How to Create a Graphic Novel with Drawing Software

By Kent Dunn
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Comic books and graphic novels have taken over a significant portion of the entertainment industry in the past decade. You cannot go to a movie theater anymore without seeing the latest superhero sequel, and the most popular cable TV shows are based on graphic novels. Young people and adults have latched onto this medium's success and have started to create their own independent graphic novels.

Making a graphic novel is easier than you think. There are just a few steps you need to follow, and even those aren't set in stone. All you need is a pen and paper, a vivid imagination and drawing software to help you complete your personal creation and possibly the next big story to capture the attention of the masses.

The Steps to Create a Graphic Novel

  • Create Your Characters
  • Write a Story
  • Create a Storyboard
  • Draw, Scan and Color Digitally
  • Add the Final Touches

Create Your Characters
You obviously need to start with a main character. Make sure your character's personality matches the genre of your graphic novel. If you have a general outline, this will help you visualize how each character looks and acts in certain situations. Many graphic novel authors draw from people they know to create supporting characters. Take specific characteristics of people you know and enhance those quirks and characteristics. Because you have a protagonist, you will need an antagonist as well. Even if these two characters come from similar backgrounds, it's important to give them opposing ideologies.

Write a Story
Before you ever put your pencil to paper, it's crucial to start out with an outline. It can even be a rough draft of an outline. You just need to have an idea of where the story will go. Graphic novels are episodic in nature, so it's fine to have a long story arc. You will want your first story to make a big impact and introduce your major characters and their motivations. If your main character doesn't solve a minor conflict at the end of the first episode, it's important, for drama's sake, to introduce a looming conflict.

Create a Storyboard
Now, not all of us have remarkable artistic abilities. If you check out some modern graphic novels, you'll find that having artistic talent is not essential to tell a lasting story. If you cannot draw more than stick figures, bring an artistic friend in on the project. You won't need much more than stick figures to create a storyboard, though. You simply sketch out pages, scene by scene, and add text from your story where it fits. Do this in pencil so you can edit it at any time.

Draw, Scan and Color Digitally
Obviously, sketching out a comic book or graphic novel is a multi-step approach. Someone draws the pages in pencil, another person inks them to stand out and then they add color. You can easily cut those jobs down. First, you can pencil the story in the panels naturally, or use a pen and graphic tablet to freehand this part. If you pencil it naturally, the next step is to scan the pages into your computer and use any range of drawing software. By using sketching applications, you can either trace your work on a new layer or darken your pencil sketches to create automatic inking. Next comes coloring your graphic novel. This may take some time if you are going for realistic lighting and shading, or you can use a paint bucket to cut down on time.

Add the Final Touches
Once you've created compelling scenes, you need to put the art into panels to follow the graphic novel format. There are several programs, such as Comic Creator and Sketchbook Pro, which allow you to easily click and drag your art and resize it in each panel. From there, you can add speech bubbles and even use custom-made text to give your graphic novel a professional look, without anyone having to see your naturally bad handwriting.

Now you've taken the story that has been lingering in your head and gone through the process of developing characters, finding and solving conflicts, storyboarding, coloring and polishing the minor details. All you need to do next is print your story for yourself, or take the dream one step further and submit to publishers so you can try to make your creation the next summer blockbuster.

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