So you like to draw. You like to create your own characters. Maybe you're really ambitious and you'd like to make your own picture book or comics. Then this is the page for you! You'll find tips and info here to help you get your artistic efforts off on the right foot.

Feel free to email me if you have any specific questions you'd like answered. I'll do my best to get back to you and steer you in the right direction.

Happy drawing!

Recommended Books

Tools of theTrade

Artists to Watch



Drawing Templates

Design your own super-characters. See those two light gray, featureless figures at right, the ones that look like they could leap into action to protect the world from evil, if only they had some clothes and superpowers? Well now whether or not they get those things is up to you! These are the starter sketches I provide to kids who attend the character design workshops I hold from time to time at schools and libraries. At these events I help kids design their own superheroes, but not everybody with a great idea for a superhero is a great artist (yet!) so I give them a head start on the drawing part of the job by handing out these lightly printed sketches. They can draw right over my figures, adding the masks, capes, laser cannons, rocket boots, etc., that they imagine without worrying about how to render tricky details like hands and muscles.

It never fails that after one of these events I'm asked if I have extra prints of these templates for kids to practice with. Well now everyone has as many copies as they need! Just click on the figure you'd like to works with and a web page will open with a full sized version! You can print as many copies of this page as you like on your home or classroom printer, and then get to work creating your own heroes or villains! Feel free to scan and email me any work you're especially proud of. I'd love to see it! (Below are a few examples of characters kids have come up with in the past using these templates, with a little after-the-workshop polishing from me.)

Face: the facts There's more to designing a character than deciding what costume to put on your creation. Some of the most important decisions an illustrator will make when presenting a character to a reader will be in designing the face. Everybody's got two eyes, a nose, a mouth, a chin and a jaw, but the little variations in those details—big or small, wide or narrow, close together or far apart, etc.—can go a long way toward making the character instantly recognizable to your reader as a hero or a villain, a genius or a dope, a banker or a bum (or, more obviously, a man or a woman!) It's all in the details.

In my workshops to try and show the power of these slight variations in facial features and how they can help define a character. Once again, to give the less secure artists a head start on their drawing skills I provide a drawing template of a fairly featureless face. By having students draw over the template, exaggerating and distorting the features on the starter drawing, they quickly see what a big difference a little change can make. Now you can use the same starter face my workshop students use: just click on the bland looking fella above to open a new, printable page with four copies of the face you can use to design your own characters and experiment with how changing the size and position of facial features can give you a limitless range of character types for your illustrations and comics.

Below are just a few examples of different characters I designed in just a few minutes using this drawing template. Look these over and notice what changes I made to each face, and what result did those changes have in how you think about the person I depicted. Now it's your turn: print out the template and give it a try.

Recommended Books

If you're a kid just getting started learning how to draw comics, you won't find better advice anywhere than in How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema. Chances are you know Stan already: he's the mastermind, along with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, behind the Marvel revolution that made Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and about a zillion other Marvel characters household names. Big John Buscema was one of comics' most admired artists for over thirty years. You could say these guys wrote the book on how to do comics, and you'd be right in more ways than one!

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way was first published back in the 1970s. Does that make it old and obsolete? Nope. The fact that it's still around today tells you the advice in it has stood the test of time. It's crammed with basic, easy to follow lessons on anatomy, figure construction, perspective, clear storytelling , and all the other stuff you need to know to make the move from stick figures to stalwart superheroes (or to just plain old good draftsmanship and understandable visual storytelling--a lot of Stan and John's advice works for picture book illustrations, too.)

Look for How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way at your local bookstore, or you can find it at by clicking here.

If you're really interested in the nuts and bolts of comics storytelling--not just superheroes, but all types of comics and how telling a story in pictures really works--then the book you want is Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. McCloud has made a career out of studying comics in all its forms and figuring out how it ticks. But he's more than a wonk, he's also a fan and a darn good visual storyteller himself, as he demonstrates in the book--the whole thing is in comics form. (That's McCloud disproving the old saying, "Those who can't "do", teach--Scott's a master of explaining things in comics.)

Some of the concepts in this book are pretty advanced and sophisticated. Think you're up for it? After all, you're just a kid! Yeah, that's what I thought you'd say. Okay, Einstein, in that case you can get Understanding Comics at your local bookstore, or you can find it at by clicking here.

By the way, Scott McCloud has a lot of other books about creating comics. You might take a look at them while you're at it. They're all worth your time.

Tools of the Trade

Having the right art supplies can make the difference between enjoying your early artistic efforts or giving up in frustration. But stepping into a good art supply store for the first time can be pretty confusing. There are thousands of things to choose from. There must be hundreds of different kinds of papers and pencils alone! And they can be pretty expensive to buy and try out in the hopes you're getting the right thing.

There's plenty of cool stuff in an art supply store that you might want to try out some day, but for now let me recommend some basics that'll get you off on the right foot. These are the tried and true items that I (and a ton of other artists) use every day. You may find tools and materials you like better at some point, but you won't go wrong starting off with these until you find that better item:

Pencils: The good news here is that the boring old #2 pencil you've been using in school, the kind that you can buy anywhere for dirt cheap, is still every artist's best friend. The #2 pencil still is and always will be the thunderbolt that turns my ideas into pictures. There are many other kinds of pencils with softer leads, harder leads, colored leads, mechanical pencils, etc. Go ahead. Give them a try if you like, but the humble, inexpensive, mighty #2 is the king of them all. He's your best friend for life.

Inking Pens: There are tons of pens, and artists disagree about which is best. My favorites for drawing are Pigma's Micron pens. Their ink is formulated so it won't bleed or fade over time like some cheaper pens, plus it's water proof so it won't spread out or run if it gets wet (unlike Sharpies). Micron makes these pens in different line weights--I mostly use size 08 for fatter line work, 02 for fine line work, and 005 for super-fine detail work. (They even have brush point pens available, but I'm not too crazy about those, myself. You may like them, though.) You'll want to try out some different point sizes for yourself and make your own decision based on the kind of drawing you plan to do. A really good art supply store will have these pens on display out of their packages, with pads of sticky notes nearby so you can try the pens out and decide which line weight is the one for you. These pens ususally cost about $2.70 each, so start off with one or two and see how you like them instead of buying a bunch and finding you only really use a couple.

Paper: Give up scribbling on your parents' copier paper and get a heavier weight drawing paper. There are plenty to choose from; just make sure it can stand up to your eraser without tearing or smearing. If you really want your drawings to be for keeps, get bristol board, a heavy, tough, smooth-surfaced paper perfect for drawing, erasing and inking. It's too expensive for casual sketching, but it's great for final artwork. Bristol board is what most comic book artwork is done on. You can even buy pads of it with the guidelines of comic book page sizes and borders pre-printed on it in light blue--a real time saver if your doing your own comics!

Erasers: Standard pink erasers are fine, whether it's the one on the back of your #2 pencil or a trusty pink pearl block. I also like what's called a kneaded eraser. This is sold as a gray rectangle wrapped in celophane, but it can be squeezed and pulled like silly putty into any shape you like. One of the big advantages of the kneaded eraser is that it picks up pencil lead without leaving all the rubber droppings normal erasers leave behind.

White Out: This is opaque white paint for correcting inking mistakes. The brand I use is called Pro White. Use it with any cheap brush to paint over your inking mistakes, and you can ink back over the white paint after it's dry.


Inking brushes and ink: Inking comics with a brush is for the big boys! It's a skill that doesn't come easily. It takes a lot (a lot!) of practice, but a brush is what makes those lines that flow from thin to thick that provides personality to so much great comic book art. If you want to try stepping up from padawan to jedi, here's what you'll need:

Brushes: There's no skimping here. You must have a good brush, not a cheap brush from your first grade watercolor set. Cheap brushes will not work for inking: the bristles won't stay straight, they won't stay together, they won't come to a good, sharp point. A good brush will cost more than you think a stick with hair on the end should--at least $10-$20--but it's that or nothing! Comic book inkers are crazy for Windsor Newton Series 7 watercolor brushes for inking. These come in varying sizes, just like the pens discussed earlier. I like the #1 weight for most things, but size choice varies from artist to artist. Take good care of this brush: don't let the ink dry on the bristles and always gently wash it out after use, taking care to reshape the bristles to a fine point before you store it away. And never, never, NEVER (did I mention-- NEVER!) leave your brush resting pointing down on its bristles!!! This will bend the hairs permanently, making it useless for inking, and you'll soon be parting with another 10-20 buck for a replacement.

Ink: There are a number of decent, waterproof black drawing inks for use with your brush. Higgins Black Magic is the one I buy most often.

There's a world of art supplies out there to try out and make decisions about, but this stuff will get you started on the right foot to begin drawing, especially if you're into doing comics.

(You'll notice I haven't mentioned color art supplies at all. That's because there's such a wide range of choices I wouldn't know where to begin. I work in watercolor and digital color. Beyond these areas, I'm no expert. If you have any specific questions about this subject you can email me and I'll do my best to answer.)

Artists to Watch

Looking at other artists' work is the single most important habit you can have beyond putting pencil to paper yourself. Here are links to the web sites of a few other artists or organization you can learn a lot from:

P. Craig Russell is one of comics' finest storytellers and draftsmen. Among the brilliant work he's done over a long career, he's illustrated a comics adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline and he's working on one for The Graveyard Book.

Will Terry is a terrific picture book illustrator who combines funny animals with brilliant color and lighting effects. He paints with both traditional brushes and paint and in digital programs like Photoshop, using each with dazzling results. His blog will provided lots of advice for those interested in becoming illustrators, too.

Jared Andrew Schorr is a children's illustrator who works in an unusual way: all his pictures are made of cut paper! His work goes to show that there are many ways to creates illustrations and tell a story with pictures!

The Kubert School is the finest school for comics artists in the world. It ought to be--it was started by one of the best artists in the history of comics, and its teachers are some of the most experienced names in the field. It's Harvard for comics book artists, or maybe for you once you're old enough.

The Directory of Illustration is a site where hundrends of the world's best illustrators post their work to get noticed. It's meant as a sort of catalog for book editors and art directors looking to hire illustrators, but for kids like you it's a great place to go and see just how big and wide open the world of illustration really is. You''ll be amazed at all the different styles and subject matter illustrators around the world are working with, and you're bound to see artwork that will surprise you.

Gabriela Nicole Gonzalez is an artist whose work I discovered online just recently. Her use of pattern, shape, color and texture* to express her charaters and settings immediately caught my attention. Take a look for yourself and notice just how much fun and feeling Gabriela can get out of simple circles and rectangles. (*Texture in art is when something looks like you could feel it if you ran your fingers over it. Look at Gabriela's work and you'll find examples of this.)