cardstock printer paper
5” x 7” – 9” x 12”
Round, size 2
In your sketchbook, list 6 of your most memorable childhood birthday experiences.
From that list, choose 1 memory to base your comic on.
In your sketchbook, draw three rows of four panels on a single page. Each row will be a comic.
In pencil, fill in the rows of panels with 3 different sketches of the memory you chose.
Revise each version of the comic to be as different as possible.
Do not use words; focus on telling the story through visuals. Show the motion of the characters across the 4 panels.
Think about how you can use the 4 panels to expand a single moment or action, or jump from scene to scene.
Print out the panel template onto cardstock paper. From your sketches, pick your favorite version of the comic.
Using the non-photo blue pencil, look at your sketch, and draw your sketch into the panels on the cardstock paper.
For tips on the non-photo blue pencil, watch the video below.
Go over your blue pencil sketch one more time, adding details and refinements.
“The experience of making the comic strip felt fun and personal for me. As someone who enjoys making comics about daily experiences, I thought the project was very rewarding.
However, one aspect I was challenged in was the limited panels. Normally, I have more control over the length of the story, so having to work in four panels was different. Although I struggled with this, ultimately the lesson helped me compress information into a few panels.
I also think that I learned about narrative and structure throughout the process because I tend to focus on characters’ emotions within a comic, rather than the events happening around them. In addition, using the brush with ink was a new experience because I usually work in brush or micron pen. The new level of control over the brush was slightly unfamiliar, but I loved being able to change the line quality very easily.
During this experience I learned how to work with a new medium and also discovered more about the portrayal of information in comics!”
“I loved making this comic strip, the first that I’ve made ever. I’ll be honest, it was a lot harder than I anticipated. But the overall prompt of the most memorable birthday I’ve had was really fun to brainstorm for and I think thinking of a narrative that would be interesting was my favorite part of this project.
In terms of the actual sketching and illustrating part of it, it definitely was a lot harder for me. I think that’s because I had a tough time having each panel flow together well. I felt that a lot of the placement of my subjects were awkward at first and I got frustrated trying to make them appear natural.
The actual medium of the ink and the size 2 watercolor brush was really interesting and familiar. But it was definitely another challenge because it required a lot of concentration and detail. This project made me think about the necessities in communicating a story and keeping an illustration concise. Sometimes I try and go overboard with the amount of detail but with this project, I couldn’t do that.
It was definitely a challenge for me, but it was a really fun and interesting thing to explore. And I’d love to reattempt and create more comic strips in the future.”
“Sometimes the best works are the ones that are based on each individual artists’ personal experience, because not only do we get such a diverse variety of results, we also tend to be more motivated and invested when it comes to telling our own stories through our artworks.
This particular prompt was really fun to brainstorm because I had to look back on my past birthdays and that brought up lots of fun and nostalgic memories. I think creating the piece was a really good practice in narrative art because the project required me to translate a story into a coherent sequence of drawings.
Limiting it to only 4 panels was a necessary challenge because it forced me to determine the main focus of the story and weed out unnecessary elements. Only using black and white was also really helpful for me in terms of thinking about lights and shadows. When I’m working with colors, the lighting of the work is usually secondary and becomes slightly vague, but with black and white I was forced to create a light source and determine where and how the shadows fall.
Overall, I really had fun making this comic strip and would like to do more of these in the future.”