The paintbrush of power: Using comics and cartoons to turn yourself into a superhero

Hi, lovely Messians! It’s Divyam here and I’m totally excited to share with you this tutorial for the Season of Play.

When I read all our posts and conversations on the Facebook group or on the forums, I am continually blown away by the incredible human beings that make up this community. I see courage, creativity, friendliness, and love. I see artists making the world a better place each and every day. Lets play at being superheroes, celebrating these incredible qualities and bringing them to life in our art.

Take a moment to think about the qualities you have which you feel are your strengths. Traditional superheroes are known for their physical strength or extraordinary sight or hearing. But there are all sorts of things that could be a superpower: being a good listener, being wise and intuitive, or always knowing where the lost keys are hiding! Include the things your friends and loved ones appreciate about you. There’s no need to be modest. These are things that make the world a brighter place.

You can expand your list to include the things you care about, or something you do that makes you feel powerful. In my case, I feel that when I make art I become stronger. And the more I do it, the more I feel that art can brighten up the world and make a real difference.

Once you have chosen your superpower, you can also think of your superhero name. It can be as simple as Art Woman, or as elaborate as The Fantastic Purple Wizard Enchantress of London. Does your superhero have any special objects or accessories? For example, Art Woman always carries with her the Paintbrush of Power so that she is ready to add colour to the world wherever she goes.

The paintbrush of power: Using comics and cartoons to turn yourself into a superhero



  • Paper – copier paper is perfect
  • Permanent drawing pen
  • Pencil, eraser, scissors
  • Adhesive – I’m using matte gel medium
  • Paint pens – Posca pens are my favourites
  • Halftone stencil – I used this stencil from Dutch Doobadoo and there is also this stencil from Tim Holtz
  • Stencil brush or sponge – a regular brush would work too. I used these stencil brushes
  • Acrylic paint in white and/or a colour that pops against your background
  • Colourful markers – paint pens or sharpies

Download cartooning guide

I have created a cartooning guide pdf for you to use as a reference.

Create a background for your superhero page. Many of us are working in altered books this season so it might be the pages of your altered book are perfect just as they are. Alternately, choose a collaged background scene from a magazine or simply smoosh some paint around.

Use a halftone or dotted stencil on the upper and lower sections of the page to evoke that vintage comic book feel. Choose a paint colour that pops against your background.

Draw your superhero. I have created the cartooning guide pdf for you to use as a reference. It can be helpful to first get a sense of where you want your figure to be on the page. For example, I saw this great area where Art Woman could hold the Paintbrush of Power so I located her hand there and made sure her face was well clear of the spine. When you are ready, cut out your superhero and adhere to the page.  

The paintbrush of power: Using comics and cartoons to turn yourself into a superhero

Create a frame for the whole page, turning it into a comic book panel. Then write your Superhero name in big bold letters across the page. Check out this Pinterest board of comic book covers filled with inspiration for your chunky text. 

Now it’s time for all those extra comic book elements. Add a speech bubble to give your superhero a voice. What does your superhero self most like to say? Text boxes in the top and bottom corners add a bit of story to the scene. Add sound effects in big bold letters with curly or jagged outlines. Check out this Pinterest board of comic book sound effects for inspiration. 

The final step is colouring in your superhero costume and some of the text elements. I used a limited palette of three bright colours. This evokes the feel of early cartoon printing when it was more cost effective to use fewer colours. It can be striking to colour some areas with solid black and leave some areas white too.

I used Tombow dual brush pens in the video because I love how bright their colours are. However, I found they didn’t set so well on top of the matte medium. I remedied this by spraying the page with fixative. We are all still learning and experimenting, so this was that moment for me! I would recommend an easier route of using paint markers or sharpies instead.


The paintbrush of power: Using comics and cartoons to turn yourself into a superhero


  • Make a list of your strengths. Choose one that you would like to be your superhero quality.
  • Draw yourself as a superhero. Have fun. What does your costume look like? Do you have wild hair? Perhaps there is an object you always carry that enhances your powers?
  • Create a comic book background using a scene from a magazine or from your altered book. Add halftone dots using a stencil or paint them in by hand. Make a frame around the edges of your page, turning it into a comic book panel.
  • Choose a name for your superhero and write it in big bold letters across your page.
  • Bring the scene to life with comic book text elements. What does your superhero like to say? Add speech bubbles, text boxes and sound effects.
  • Colour in your superhero costume. Use areas of black and white and a limited palette of bright colours.

At the heart of play is something true. You are a superhero. Every day you are making this world a better place with your love, your art, your listening, your friendship, your wisdom, and your playfulness.

Thank you so much for joining me on this adventure. I hope you have fun turning yourselves into superheroes. Please tag me when you post your pages. I can’t wait to meet your superheroes and see what they are getting up to!


Divyam is a writer and cartoonist living in London. Her favourite part of of art journaling is that no matter what is going on, whatever mood she is in, she always feels so much better after doodling and throwing some paint around.


  1. Katie Smith

    You’re a super hero of comics, Divyam!

  2. Charlotte Erichsen

    So fun! Thank you, Divyam!

    • Divyam Bernstein

      Yay! So glad you enjoyed it, Lotte! xxx

    • Divyam Bernstein

      Oooo how exciting, Lucie!!! I can’t wait to see! I clicked on your link but couldn’t get to see the image. Is there another way I can see it? xxx

      • Lucie Campeau

        Weird. I just clicked it and it led to it. I did the process to link up and the image showed in the get messy system. I just clicked it now and it led me to it.

        • Divyam Bernstein

          Ah. That is weird! I think it might be because it’s on your own Facebook page so you have access to it? Is it set to friends only? Or to public? I’m dying to see it!!!

  3. Debbie Bamberger

    I’m SO excited to do this!!!

    • Divyam Bernstein

      Yay!!!! I can’t wait to see your superhero, Debbie!!!

  4. Thea Marie

    This is amazing, I’m so excited to try it 😀

    • Divyam Bernstein

      Yay! I’m so excited for you to try it too. I can’t wait to meet your superhero!!!

  5. Moriah Costa

    Go art woman! Such a fun tutorial

    • Divyam Bernstein

      Thanks, Moriah!!! So glad you enjoyed it! XOXO