Friday, December 16, 2011


 Comic book artist, A. Kaviraj,continues his series of providing useful tutorials for comic book artists. If you missed his article on comic book inking then click here. This week, he gives artists tips on sequential art, shadows,splash pages, and panel design.   

Sometimes regular artists decide they want to draw comic books and don't realize that sequential art is a COMPLETELY different skill set, and even if you can draw like Michaelangelo, your pages will still be sucky or you will get frustrated and quit right away because you have no experience telling a story with your drawings. You have to think four-dimensionally, McFly.

You have to be able to draw well AND tell a clear story with your images. You have to know how to depict in an interesting yet clear manner the story which the writer has scripted. You have to think like a cinematographer, using interesting camera angles, and close ups when the drama requires it.

You may have to choose to draw something less awesome, yet more clear. Always choose clarity over anything else, even if you have an awesome picture in mind. Panel design is also critical, and study of how other artists have successfully designed panels is required. If its an establishing shot of a guy in the city, for instance, you should use a panoramic horizontal panel (see panel below from Dr Death vs The Zombie below).  Characters talking in panels can be square or mostly vertical.


If two characters are talking, use the over the shoulder shot (see image below from Rapid City) favored so much in films. For mechanical or human built artifacts it's a really good idea to use photo reference. No one can remember exactly every part of something like a helicopter, so don't fake it. (see image below from Doctor Death vs The Zombie).


Rapid City

Dr. Death vs The Zombie
Shadows are a completely separate study-it takes a lot of hard work and observation to get them down, but without them your work will never have that realistic dramatic solidity. Facial shadows, clothing shadows, and environmental shadows (buildings, trees, etc) are three separate areas of study. Study that will pay off big-time. Never ever try to make up facial shadows. When you've done hundreds of facial shadows then you can draw them free hand to some extent but never before.

I see a lot of industry artists faking facial shadows and it always stands out as bad. If you are unwilling to do the study, just leave them off, man. Curt Swan, my favorite silver age artist, never used facial shadows and he was awesome. I have redrawn some of his stuff adding facial shadows though, and it looked five times better! Facial shadows are powerful stuff. Sean Phillips is the undisputed master, but I'm catching up!

Splash pages are my personal nemesis. (see image below from Frater Mine) Enjoying drawing panels like I do, it's hard to re-gear for a 'pin-up' style drawing. There's so much space to fill! My only advice is don't take shortcuts and go piece at a time. It'll be done before you know it.



A whole 'nother ball of wax, and possibly the most important, is composition. Where to put everything so it's pleasing to the eye. Luckily for me I had an excellent design teacher in college so this is second nature to me. I see a lot of covers and go 'ouch'-because it's a bunch of superheroes and spaceships all around in a senseless jumble. Get a book on design and study it or you'll be sorry.

Finally, here is a great aid to sequential artists: Wally Woods 22 Panels That Always Work! (see below).


Now start drawing! Wait-study first, then draw!

A. Kaviraj is an artist and writer at Champion City Comics. His works include Dr Death vs The Vampire, Doctor Death vs The Zombie, and The End of Paradise.

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