How to Make Comics: Drawing Comics

I’ve reviewed how to come up with ideas for comics, told you the basics of writing for comics, and then some more detail on it.  Now we’re going to actually talk about DRAWING comics.  The process of actually drawing your comic is divided up into pencilling, lettering, and inking.  Those will each have their own entry.  This particular blog post will consist of focusing on the drawing aspect of comics.

Here’s a tough one:  do you need to be able to draw to make comics?  Think it over…time’s up!  The answer?  You DO NOT need to be able to draw to make comics! Hmm…what was that?  There’s a few of you out there in Internetland that don’t believe me?  I’ll explain.  There are some people out there who do NOT draw at all.  There are some out there who use photographs to make comics.  They might use photographs of people, action figures, stock images, etc.  One example of this is the Alien Loves Predator webcomic.  Some out there like David Rees use clipart to make their comics such as the rather left-wing cartoon collection Get Your War On.

There are those who draw minimally for their works.  A very good example of this would be Matt Feazell who is well known for drawing stick figures.  There are many more examples of stylized, exaggerated, and/or minimal drawing methods of drawing.  Many of these can be found on the newspaper comics pages of today and yesterday.  Look at Charles Schulz (Peanuts) as well as Bud Fisher (Mutt and Jeff) and Cathy Guisewite (Cathy).  So if you can’t draw or don’t feel that you’re good at it, don’t worry about it.  There are other people out there who don’t draw well or don’t do so at all.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, drawing is not necessarily some inborn talent that you have or you don’t – it’s actually a skill that you can learn!  So how do you go about learning how to draw?  Well, luckily there’s no shortage of books out there to use.  A number of these are quite affordable though if money is an issue, you can get used copies online or visit your local library.

I can recommend two very handy books.  The one is probably one of the best (if not the BEST) books out there and it is titled The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Dr. Betty Edwards (Tarcher/Penguin, 1979).  This book can teach ANYONE how to draw even if you have no drawing experience or skill.  I’ve used this book to great effect – my drawing skills vastly improved.  This is also available as a workbook and a video (both in DVD and VHS format).  I also advise the Art of Basic Drawing from the Walter Foster company.  The Walter Foster publishing company has a variety of books on drawing, painting, calligraphy, and other artistic subjects.  What’s more is that their books are quite affordable.  You can buy a number of them for around US$10!  An older book that I’ve used is titled Drawing Basic Subjects from Barron’s Educational Series circa 1994-1995.  This book is currently out of print right now, but is very handy for practicing and honing your drawing skills.  A few more recommendations I can make are the Draw 50 series by Lee J. Ames.  These books are cheap and cover various subjects such as Draw 50 Athletes, Draw 50 Cars, Draw 50 Famous Cartoons, Draw 50 Famous Buildings, etc.  Some of you out there might have written off these books because they are frequently put in the juvenile sections of libraries and retail bookstores.  Don’t!  These can be handy for learning to draw and/or practicing because they allow you to construct a horse, athlete, Frankenstein’s monster, 1936 Pontiac, etc. step-by-step.  Check out an example here from the above site.  Another series I can recommend are the Famous Artists School “How To” books – four titles prepared by some of the top illustrators of the 20th century.  The titles include How to Draw and Paint Landscapes, How to Draw and Paint Portraits, How to Draw the Human Figure, and How to Draw Animals.

Besides books, you can also look for classes in your area that can teach you how to draw.  You don’t have to enroll full-time, especially if time and money are an issue.  There are a number of colleges and art schools that offer continuing education in drawing classes.  Adult education centers are another good source for drawing classes.

To be honest, the best way to learn how to draw is…to just draw!  No book, instructor, or institution alone can teach you how.  All the help in the world won’t do you any good unless you are wiling to help yourself first.  Practice drawing as much as you can.  Sketchpads and sketchbooks are cheap as are pens and pencils.  Go out and draw.  Try sketching people on the street.  Sketch things that hold still like parked cars, houses, trees, rocks, etc.  I’ve been working hard to improve my own drawing skills.  While I’m not one of the best out there (not by a long shot), I’ve become way better than I used to.  Here is one of my drawings I’ve done for practice.

Straw hat, jar, and spray can – Pen and ink on 8.5×11 paper

All in all, the best advice I can offer is to practice as much as you can, get feedback, get instruction, and practice some more.  It’s not easy, but you can learn how to draw and you can improve your skills.

That does it for this week’s blog post.  Next week, I’ll cover pencilling in comics and share a bit of my own work.  I’m more than happy to take your comments and questions.  How did you learn to draw?  What books do you recommend?  Did you take drawing lessons?  Why not tell us here?  Subscribe to the RSS feed or via email for updates to the blog.  See you back here next week!

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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.
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2 Responses to How to Make Comics: Drawing Comics

  1. Demon Hanzo says:

    Nice concise and to the point article. I would add that someone could always team up with an artist if they were so inclined. I would also suggest the books by Burne Hogarth. They are a serious study of human anatomy. Also it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a few books that teach how to draw scenery and perspective drawing as well.

    You’re right drawing is a skill that is developed over time and effort. That’s what I tell my friends (and anyone who will listen ) how to
    make your own comic book

    • Max West says:

      Thanks, Mr. Hanzo, for replying to my post and commenting on my blog.

      Hogarth’s books are very handy for learning anatomy. There’s also the books of Andrew Loomis, which just recently became available once more in bookstores. Many out there swear by his books. As for perspective, one of the best texts for that is Perspective For Comic Book Artists by David Chelsea. It’s easy to understand and breaks down that complex subject into plain English.

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