Reading Images: Paying Attention to Comic Book Art

Sep 9, 2019 | Uncategorized

Comic books differ from typical picture books in that they utilize both words and images to tell a story. However, some panels may not have any written text and, when that happens, you’ll get more out of the adventure if you know how to get information from the comic art!

The breathtaking images use an almost equal balance of words and pictures to convey meaning to readers. In fact, art can tell us a lot about places, characters, or emotions by using facial expressions, body language, colors, and other forms of symbolism. Learning how to read a digital comic books’ images is easy once you familiarize yourself with the ways comic art can be used to tell a story.

Read on to explore our newest comic book guide and learn how to read more than the exciting dialogue and narration of your comics.

Features to Look for in Comic Art


soldier on a horse

What colors are being used in the picture? Bright colors can convey energy, happiness, action, and excitement. Dark colors can reveal that something scary, sad, or mysterious is occurring. Red can be used to signal passion or danger, gold and purple can be used to symbolize wealth or royalty, pastel shades typically convey softness or innocence. Beyond that, a character’s design and color palette will use shades that give you insight into that character’s personality. Antagonists and anti-heroes tend to wear darker shades, and protagonists tend to wear brighter, non-threatening tones. Background characters are often dressed in neutral tones, while the main characters are designed and colored to stand out.

Body Language

artist drawing a comic book character on a digital tablet

Reading a character’s body language and facial expressions is an important part of reading an image and understanding how to read a comic book. Body language and facial expressions show readers how a character is feeling or responding to something. When a character is standing tall and holding a pose that conveys confidence, that suggests that they are comfortable and capable. A character who is leaning on furniture or reclining is usually resting or relaxing. If a character seems to be hunched, tense, or making themselves smaller, they may be nervous, scared, or bracing themselves for an impact.

A confident character may be drawn with open body language, feet that are spread shoulder-length apart, and strong, straight posture. An untrustworthy character may seem to lean or tower in a particular direction. When a character is sad, scared, or uncomfortable they may display closed-off body language. Their gaze will be positioned downward, their arms may be crossed, and they may appear to make themselves seem smaller. If a character is drawn with furrowed eyebrows and a frowning face, they may be angry or an antagonist. Smiles, tears, and other facial expressions provide valuable insight into a character’s feelings and alignment. Pay attention to these things when you look at an image.


realistic imagery in a comic book

Comic art utilizes symbolism in the form of images and colors to convey meaning. For example, water can be used as a metaphor to symbolize freedom of movement. Plants can symbolize life, and flowers can carry a variety of symbolic meanings, depending on the type of flower. The weather can also be used to change the mood or tone of a comic. The arrival of storm clouds will convey that something challenging is about to happen, and a beautiful, clear day can symbolize peace and happiness. Images, items, weapons, plants, and forces of nature can all be used as symbols to help a story progress. Learn to look at an entire image to determine what it is revealing about a story or character.

Art Style

life-like comic art

Sometimes, important aspects of a story or character are displayed with a comic books’ art style. Comic art is often dynamic and unique. Characters and settings may be drawn in silly or grotesque ways to demonstrate that a story is supposed to be funny or shocking. A hyper-realistic style can convey a serious or relatable tone, and a softened style with lots of rounded character and scene designs can convey that a comic’s tone is cute or sweet.

Enjoy the Adventure to the Fullest!

Ultimately, a comic book artist will use images in a variety of ways to tell a story. Images can convey feelings and information better than some words, and a great comic or graphic novel will use imagery and comic art to tell the story in the best way possible. Next time you read a comic book, take some time to appreciate the art. You may learn something cool about the story you’re reading!

The best way to strengthen your ability to read comics and their art is by reading comic books and graphic novels often! Read different genres and comics with different art styles. Reading comics and graphic novels from a variety of authors can also help you become a highly skilled reader of comic books and their imagery! Most importantly, allow yourself to get caught up in the tale and the stunning comic art.