How to Create a Graphic Novel

Things You'll Need

  • Colored pencils
  • Sketch pad
  • Illustration or drawing software
  • Watercolor paints
  • Ink
  • Computer
  • Photocopier
  • Artist Paper

How to Create a Graphic Novel. Bound like books but illustrated with comic panels, graphic novels bridge the gray area between playful, irreverent comic books and serious fiction. Usually written and illustrated for adults, graphic novels are commonly sold in bookstores and through online sites. The market for graphic novels grows everyday, with more imprints looking for budding authors. Here's how to create your own graphic novel for fun or profit.

Study different drawing styles. Japanese manga and anime styles feature wide-eyed, almost waif-like protagonists involved in many bizarre, often adult situations. These graphic novels have a distinct artistic style and are usually printed in black and white. Some graphic novels contain quirky, realistic drawings, such as Harvey Pekar's "American Splendor" series, while others feature surreal, science fiction type renderings.

Write your story. You may do this yourself, or work with a co-author. Decide on a genre--science fiction, slice of life, super hero or erotica--and create a cast of characters around a basic theme. Then brainstorm story ideas and dialogue.

Develop the physical characteristics of your creations. Buy a sketchbook and draw rough pencil sketches of your characters until they are formed well enough to add color. Experiment with different colors, styles and shadings until your hero's or heroine's personality translates onto the page.

Translate your story into graphic novel format. Draw thumbnail size boxes on 8½ by 11 inch paper, or follow the panel examples in your favorite graphic novel for formatting and final size. Some graphic novelists prefer to use software programs like Photoshop to build their panels. Other artists still like to put together their graphic stories by hand, cutting and pasting panels onto each page or drawing them from scratch.

Finalize your graphic novel by determining the printed format, paper texture and size, ink and text size and other physical issues. Once you've decided what you want the final book to look like, sketch the pages and add dialogue bubbles.

Ink and color your pages by hand or use computer software. If you are unfamiliar with these procedures, check out books like "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel."

Hire a printer or photocopy, bind and distribute the book yourself. Or take your DIY creation to a publisher or agent as a prototype for a more polished work.


  • You don't have to use a complex drawing style to create a graphic novel. Simple but striking artwork, like that used by Lynda Barry, is often popular.

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