As an obsessive list maker, I started putting this catalog of “how to” books for comic creators together a few months ago.
I then turned to James Lynch’s extremely resourceful Facebook Group – Connecting Comic Book Writers and Artists to help me fill in the gaps. Many thanks to Shawn Demumbrum, Robert Menegus, Simon Robins , Fred Kinslow, Kenn O’Neal and so many others for suggesting titles that I missed.
It’s not a perfect list, and there’s several books from my own library that I haven’t included here due to going out of print. But it’s a good start. I’m sure I’ll add in a dozen more titles throughout the year.
[Disclaimer: the links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you purchase a book through one of these links, I get a kickback that helps fund the high-speed hosting of this site and occasionally a coffee down the road. Many of these books are also available through your local library and friendly neighborhood comic shop.]
Table of Contents
- General Comics Theory
- Books on Writing Comics
- Books on How To Draw Comics
- Books for Lettering Comics
- Books for Coloring Comics
- Books on Self-Publishing Comics and Graphic Novels
- The Creative Process
General Comics Theory
There is a wealth of books covering the creation of comics including university texts. I chose to stick with the mainstays. You can’t go wrong with either Scott McCloud’s trilogy or Will Eisner’s classics.
| Scott McCloud
If you only read one book on this list… Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural significance. Explore the secret world between the panels, through the lines, and within the hidden symbols of a powerful but misunderstood art form.
| Scott McCloud
McCloud takes comics to the next level, charting twelve different revolutions in how comics are created, read, and perceived today, and how they’re poised to conquer the new millennium.
Part One of this fascinating and in-depth book includes:
- The life of comics as an art form and as literature
- The battle for creators’ rights
- Reinventing the business of comics
- The volatile and shifting public perceptions of comics
- Sexual and ethnic representation on comics
Then in Part Two, McCloud paints a breathtaking picture of comics’ digital revolutions, including:
- The intricacies of digital production
- The exploding world of online delivery
- The ultimate challenges of the infinite digital canvas
| Scott McCloud
In Making Comics, McCloud focuses his analysis on the art form itself, exploring the creation of comics, from the broadest principles to the sharpest details (like how to accentuate a character’s facial muscles in order to form the emotion of disgust rather than the emotion of surprise.) And he does all of it in his inimitable voice and through his cartoon stand–in narrator, mixing dry humor and legitimate instruction.
McCloud shows his reader how to master the human condition through word and image in a brilliantly minimalistic way. Both comic book devotees and the uninitiated will marvel at this journey into a once–underappreciated art form.
| Will Eisner
Will Eisner refines the art of graphic storytelling into clear principles that every cartoonist, comic artist, writer, and filmmaker needs to know. Adapted from his landmark course at New York’s School of Visual Arts, Comics and Sequential Art is an essential text filled with invaluable theories and easy-to-use techniques.
Eisner reveals here the fundamentals of graphic storytelling. He addresses dialogue, anatomy, framing, and many other important aspects of the art form. Fully updated and revised to reflect current practices and technology, including a section on digital media.
| Will Eisner
Will Eisner lays out the fundamentals of storytelling and their application in the comic book and graphic novel. Eisner reveals how to construct a story and the basics of crafting a visual narrative. Filled with examples from Eisner’s work as well as that of artists like Art Spiegelman and R. Crumb, this book covers everything from the fine points of graphic storytelling to the big picture of the medium, including how to:
- Combine words and images into seamless storytelling.
- Wield images like narrative tools.
- Master different types of comic book stories.
- Write and illustrate effective dialogue.
- Develop ideas that can be turned into dynamic stories.
| Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente
A step-by-step guide to all aspects of comic book creation–from conceptualization to early drafts to marketing and promotion–written by two of the industry’s most seasoned and successful pros.
In Make Comics Like the Pros, veteran comics creators Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente team up with a who’s who of the modern comic book scene to lead you step-by-step through the development of a comic. You’ll learn everything from script formatting to the importance of artistic collaboration to the best strategies for promoting and selling your own sequential art.
| Carl Potts
This is a great resource for aspiring comics creators looking to make comics like the experts at DC Comics. This book shows readers how to take full advantage of comics’ sequential visual storytelling possibilities. With examples direct from DC Comics, featuring their best creators and classic superheroes like Batman, Superman, and the rest of the Justice League, it presents key principles and techniques for crafting professional-quality comics.
| Brian Michael Bendis
Brian Michael Bendis reveals the tools and techniques he and other top creators use to create some of the most popular comic book and graphic novel stories of all time. Words for Pictures shows readers the creative methods of a writer at the very top of his field. Bendis guides creators through each step of the comics-making process—from idea to script to finished sequential art—for fan favorite comics like The Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, and more.
Tips and insights from other working writers, artists, and editors are also included providing an extensive look behind the creative curtain of the comics industry. The book contains script samples, a glossary of must-know business terms for writers, and interactive comics-writing exercises.
| John Paul Lowe
In Foundations for Comic Book Art, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) enlists one of its top instructors, John Paul Lowe, to provide aspiring comic book makers with a thorough primer for creative comics, featuring must-know concepts like contour drawing, mastering perspective, using photo-reference, and adding digital patterns.
Lowe provides easy-to-follow, step-by-step lessons and exercises for readers, demonstrating the vital processes all would-be sequential artists have to know before joining the ranks of the comic book–making elite.
| Jessica Abel, Matt Madden
Drawing Words and Writing Pictures is a course on comic creation – for college classes or for independent study – that centers on storytelling and concludes with making a finished comic. There’s chapters on lettering, story structure, and panel layout providing a solid introduction for people interested in making their own comics..
| Dave Gibbons, Tim Pilcher
The artist behind juggernauts like Watchmen and The Green Lantern, Dave Gibbons teaches you scriptwriting, page layouts, lettering, cover designs and uses scans of original artwork and rarely seen workings to illustrate his personal processes.
How Comics Work covers both Gibbons’ hand-drawn and digital design techniques in depth. You’ll learn how he layers text for editing, creates effects such as flares and neon glows, and prepares artwork for print and online.
| Buddy Scalera
Scalera’s book tells you everything about how today’s mainstream comic books are produced and published. Top working professionals detail how comics are created from concept to completion.
Every step of the process including writing, editing, penciling, inking, coloring, lettering and even publishing are covered. Working professionals talk candidly about breaking into (and staying in) the industry.
| Daniel Cooney
This book gives detailed instruction in all aspects of graphic novel composition–creating characters and plots, and transforming them into dynamic illustrations that tell an interesting story. The introduction describes uses of tools of the trade, from drawing pencils, inks, and paper to word processing and Adobe Photoshop software.
Other chapters include:
- The language of comics and graphic novels
- Establishing characters and story structure
- Scripting the story
- Illustrating the story, from sketches to finished art
- Selling the finished product
- Instruction includes how-to techniques for creating layouts, panels, captions, dialogue, panel transitions, and angles of view.
Books on Writing Comics
Over the past 2 decades there have been several notable collections of comic scripts (From Hell, Writers on Comic Scriptwriting Vols 1 & 2). But none of them remain in print. Below these books on writing I’ve linked to a fantastic resource for writers – as a lot of the material has moved to the web.
| Denis O’Neil
Dennis O’Neil reveals his insider tricks and no-fail techniques for comic storytelling. Readers will discover the various methods of writing scripts (full script vs. plot first), as well as procedures for developing a story structure, building subplots, and creating well-rounded characters. O’Neil also explains the many diverse formats for comic books, including graphic novels, maxi-series, mega-series, and adaptation. Also included are dozens of guidelines for writing proposals to editors that command attention and get results.
Alan Moore’s Writing For Comics Volume 1 | Alan Moore
The master of comic book writing shares his thoughts on how to deliver a top-notch script. The main essay was originally written in 1985 and appeared in an obscure British fanzine, right as Moore was reshaping the landscape of modern comics, and had been lost. Avatar brings it back in print, collected for the first time as one graphic novel.
| Mark Kneece
Comics writer and SCAD instructor Mark Kneece gives aspiring comic book writers the essential tools they need to write scripts for sequential art. He provides a practical set of guidelines favored by many comic book publishers and uses a unique trial and error approach to show would-be scribes the potential pitfalls they might encounter when seeking a career in comics writing.
Contains annotations, plots, interviews, and scripts by many of comics’ hottest writers, including Kurt Busiek, Neil Gaiman, Greg Rucka, Kevin Smith, Jeff Smith, Marv Wolfman, and more.
Original scripts by comics writers accompanied by the final art, taken from the pages of the world famous 2000 AD comic. Rebellion presents an extensive collection of 2000 AD scripts, featuring original script drafts and the final published artwork for comparison.
Comic Writer Services is a resource for aspiring and experienced comic book writers.
The aim of the website was to improve on, and update, a similar resource that Caleb Monroe had compiled many years ago for aspiring comic book writers.
The idea is to list every notable article and resource on the art and craft of comic book writing.
Books on How To Draw Comics
With comics being a visual medium, there is no end of books on how to draw, ink, or digitally create pages. Here’s some of the best ones out there.
| Marcos Mateu-Mestre
Using his experiences from working in the comic book industry, movie studios and teaching, Marcos introduces the reader to a step-by-step system that will create the most successful storyboards and graphics for the best visual communication.
Marcos introduces us to drawing and composing a single image, to composing steady shots to drawing to compose for continuity between all the shots. These lessons are then applied to three diverse story lines – a train accident, a cowboy tale and bikers approaching a mysterious house.
In addition to setting up the shots, he also explains and illustrates visual character development, emotive stances and expressions along with development of the environmental setting to fully develop the visual narrative.
| Marcos Mateu-Mestre
Framed Perspective 1 gives artists the technical knowledge needed to produce successful visual storytelling-related drawings: from understanding the basics of the space around us all the way to more sophisticated endeavors, like creating entire locations that will become the believable set ups our characters and stories will happen within.
The book includes extensive step-by-step practical explanations of how to build objects and environments, taking your first sketch to a fully rendered artwork with many illustrations as examples.
| Marcos Mateu-Mestre
Building on the foundation established with the first book in the series, Framed Perspective 2 guides artists through the challenging tasks of projecting shadows in proper perspective on a variety of environments and working with characters in perspective set in particular situation or setting.
Author and artist Marcos Mateu-Mestre reveals the many techniques and mechanics he employs, including using anatomy, shadows, and clothing folds to define the shape and volume of characters within an environment.
| Freddie E Williams II
The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics shows how to start drawing dynamic, exciting comics art entirely with computer tools. Author Freddie E Williams, in clear, step-by-step directions, guides readers through every part of the digital process, from turning on the computer to finishing a digital file of fully inked comic art, ready for print.
Creating a template, sketching on the computer, penciling, and finally inking digitally are all covered in depth, along with timesaving shortcuts created by Williams, tested by years of trial and error.
| Klaus Janson
Covering everything from anatomy to composition to page design, Janson details the methods for creating effective visual communication. Step by step, he analyzes and demonstrates surefire strategies for comic book pencilling. Using DC’s characters, he illustrates the importance of knowing the fundamentals of art and how best to use them.
The DC Comics Guide to Pencilling Comics is packed with a wealth of tested techniques, practical advice, and professional secrets for the aspiring artist.
| Klaus Janson
Legendary comic book inker Klaus Janson uses DC’s characters—including Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman—to demonstrate an array of inking techniques, covering such topics as using textures, varying line weights, creating the illusion of three-dimensionality, and working with light and dark.
A great how-to on everything from basic inking materials to storytelling techniques, this sourcebook is packed with a wealth of tested techniques, practical advice, and professional secrets for the aspiring comic artist.
| Stan Lee & John Buscema
The original! Stan Lee, and John Buscema, collaborated on this comics compendium: an encyclopedia of information for creating your own superhero comic strips. Using artwork from Marvel comics as primary examples, Buscema graphically illustrates various methods of comic art. Stan Lee’s prose gives assistance and advice to the apprentice artist.
And here’s more entertaining anecdotes about this book from Jim Rugg –
The Art Of Comic-Book Inking 2nd Edition | Gary Martin
Gary Martin’s two volumes of The Art of Comic-Book Inking have been combined into a single value-priced volume and expanded with new material, including three additional blue-lined artboards featuring pencil art by master comics illustrators Jack Kirby, John Buscema, and Gil Kane.
You’ll learn the techniques, tools, and approaches of some of the finest artists in comics today, including Terry Austin, Mark Farmer, Scott Williams, Alex Garner, and more.
| Shawn Martinbrough
Shawn Martinbrough tells you why he loves black and white, then shows you how to do it. Lots of examples and easy direction. If you were never excited about black and white, you will be when you get this book in your hands.
| David Chelsea
This clever book teaches artists the unique skill of drawing perspective for spectacular landscapes, fantastic interiors, and other wildly animated backgrounds to fit comic-strip panels.
| Jason Cheeseman-Meyer
Vanishing Point shows you how to conquer the fundamentals of perspective drawing and then equips you with technical tricks and tools to make dynamic and complex scenes.
- Instruction on drawing in one-, two- and three-point perspective and four- and five-point curvilinear perspective (where “straight” lines are drawn as curves).
- Full-color, step-by-step demonstrations move you beyond the theories and let you practice the techniques in real scenes.
- A special chapter on drawing curves helps you break out of the box and draw cylinders, ellipses, cars and, most importantly, people in perfect perspective.
- Shortcuts and tips show you how to create believable perspective quickly.
| Arthur L. Guptill
Arthur L. Guptill’s classic Rendering in Pen and Ink has long been regarded as the most comprehensive book ever published on the subject of ink drawing. This is a book designed to delight and instruct anyone who draws with pen and ink, from the professional artist to the amateur and hobbyist. It is of particular interest to architects, interior designers, landscape architects, industrial designers, illustrators, and renderers.
| Alphonso Dunn
Pen & Ink Drawing: A Simple Guide covers the essential aspects of pen and ink drawing and more. It explores basic materials and instruments; fundamental properties of strokes and pen control; key elements of shading; and indispensable techniques for creating vibrant textures.
| Frank J. Lohan
Richly illustrated and containing dozens of simple exercises, this book covers everything from the basic tools and materials to the production of advanced effects.
Author Frank Lohan presents dozens of exercises for beginning, intermediate, and advanced artists. Topics range from the creation of hatching, tones, and stippling to dealing with the problems that can arise when adding texture, light, and shade.
Books for Lettering Comics
There are precious few resources in print for comic letterers. Hopefully Comicraft’s masterpiece never goes out of print. Letterers often need to get creative in their education mixing the disciplines of typography and calligraphy.
| Richard Starkings & J.G. Roshell
From the award-winning Comicraft studio, this full-color, step-by-step guide of comic book lettering tips and tricks is illustrated with two Hip Flask strips – one by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen, and the other by Jeph Loeb and Ian Churchill.
Creative Lettering and Beyond combines the artistic talents and inspirational tips and tutorials of several professional hand letterers and calligraphers for a dynamic and interactive learning experience.
After a brief introduction to the various tools and materials, artists and lettering enthusiasts will learn how to master the art of hand lettering and typography through engaging, easy-to-follow step-by-step projects, prompts, and exercises. From the basic shape and form of letters, to cursive script, spacing, and alignment, artists will discover how to transform simple words, phrases, and quotes into beautiful works of hand-lettered art.
Books for Coloring Comics
The bulk of education for colorists is online in the form of YouTube tutorials. Luckily there’s these 2 books as well.
| Mark Chiarello & Todd Klein
Artists Mark Chiarello and Todd Klein demystify the essential steps in traditional graphic storytelling. Chiarello explains the entire coloring process, from computer and software choice to creating color effects that give the action its maximum impact.
Klein discusses whether to letter by hand or by computer and demonstrates an array of techniques for creating word balloons, fonts, logos, and more.
| Brian Miller, Kristy Miller
You’ll learn digital coloring from start to finish–taking black-and-white art to stunning full color!
Importing art, color flatting, light & shadow, color selection, color rendering,advanced brush techniques, color holds, special effects, and color separation.
Books on Self-Publishing Comics and Graphic Novels
There’s no “one set way” to publish your own comic – but you could do a lot worse than read these 3 books.
| Jason Brubaker
Jason has done an excellent job at laying out all of the trials and tribulations an aspiring graphic novelist / artist needs to go through to break into the market. If you plan on going into the field of comics as an artist or writer, this essential read will explain in detail, exactly what it takes.
| Comfort Love
With The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics, creators/instructors Comfort Love and Adam Withers provide a step-by-step breakdown of the comics-making process. You get in-depth coverage of each step—writing, drawing, coloring, lettering, publishing, and marketing.
| Josh Blaylock, Tim Seely
Josh Blaylock’s How-To prose book about the business of comic book publishing, now includes Tim Seeley’s companion writings on the behind-the-scenes realities of being a comic book artist.
The Creative Process
Some of these books below will form the most important and valuable parts of your library. You’ll return to ‘The War of Art’ numerous times. Maybe even once a year.
| Will Eisner
Two of the medium’s greatest contributors—legendary innovator and godfather of sequential art Will Eisner, and the modern master of cinematic comics storytelling, Frank Miller—discuss one on one in an intimate interview format, the ins-and-outs of this compelling and often controversial art form. Eisner/Miller is profusely illustrated and features rare, behind-the-scenes photos of Eisner, Miller, and other notable creators.
| Heidi MacDonald & Phillip Dana Yeh
“Alfredo Alcala is one of the most disciplined and perceptive artists inking in comics. The years of distinguished work have earned Alfredo a special place in comics history.” — Gil Kane.
This unique work is loaded with amazing art and pointers on observational methods, composition, and other techniques. In addition to interviews with Alcala, the book features pages from his groundbreaking masterwork, Voltar, which was hailed as a new concept in comic book form, an epic in narrative art, and a milestone in sequential art illustration.
| Steven Pressfield
Novelist Steven Pressfield identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve success. The War of Art emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach higher levels of creative discipline.
: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work | Steven Pressfield
The follow-up The War of Art, Turning Pro navigates the passage from the amateur life to a professional practice.
“You don’t need to take a course or buy a product. All you have to do is change your mind.” –Steven Pressfield
: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way | Steven Pressfield
Could you be getting in your way of producing great work? Have you started a project but never finished? Would you like to do work that matters, but don’t know where to start?The answer is Do the Work, a manifesto by author Steven Pressfield.
Do the Work is a weapon against Resistance – a tool that will help you take action and successfully ship projects out the door. Picking up where The War of Art and Turning Pro left off, Do The Work takes the reader from the start to the finish of any long-form project—novel, screenplay, album.
: How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life | Jessica Abel
Go from overwhelmed, anxious, and stuck, to consistent, clear, and in control of your creative life.
If you feel like you’re floundering in the deep end (Not waving, drowning!), and anxiety over the complexity and enormousness of your creative projects overwhelms you, stop scrambling to fit everything in and feeling stretched thin. DIVE DEEP AND SWIM
- Sustain the energy you feel when thinking of how awesome your projects could be.
- Value your own creative work as highly as work you do for other people.
- Build a reusable structure and process that will consistently get you to the finish line.
- Blast through your stuck-ness.
- Focus. Finish. Move on to the next project.
| Julia Cameron
First published twenty-five years ago, The Artist’s Way is “the book” on the subject of creativity. Author Julia Cameron takes readers on a twelve-week journey to discover the inextricable link between their spiritual and creative selves.
A revolutionary program for artistic renewal from the world’s foremost authority on the creative process, The Artist’s Way is a life-changing book.