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Creating Comics Tutorial - Costumes Costumes
Suggested Reading

Some Things to do Before You Start: Penciling

By costumes, I am not merely referring to the skin-tight, brightly colored outfits worn by traditional superheroes, but any garments and accessories a character might wear. Your job, as penciler/costume designer, is to design the costumes most appropriate for the character and the setting and that tell the story best. Therefore, you must do research.

Find the time and place of the story. If it's contemporary, and set in your locality, you can probably look around you for ideas. Television and movies are usually hip to the latest fashions. If your story is set in another place, or amongst people you don't see often, you may have to travel, or at least find pictures. Clothing catalogs, store catalogs, and magazines are usually a good source. National Geographic, travel magazines, or magazines from other countries are good sources for clothes from far away.

If the story takes place in the past, you will probably have to go to the library. There is no shortage of "history of costume" books. Books that focus on a specific place and period often give a more in-depth look at what people wore or more varieties of examples of clothing styles than general “history of…” books that often only have one or two examples from any specific period. Movies and TV shows from the past are usually good sources for fashions of their times, but try to avoid using modern movies and TV as primary sources for older styles. They usually try to design their costume for contemporary esthetics. For example, "High School Confidential" is a good source for clothes from the 1950's, but "Happy Days" is not.

If the story takes place in the future, or on another planet, you can let your imagination run wild. But keep a few things in mind: Laws of physics exist. Clothing responds to gravity and drapes, unless the writer has come up with a reason for it not to. Clothing must be put on and removed, and must have openings and fastenings that will allow for that, unless the writer has come up with a reason for it not to. There may be other considerations, such as pockets to put things in, a climate that requires a certain type of clothing, a moral code or system of social rank, or esthetic heritage, to think of when designing clothes.

Readers will react to the costumes and that will affect the story. Try to make the costumes contribute to telling the story, not distracting from it or countering it. They say you can't tell a book by its cover, but in telling the story, you should be able to tell something about a person by the clothes they wear. A person's mood may affect their choice of clothing, and the clothes they wear will express their mood. Their job and stature in society will affect what they would be able to wear. In general, rich people will have fancy clothes, poor people would have simple, worn-out clothes, workers will have rugged, practical clothes, and so on. The person may have good taste, or it may be hard for them to find clothes that fit, or they may be trying to seduce someone, or they may be lazy slobs who don't care what they look like, or they may be in a hot desert, sunny beach, or frozen tundra, or they may be trying to strike fear into the heart of evildoers. All these factors would affect the clothes they wear.

Next: Penciling: Locations

Suggeated Reading:
Comics & Sequential Art cover

Will Eisner; Format: Hardcover ISBN: 0-9614728-0-4 and Paperback, ISBN: 0-9614728-0-2; 154pp; Publisher: Poorhouse Press; Pub. Date: 1985

Graphic Storytelling cover

Will Eisner; Format: Hardcover ISBN: 0-9614728-3-9; Paperback, ISBN: 0-9614728-2-0; 164pp; Publisher: Poorhouse Press; Pub. Date: 1995

How to Draw and Sell Comic Strips for Newspapers and Comic Books , Alan McKenzie; Format: Hardcover, 144pp.; ISBN 0-89134-214-1; Publisher: North Light Books, F & W Publications, Inc., Pub. Date: 1987

Go to a thorough list of books and videos for comics creators

You can seach for more books about costume design, clothes, and the history of fashion on

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Back to:
Pg.1: Definition and History of Comics
Pg.2: Comics Today
Pg.3: Terms of the Trade
Writing: Story and Plot
Writing: Script
Sample Script
Penciling: Tools: Short Answers
Penciling: Tools: Furniture and Paper
Penciling: Tools: Pencils and Erasers
Penciling: Tools: Straightedges and More
Penciling: Creating Characters
Penciling: Character Sheets
Penciling: Costumes

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Penciling: Locations
Penciling: Props and Vehicles

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