I would like to create both of the following:

  • A graphic novel. I would like to be able to sketch, draw and preferably color all the panels myself.

  • A textbook in mathematics for children ages 6-16. I would like to be able to create nice illustrations of characters, or items like coins, bottles, footballs etc. to be displayed throughout the book. Preferably, I would also be able to design some nice geometric figures for the geometry chapters.

I am a complete novice, and I do not know where to start. I have no experience using any tools except I have played around with the TikZ Package in LaTeX and also the drawing app Leonardo. I do own a Windows Surface Pro. Any recommended tools should preferably have a one-time cost, although it is not a necessity. I need to be able to self learn how to use the tool, that is, I should be able to read a book or watch a video series to learn. In principle, I do not have a time limit, although it would be nice to be able to produce results within a 5-year scope, working on a hobby basis.

By "tool" I mean some kind of software or tablet. Keep in mind that I am a complete novice and I might not know what I actually want.


Which tools should I learn how to use when I have the combined goal of creating a graphic novel and a math textbook?

  • Do you practice drawing by hand? That comes before any digital tools.
    – Wolff
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 21:31
  • I do not even know that I need to practice drawing by hand before using digital tools. I have only been "hand-drawing" on my surface pro using Leonardo.
    – Improve
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 21:32
  • I guess one could start digitally, but everyone I know who are good at making illustrations have some skills with pen/pencil on paper. The tablet doesn't really make you draw better, but can make things more efficient. But you still need to be able to imagine what to draw and to move your hand.
    – Wolff
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 21:37
  • The main reason I started digitally is to be able to store the drawings, and also I didn't really have any analog tools. I wanted to be able to draw wherever I go, sitting on the bus etc. Also, I had in mind that I eventually would want to make digital drawings and illustrations and figured I could just start digitally immediately.
    – Improve
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 21:41
  • Drawing is drawing.. by hand or digitally it takes pretty much the same skill set. The issue with starting digitally is that in addition to skill in drawing you also need to learn software. You can't use software to bypass drawing skills. Also.. a pen, paper, and a scanner is MUCH faster and cheaper than software when starting. But I suppose one could use a tablet like an iPad. I, personally can never really draw well digitally. I draw by hand and scan.
    – Scott
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


There is no standard toolset for illustration. Each illustrator works with different tools and get different results. It really depends on what they know, what they have practiced and what look they want to achieve.

Now, generally its a bit too much to learn illustration, storytellind, math typesetting and do a publication at the same time. Its a bit like a person with 3rd grade math skill declaring what they want to use Laplace transform for building a dollhouse.

Tools dont make the tradesman. You could do everything you ask in TeX provided you have enough skill. Hell you could even do it by writing printer driver code, or a PDF manually.

Start by learning to sketch. Usually best done on paper. But digital is fine too. Sketching trains you observation a foundational skill for drawing.

But really you dont need sketching, you can also construct images. Its just that generally drawing by construction is much rarer to see as it requires a lot more work.


Let me give you "the general" classification of software for graphic design that you probably need to know.

I. Raster image

Which let you paint, draw, edit photos and make compositions. This would cover the sketch, paint and colorize part. (You need to learn to use the layers)

The best known is Photoshop, you will find a lot of tutorials for that software, but you have a ton of options, some paid, but here is where you have a lot of nice and good free options.


  • Gimp
  • MyPaint
  • Krita
  • Paint.net
  • MediBang Pro
  • Firealpaca
  • (and more)


  • PhotoShop
  • Corel Painter
  • Rebelle
  • Affinity Photo
  • Paint shop pro
  • PhotoPaint
  • Sai Tools

There is much to unpack here. Some are more specialized in making paint-like looks. Mainly Corel Painter, Rebelle, and MyPaint.

Some are focused on manga style, some for general use, and some more focus on photo manipulation.

II. Vector images

There are lot less options. This can help you to do a different style and type of drawing, flatter in general, but you can re-use the images in a more efficient way. You could design the individual pages here, and import the illustrations previously made.

  • Illustrator
  • Affinity Design
  • Corel Draw
  • Inkscape (free)

III. Layout

You probably do not need this. It is more technical, and you need to know how to prepare stuff for the press. But here is the list.

  • InDesign
  • Affinity Publisher
  • Scribus (free)

IV. 3D

A lot of people prepare a basic scene in 3D as a base to make 2D illustrations, so you can take a look at some 3D apps. There are a lot of options, and it is a field on its own.

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