Facebook page for it or put it on YouTube instead!


  • Make the cover page colorful and eye-catching.
  • Read some actual comic books. You might as well look at the real thing before you even start.
  • Don't be afraid to start over a story or a page when you think it doesn't fit together. All that work you've done will always be useful even if you feel like it's been for nothing. Remember, practice makes perfect.
  • Try to think before you draw or write something. You would not like to write or draw something that was not similar with what you had in mind.
  • Don't make the story too long or too short. If it is too short, the reader that was interested in the comic would feel disappointed. And if the story is too long and complicated, the reader will eventually lose interest.
  • Whilst writing a comic book balance the amount of action and dialogue. Too much action and it will seem over-the-top. Too much dialogue the comic will seem boring and bland.
  • Constantly make others reread your story. Don't be afraid of being criticized. It's often hard to have someone point out what doesn't fit in something you work so hard on, but it's essential. Remember that your opinion is not objective.
  • Always be prepared to change something; you will need to do it at some point, whether, you want to draw your characters better, or add a twist. Bottom line, don't do anything permanent such as coloring and junk, always wait until you're satisfied.
  • Don't make your comic book's story predictable or boring. Try to make your comic unique without over complicating it.

Make sure it's clear as well.

  • Write the text first, then draw a speech bubble around it.
  • If you're using ink be sure to make sure it dries before flipping the page or the ink may smear.


  • Don't feel discouraged if the story or drawings aren't as good as you want them to be. With practice, it will get better. You can’t start out as perfect.

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Categories: Drawing Anime and Manga