Comic Book Style Graphic Design Tutorial – Learn to draw comic book style

Tutorial: Comic Book Style Graphic Design


One of the questions we have been asked frequently is – (what is/are the process we use to create our illustrated flyers and posters). I will try to answer this frequently asked question with a tutorial on how our Ohio graphic designers turn the illustrations they created into flyers or posters.

At the end of this tutorial, what we would create is this flyer that was created for our recent Go media inc. Art show.

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Before I give a detailed explanation, here is a quick highlight:

Draw with Pencil on Paper.

Ink your penciled artwork.

Scan your artwork at 300 dpi.

Create a second copy of the artwork at 150 dpi.

Create a color layer just under the artwork (set your artwork layer to multiply)

Color your artwork.

Delete the artwork layer, and return the color layer to 300dpi

Open the original 300dpi artwork and paste it above the color layer.

Flatten the image and save it.

Import the image into your design software

Add text and graphics

Export the final design.

Step 1. Draw with Pencil on Paper.

The first step to turning your illustrations into flyers and posters is the pencil drawing. I can teach extensively on how to draw, but this tutorial’s main focus is how to turn your pencil drawings in to a finished design.


Here are the tools you’ll need:


Paper: I recommend a plate finish Bristol paper. This paper is heavy enough to handle a lot of reading, and thick enough to absorb ink and not wrinkle in the inking phase


Pencil: I use a mechanical pencil like the KOH-I-NOOR Technigraph 5611 Lead Holder. It holds a thick piece of graphite, similar to that of a real pencil. When you sharpen and use it, it gives a better result.


Eraser: Staedtler Mars plastic reader and Sandford tuff stuff eraser stick are what I will recommend in this tutorial.



NB: When you are in the pencil drawing stage, flexibility is very important. You can get inspiration from basic shapes, draw faint lines to see if the shape works. When you get what you want, you can tighten up your drawing.


This is what a fairly loose pencil drawing looks like:

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Here is a follow-up sample of a fairly tight pencil drawing:

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A word to encourage you about drawing: don’t be hard on yourself, some illustrators expect to sit down with a piece of paper and drawing set, and just project what’s on their mind at one trial. I think it is nearly impossible to get it right on the first attempt.


Drawing is a process, it might take a long time to get what you are looking for. I like to make comparison between a good batter in baseball and a good illustrator. For a major league, a great battling average is ‘300’. This means that they can get three hits out of 10 throws, or they can hit a throw 30% of the time. I think this percentage is great for an illustrator too, if I get three great drawings out of a possible ten attempts – to be fair, I think I have done well.

Relax while you are drawing with pencil, get more than one paper, be flexible, get loose, don’t be disturbed by ‘bad sketches’ – just toss them over and restart on a new sheet.


Here is our finished tight pencil drawing – insert picture



Step 2. Ink your penciled artwork.

Now that you’re done with your pencil work, it’s time to ink your drawing.


Here are the tools you’ll need:


Paint Brush or Crow Quill Pen: small paintbrush is recommended (try #1, #2 or #3)


India Ink: I like using the thick India inks, Higgins waterproof black India ink can also give a great result.


Marker: a black waterproof marker would do the trick.


This regular #0 Windsor & Newton camel hair paint brush is one of the brush I use, I have also used the new synthetic nylon or polyester fibre paint brush with great success. The masking tape rolled around the tip of the brush is to get a better grip while using the brush. The extra handle gives me a better control over the tip of the brush.

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I fill the large areas of black with a marker.

I think it is better to ink with either crow-quill ink pens or a paint brush because of their ability to give varying line thickness. In the spot where you need a thick line, you just have to push down to draw the thick lines, you’ll raise it up a little if you need to draw thin lines.

You can try it out couple of times to see how it works!

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A couple tips about this: to show depth in your drawings, objects that are closer to you should be drawn with thicker lines, and objects in the background should be drawn in thinner lines.


Also, to show bright spot, for instance, if there is a light source behind an object, just over the edge of the object, the outline of the object might get thin to the point where it stops.


Sometimes, there is too much ink on the brush after deeping it in the India ink, Just tap it on the ink well, or draw a few lines on a scrap paper before you use the ink on the brush on your drawings.


It is also important to use the right type of paper, the spread of India ink on some papers cannot be controlled. Get a few type of Bristol paper and experiment on them. After experimenting, I found out that a thick smooth or plate finish Bristol papers the best.


If you want to fill a large area, black waterproof market would be perfect.


Once you have finish inking your drawings, wait a while before erasing your pencil lines. I usually wait for at least one hour before I erase my pencil lines. I just run my plastic erasers over the entire drawing. If your work is not dry, it will snear if you erase it. Give it plenty of time to dry. Once the ink is dry, erase the entire paper gently, the pencil sketch will disappear but the ink will stay.



Step 3. Scan your artwork at 300 dpi.

Once you have completed your black and white artwork, it’s time to get it into your computer for coloring.


Here are the tools You’ll need:


Computer: you’ll be completing the rest of your designs on a computer. A powerful design station is what I recommend, if you don’t have any, you can work with what is available for you. A simple computer is fine for a small art work. If you are doing a very large scale artwork, you will need computer built with processor that can handle the size of your work.


Scanner: If you have a large format scanner, perfect! It will make you life much easier. If you don’t have a large format scanner like me, it’s ok. I use an 8.5 x 14 inches scanner. I scan my artwork in pieces and stitch them together. Although, this can be a bit tedious.

Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter: although I think painter might be better, I use photoshop. I choose photoshop because I’m very familiar with it.

Switch your artwork together: since most of the times I scan my artwork in pieces because I have a small scanner, the time below will help you if you also have a small scanner:


  1. Align one edge of your paper with that of the scanning surface and scan. Once you scan the first part, slide the art, keeping one edge of your art aligned with the edge of the scanner again. It will prevent your art from rotating, making the stitching process easier.
  2. Scan your artwork at 300 dpi. 300dpi is a high resolution. It is better to scan with very high resolution than lower resolution. You can eventually shrink the artwork down later, but start with high resolution.
  3. Stitch your artwork together. You can do this by bringing every pieces of your artwork together on a large canvas, lining them up. To make lining up your artwork easy, set each image layer to multiply.

Once you have scanned your black and white artwork into the computer and stitched it into one piece of work, the next step is resizing the image to your desired output. For this tutorial, we want the art size to be a 4″ x 9″ flyer. we start by shrinking the size of our artwork to 4″ across, we will also add an extra canvas, such that our final art size is 4″ x 9″.


NB: If you intend to add graphics or text above your artwork or below your artwork, take your time to first sketch how you would layout your graphics. For instance, if you want to add a text title above the illustration, you need to first decide how much space you’ll need for it. Once you get to the design phase, you’ll have plenty plenty background art to work with.

Here is the final scanned art: insert picture



Step 4. Create a second copy of the artwork at 150 dpi.

Create a second copy of the artwork at 150dpi. Save a copy of your 300dpi, black and white artwork and set it aside (you’ll still work on it later). Create another copy of the artwork in 150dpi. This new copy is what you’ll be using for the coloring. You’ll color on the lower resolution to make work east for your computer.


Step 5. Create a “color” layer just under the artwork.

The setup of your photoshop layer should be like this:


Top Layer: your artwork in black and white (set the layers to ‘multiply’ to see the color behind your line art).


Middle Layer: this layer is blank, it is where you’ll use for coloring (set the layer to multiply)


Background Layer: White.


Step 6. Color your artwork.

The process of coloring is complex, we cannot discuss it in detail in this tutorial.

Here are a few tips on coloring:

The main shapes should be filled with colors that has medium value (I.e not too bright or too dark – just somewhere in between).

Go back and add shadows and bright spots on the medium value color.

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Switch to the top layer (your artwork layer), select an area on your artwork you want to colour with a magic wand tool, then switch back to the middle layer to apply paint. This way you can color almost carefree, without actually going outside the line.


Generally, working in different layers is good, for example, having solid colors on one layer, shadows on another layer, and doing highlight on another can safe you the stress of starting all this over again when you need to make any changes on your work.


It is important to have a color strategy. Have a limited color pallet to work with, don’t go outside your color pallet. A lot of my coloring looks almost like a monochrome, I use a restricted color pallet, I’m not the best colorist!


You can also use photographs in your coloring process, to give your work the needed texture.


Step 7. Delete the artwork layer, and return the color layer to 300dpi.

At this step, only the layer with color should remain on your document, no artwork. The next thing is to return your image to 300dpi.


Step 8. Open the original 300dpi artwork and paste it above the color layer.

The original 300dpi artwork is the original black and white file you scanned at 300dpi, saved and set aside. Select the artwork then paste it on top of your colored image. Remember to set the new artwork layer to multiply.


Step 9. Flatten the image and save it.

This step is self explanatory. Congratulations, your artwork is complete.

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Step 10. Import the image into your design software.

Personally, I use Adobe Illustrator, I think it is the best design software out here. You can use freehand or corel draw depending on what you know how to use best. Use the “place” function for importing your artwork into your illustrator file.


Step 11. Add text and graphics.

Add vector graphics and texts to your image as you would have done to any photograph.

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Step 12. Export the final design.

That’s all, your artwork is ready!

I know this tutorial did not go really deep, explaining all the things you wanted to learn. The tutorial is meant to give people general knowledge of how we create our illustrated designs. We could spend all day discussing or writing about the many aspects of drawing, coloring and illustration. The list is endless.

Please keep in mind that there are several ways to do this type of work. The process I explained is what works for me. You may discover shorter method or easier way to do it. Hat is why we encourage you to experiment. If you have any doubt or any question, just ask!

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