What are the principles of comics?

There are no hard rules when it comes to art. However, there are principles that form the basic building blocks for all the visual arts and principles that guide an artist when they are composing a piece. These are often called "principles of art" and "principles of design." These vary only slightly from person to person. 

My question to you is two fold: Do comics have basic principles? If they do, what (in your opinion) are they? 

Most comic books that teach you to draw only focus on one style, rather than teaching you how to create comics in your own style. I hope to someday make a course on drawing comics that looks past styles and teaches core principles that anybody drawing comics would find useful. 

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  • In my own personal and professional option there are definite principals for both writing and illustrating comics, regardless of format, genre, etc. 

    They are as follows:


    1. Linear artwork, with or without formally defined panels.
    2. Styles ranging from traditional Four Color, pencil and ink illustrations to multi-medium styles boarderng on fine art approaches (James Jean, Dave McKean).
    3. Defined and consistant character illustration that are consistant between issues and volumes.
    4. Must contain Visual elements that are both world building and story driven in nature based on the needs of the story/author/illustrator.


    1. Dialogue driven story telling that is character-centric in nature. 
    2. Genres that range from Superheroic to Personal in nature and scale. No genre is ommitted. 
    3. A general theme that reflects the genre or juxtaposes it against the norm. 
      1. In the case of Superheroes, Modern Mythology is an often embraced theme (Especially by DC) to show the vast differences between normal humans and their super-powered alternates. 
      2. In Horror comics, the theme of damnation and retribution is often used
      3. At Marvel, the heroes journey is a big theme, mixed with coming of age stories of younger characters embracing their powers. 
    4. Writing and dialogue can range from colloquial to poetic in nature but leans heavily towards the former in most mainstream comics. 


  • Hi Alyssa,

    Have you read Making Comics by Scott McCloud? Also Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics. McCloud's works are the only widely-available and well-respected resources that most comic artists look to for standards and principles in sequential narrative storytelling (his phrase)

  • I guess there's really two parts. There's developing your own style, which just takes a bunch of time and drawing. (including a lot of drawing other people's styles and random styles and experimenting and deciding how you want to draw ears and so forth.)

    Then there's cartooning, being the merging of art and writing. Or it could be thought of as: your style is how you draw a picture, cartooning is how you combine the pictures into a story.

    A couple of cartooning principles that come to mind:

    -using space to convey time/manage the timing of jokes

    -clarity of panel flow (if the reader has to think what panel/text bubble to read next, you've made a mistake)

  • Most major publication house ( Marvel, DC, Image, Dark horse, etc..) you work in diffrent roles you have your pinceler: the person who draws the panels, Inker: fills the in the black areas and colorist
    Now this is not a defined standard especially since alot is now done digitaly some of these roles get combined like the penciler will also ink then goes to the colorist hop this helps
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