Pencil Comic Sketching: Tips for Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Choose the right materials
  2. Practice drawing basic shapes
  3. Learn to draw lines of different weights
  4. Experiment with shading techniques
  5. Study the human figure
  6. Develop your own characters
  7. Create a storyline for your comic
  8. Layout your comic panels
  9. Ink and color your comic
  10. Seek feedback and improve

Drawing your first pencil comic can feel like a huge step. It's like you're stepping into a new world, full of exciting characters and stories waiting to be brought to life. While this journey is undoubtedly rewarding, it can also seem daunting. But fear not! This guide offers practical and easy-to-follow tips for beginners who want to dive into the world of pencil comic sketching. Let's start with the basics: choosing the right materials.

Choose the right materials

The first step to becoming a pencil comic artist is picking the right tools. Trust me, having the right materials can make a huge difference in your sketching experience. So, let's take a look at what you'll need:

  • Pencils: The most important tool in your pencil comic journey. I recommend starting with a basic HB pencil for initial sketches and outlines. You might also want to consider adding 2B and 4B pencils to your repertoire for darker lines and shading.
  • Paper: For pencil comics, a smooth Bristol board is your best bet. It's sturdy and has a nice, smooth surface that's perfect for pencil work. Plus, it's readily available at most art supply stores.
  • Eraser: Mistakes are a part of the learning process, and that's where erasers come in handy. A standard white eraser does a good job, but kneaded erasers are great for lightening lines without leaving any residue.
  • Sharpener: Sharp pencils are a must in pencil comic sketching. A good sharpener ensures your lines are clean and precise.
  • Sketchbook: A sketchbook is not just a tool; it's like a diary of your progress. Choose one that fits your preferences in terms of size and paper quality.

Now that you're equipped with the right tools, you're ready to start your pencil comic sketching journey. Remember, the quality of your tools can affect your work, so invest in good ones if you can. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is to have fun and let your creativity flow!

Practice drawing basic shapes

Alright, now that you're all set with the right materials, let's get to the fun part: drawing! But where do you start? Well, every pencil comic artist starts with the basics: shapes.

Shapes are the building blocks of all drawings. When you look at your favorite comic characters, you'll notice that they're made up of a variety of basic shapes like circles, squares, and triangles. So, let's get started with some shape drawing exercises:

  1. Draw Circles: Start with simple circles. Try to draw them as evenly as possible. Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect; it's about getting a feel for the pencil and the movement of your hand.
  2. Draw Squares and Rectangles: These shapes will help you practice straight lines. Again, don't worry if they're not perfect. The goal is to get comfortable with the pencil.
  3. Draw Triangles: Triangles can be a bit trickier than circles and squares, but they're important for drawing things like noses and certain body angles in your pencil comic.
  4. Combine Shapes: Once you're comfortable with basic shapes, try combining them to create more complex forms. This will be the foundation for drawing comic characters and objects.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Drawing shapes might seem simple, but it's a crucial step in your journey to becoming a pencil comic artist. So, grab your sketchbook, start practicing, and soon, you'll start seeing shapes everywhere you look!

Learn to draw lines of different weights

Sketching basic shapes is great, but what really brings a pencil comic to life are lines. Not just any lines, but lines of varying weights. Line weight is simply the thickness or thinness of a line. Learning to control it can make a huge difference in your comic sketches.

Let's go over some line drawing tips:

  1. Start with thin lines: Thin lines are great for initial sketches. They're light and easy to erase, making them perfect for laying out your characters and scenes. To draw thin lines, hold your pencil lightly and let it glide over the paper.
  2. Use thicker lines for outlines: Once you're happy with your sketch, go over it with thicker lines. This will make your characters and objects pop out from the background, giving your pencil comic a more defined look.
  3. Vary your line weights: Don't be afraid to experiment with different line weights within the same sketch. This can add depth and dimension, making your comic more visually appealing.
  4. Practice, practice, practice: Just like with shapes, mastering line weights takes practice. So keep sketching and experimenting!

Learning to control line weights will take your pencil comic sketches to the next level. So grab that pencil, and let's start lining!

Experiment with shading techniques

Shading is like the secret sauce in pencil comic art—it adds depth, volume, and that three-dimensional feel to your drawings. It's your tool for creating mood, showing light direction, and bringing your comic characters to life. But how do you shade your pencil comic? Here are some tips:

  1. Understand Light Source: Before you start shading, decide where the light in your scene is coming from. This will determine which parts of your characters and objects are light and which parts are shadowed.
  2. Use Different Pencil Grades: Not all pencils are created equal. Softer pencils (like 2B, 4B, or 6B) are great for dark shadows, while harder pencils (like H or 2H) are perfect for light shading.
  3. Try Various Shading Techniques: There are many ways to shade your comics. Cross-hatching involves drawing intersecting sets of lines to create shadows. Stippling uses dots to create tones and textures. Scumbling, or making small circular marks, can also create interesting effects. Experiment to find what works best for your pencil comic.
  4. Practice Gradual Shading: Mastering the art of gradual shading—going from light to dark smoothly—can bring a professional touch to your comics.

Shading might seem tough at first, but remember, every pencil comic artist started where you are now. Keep practicing, keep experimenting, and soon enough, you'll see your comic sketches take on a whole new dimension.

Study the human figure

One of the key elements of creating a compelling pencil comic is being able to draw the human figure convincingly. It's not just about drawing a person—it's about capturing movement, emotion, and individuality. Here's how you can tackle this:

  1. Understand Proportions: Start with the basics. Human beings, regardless of their individual features, share certain proportions. For example, an adult body is typically eight heads tall. Once you understand these guidelines, you can stretch and distort them to give your characters a unique look.
  2. Learn Anatomy: A little knowledge of human anatomy can go a long way in pencil comic art. It can help you understand how muscles work and how they look under different angles and light conditions.
  3. Draw from Life: Practice sketching people around you. This will help you notice the small details that make each person unique—the way they stand, their expressions, their body language.
  4. Use References: Don't be afraid to use photos or models for reference. Professional artists do it all the time. It's a great way to study complex poses or facial expressions.

Remember, the goal isn't to draw a perfect human figure—it's to draw a figure that tells a story, that feels real. And the more you practice, the closer you'll get to that goal. So grab your pencil and start sketching!

Develop your own characters

Creating engaging characters is a vital part of pencil comic sketching. Your characters are the heart and soul of your story, they are the ones who will carry your readers along, making them laugh, cry, and gasp in surprise. Here's a simple step-by-step guide on how to develop your own characters:

  1. Start with a Concept: Before you start sketching, think about who your character is. What's their backstory? What do they want? What are their strengths and weaknesses? The clearer your concept, the more lifelike your character will be.
  2. Visualize Your Character: Now it's time to bring your character to life. Remember, visual consistency is key in pencil comic art. From their hairstyle to the way they dress, every detail should be consistent and contribute to their personality.
  3. Play with Expressions: Expressions are the windows to your characters' souls. A well-drawn expression can say more than a thousand words. Practice drawing different expressions to convey a range of emotions.
  4. Develop a Unique Voice: Each character should have a unique voice that reflects their personality. This not only distinguishes them from each other but also makes them more relatable and memorable.

Remember, creating characters is an iterative process. Don't be afraid to make changes as your story evolves. After all, even the best pencil comic artists continually refine their characters until they feel just right.

Create a storyline for your comic

What's a pencil comic without an engaging storyline? Characters might be the heart of your comic, but the storyline is the backbone. Without a compelling plot, even the most vibrant characters can fall flat. So how do you go about creating a storyline that keeps your readers hooked?

  1. Begin with the End in Mind: Having a clear idea of where your story is heading can help you build a cohesive plot. It's like having a destination in mind when you set out on a journey—it helps you choose the right path.
  2. Create Conflict: Whether it's a battle against a villain or a struggle within the character's mind, conflict is what drives the story forward. It creates suspense, makes your readers care about your characters, and keeps them turning the pages.
  3. Build Suspense: Cliffhangers, plot twists, and unresolved questions are all tools you can use to build suspense. They keep your readers guessing, eager to find out what happens next.
  4. Keep it Real: Even in the world of pencil comics, realism matters. Your readers should be able to relate to your characters' struggles and victories. This doesn't mean you can't have fantastical elements—just make sure they're grounded in real emotions.

Writing a storyline might seem daunting, but remember: every great pencil comic started with a single idea. So don't be afraid to let your imagination run wild—you never know where it might lead you.

Layout your comic panels

Have you ever thought about how the layout of your pencil comic panels can influence the flow of your story? It's an art in itself, and it's crucial to the overall narrative of your comic. Here are some tips to help you arrange your comic panels in a way that enhances your storyline and captivates your readers:

  1. Start Small: Before you draw your comic panels, sketch out a small thumbnail version of your page. This allows you to play around with the size and placement of your panels without wasting too much time or paper.
  2. Play with Panel Size: The size of your comic panel can influence the pacing of your story. Larger panels can slow down the pace, while smaller panels can make the story move more quickly. So, use them wisely!
  3. Use Variety: Don't stick to the same panel layout on every page. Variety can keep your readers engaged and add an element of surprise to your pencil comic.
  4. Consider the Flow: The arrangement of your panels should guide the reader's eye in the direction you want it to move. In English-speaking countries, we read from left to right, top to bottom, so keep this in mind when you're laying out your panels.

Remember, the layout of your pencil comic panels isn't just a container for your artwork—it's an integral part of your story. So take your time with it, experiment, and most importantly, have fun!

Ink and color your comic

Once you've penciled in your comic and you're satisfied with the layout, it's time to bring it to life with ink and color. This stage can seem intimidating, but with a little patience and practice, you'll soon get the hang of it. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Choose Your Tools Wisely: When inking your pencil comic, consider using a fine liner or a brush pen. These can give your lines a clean, professional finish. As for coloring, colored pencils, markers, or even digital tools can be used. Play around with different mediums to find the one that suits your style.
  2. Ink with Confidence: The key to inking is confidence. Smooth, decisive strokes will look much better than hesitant, sketchy ones. Remember, at this stage, you're not sketching—you're defining the final lines of your artwork.
  3. Add Depth with Color: Coloring isn't just about filling in the lines—it's about creating depth and atmosphere in your pencil comic. Darker tones can suggest shadows or nighttime scenes, while bright, vibrant colors can create a sense of energy and excitement.
  4. Keep Consistency: Consistency in color can help your readers recognize characters and settings quickly. So, decide on a color scheme for each character and stick to it throughout your comic.

Remember, inking and coloring are more than just finishing touches—they can set the tone for your entire pencil comic. So, take your time, be bold, and don't be afraid to experiment with different techniques and styles. Happy drawing!

Seek feedback and improve

So, you've spent hours inking and coloring your pencil comic. It looks great to you, but how can you be sure? That's where feedback comes in. Here's how to make the most out of it:

  1. Find Your Audience: Who did you create this pencil comic for? Is it for kids, teens, or adults? Once you know your audience, find ways to reach them. It could be through social media, comic forums, or even your friends and family who fit the demographic.
  2. Accept Criticism Gracefully: Not everyone will love your work—and that's okay. In fact, constructive criticism can be one of the most useful tools for improvement. It gives you new perspectives and insights that may not have occurred to you.
  3. Learn from Your Mistakes: Did someone point out a flaw in your artwork? Don't be disheartened. Instead, see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Remember, every great artist was once a beginner.
  4. Iterate and Improve: Take all the feedback you've received, and use it to refine your work. You might need to revisit your sketching techniques, improve your shading, or even tweak your storyline. Every little change brings you one step closer to creating a pencil comic that truly resonates with readers.

Remember, creating a pencil comic isn't just about drawing—it's about communicating a story. And the best way to know if your story hits the mark is through feedback. So go on, share your work, and let the world see the amazing pencil comic artist you're becoming!

If you're a beginner wanting to improve your pencil comic sketching skills, check out Ruby Elliot's workshop, '1-2-3 Comics.' This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and techniques to help you create dynamic and engaging comic art with just your pencil.