From drawing characters to cover design, learn how to create comic illustrations that captivate readers, using both traditional and digital techniques
Look back through history, and you'll see that comic-style art has existed for thousands of years. It's said the origins of the style can be traced back to the sequential drawings and paintings of the Lascaux cave in France over 17,000 years ago.
Over the past century, comic art has become a mainstream source of entertainment for people of all ages. From weekly comic strips to the iconic titles we recognize today, comic book art styles and their formats, have taken on many forms over the years and become a defining part of artists’ portfolios around the world.
Ready to create your own comics? In the courses below, expert illustrators and designers give you the tools and skills to design expressive characters, create a cartoon universe, build a visual narrative, and lots more.
A quick introduction to three comic book genres
Before you dive in, let’s take a look at some of the common comic book genres covered in the courses below:
- Comedy: Humor is a characteristic that features in all kinds of comic book art, regardless of its subject. In fact, comic books were born out of the humorous cartoons printed in newspapers in the 1800s. The first publication to refer to itself as a comic book was also a comedy—The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flat, published in the 1890s.
- Superhero: DC Comics kick-started the superhero genre in the late 1930s with the introduction of Superman, followed closely by its longtime competitor Marvel. The famous characters we’ve come to know and love might have changed over the years when it comes to their appearance, but superheroes remain a defining feature of many best-selling comics.
- Manga: An umbrella term referring to Japanese comics and graphic novels, manga rose to popularity around the world through the 1980s. Manga has many genres, but one of its most recognizable elements is cartoon-style characters with expressive features. Traditionally, manga is designed to be read from right to left.
Want to find out more about these genres and how to incorporate them into your designs? Check out these courses.
Illustration courses for comic book character design
No comic book would be complete without a lineup of compelling characters; from household names like Batman and Wonder Woman to their trusty sidekicks, each is carefully designed to carry the story within its pages.
1. Female Character Design for Comics, a course by Marcio Takara
Comic book artist, Marcio Takara (@marciotakara), has worked on comics for Marvel, and DC, designing both covers and interior art for titles like Captain Marvel and Wolverine.
In this female comic character design course, he teaches you how to draw powerful protagonists from scratch. Discover how to add volume, movement, balance, and expression to your characters with him as your guide. You'll only need a pencil, eraser, ink, brush, and paper!
2. Illustration for Comics: Anatomy of a Superhero, a course by Ariel Olivetti
Superhero comics, as we’ve seen, are some of the most popular on the market. Creating that superhero is what illustrator and comic book artist Ariel Olivetti (@arielolivetti) specializes in, having studied superhero anatomy since 1993.
He shares almost three decades of experience in this course where he'll teach you how to draw superheroes worthy of the title. Learn the details of superhero anatomy, including proportions, muscle groups, poses, and more, to bring realistic yet exaggerated personalities to your comic book characters.
3. Cartoon Characters and Their Universe: Create Another World, a course by Butch Hartman
Inspired by the comic books and cartoons he loved as a kid, Butch Hartman (@butchhartman4) is a cartoon artist who's created well-known shows like Nickelodeon show, Fairly Oddparents. In this course, he teaches you how to draw cartoon-style characters.
Apply his lessons to your comic book world by learning how to come up with a powerful concept, turn it into initial sketches, and choose the poses and details that bring them to life using digital tools. By the end of the course, you’ll have your own lineup of unforgettable characters.
4. Drawing Expressive Characters, a course by Omar Lozano
A character’s expressions say a lot about who they are, as well as the story you want to tell. As an illustrator with over 10 years of experience working on comics, children’s books, and character design, illustrator Omar Lozano (@0marito) is experienced in drawing protagonists whose body language speaks for itself.
In his course on drawing expressive characters, he shares his experience which has seen him work as a film colorist for DC and Marvel, along with his process for creating expressive characters using pencils, colored pencils, and watercolors.
5. Colored Marker Techniques for Manga, a course by Taniidraw
Digital art might have made coloring characters easier than ever, but illustrator Tania Oksentiuk, better known as Taniidraw (@taniidraw), uses both traditional and digital techniques in her illustrations which are focused on Japanese-style drawing, and manga in particular.
Characters are an essential part of every comic book, but they’re nothing without a strong foundation. From cover design to visual storytelling, these courses explore the other fundamental elements of comic book creation.
6. Visual Narrative for Comic Books: Illustrate Your Own Universe, a course by Sam Hart
With comic book and storyboard artist Sam Hart (@samhart) as your guide, discover the fundamental parts of a comic book page, what to include in your script, how to draw and ink illustrations, and more! He also shares his advice for overcoming creative blocks. Get ready to transform a classic myth or story into three pages of creative comic book art!
7. Inking for Comic Books: Traditional and Digital Techniques, a course by Sam Hart
He teaches you how to ink your comic books using a combination of analog and digital techniques. Create a fully-inked comic book page using traditional inks, black and white ink wash, and digital inks to bring your own universe to life.
8. Manga Comics for Beginners: From Concept to Creation, a course by Natalia Batista
Curious about manga comics? Natalia Batista (@nataliasmanga) has illustrated and published a number of manga works centered on female characters fighting for their rights, and is here to teach you how to create one from scratch in her course, Manga Comics for Beginners.
Explore the entire manga writing process and create your own page with the tools and techniques used by professional manga artists.
9. Comic Book Cover Design: Unleash your Super Designer, a course by Chip Kidd
A comic book’s cover is arguably one of the most important parts of its design. Graphic designer and writer Chip Kidd (@chip_kidd) has designed covers for the likes of Rolling Stones Magazine, and he’s also the creative behind Jurrasic Park’s iconic logo.
10. Creation and Development of Graphic Novels, a course by María Luque
Graphic novels and comics share many characteristics, however, the main difference is that graphic novels are usually longer and more complex stand-alone stories—while comics are periodical publications.
Cartoonist María Luque (@mariajluque) has published three of her own books and won several international awards for her work. In this course, with María as your guide, discover how to create your own graphic novel from the initial idea to the finished publication.
Explore her process for writing a script, defining characters, and stories, and even publishing a graphic novel.
11. Drawing for Comics with Procreate, a course by Laura Athayde
If you’re interested in exploring the world of digital design in particular, this course is for you. Procreate allows artists of all disciplines to create captivating artwork with ease on their iPad, and it’s the software Laura Athayde (@laura_athayde) uses in her course.
She has worked on projects for the likes of Netflix to Nivea, and, in these lessons, she teaches you how to combine text and drawings to draw comics with Procreate, by transforming personal reflections into comic strips.
12. Graphic Humor: Give Us Our Daily Comic Strip, a course by Ricardo Siri
Comic art comes in many forms, and daily comic strips are what Ricardo Siri (@porliniers) does best. He is one of the most renowned cartoonists in Latin America, publishing graphic humor strips every day in the newspaper La Nación and weekly in El País.
Here he takes you behind the scenes of his creative process, teaching you how to draw humorous comic strips; from analyzing different types of humor to developing characters, compositions, and colors, Ricardo guides you through each step of creating a comedic comic strip.
Continue exploring the world of comics with these resources