Comic Art: Introduction to Penciling for Comics

Ario Anindito, Art director, illustrator, comic artist.

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4 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Creating Your Three Characters

    • 2. Translating Into Rough Panels

    • 3. How to Finish Your Panels

    • 4. Finishing Touches


Project Description

Pencil a one-page comic

Creating Your Character

  1. Brainstorm ideas for your characters

    The first step in starting on any comic is designing your main characters. We are going to make three characters:

    • The protagonist (main character)
    • The antagonist (villain)
    • The supporting character

    Tip: Try watching movies or reading comics for inspiration. 

    Here are my three characters for this project. 


  2. Find an influence for each character

    Try to remember your favourite celebrity, or friend, that has a very distinctive and unique look. Pick one that you can remember easily in your mind, so you are familiar with their shape and face. It will make drawing the character easier.

    Remember, since you're going to be drawing these characters a lot you should design them after someone that's easy to draw. No coincidence that my main character resembles me!


  3. Make your characters distinctive

    Add something distinctive to your character to take them from average to a special character.

    • The Avengers' Nick Fury looks like a grumpy John Shaft without his eyepatch
    • Spiderman looks like a normal geeky teenager without his costume
    • Batman looks like a regular guy without his bat ear and costume
    • Tintin is just a young boy without his trademark hair

    Your drawing style is a trademark, but it helps when your character has a distinctive look that makes him/her different from any other character. It can be anything: eyeglasses, a moustache, fangs, a crooked nose, an eye patch, etc.

Rough Layout Panelling

  1. Choose the script you'll use

    Now that you have three characters of your own, let’s put them into a script and onto rough panels. 

    I have made two scripts for you to choose from: the action script and the drama script. Each will be divided into 5-6 panels.

    Download the scripts here and choose the one you'll work with.

    Which script fits your characters better?

  2. Sketch your panelling layout

    Translate your script to a rough panelling layout. Sketch your panelling layout with pencil on paper. There should be at least six panels on one page.

    The panel with the most intense scene, gets the bigger panel. At this point you have to decide which panels deserve to be large and which can be small. Remember, the point of panelling size is to attract the reader, to give them climax and intensity.

  3. Decide the point of view

    You can choose a lot of point of views: the bird eye view, the frog eye view, etc. Reference the video lesson for lots of different options. 

    Make the reader involved with the comic, make them feel as if they’re in the comic by using the right point of view.

    Tip: A common problem when drawing the point of view is getting the gesture and body proportions. My solution is to grab a magazine, and browse for a preferred pose.

    Additionally, I find captures from a movie, use an action figures with many points of articulations, or taking a picture of a friend posing works as well!


    Watching movies with great cinematic point of view would help a lot too. Like for example, the French movie "Amelie". It has a lot of unique point of view for their scenes.

    Last but not least, is comic references. My personal favourite for great cinematic and point of view experience in comic is in Mark Millar and Brian Hitch's Ultimate Avengers. It's so awesome you will feel like you're watching an actual movie instead of reading a comic.

  4. Place your sound effects

    Put them in the right place so the reader will feel that it’s coming from the action that happens. Try to put them near the object that makes the sound, but use a non-stiff shape of words, so it feels like a sound.

    If you’re doing it manually then you need to draw the word balloons and sound effects in your rough panelling layout. If you’re doing it digitally, then you will have to make space between your characters.

    Here are some samples of my rough panels with word balloons and sound effects.

    Rough Panel Drama Script


    Rough Action 1


    Rough Action 2 (alternative sample for rough panelling layout)


Finishing the Panels

  1. Transfer your rough panels

    There are several methods to do this. You can resketch the rough panelling to the paper and make the fixed layout, or trace it onto another paper.

    In the first method, you'll cleanly re-draw the rough panels onto your final paper. Erase the sketch lines that are unimportant as you go so you're left only with your finished line art. 



    The second method involves using a tracing table. (See additional resources below for instructions on how to make your own "tracing table").

  2. Add word balloons and sound effects

    If you don't want to work digitally you can simply draw on your word balloons and sound effects directly to your page.

    To work digitally, scan your drawing into Photoshop.

    Word Balloons 

    You can make your own balloon or download one from online. Browse Google for "comic balloons". Choose the suitable ones for each dialogue and place it at the desired position.


    Sound Effects

    Write your sound effects in another layer in Photoshop or browse Google for "comic sound effects". Place the sound effect where it belongs. 




Finishing the Comic Page

  1. Clean up the page

    Erase the rough lines, make it neat and easy to read. In the comic industry, the comic will go to the inking phase after this, but some artists (like myself) prefer not to ink their work and go straight to the coloring phase.

    We will also give the finishing renders here, make bolder outlines for the characters, sound effects, and panels, and darken few things like hair, shadows, etc.

    This is the comparison pic between the previous step and the finishing step:


    Here's the finished pencil page for the action script:


  2. Share your work with your classmates

    Congratulations.. now you have your own comic page! Don’t forget to upload your work and share with classmates. Have fun offering feedback on other projects.

Additional Resources

  • How to make your own tracing table:


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