You can use just about anything to create a graphic novel.  What you decide to use depends on why you are making one.  Here is a list of the most basic traditional tools you can use to create sequential art.


The most commonly and traditionally used paper that graphic artists use is 2-ply bristol board.  It is sturdy enough to withstand a lot of erasing and redrawing but is still thin enough to see through when using a light box.


It is helpful to have more than one kind type of pencil as you work on your graphic novel.  Soft graphite pencils will go onto the paper dark and easy but it will smudge if you are not extremely careful.  Hard graphite will not smudge but is hard to erase and goes on to the paper very lightly.  Comic artist Steve Lieber recommends using graphite pencils with a density of 3H or 4H for lightly blocking things our and using graphite pencils with a density of H or H2 for the rest of the drawing.


Kneaded Erasers are long-lasting and remove unwanted graphite marks without damaging the paper.

Smooth white plastic erasers are a little tougher on papers but the 2 inch block is perfect for removing large areas of unwanted graphite marks while a stick eraser is perfect for small and precise areas of work.

Electric Erasers cost a little more but they can erase ink.

A drafting brush is necessary to brush away eraser debris without getting skin oils on the paper and smudging graphite marks.


A clear plastic ruler equip with a grid of thin lines is perfect for lining things up in a drawing even if the ruler is covering an image.

An 18 inch metal ruler is great for cutting a straight line and wont warp or collect dents overtime like a wooden ruler.


A metal t-square with ruler markings is the one you want.  Make sure it is long enough to span the desired length and height of your page.  A t-square can speed up your artistic process and enable you to quickly make perfect parallel lines.


You need a smooth surface that tilts to work on the drawing aspect of your graphic novel.  A flat surface will not be comfortable in the long run. To get the perspectives of your drawings right, you need to be able to see the top and bottom of the page you are working on from the same distance. You need a surface that will tilt to match the angle of your gaze.  ultimately, with a flat surface you will find your self hunched over your work with a sore back.  Professional drafting tables will do the trick but they can be very expensive.  For a cheaper alternative, comic artist Steve Lieber recommends getting a sturdy lapboard and bracing it against something that wont move.

Light Box

When creating a graphic novel there will be many instances where you can reuse a drawing.  The easiest way to duplicate a drawing is to trace it.  A light box allows you to easily see through even thick papers so that you can efficiently duplicate a drawing.  You can purchase a light box from most online art supply retailer but you can also make one yourself.  Use flourescent bulbs instead of incandescent ones to minimize the heat that the bulbs generate.

For further reading on materials and equipment used in creating a graphic novel, take a look at these additional resources:

1.  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel by Nat Gertler and Steve Lieber

Chapter 14 discusses these basic materials used in creating a graphic novel in greater detail.  It also amply discusses materials used for referencing such as live models photos or a combination.

2.  Writing & Illustrating the Graphic Novel by Mike Chinn

The section on “Techniques and Materials” included in this book talks about the possibilities of adding color to your graphic novel and analyzes the materials you can utilize for a number of your sequential art projects.  The book also touches on the incentives and drawbacks of creating computer generated imagery with a graphics tablet or Photoshop.


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