Friday, 31 December 2010

How To Draw Comics

I recently responded to someone who was wondering what tools they needed to make a comic after seeing someone working on one in a coffee shop. I was baffled by all the tools and techniques when I set out to make my first comic. This is by no means comprehensive but if your new years resolution is to make a comic, this can help you to achieve that goal.

Here you can see me posing with my tool:

QUESTION: What tools do you need to make a comic?


This may sound corny, but you should just use whatever feels right to you:

Maus; A Survivor's Tale was drawn on common typing paper with a cheap pen to give it its desperate, this-must-be-told feel. It is the only graphic novel to win the Pulitzer prize.

Alex Ross primarily paints covers, but he has done a few graphic novels, fully painted in gouache and watercolor. He has won multiple awards for his work.

Sophie Crumb has made comics using a bic pen. Really cheap.

Most artists today are switching to digital, however. It's not quite the majority, but it will be soon. They draw in photoshop with a Wacom (or other brand tablet).

Traditionally, comics are drawn with a brush and/or a nib pen.

Hunt was the favorite brand, the 102. Crow quills and spoon bills. I personally hate this nib, as I feel as though the quality is in serious decline. But many artists still swear by it. And their art is astounding...

The brush is tricky, but it can produce beautiful, lush results. Jeff Smith's Bone is fantastic and is done entirely with a brush. The problem with brushes is that they are tricky, inconsistent and expensive. If you go to an art store, look for sable and look for a fairly large size (at least an 8 in the US). If the store is worth its weight in salt, they should let you test it out with some water. If it doesn't "snap" back into shape and keep a clear point without splitting, it is a dud.

Some are rounds, some are liners... as long as it has a sharp tip that won't go haywire when it gets wet, it's comics gold!

I use a cheaper, non-sable brush called "Masters Gold." Go figure! It is around 6 to 8 dollars and is the best for its price. I also use a pen... but the dip pen I use is from Japan and all the info on the packaging is in Japanese, so I have no clue what they're called! It says G-Pen on it and that's all I know. But they are phenomenal! They are only available in one or two art stores in Manhattan, so I have a feeling they are hard to come by.

Ink is a matter of personal preference. I buy Winsor-Newton's black India ink with a spider on the box. It is pretty pricey, but it is the perfect consistency. Some artists buy cheaper, watery ink and leave the bottle open for days so it thickens. I don't have the time or the coordination to leave a bottle of ink sitting open in my room. I have to have deep black on the page... some artists photohop it to look darker.

Oh, and the paper I use is 14X17 Bristol board with a little "tooth" a.k.a. roughness. I love drawing on watercolor paper, but damn that stuff is too rich for my blood!

I have a pretty inventive pal whose blog COMICS TOOLS has a bunch of tips and tricks... it was on hiatus for a while and is possibly back, but if you look through it you can find a ton of advice on everything from eraser shields to Ames guides.

It's here:

Sorry for all the info, but when I was starting out, there was just really vague advice like, use a big brush, get an old pen, everything's done with computers, etc. etc. and I was bewildered until I started hanging out with actual comics artists who turned up their nose in utter revilement at my tools.

Just kidding, they're all pretty nonchalant. And were super helpful.

All that being said; draw however you're comfortable! Use whatever you have. I started drawing with a bic pen at the last convention I was at and people were astounded by it. It cost 10 cents.

What's more important is the actual content. But we all know that already!

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