There are a few ways to make a comic book, depending on the style of the artist and the type of story being told, although most comics follow a similar set of steps during creation. First, a story and characters need to be developed, and this process often determines the length of the comic and the overall tone of the work. Next, the story needs to be planned out to account for page separations and pacing for the reader. The comic itself can then be drawn, usually first in pencil and then in ink, or in a computer graphics program. Finally, the images can be colored, if desired, and printed or copied and bound together so they can be read like a book.
One of the most important steps in making a comic book is deciding what the story will be, from beginning to end. This will help determine the length of the comic book and present a template for what characters, settings and other elements need to be developed before drawing starts. Commercially published comic books are generally between 20 and 30 pages, although some graphic novels span 100 or more pages over several books. For intricate narratives, it can be helpful to write the story in the style of a screenplay or script, defining panels and page breaks in words to keep track of how many pages are being used.
The development of the characters, settings and even small elements such as the shape of the talk bubbles that will be used can help to provide a better visual image of how the world in the comic will look. Creating canonical reference materials for characters and locations can aid in maintaining consistency within the comic world, making it easier for readers to follow the story without becoming confused. To make a comic book as coherent as possible, it is vital to portray important characters and locations in consistent ways that make them easily identifiable.
Once the look and feel of the comic book is established and the story is written, the next step to make a comic book is to draw storyboards. This involves sketching out thumbnail images of each page and panel to help develop a flow that does not interrupt the storytelling. It also can show areas where the story might need to be compressed or expanded to maintain the rhythm of the narrative.
At this point, the actual drawing can be started. Although there are many exceptions, many professional artists use bristol board as their paper when they make a comic book. In commercial companies, one entire page is drawn inside a 10-inch by 15-inch (25-centimeters by 38-centimeters) rectangle. Comic book artists work on paper larger than the finished page size so minor variations in line weights can be hidden when the image is reduced and so fine details can more easily be rendered. Not all comics need to be drawn larger than they will be printed, although it does provide some benefits when hand-inking or coloring images on paper.
The general process to make a comic book at this stage is to draw each page in pencil until it appears as it should when printed. Next, the pencil drawings are traced over with ink or are scanned into a computer program and traced with vector graphics. The line weights of the inked images should be slightly thicker than normal, because the page will be reduced when it is published.
To make a comic book that is in color, the inked images need to have the color added to them, either by hand or in a computer program. Professionally published comic books can either be colored completely in a computer program or the pages can be colored with liquid watercolors and scanned into a computer for enhancement and correction. Talk bubbles and other text, such as logos and titles, are then added on top of the color and the comic book is ready to be printed.
Binding a comic book can be done easily. By printing two normal-size pages on a single larger sheet, the comic can actually be folded in half like a commercially printed book and bound in the centerfold with staples. Alternately, a thick comic book can be bound with a cardboard spine down the outer edge and some bookbinding glue, such as polyvinyl acetate (PVA).