How to Draw Buildings for your Comic Book Scenes

Designing your Set Pieces and Locations:


Every scene in your comic book happens "somewhere." As you are writing your story, you inevitably have a picture of each scene in your head. Before you finally have to put pencil to paper and draw these places, it might helpful to have created a reference drawing. I approach the design of Locations for my Comic Books as a Set Designer might create a location for shooting a movie.

In your story, you might have a building that a scene takes place on the inside, outside or both. Your character might approach the building and you draw that as a reference point to that scene. Your character might then enter that building. And finally, your character may have some interaction inside with the building or its inhabitants. Now, I’ve just plotted a simple course that your character might have taken to this set piece. To flesh out that scenario, I may want to have some reference drawings to use for that. As an architect this is right in my wheelhouse. I like to create an elevation and a floor plan for that building so I know where exactly the action will be taking place and with what.

An elevation is a flat drawing of the outside walls of the building. You can draw elevations for each side of the building. In my example below, I only drew the front of the building because this is all I need for the scene. By doing this reference drawing, I now know exactly what the building looks like.

How to Draw Comic Book Buildings
Quick Sketch of Midrocks Tavern Elevation.

A floor plan is just a schematic layout of the things in the building. It’s like taking a saw and cutting all of the walls at about 6 ft off the floor and looking straight down. At least, that is how they explained it back in architecture school. If your building has more than one floor, you can lay out each of the relevant floor plans.

The design of your building can happen early in the writing process and may even help you write what is happening in the scene. Even a crude floor plan can help you map out the path of your characters so you know where they go, what they do and who they interact with.

Let’s take a scene from my upcoming sequel to Spectre: A Dark Matter, currently code named, *Spectre 2: Electric Boogaloo. In one scene, I have our heros landing at a waypoint called Midway Station. This Station has a bar called Midrocks that houses an important scene early in the story. Part of the action in this scene takes place inside and then moves right outside the entrance of this place. (Which is slightly reminiscent of the Star Wars Cantina.)

Well, as I wrote this scene, I wanted to map out how the characters moved through the space and what it all looked like. So, I created and Elevation (above) and a Floor Plan (below). These were really quick, and really crude sketches to just get my ideas of what they looked like down on paper. When I get to drawing these scenes in the comic book, this will be a very helpful reference. I won’t have to make them up on the fly, which would slow me down if I got to this scene and had to figure out what everything looked like.

Draw Comic Book Buildings
I used AutoCAD to lay out the Midrocks Floor Plan…however, a quick sketch will suffice.

Knowing what the building looks like and how it is laid out can help you layer things in the scenes of your comic book panels. Since I can look at the plan and know exactly where things are; I can draw items and other non-important characters in the background. Adding these kinds of elements can add a bit of realism to your created world. As in drawing anything, having these reference materials can be a great tool to help your drawings remain consistent and cohesive.

(*Not really the code name of the upcoming sequel, just a quick reference to an old 80’s movie. If you’re too young to know what Electric Boogaloo is, you can Google it.)

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