Brainstorming & Sketching Ideas for Comics

See a demo of how to quickly sketch ideas for comics in Procreate.

Tips for starting include how to start designing a character for the comic, what style to use for that character, and discussing elements of comics like point of view, comic panels, timing, storytelling, and more.

Drawing demo led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Cat Huang.

  • Part 1: sketching and developing a piranha cartoon.
  • Part 2: sketching a comic based on the film Jane Eyre.
Cat Huang
Cat Huang

Video Walkthrough

  • Starting with reference photos of piranhas to begin sketching a comic.
  • Where do we begin? Warming up with quick sketches of piranhas.
  • Draw different viewpoints of the piranhas, pare down the line work.
  • Draw the piranha in 1 minute so you can sketch quickly and boil it down.
  • Should you draw the piranha realistically, or in a more stylized manner?
  • You can start more realistically and then ask yourself what details you can leave out.
  • Is a cartoon a design that has no details?
  • Find out what is the most important characteristic of the piranha: teeth.
  • What features do I need so people can identify it as a piranha.
  • How do you define what a cartoon is, is it exaggeration?
  • Study how the piranha looks and how it moves.
  • A character in a comic has to be drawn over and over again.
  • Assigning a specific mood to a drawing, an “angry piranha,” a “happy piranha,” etc.
  • Trying to determine the number of panels you want your comic to have.
  • Start by scribbling out the comic, and then editing it down.
  • Think sequentially when drawing thumbnails, don’t try to plan too much.
  • Creating a Jane Eyre comic where Prof Lieu is part of the story.
  • Thumbnail sketches help you work out the story in advance.
  • Ask yourself: what is the opening scene?
  • Writing notes on the side while you sketch is helpful.
  • Making sound effects while you draw a comic helps you brainstorm the ideas.
  • Adding speech bubbles in the thumbnail sketch process is helpful.

Emily’s Tips

Whenever I’m out walking and also not in too much of a hurry, I keep an eye out for interesting things and try to snap a photo – whether it’s an interesting mushroom in the ground, power lines catching the sun in a particular way, anything really. 

Plein Air Oil Pastel & Watercolor Painting
Oil Pastel & Watercolor in Southern Utah

I tell myself it’s a reference photo for later, and sometimes it does end up being that, but I think it benefits my art in other more important ways, too.

This helps me see my surroundings in new, unfamiliar ways, it keeps my eyes primed for interesting colours, textures, and lighting, helps me slow down to appreciate what’s around me.

Emily is a moderator in our Discord server.

Films mentioned

Comics mentioned

Artists mentioned

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