Tips for Illustrating a Superhero

Super-heroes are iconic figures that are recognised the world over. The creation of a super-hero that remains etched into the retina is a nirvana many illustrators dream of. In the course of trying to create your ultimate super-being you can have a whole lot of fun.

There are a few simple rules that you can follow to help you come up with a hero (or villain) to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Superman, Batman, Captain Americas’ and Hulks’ of the world.

1. Big Eyes/Small Eyes

Eyes are all about trust, the more you can see, the more we can trust, so the eyes you choose to draw are hugely important. It comes down to two simple choices, large or small? If you want to create a super hero who is open, honest and friendly then large eyes are the way to go. Think of Spiderman’s Mask with it’s large open white eyes. Or Captain America who’s eyeholes are cut much larger than required, thus enabling people to see his eyes, they have no hiding place.

Some superheroes make no attempt to hide their eyes such as Superman, who has nothing to hide.

Batman however keeps his eyes small and quite hidden, as secretive as him. He wants to be dark, mysterious and threatening, unlike the cocky spidey. Green Lantern follows Batman’s lead also.


Image of eye shapes
Who do you trust?

The same is true of Villains, small eyes are dangerous, threatening, secretive and untrustworthy. So you decide is your hero the boy next door (big eyes), or dark and dangerous (small eyes)?

2. Hey Big Mouth!

Just like the Eyes, the Mouth symbolises a lot. Things that eat large items have large mouths like a Hippo or an Alligator. So if your Hero had a large mouth they will appear dangerous. Small mouths are not so deadly, and therefor less of a threat.

Hey Big-mouth!

Think of most heroes, they have pretty regular sized mouths, or in the case of Spiderman no Mouth at all (ironic as he tends to use his more than the rest). Large mouths are pretty much held back for the Villainous types. Look at how large the Joker, The Green Goblin or Venom’s cake holes are? Huge and packed with teeth!


3. What size is this? 

Costumes, now thats probably the area that will offer you the most fun when conceiving your idea. Some choices are obvious. Boots are a must, belts are optional, cloaks provide great dynamic movement but can be a pain to draw all the time. The Logo however is vital.

Shrink fit?

The only hard and fast rule I’d suggest is that the suit must be tight, showing off some impressive muscle structure, or a nipped waste and curves (not very PC but this is dependant on gender).


4. Colour

There is a very obvious choice of Red and Blue. This is usually a sign of good ol’ USA patriotism such as with Spiderman and Superman. Batman goes Dark to match the whole Dark Knight idea, a concept that stretches back over a Millennium. The most important aspect of any super hero’s costume is the use of bold contrasting colours. Don’t worry too much about what colours you use, but the more contrast the better. Have a look at these colour combinations and see if you recognise who they might be?

Who is it?

So there you have it, a basic set of rules to get you started with your own super-hero illustrations.