Graphic novels provide a great source of inspiration to illustrators, and within the myriad styles used by comic artists there are many that offer intriguing creative possibilities. Here Douglas A Sirois shows you how to produce a page that mimics the pencil-drawn styles of artists such as Michael Zulli.

You’ll learn how to turn thumbnails into sketches, develop perspectives for each panel, evolve your characters and create a hand-drawn feel to your work.

Next month, Douglas will show you how to apply pen effects over this artwork to create a more traditional line art-based comic page – so watch out for our October issue, out September 2.

You can download the current trial of Corel Painter from here.

Step 1 Develop two to three small thumbnails of each page to figure out composition and panel layout. These should be 3-4 inches tall, with minimal detail and drawn quickly just to get your initial ideas down. Remember that there is always more than one way to do anything. Make each thumbnail an exploration of different points of view. For the thumbnail process, the Thick and Thin Pencil is very good at capturing quick sketches with variations of line weight.


Step 2 Once you have a page design that you are happy with, enlarge it. To do this, make a selection around the page, then in the top menu select Edit > Free Transform. Grab one corner point, hold down Shift and stretch the points until the image enlarges to fill the canvas. 

Create a new layer and roughly sketch your page panels. Here is a good opportunity to tweak objects and forms with each panel composition. You are not creating full detail here, but neatly translating your thumbnails into more cohesive layouts and plan where your darkest shadows will be. This will help move the viewer’s eye through the page more effectively.

For the rough sketch of the page, Painter 11’s new Real 2B Pencil tool does a great job at capturing the essence of a sketch. It is easy to shade in areas when you angle your stylus on your graphics tablet.