wilbur logo

How to Draw a Comic Strip Wave

By Bob Penuelas

If you’re like me, then you’ve probably spent a lot of time in high school class daydreaming and doodling a thousand perfect cartoon waves on your notebook.

It’s safe to say that ninety percent of us surfers have a habit of scribbling perfect waves whenever a pencil is in our hands.

Hopefully the following pointers will help you change your throw-away wave doodles into actual compelling artwork that you want to keep forever.

Drawing a basic wave

The following illustrations and captions by Bob Penuelas take you through the basic steps of drawing a wave…

Step 1

Sketch in the basic shape of the curl, spray, foam and base of the wave.

Step 2

Add an extra line running parallel and below the curl line to define the thickness of the lip.

Step 3

Add a flow line starting at the lip and curve it around to suggest roundness of the liquid lip. Continue that same flow line around with a half oval down to the base of the wave to show the concave curve of the wave face.

Step 4

Add the rest of the flow lines. Gradually make each flow line less steep as you move away from the curl, to show the tapered shoulder. Continue the flow lines into the tube to show hollowness.

Step 5

Add simplified spray with thin wispy lines. Add the foam explosion with a series of explosion lines getting bigger as they moving away. Maybe add a foam ball in the tube. Round off the foam at the base of the wave so it won't look flat.

Step 6

Add shading on the wave face with smaller contour lines. Gradually make the lines darker as you get further into the tube. Use crosshatching to add more depth. Lightly shade foam and base of the wave. Maybe shade the sky a little, too.


  • Don't get caught up trying to draw every foam bubble, you'll go nuts.
  • Using a sharp eraser, keep a defined white line under the lip so it looks separate from the wave face.
  • Add white highlights on the lip with your eraser to give it sparkle.

The importance of perspective

Drawing a basic wave can be fun, but after a while it can get boring if you are merely following the same formula over and over again. The key to breaking out of this potential rut is achieved by drawing waves from different angles. There is only one way to successfully create a variety of angles and that is by using the basic principles of perspective. The two basic ingredients in perspective are the horizon line (your eye level) and the imaginary vanishing points. By merely changing the position of these ingredients in your image you’ll be amazed at the variety of waves you can create.

Paddler's view

Low horizon. Vanishing point off left.

Pier view

High horizon. Vanishing point left.

View into the tube

Additional variations can be achieved just by moving the horizon line high or low and by moving the vanishing point right or left. Give it a try, experiment.

View out of the tube

A high horizon line and one vanishing point on the left and it's as if your face is against the tube face and you're racing for daylight.

View out of the tube (continued)

Move the vanishing point to the right and more of the face becomes visible.

View from a pier

A high horizon line with two vanishing points off to the right and left and it appears as though you're viewing the wave from a pier, looking down on the wave.

Paddler's eye view

Is accomplished by placing the horizon line extremely low. Both vanishing points are located outside of the image border, one to the left and one to the right.

Bird's eye view

This is accomplished by moving the horizon line up and completely off the image. The two vanishing points are positioned way out to the right and left.

Other views

A view looking down the point can also be achieved by moving these ingredients around.

Various scenes

With perspective you can now create line-up scenes, with multiple waves. It could be a reef pass, a beach break or a point break Add land in the background or in the foreground to give the scene some depth. See the four sketches below

Different types of waves


Avoid drawing a peak by merely attaching two mirror image waves together. The right and the left are the same yet they are drawn differently.


Don't forget about hollow waves, freight-trains, slow churning or paper-thin waves. The possibilities are endless.

Add surfers

Don't forget to add surfers to your waves, whether you draw them regular or goofy foot, backside or frontside, you soon realise that there are endless combinations. See the three sketches below


Drawing of a surfer doing a cutback on a wave.

Big wave surfer

Drawing of a surfer riding a big wave.


Side profile drawing of a surfer riding a barrelling wave.

Remember, there are millions of ways to draw a wave and hopefully with these simple pointers you’ll find million more. So, have fun.

online store image

Surf Shop

new art

New Art

classic comics

Classic Comics

Limited Edition

Limited Edition Prints
Wilbur Art