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Introduction to the Graphic Novel and Comic Book Art

Course Times & Enrolment

(Code VC028-102) • (0 classes) Course location to be confirmed •
Sorry, this course is cancelled

Course Summary

This introductory course explores how comics and graphic novels work, how to create them, focusing on what makes comics an exciting unique medium.

Using a multi-discipline approach, this course explores the art of visual storytelling through practical workshops focused on figure drawing, how to express movement and time, layout, and how to combine image with text. Alongside these fundamental visual skills there will also be classes dedicated to story writing, digital processes and publishing.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

Basic drawing and writing skills.

Special Information

  • Sketchbook

  • Pencils and pens

Content of Course

Each session will focus on a different element involved with creating and understanding comic books and graphic novels. These will include:

1. Reading and looking critically at comics, and deconstructing how they are made, when they are successful and when they are unsuccessful in telling clear narratives.

2. Comics as visual storytelling. Looking at how comics as a medium differ from other forms, such as novels and film, including what skills and approaches can be taken from these and applied to comic creation.

3. Scale and scope. Learning how to tell complex stories in graphic novel format as well as more self-contained narratives in the shorter strip format.

4. Understanding comic panels, how these can represent the passage of time.

5. Composition and layout, leading the reader through the story.

6. Mark making as a tool for storytelling.

7. Drawing movement and how to also express movement through panel layout.

8. Figure drawing and abstracting the figure.

9. Story planning and scriptwriting.

10. Combining image and text, including visualizing sound and creating clear easy to read imagery.

11. Comic book workflow. Understanding how to work as part of a larger creative team.

12. Drawing from a script.

13. An introduction to digital processes, digital drawing and using Adobe Photoshop to edit artwork.

14. An introduction to publishing. Exploring layout using Adobe InDesign, to create booklets and zines.

Teaching method(s)

The course will be taught through a combination of creative writing exercises, practical hands-on technique-based workshops, contextual analysis and group activities and presentations. Each week will begin with a presentation about a specific artist/text or comic genre that will encourage students to engage critically with historical and contemporary examples of comics which will give them a greater understanding of the medium. Following this, an exercise will be set that will allow the students to put into practice what they have learnt during the presentation.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate the fundamental techniques of comic book creation and production and be able to put them into practice;

  • Apply drawing and image making techniques developed through practical workshops to tell stories visually;

  • Use creative writing skills to develop characters, stories and plan comic book scripts.


Core Readings

The recommended titles below may be of interest in following up the themes discussed in the course.

  • Baetens, J. & Hugo F. 2014 The Graphic Novel: An Introduction Cambridge University Press.

  • Bendis, B. M. 2014 Words for Pictures Watson-Guptill

  • Eisner, W. 2008 Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist W. W. Norton & Company

  • Eisner, W. 2008 Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative

  • McCloud, Scott, Understanding Comics W. W. Norton & Company


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.