How to Draw Comics 101: Choosing Paper



When I made my first attempt at drawing a comic with the intent of publishing, I had a hard time finding the right paper. This was about fifteen years ago and I knew that most comics were drawn larger than print size (11×17 for the standard American comic) but I couldn’t find that size anywhere.

I drove to every art store in town and a few out of town. Nothing. Finally, I ran across what was then probably the only online place that sold that size paper and as a bonus had the template printed right on the page.

Fortunately, the market is a lot different today and companies are catering to the comic book artist with products that were considered specialty items back when I started. If you’re new to making comics, finding the right paper you need is the easiest part of the process. If I were teaching How to Draw Comics 101 here’s what I’d say about choosing paper.



For a book published at the standard size for American comics, the artwork is drawn larger than the finished product. 11×17 is pretty much standard, but you can draw smaller (or bigger) as long as the image you draw fits the roughly 6×10″ area that the book will be printed at when reduced. Pads of 9×12 Bristol Board (a very common type of paper used for illustration) are easy to find if you want to draw smaller.

You could even use 8.5×11 copy paper with the right template for your drawing area.



The brand of Bristol Board that I typically use (Strathmore) comes in different series of papers that are progressively thicker. I’ve used the 200 series, but in my opinion that series doesn’t hold up very well (the layers of the board seemed to come apart at the corners.) I’ve been using the 300 series for years and it works just fine for me. The 500 series is  really nice, but a tad more expensive. If you’re just starting out I’d try the 300 series and go from there.

Without going into paper weights and all that, just remember the thicker paper, the better it will hold up. Bristol Board is a good type of paper to use and holds up well (except for the 200 series mentioned above.) I’ve never used what’s marketed as Illustration Board, but my understanding is that it’s good, but not intended to hold up as well over time. If you’re wanting a piece of art that’s on a durable surface that’s both meant to be held onto, framed, or sold to fans and collectors, then I’d say stick with Bristol Board.






The Strathmore pads of Bristol Board are pretty much everywhere. Go to any art store or online retailer and you can find 11×17 Bristol in 200 or 300 series. As more companies have realized the market among comic artists they’ve packaged them with comic panels on the front so they’re easy to find.



TIP: Buying in a chain art store like Micheal’s can be twice as expensive as ordering somewhere online like If you’re just going to buy one thing, though, go to the store’s website and get their weekly coupon. They always offer 40% one item–which brings the price of that one item down to what you’d pay online.




Canson was probably the first company I noticed that started to put their comics and manga papers in stores. I used their pads of 11×17 paper for a while when they first came out and found them a pretty good drawing surface. They also have smaller sized 8.5×11 pads. And the good thing is they already have the drawing areas pre-ruled.




Blueline Pro



This was the first company I found way back when I first started.  Our studio used to get paper from them with our logo and drawing template printed on and the quality was fine. They offer different paper sizes and weights as well.



I’ve  never used Eon boards, but I know a few people who have. They’ve been around for a while but I can’t speak to their quality. Give them a try and let me know what you find!

It’s definitely a lot easier to find the materials you need to get started making comics than it used to be, especially when choosing paper.  If there’s something I’ve missed, let me know in the comments below. And if you have a brand to try, let me know that too.

Next time: How to Draw Comicss 101: templates!



26 thoughts on “How to Draw Comics 101: Choosing Paper

  1. Thanks for the tip, man! I was experiencing the same problem you were when searching for the right paper. This article really helped out.

  2. Thanks for this post. I’m having the same problem, I got Bristol but the ink kind of spreads, soaks the paper and I don’t get straigh lines. And not only with brushes but also pens, should I get a thicker one?
    Thanks again

  3. The Strathmore Bristol 300 should work fine for you. That’s what I use all the time. You might also want to try smooth instead of vellum. Vellum is a little more rough. It just depends on the look you’re going for.

  4. Im going to a comic con and going to have a few artists do sketches on a compilation jam.
    They’ll all be in pencils and inks..I was told to get Strathmore smooth 400. Would this work or should I switch to Canson?

  5. What would the bleed& live area be on 9×12 paper? I have been thinking about using that smaller size of paper instead of normal comic pages.

  6. Hello, I’m wanting to make comics for my career, but I live in an area where literally no one knows what route I should take. My art professor doesn’t even know a lick about comic illustration, so forgive me if my questions are kinda silly. (I’m in college.)
    What is the “template” you keep referring to? I’m assuming its that blue line around the page, but what is it used for, and what are the numbers for and such?

    I’m really sorry for the bother, but like I said I have no one else to ask and I literally know nothing. I can draw, and I can write, and I know how to lay out panels and speech bubbles so that they make sense, but I know nothing about how to do it as a professional like I want. ( I also noticed that you mentioned at the end writing a tutorial about the templates, but I didn’t find it anywhere.)

  7. Hi Samantha,

    So, here’s an article on what the measurements are for the traditional comic book page:

    I’ll put up a post soon with a template you can download and print out. You can draw traditional comics on 11 X 17 paper (which is standard) or on 8.5 X 11 copy paper really.

    Go take a look at the link, and in the meantime I’ll add another tutorial with the templates. Hope this helps!

  8. Thank you, this helped my confusion quite a bit, but it also enlisted another smaller question.
    When it talks about the art being reduced for printing, does an editor reduce and print the pages, or do I do this before I send it in to anyone?

  9. Thank you, this helped my confusion quite a bit, but it also enlisted another smaller question.
    When it talks about the art being reduced for printing, does an editor reduce and print the pages, or do I do this before I send it in to anyone?

  10. Thank you for this tutorial. Quick question, is this the paper you recommend for pencilling vs. inking? What paper would you ink the final product on?

    Assuming that you’re not inking directly over the illustration !

  11. This is the paper I’d use for both penciling and inking. You could pencil digitally and then print out on this paper too. But at the very least use it for the final illustration.

  12. The editor/layout person will do that. You just send in the page at least at 400dpi for inks, and 300dpi for a finished color version.

  13. Hi, I literally know nothing about how comics work. I draw, write and illustrated my own comics but I’ve never known how to make one professionally and publish it. What paper Do you recommend me using? What sizes are there? And how do you publish it? I use Crawford and black a4 cartridge sketch books, it’s the only paper I know about that works for me. Can I use it? Or do you recommend me using some other paper to put my comics on?

  14. My son is 8 years old and he loves to make comic so we want him to publish a book can you suggest what size of book is worthy for him to make and i dont have any idea about what type of pen or pencil ir colo is needed can you give me some suggestions please

  15. Can you Suggest some measurements for artist who would like to draw bigger than 11 x 17.

  16. Hey i’m working on a comic book and i wanted to ask whether printer paper is alright for the orginal sketches and inking since i plan on colouring the illustrations digitally anyway or if i should use bristol board or paper instead for quality purposes.

  17. Eon is very good paper. The bright white bleached bristol is great for black ink, the only reason more people don’t use it is because it’s super expensive compared to Canson, Blueline and even Strathmore in most cases.


  18. Woah such a helpful article, thank you! Just wandering, is the 11 x 17 then shrunk down to 6 58 x 10 1/4 inches? thanks! 🙂

  19. Russell: I started drawing comics a LONG time ago when the standard comic art size was “twice up” (2 times the size of the printed page) and I still prefer working that size. Precise measurements depend upon the publisher, but a reasonable generic size is 12″x18″ for the live art. This reduces to 6″x 9″. One drawback of working this size is that it doesn’t fit comfortably onto most Bristol board sizes. There may be a lot of wasted paper when you trim a page to size. The other drawback is that large pages are hard to scan. I use an 11×17 scanner to scan pages in halves or thirds and assemble them in Photoshop.

  20. Hi!! I have a question and it may be dumb haha. I’m completely new to this, although I’ve always wanted to draw comics, but I’m never exactly sure how to do it. do artists normally Sketch it all out on paper or in a sketchbook? With the entire paneling and all? Or do they do one scene each? Sorry if this is confusing…

  21. Hi Zoe! Sorry, I just saw this comment! Usually an artist will sketch out the whole page to lay it out. Sometimes we’ll sketch out the whole issue. Then tighten up those loose sketches when we pencil them on the final paper/art board.

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