One Graphic Novelist’s Creative Process: Joe Latham

Graphic novelist Joe Latham talks about his creative process.

Have you ever wondered…

  • How do you get started on a graphic novel when it’s such a daunting endeavor?
  • What process can you use to color your graphic novel quickly?
  • What tools do professional graphic novelists use?

Graphic novelist Joe Latham answers these questions in this video:

Embrace Your Unique Creative Voice

One of the most common pitfalls for artists, Joe says, is the trap of comparison.

“It’s easy to compare yourself to what other people are doing,” Joe notes. “If you don’t have the means, like the right scanner or enough hours in the week, it can stop you from being like someone you admire. However, you shouldn’t aspire to be that person; you should aspire to be the best you.”

We all know that comparing ourselves to others makes us feel crappy. But it’s also a major factor in keeping you from getting started.

Listen to Joe. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the “right” tools or enough time (or anything else that’s holding you back). Use the tools you have. Commit whatever time you can. Lean into your individuality.

And just get started.

Coloring Techniques: Speed and Texture

Joe has a distinctive coloring style and uses color to emphasize mood throughout his books.

(In a part of the interview not included in this video excerpt, he revealed that he is color blind. This astonished me, because he’s one of the most effective colorists I know!)

Here’s Joe’s coloring process:

  1. a rapid first pass using a standard hard round brush with opacity to “slap down the initial colors as quickly as possible”
  2. followed by several more passes using a textured, watercolor-style brush to add depth
  3. followed by a pass to paint edges
  4. and a final pass for details

Joe chooses recycled paper stock for his final product, avoiding the artificial sheen of more processed materials.

“I don’t want it to look perfect, because I want it to look like it’s made by a person,” he says.

Tools of the Trade

Joe provides a detailed rundown of the tools that have shaped his creative output.

For his first book, his toolkit included the Gelly Roll 08 white pen, a good eraser, a Long Point sharpener, FW Black Ink, and a Raphael Kolinsky brush, particularly a number five for its balance of ink retention and fine point capability. He found that this setup allowed for smoother, more fluid lines compared to thinner brushes which required constant dipping.

However, Joe’s toolkit evolved with his second book. He switched to using mechanical pencils for better visibility and consistency when collaborating with publishers, and adopted Pilot G-Tec pens for their fine and consistent lines, along with a couple of Pentel brush pens suited for different line weights.

Joe also crafted specific assets to streamline his workflow. He created page templates for a single-page layout with grid lines, as well as a thumbnail sheet for sketching out ideas quickly. These tools not only saved time but also enhanced the precision of his page layouts.

Art Tool Resources Mentioned by Joe:

(Note: if you purchase anything via these links, we’ll receive a small affiliate commission — thank you for supporting KCU!)

So Who is Joe?

Joe Latham is a Bristol, UK-based illustrator, author, and designer, whose debut middle grade fantasy graphic novel Haru released from Andrews McMeel in March 2024. 

Haru is a gorgeous and evocative hero’s journey — where the heroes are a small blue bird and their best friend, a young wild boar. But don’t take my word for it.

According to Publishers Weekly, Haru is a

“dazzling work in a Tolkienesque world, employing clever pen and ink drawings awash in luminous colors to deliver a cliffhanger ending.”

And Kirkus Reviews called Haru

“lush and evocative, recalling the quirky whimsicality of Hayao Miyazaki and striking an original balance between contemplative and exciting.”

I hope that’s convinced you to check it out!

Joe is an awesome person and inspiring artist. Connect with him on Instagram at @joe_latham_illustration, and subscribe to his newsletter at

What is Kids Comics Studio?

Joe Latham’s talk is an excerpt from a Kids Comics Studio workshop. Studio is our membership program for creators who are serious about leveling up. 

The full, one-hour version of this workshop – along with many other lessons and interviews – is available in our Studio video archive. Join us if you’d like to learn and grow together with other kids comics creators!

We’d love to hear from you in the comments….

What did you learn from Joe’s creative process? Did it give you any ideas for your own work?

About Janna Morishima

Janna Morishima is the founder of Kids Comics Unite and a literary agent who specializes in graphic novels and visual storytelling. She started her publishing career at Scholastic, where she was one of the co-founders of the Graphix imprint. She then became director of the Kids Group for Diamond Book Distributors, where she worked with publishers such as Marvel, Dark Horse, and Oni Press, and helped launch Françoise Mouly’s Toon Books imprint. In addition to her background in publishing, she has worked as an associate producer for documentary films, and as an assistant teacher in a kindergarten and a teacher in a high school for teens in the juvenile justice system. She later launched and ran the NYC Department of Education’s “NYC Reads 365” literacy initiative.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *