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What is Sequential Art?

Shannon Kietzman
Shannon Kietzman

Sequential art is a term that is often used interchangeably with comics, though it also encompasses other forms of art. Other areas of art that fall within the umbrella of sequential art include animation, storyboarding, children’s book illustration, and game design.

A few Art & Design colleges offer coursework, including undergraduate and graduate degrees, in the field of sequential art. Within these colleges, sequential art students learn how to draw comics and other forms of sequential art, as well as how to develop and create a storyline. This includes inking, penciling, color separation, and scriptwriting classes. Students also have opportunities to meet with successful artists and to attend sequential art conferences.

Comic strips often rely on sequential art.
Comic strips often rely on sequential art.

Comic books themselves are books that consist of images with text displayed at the bottom of the image, called image captions, or near the characters’ heads in speech balloons. This form of sequential art was originally designed for entertainment, but has become a huge multi-million dollar industry, with enthusiasts buying and trading their comic books and Hollywood movies being produced around their story lines.

Sequential art may also be published in the form of comic strips. This type of sequential art is most often published in newspapers and magazines. Comic strips are similar to comic books, but they generally consist of about four panels of images and text. Some comic strips, however, have far more than four panels, and others are made of only one.

Comic strips sometimes flow together from one strip to the next. In this way, a person who reads comic strips in the newspaper may get the next episode within a story each day until a particular story is told. Popular comic strips are sometimes compiled in a book after they have been published in newspapers or magazines.

Sequential art in the form of storyboarding and animation often go hand and hand. Storyboarding involves drawing out simply representations of a scene within an animated piece. Using the guidance of the storyboard, the animators bring the scene to life by creating animation cells. Storyboards are also often used when planning illustrations for children’s books.

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Discussion Comments


@indigomoth - I think that's why I like the idea that it's easier to self publish books now. If I was going to write a picture book, I'd like to be able to do the pictures as well.

Although I'd be more likely to do a graphic novel or maybe a web comic strip.


@Iluviaporos - Well, most people seem to think that one person does all the writing and illustrating for most books. That's true sometimes but it's fairly rare. Usually someone writes and someone else will be hired by the publishing house to do the pictures.

So you've got the added difficulty of maybe not knowing exactly what will be in the pictures, or exactly what the author wants.


I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that picture books are easy to make because they are for children and the words are very simple.

But, if anything, that can make them more difficult. You have to convey a story in a way that isn't the most natural for people. And you have to do it in a way that will compliment and enhance the art.

It's not a matter of telling a story and then drawing some pictures to go with it. The pictures and the story have to work together.

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    • Comic strips often rely on sequential art.
      By: Karen Roach
      Comic strips often rely on sequential art.