December 11, 2006

Have I mentioned I need surveys? I do. Bad. So if you haven't done so yet, and you've been making comics for a long enough length of time to experiment with your tools, take the survey.

December 8, 2006

Katie Skelly

Comics: Discomaxx, Sourpuss, Worrywort
Website: and drawing journal at
Making comics since year of: 2003
Art education/schools attended: Moore College of Art + Design, Syracuse University


Pencils: I like Bic mechanical pencils, preferably 0.7

Inks: India ink, but rarely used

Brushes: I do some gouaches from time to time but usually just take whatever I can get here!

Pens: My favorite pen is the Papermate Flair pen, in any color, but usually black. It gives a really smooth line that is just thick enough. Even though they aren't meant for drawing, they have never bled on me. They are very fun to draw with, and your drawings will look instantly finished and very graphic. I also use Sharpies when I think something needs a little extra kick, but rarely.

Paper: Nothing fancy, but I do like Strathmore watercolor paper when I do gouaches.

Lettering: By hand with my trusty Papermate flair.

Color: Photoshop and occasionally gouache.

Layout / Composition: I draw composition ideas on computer paper and often like them so much that I ink them immediately. In terms of influence, I will reference the drawings of George Grosz.

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: I started using Microns a lot because they were recommended to me when I first started doing comics. I could never find the right thickness and couldn't understand how to apply the appropriate amount of pressure with those. They are a little too delicate for me. Then I tried brush pens, but those were another dud. Then one day I saw my friend drawing with Papermate Flairs and loved what he was doing, so I tried them out and I've stuck with them ever since.

What tools you'd never use, and why: Brush pens. They just aren't my style because they allow for a lot of line variance. I like to keep my lines very narrow.

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: You may think you have to spend a lot of cash money, but in the end you should just use what best suits you. The sooner you find what suits you, the more money you will save. You don't need the fanciest stuff to do your best work. Don't look back!

December 6, 2006

Announcement for the benefit of people who didn't notice the thing at the top of the page/ get this via a feed:

I'm switching to a M-W-F update schedule!

That's all.
Jonathan Mahood

Comics: Hoover the Rechargeable Dog
Website:  and at 
Making comics since year of: Early 80's
Art education/schools attended: Bachelor of Fine Arts (Visual Arts) York University, Toronto


Pencils: Prismacolor Col-erase 20044 blue pencils (no erasing!)

Inks: Dr. Martin's Black Star, Winsor & Newtons Black India Ink

Brushes: Brushes and I don't seem to understand each other...Would love to fix this relationship someday, I see old Pogo strips and wish I could do that.

Pens: I finally found a great nib and I've had a lot of people ask me what I use... the Brause Steno nib. After a short break in period it really gets flexible and gives these great smooth thick and thin lines. No scratching either. ( available at  ) For lettering I use a Speedball B-6 ...if I could find a replacement for this nib I would because every nib is different! The production quality of these suck, some I use once and toss because they don't flow right. I've tried lettering with pigment liners but I like the flow you get with ink. The No. 127 Koh-i-noor nib holder is great and the cork makes it very comfortable

Paper: Strathmore Smooth Bristol

Lettering: By hand...some comics computer lettering works and some it doesn't match the artwork 

Color: Photoshop CS2

Layout/ Composition: Most of the time I go straight to the final product. I find my first sketches are always the best.

What tools you'd never use, and why: Markers for the drawings and computer fonts for the lettering

December 1, 2006

"Those Japanese Nibs"

Liz Baillie & Matt Bernier both mentioned these nibs in their surveys, and I've been eyeing Liz's nibs everytime we get together & are drawing, because they're really eye catching (read: shiny) and nifty looking. So I did a little investigating. I stopped by New York Central, (which, to my knowledge, is the only place to get them in person) and asked for the Japanese pen nibs. You have to ask, because the display is kept in a side room. Ask for Joe Flood, he makes comics and knows what you need. The sign on the display says, "Manga Comic Pro," and they'll be in the package in the picture above. They're about $5 a package for three nibs, mostly. The T-99 mapping pen was two to a pack for the same price, I recommend getting the little holder with it, because unlike the cheap Speedball Hunt pen holder, there's a little metal deal that sticks out into the nib & holds the pen from the inside, instead of surrounding it on the outside. It's the blueish thing in the picture here:

From left to right, the nibs are the T-99, the T-3, and the NG-3. The pens are divided into two types, Nikko & Tachikawa, and I have no idea for sure what the difference is. If anyone does, please comment & correct me, I'm dying to know. The best I can tell is that they're brand differences, but the packaging is absolutely identical except for the logo:

So I'm absolutely confused. They look pretty much like the exact same thing, and are packaged almost exactly alike down to the same fonts, but they're completely different companies? Google turned up Wet Paint, which sells G pens by Nikko, Tachikawa & Zebra, and you can get Deleter G pens (from the source) which Liz tells me are pretty much the same thing.

Anyhow, I got home, broke out my old Hunt nibs & some W&N creepy spider guy india ink, and tested how well they each worked for lettering, crosshatching, and sketching. Each one was done freehand, not tracing, and this is how each one turned out.

All I really have to say is that if the bunny I drew with the Hunt 102 were real, it would be the bunny kids point to and ask, "Mommy, what's wrong with that bunny?" I officially hate the 102 nib. I don't even think the 102 ever got much use back when I still used my nibs, so I'd hope that maybe I got one of the busted ones or something. About 4 years have passed while the box was sealed & left alone in a drawer, so age could be a factor, but the one I used the most often was the 513, (which I believe Alec Longstreth mentioned in his post) so that one ought to have had the most wear. I'm not that great with nibs, I've been using brushes for years now, so if anyone with more practice wants to have a go, I'd be glad to see what other people can do. Anyhow, I hope this was remotely interesting/educational for someone.
Next post will be up on Wednesday, between the Friends of Lulu anthology deadline coming up this weekend, out of town friends visiting, and a wedding, I won't have the free time by my computer to update until then. Still looking for surveys! We may be moving to a M-W-F schedule for a bit. So enjoy the little feature!

November 28, 2006

Sorry about the delay again. Shit hit the fan last night in a bad way, next post will have to go up Friday.

November 27, 2006

Noa Liberman

Comics: Several Ones on hold, had to quit having fun to make homeworks :(
Website: stuff can be viewed via Devart: or my flickr page:
Making comics since year of: Ever since I was a tiny little kid. about 10 years old for fun, since highschool as a dream job
Art education/schools attended: Now studying in a College Called Shenkar at Israel, A big college for design - the only place with Illustration program


Pencils: I usually use a mechanical pencil by Faber Castell, 0.7 points, no less, although I sometimes use 2b faber castell pencils and plain ol' yellow pencils. I like faber castell a lot because they are avialable everywhere here, make wonderful things and not so expensive.

Inks: winsdor newton indian ink black pen... but I hate using ink.

Brushes: none. Don't like it.

Pens: Ooh, this is where the fun begins. I usually use faber castell's PITT series, who make a 4 peice set for artists and illustration, consisting of 4 great pens with black indian ink - S, M, F and a great brush pen which I adore. I also use rapidographs from time to time, but they are too mechnical for me.

Paper: Sometimes Cartridge, Usually very thick a4 papers of good quailty and random brands.

Lettering: On my own, I have neat handwriting ;)

Color:  I used to color comics with pantone markers, but sadly I am broke and thus I moved into computerized colouring which actually gives me the same results in less time and effort.

Layout/ Composition: Dozens of them, this is still my rough points.

What tools you'd never use, and why: pencils less then 0.7 - because they are awful and not as fun to use as the thicker ones
inking with a brush - because I'm sloppy, but I'd like to use it...
someone else's font or handwriting as lettering - because thats one of the thing that make your comics your own
crappy light-weight paper, pilot pens, plain markers - because good art and comics needs some money ;)

November 22, 2006

Manuel Aguilera 

Comics: Beware of Doug (Lemon Icecream:Coming Soon)
Making comics since year of: 2003
Art education/schools attended: BFA in Graphic Design form IFAC in Miami


Pencils: Office Depot Standard Click Pencils .5 lead. I'm starting to get into col-erase blue pencils for the forthcoming webstrips. It'd stop me from having to actually erase.

Inks: I used Higgins' Black magic for a while but I got over having to prep inks and then waiting for the company to change the formula and having to find a new mix. Now I just go straight for the Farber-Castell PITT Artist Pen. I do hear good things about speedball though.  

Brushes: Farber-Castell PITT Artist Brush Pens, I buy them by the gross.

Pens: Farber-Castell PITT Artist Pen size: M, S & B 

Paper: Hot press Strathmore Bristol 14/17 for comics making and cut in half 8.5/14 for comic strips.

Lettering: All done in QuarkXPress for comics and Photoshop for Strips. Blambot has the best comic fonts on the market. And for those just starting out they have good ones for free. I use Mighty ZEO for all of Doug.

Color: Photoshop for the comics work and Guache for illustrations

Layout/ Composition: I write a simple bulleted list of things I want to do with the story then  start drawing on copy paper full sized. I draw very rough with no real erasing and rough the dialog and ballons in as well. Those roughs get scanned in, the lettering, ballons and pannels all get done in Quark. At this stage I'll make edits as needed, juggling pannels around making figures bigger or smaller to fit text. These pages get printed out and traced and inked onto final boards.

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): Farber-Castell PITT Artist Pen size: M, S & B onto 11/14 (same as my sketchbook) Strathmore Bristol. I also carry a Winsor-Newton compact watercolor tabs set that comes with a brush pen looking thing that has it's own water supply.

What tools you'd never use, and why: diping ink mostly because it's more work than it's worth mixing and letting it evaporate. Coldpress Bristol because it bleeds. Non-waterproof ink because you never know when it'll rain or you'll have the urge to watercolor something. Watercolor paper because it's bump and I don't like drawing on it or how it scans. I don't have a tablet YET but I hesitate to use it because eliminating the pen and paper will end the market for selling original pages.

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: Always experiment and give things a try. If you use a lot of modern tools give the old ones a try. That goes backward too, new doesn't always mean bad. Next time you walk into your art store buy something totally new and try it out...something great could happen.

November 21, 2006

Diego R. Jourdan Pereira

For over 10 years Diego has worked as a professional illustrator, comic-book artist, and cartoonist for companies such as Simon & Schuster Publishing, Felix The Cat Productions Inc., Mirage Group, Blue Dream Studios, Mongoose Publishing, and MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research among others.

His work has been published and exhibited the World over, in countries like Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Bolivia, England, Korea and the Ukraine, and graced household characters ranging from Felix The Cat to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Born and raised in Montevideo, Uruguay, he currently resides in Santiago, Chile, but the one thing Diego loves more than drawing is traveling abroad at the first chance he gets!

Comics: Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ed's Terrestrials.
Making comics since year of: 1996
Art education/schools attended: F.I.T. Computer Typesetting and Design.


Pencils: Two Pentel 0.7 tech pencils, one with blue refills (structure), the other w/ soft 'B' black lead refills for pencil finishes (though sometimes i skip directly to inking)

Inks: Copic and Micron Pigma markers ( 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.8 ). Faber Castell PITT Brush pens.
Lately i've been increasingly inking using simply my Graphire4 WACOM Tablet and Adobe Photoshop CS2.

Paper: Standard copy/printer paper (yeah,i'm cheap).


Color: Graphire4 WACOM Tablet and Adobe Photoshop CS2.

Layout / Composition: I study all the classics, but specially Milton Caniff, Hugo Pratt, Carl Barks, Mauricio de Sousa, Roberto Fontanarrosa, and Hank Ketcham.

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: I've tried everything and anything. In the end i set for what gives me reasonable quality and speed. Way things are going by 2007 my art will by fully digital.

What tools you'd never use, and why: I think you need to use them all before choosing which one suits you better for the type of work you're trying to achieve. In my case i do commercial work that need be pulled fast and be pleasing to the eye at the same time.

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: Try everything, work hard, have fun!

November 20, 2006

Cameron Chesney

Comics: "How To See The Aura", "Daphne", "Jodi's House", story "Professional Help" in True Porn 2
Making comics since year of: Many when I was in my teens in the mid 80s, now at a slow pace since 2001
Art education/schools attended: Alberta College of Art & Design (Calgary, AB), School of Visual Arts (NYC)


Pencils: I still love to use a wood-clenched pencil, and I used to just buy boxes of the cheapest brands I could find.  A while back I read an article about how some animators in California love to use Tombow Mono pencils which are made in Japan. Its funny becuse you wouldn't think there was that much of a difference, but I won't use any other pencil now, except for the occasional non repro-blue (Color-erase).  If you haven't tried them, you should give them a shot.  They glide across the surface and produce great marks.

Inks:  I prefer to use Dr P. H. Martin's "Tech" waterproof drawing ink.  The P.H. Martin's  "Black Star" is also very good, but the "Tech" is better.  Very hard to find, so buy a big bottle when you do.  I usually have to search it out in the internet.  I hope they keep making it, because most of the commercially available drawing ink is crap.  Seriously.

Brushes:  Since I was young, every single cartooning "how to" book I read mentioned the Winsor Newton Series 7 Sable brush.  How expensive it is and the purity of the line you can get from it if you practice with it and take care  of it and clean it after every use. It's all true.   I use a # 4 mostly, and sometimes a #3.  I managed to talk an art supply store into selling me a Series 7, #7 for $60 because it had been on their shelves for so long.  I can't believe the thin line I can get from it (not to mention the giant thick one).  If you've never got the hang of using a brush to ink your comics, you owe it to yourself to take a serious break from the pen and learn how to use it.  You won't believe how much your work will improve...

Pens:  One of my good friends used to work in a lab at an art school, and as they began renovating the workshop she came across a huge tub of old (from the 60s, but never used) pen points, and knowing my love for them, gave me the entire tub.  I was elated.  I can't tell you how superior they are to the ones you buy today.  Even if they happen to be the same style.  Something must have happened to the quality of the metal or something.  My favorite pen to use from this tub is a Joseph Gillott's 170 or the 290.  I only have a few dozen of them left, so I try and take very good care of them.  Of the modern pen-points that you can still purchase today I like the ever-popular Hunt 102 crowquill, which is incredibly flexible.  Recently I have tried using the Deleter brand pen points which are made of very fine steel, and are available imported from Japan via the internet.  They are really wonderful, and really worth checking out.

Paper: Strathmore Bristol.  I have been drawing very large lately, so I have been buying large sheets of the Strathmore 500 series.  I like the cold-pressed board because sometimes I like to watercolor my originals, after I have obtained a high-quality scan of the finished Black & White.  I have also experimented with washed black tones on white after looking at the work of Jack Cole (his pin-ups).  I use a lamp-black watercolor (Winsor Newton) to apply the wash, after mixing 3 different tints on my palatte (a 25% a 50% and a 75% grey tone).  Even though comics are an art made for reproduction, I see no reason why we can't treat our originals with the same respect that we treat a painting.  I love looking at cartoonists originals, in a gallery or wherever they may be.

Lettering:  I will use a Speedball lettering pen A-5 most of the time for my large size work, but I have also used a Rapidograph .4 when I am working smaller.  Lettering is the area that I really need to work on the most.  Sometimes I will use a computer font, but I prefer to hand-letter.

Color:  Working as a Graphic Designer for a number of years I learned how to flat color using Photoshop on a Mac quite early on.  I still really prefer the look of a handcolored reproduction if time allows...

Layout/ Composition:  For this I will usually just sketch out on one of those yellow legal pads, using a pencil or sometimes a black marker.  If I'm having trouble with a drawing, I will try and work it out on tracing paper, and then transfer it to the Bristol when ready.

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): I haven't done many conventions at all as a professional, but I would use a sketchbook with nice paper in it that can easily be removed.  Probably draw with pencil, then a permanent marker...

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: As I kid I loved to draw directly to finish with a ballpoint pen, but as I got older I became curious as to how comics were "Professionally Made", so I sought out as many "how to" books as I could find.  Most of my knowledge about "tools" and techniques came from very good books.  One book that I recommend still, even though it is very outdated and out of print, is Ken Muse's "The Secrets of Professional Cartooning".  It is a book mostly for the "strip" artist, but there is a plethora of information there about tools, techniques, and methods.  If you have some $ to spend, search on E-Bay and see if you can track down the 3 volume "Famous Artists" Correspondence Course circa the mid 1950s.  These volumes are FULL of "old school" gems that are in print nowhere else.  While you're at it look for the "Famous Artists" Cartooning Course from the late 60s.  You might not have to pay that much for them, and you can always make a copy for yourself and sell the originals back on E-Bay, getting most of your money back.  Again, the material is dated, but still contains many useful bits of information that you are not likely to find anywhere else.  I would have killed to have read this stuff in my early years.  I wish I had.  Speaking of excellent books, if you haven't read Scott McCloud's book Making Comics yet, you really, really should.
I have also been using my Mac more and more to create digital images, using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and my scanner.  I started doing it several years ago when I was working in the NY garment industry doing licensed Disney characters via Adobe Illustrator for screen print output.  I got very good at manipulating vector paths to simulate a fine ink line.  If you would like to learn more about using Adobe Illustrator to create your comics I recommend reading some of Alberto Ruiz' tutorials in Mike Manley's "Draw!" magazine.  
  All in all though I still very much prefer comics done with the traditional pen & Ink on paper.  I am very excited by the changes happening in the comics scene these days, with so many young people creating and publishing their own stuff.  Its great to see so many women creating excellent comics work.  Now is a great time to be creating comics.

What tools you'd never use, and why: Ballpoint pen.  Because it is non-archival and will diminish with time.  Non water-proof ink or markers...  Keep your originals as permanent as you can.  You'll be glad you did 30 years later...  

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: Work hard and often, but don't forget to live.  Do it because you love it.  And support your peers.

November 17, 2006

Matt Haley

Comics: Superman Returns movie adaptation, Who Wants To Be A Superhero tv series
Making comics since year of: 1990
Art education/schools attended: none


Pencils: F hardness 2MM lead holder, .3 and .5 F or 2H hardness mechanical pencils or Corel Painter 9

Inks: Higgins black india ink, china marker or Corel Painter 9

Brushes: Winsor Newton sable brushes or Princeton round brushes

Pens: Copic multiliners of various sizes

Paper: DC paper, or 2-ply Bristol board, kid finish

Lettering: hire a professional

Color: Photoshop CS and Corel Painter 9

Layout/ Composition: non-photo blue pencils or Corel Painter 9

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: Began drawing comic for DC in 1990, have used the same kind of pencils until I started inking my own work 6 years ago. I picked up digital art at the same time, and feel more comfortable working digitally than by hand, but I refuse to give up drawing and inking. I love inking, and have a lot more respect for the craft now that I am a novice inker.

What tools you'd never use, and why: Swimsuit magazines for swipe.

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: Create your own comics and put them on the web, instead of trying to get a paying gig right out of art school, there aren't any, and you'll get a lot more notice for your creations than drawing someone else's characters. Draw every day, even when you're sick or you have homework. Get kicked out of class for drawing comics. learn to like staying inside. Stay away from caffeine, drink green tea instead. Exercise. Invest in gold.

November 15, 2006

Lucy Louise Knisley

Comics: Stop Paying Attention, My Addiction, Contributing Artist to "The Worst Stuff, Like Ever"
Making comics since year of: 2002
Art education/schools attended: The School of the Art Institute of Chicago


Pencils: Pink, Col-Erase lightfast pencil. The pink is pale enough that it is easily eliminated digitally, and is easy to differ from any blue guide-lines.

Inks: Windsor Newton waterproof black, although it's hard to find these days.

Brushes: Right now I'm into the sorta cheesy brushes you can buy at craft stores. They have these big, squishy finger holds on them, which makes even the skinniest, 000 brush feel nice in your hand, and not cramp up.

Pens: Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, or the superfine PITT pen from Faber-Castell.

Paper: Aquabee, large-sized grid bond layout. It makes the straight and intersecting lines easy, and the pink pencil shows up nicely against the grid. Or smooth bristol, for supersexy illustration kinda stuff.

Lettering: I have a font of my handwriting from, but I generally use brand new Faber-Castell Pitt pens, in superfine, to letter.

Color: I've recently been using scanned watercolor pages, combined with the clone-stamp tool in photoshop. It's a nice combo, I think.

Layout/ Composition: Teeny thumbnails in bic pen, to dimensions on graph paper.

Convention Sketches: Pens belonging to the cartoonists with whom I share a table, and who are trusting enough to leave their pens out for my nefarious use! Then I give them back and buy my own.

Tool timeline: I used to be big into sharpies, I think because I often didn't draw on paper (read "the walls of my art room). I think I liked the lightheaded effect that the fumes had on my artwork, too. Micron pens were next, but they irritated me because I'd wear them out in a day. Their ink was too transparent, and the line too shaky. I started using the PITT pens about three and a half years ago, and I still love them. I started using inks and brushes about two years ago. Last Summer I finally bought myself a much-coveted Pentel brush pen, like Hope's, and have loved it, and used it constantly, ever since.

What tools you'd never use, and why: Rapidographs! I love them, when they're working, but I've destroyed about five rapidograph pens over the course of the last five years, and ruined many a clothing item in trying to clean them out so they'd be usable again. Those things clog immidiately, and smudge like crazy.

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: The best way to find out about tools is to chat with a group of comic artists. At my first convention, I saw people whipping out pens I hadn't known existed, and now these are some of my favorite tools!
Adrian Tomine

Comics: Optic Nerve, Sleepwalk and Other Stories, Summer Blonde
Making comics since year of: 1988
Art education/schools attended: University of California, Berkeley (BA in English)


Pencils: Sanford Turqouise 4H, Pentel 0.3 mm lead (4H), Koh-I-Noor Rapidomatic lead holders

Inks: Dr. Ph. Martin’s TECH waterproof drawing ink (black), Rapidograph Universal waterproof india Ink (black)

Brushes: Winsor & Newton Series 7, size 3 for regular inking, size 0 for white-out corrections

Pens: Hunt 102 nib, Koh-I-Noor Rapidographs (sizes 00 – 2.5)

Paper: Strathmore Bristol, 500 series, 4-ply, vellum surface

Lettering: Ames lettering guide, Rapidographs

Color: sometimes watercolors, but usually computer

Layout/composition: National Brand engineer’s computation pad

Convention sketches: various Micron pens

CRUCIAL BONUS TOOL – White-out/Corrections: regular White-Out (with brush applicator, not that weird foam tip), Pro White, and white adhesive labels, cut with an X-acto knife

Tool timeline: Too much to list here. Let’s just say my starting point was all the tools listed in the “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” book, and I’ve sort of been refining by trial and error ever since.

What tools you’d never use and why: I can’t foresee myself ever using one of those Wacom tablets for the computer, but what do I know?

Advice: I know a lot of artists who use tools that I can’t stand and achieve beautiful results, so I guess it’s good to just try a lot of things. I used to think that if I “solved” the mystery of what were the “correct” tools, I’d suddenly be drawing like a pro, and that obviously wasn’t the case. I also think it’s good to not be stingy when it comes to art supplies. I used to try to save money by using cheap paper, for example, and any monetary savings were far surpassed by wasted time, frustration, etc.

November 14, 2006

Alec Longstreth

Alec's studio.

Comics: PHASE 7, The Dvorak Zine
Making comics since year of: 2000
Art education/schools attended: Oberlin College (Theatre/Computer Science), Pratt Institute (Illustration)


Pencils: Mechanical Pencil (save the trees!) with hard lead 4H or 3H, which erases completely with a white Staedtler drafting eraser. I will sometimes bust out the non-photo blue lead if I am penciling something extremely complex (a 2-color "layers" effect makes things easier to visualize).

Inks: Speedball Superblack India Ink in three containers with varying strength: "weak" (watered down with Higgins india ink) which runs smooth for nibs, normal right out of the bottle for brushes, and SLUDGE (water evaporates out of the ink over time) for filling in black areas with a larger brush. When the weak thickens, I move it to the brush jar, when the brush thickens I move it to the sludge jar.

Brushes: #2 synthetic watercolor brushes--yellow handle (Cornel?) These last the longest for me and are stiff enough that the tips don't get ruined too fast. I use a modified foam cork (from a wine bottle) carved and with a hole through it, to make the brush easier to grip.

Pens: Dip Nibs! I've moved away from the 102 Crow Quill nibs as they are too finicky, demand too much cleaning and often splatter. Instead, I do all of my crosshatching with the Hunt 513EF "mapping" nib. Since most my art is shrunk down, it has the same crowquill feel, only a little thicker, so it moves around a little more easily. B1, B5, B6, C3 speedball nibs for various tasks such as panel borders, lettering, word balloons, etc.

Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph #2 (.6mm) for all sketchbook work as well as lettering on quicker Comics. I also use the biggest one for panel borders when I'm away from my ink jars.

Pentel Japanese Brush Pen - For sketchbook stuff and non-pro illustration work (website stuff, etc). Has cartridges that last
fairly long, but ink turns grey under erasing.

Paper: Strathmore Bristol (yellow cover) Smooth Finish (wooden blocks) for pen & ink nib crosshatching style, Vellum Finish (colored balls) for brush work.

Lettering: More and more my rapidograph, but I still use a B6 nib for my best work that I rule out and everything.

Color: Photoshop

Layout/ Composition: InDesign

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): Rapidograph /Brush Pen

WHITE OUT: I started using those Bic White-Out pens but then moved to little tubes of opaque white gouache. Now I use PRO-WHITE which rules!!! Remember, you can reactivate it with a little water, so just glop some onto a scrap piece of paper or something!

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: Started with ballpoint pens, moved to rapidograph, then to dip nibs, then from 102 crowquills to 513EF mapping nibs, then to brushes. Mostly just trying to find the style and look that felt the best for me.

What tools you'd never use, and why: Ballpoint pens, microns, any kind of marker - NOTHING is as black, or holds up as well as india ink!

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: It doesn't matter WHAT you draw with, as long as it reproduces properly. Do some tests with a scanner or a photocopier and figure out what looks the best and feels the best for you!

November 13, 2006

Bryan Lee O'Malley

Comics: "Scott Pilgrim" series, etc
Making comics since year of: 2001 (professionally)
Art education/schools attended: No art school, and I gave up on university (was taking Film Theory)


Pencils: Col-Erase in various colours. I like light blue and green to draw pages, and tuscan red, indigo, and other dark colours for sketchbook stuff (and thumbnails). I use those foam pencil pillow things to help my grip. I never liked mechanical pencils much because I like a softer lead. The Col-Erase pencils are nice because they're soft, but they don't smudge, plus you don't actually have to erase before you scan.

Inks: My favourite was the Koh-i-noor drawing ink with the yellow label, but lately I've gotten a lot of dud bottles (too watery to use), so I've switched to the Pelikan kind that Hope uses.

Brushes: Series 7 #2, but now I want to try this Raphael 8404 that Jim Rugg is on about...

Pens: I need to learn to ink with nibs one day, but for now I use a lot of crappy pens to fill in little details, like these cheap Pilot tech pens that I buy in bulk at Staples. I also have some various Japanese cartridge brush pens that someone brought me from Japan, but I don't use them too much. My other favourite is the Faber Castell Pitt pen (size S, and the brush pen) which I use for ruling borders and some other stuff.

Paper: Just the usual Strathmore bristol in the yellow pads, smooth.

Lettering: I stopped hand-lettering for the most part because it hurts my wrist, so now I just use Comicraft fonts or whatever. One day I'll get my own font made.

Color: When sketching I often use a Faber Castell Pitt brush pen for a colour tone. I also have become fond of watercolours. Mostly I colour in Photoshop, and I've used Painter once or twice and would like to use it more in the future. I've had my 6x8 Intuous 2 tablet since 2001, and it's pretty indispensable at this point.

Layout/ Composition: I do thumbnails just in pencil in my sketchbook. I used to print out sheets of proper-sized thumbnail templates, but I find it's faster to do it in the sketchbook now, and I can eyeball the page proportions well enough. If I switched to a radically different page format, I might print out some more templates. I do my thumbnails only about an inch and a half high, because I can't stand the idea of drawing them any bigger if I'm just going to redraw them later. I still find that my thumbnails have a disturbing resemblance to the final pages, even down to the scribbled facial expressions.
Check out Scott Pilgrim thumbs.

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): When signing and sketching in books, I exclusively use a Pigma Graphic 1 plus a Faber Castell Pitt colour brush pen for a tone (and using two different colours to sign a book always seems to make people strangely giddy!). For larger sketches I use a black Pitt brush pen or a sharpie or whatever I have around. I also like these Staedtler Triplus pens, which come in some interesting colours.

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: I think when I got serious I started using a brush, because I equated "brush" with "serious". I used really bad, cheap brushes for years, until I got a good one and realized that the bad brushes had been holding me back. I've also been using the Col-Erase pencils since before I got serious, so I guess I haven't really changed my tools all that much.

What tools you'd never use, and why: I don't really like Microns and that type of thing, but for no real reason. Just personal preference. I get mad at people for using them, though.

November 10, 2006

Neil Swaab

Comics: Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles
Website: (warning: Neil's comics are hilarious but possibly the most offensive comics being syndicated today. Not recommended if you're easily offended. -MK)
Making comics since year of: 1994 (professionally since 2000)
Art education/schools attended: Syracuse University, BFA in Illustration


Pencils: Mechanical pencils with .5 HB lead. I don't usually draw at very large sizes so I can get more detail in with sharp, thin leads. I also don't like to waste time sharpening.

Inks: Rarely use. If so, black india ink (no loyalty to any brand).

Brushes: Faber-Castell PITT Brush pens. These things are great. No dipping necessary. Great, sharp black. Nice tip and variation of line. I find that I need to get a new one every couple of illustrations or big comic pages though because the tip tends to get a little screwed up where I can't get the thin, sharp lines from it that I could when it was brand new.

Pens: Micron pens, Staedtler pigment liners, Zig writers. No dipping necessary and they're nice and sharp black. I can also get some line variation out of them by pressing really hardly or really lightly and flicking them off the page quickly.

Paper: Strathmore Bristol plate with smooth finish (300 series). Also xeroxes and prinouts on regular printer/xerox paper. This is just what I've found has worked the best for me, is cheapest, and also light enough to put on a light table in case I have to trace anything.

Lettering: Micron pen and sometimes Zig writer for all the same reasons above. Also, I made a font of my handwriting and sometimes on occasion I will use that if I'm in a huge rush and can't hand-letter or if I'm working digitally.

Color: Photoshop. Photoshop kicks ass and I've got a system down with how I color that lets me work quickly, make changes easily, and screw around with color a lot until I feel it's right. Working digitally also lets me work right up to the deadline because then I can just email over the file instead of having to worry about Fed Ex.

Layout/ Composition: Usually just in my head since I do strips and not full comics. If I need to sketch something out, usually in the margins of my typed manuscript for the comic. I don't usually sketch out a comic for more than a couple minutes anyway so whatever I do it on is no big deal.

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): Usually just pencil.

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: Pencils have always been mechanical .5 because I like them. Inks have been everything from crow quills to brushes to what I use now. I interned for an animation studio for a summer in college and was influenced by their use of not varying line quality and got into using Micron pens from that. Now, I mix it up a little more as I miss the variation of line.

What tools you'd never use, and why: Anything with acid because it will eat away your paper and turn your art yellow!

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: It's not the tools, but the thought behind you art. You can make great art with a stick, mud, and paper. Learn to make good, meaningful art first and then the tools will just help to refine and polish your image.

Neil's giving a reading at The Strand bookstore in NYC on Monday, November 13th from 7-8:30 pm. It's the Smyles and Fish Pocket Edition Launch Party with Jonathan Ames, Arthur Nersesian, Mike Topp, and the Smyles and Fish gang. Reception afterward at VON (3 Bleeker St.) 9-Whenever.

November 9, 2006

Shannon Wheeler

Shannon Wheeler's studio.

I grew up in Berkeley CA where I also went to college. Many years later I graduated with a degree in Architecture. I moved to Austin, TX then to Portland, OR.

Comics: Calaboose, Tooth & Justice, Gag Reflex, Too Much Coffee Man, How to Be Happy and Postage Stamp Funnies.
Making comics since year of: 1988
Art education/schools attended: UC Berkeley. Architecture.


I use a Hunt 108 (dip pen) with FW ink on Pentallic Paper for Pens. I used to use technical pens over non-repro blue pencils. The other cartoonists at the Daily Texan (notably Chris Ware, Robert Rodriquez, and Walt Holcombe) were all using dip pens. They used peer pressure to make me switch to a dip pen.

The hunt 108 is one of the more flexible nibs which allows for a brush stroke quality in the line. You can go from thin to think in nothing flat. The pen nib offers more resistance than a brush and it's easier to maintain. Fine lines and detail work are easier with a nib than a brush. I still use a technical pen for lettering, cross hatching, and some background work.

The ink is very thick. I have to bake my drawings before I use the eraser. 170ยบ for 10 minutes usually does the trick. I don't use a non-repro blue anymore since I'm scanning instead of making stats (like a photocopy but on nice paper).

I like the pentallic paper because it's thin enough to use with a light table. For the cartoons I'm doing for the Onion I use real illustration board. The drawings are small and it's much nicer to draw on.

For my freelance illustrations (I draw a lot for the Idiot Guide book series) I'll draw on cheap paper with whatever is handy, I'll scan the sketch and get the approval from an emailed jpg. I'll use the rough with a light table and the Pentallic paper to ink directly. I don't have to redraw it, and I don't have to erase pencils.

I used to letter everything by hand. Recently I've been using a comiccraft ShannonWheeler Font on the computer. I've just started some new comic book projects and I'm going back to doing everything by hand. I think hand lettering looks better. I especially hate the computer drawn balloons.

I never use cheap pens for final art. Felt tip pens usually have a cheap ink that will fade/bleed/and leak. I'll never make a photocopy and call it a 'print.'

Treat your tools with respect. Use good paper, ink, etc. People don't hesitate spending $7 on a six-pack of beer, spend some money on art supplies.

Shannon's study.

November 8, 2006

Matthew Bernier

Comics: Out of Water
Art education/schools attended: SVA


Pencils: I hate sharpening pencils, and I hate reloading pencils. My solution? Paper mate Sharpwriters. Disposable yellow plastic pieces of crap, they have #2 HB lead and a pleasant springiness. I bite the eraser off when I start a new one, because the eraser is useless, and I chew on the back of all my tools.

Pens: for finnished artwork I always use ink, and my favorite nib is the T3-G japanese nibs. I'd tell you what company, but it's in Japanese. They come in beige little packets. These gleaming steel wonders can take a beating for months and still produce a near-crowquill thin line. Dave Sim says he goes throgh one hunt nib a page. He should try one of these.

Brushes: Windsor and Newton Series 7, #3. A warning, though: Windsor and Newton makes the best brush in the world- once and awhile. You need to test them in the store. Get a new brush good and wet- really soak it- and then rap the middle against your wrist. The brush should immidiately, and IN ONE TRY, come to a perfect point, with no splaying hairs. If it doesn't, don't buy it. You'll be sorry. Splaying brush hairs are like hydras- you cut one off and two that weren't there appear. Eventually you have no brush. Make sure you get a good one the first time.

Paper: I've teken a liking to hot press watercolor paper, because it can take more of a beating than bristol. I abuse pen nibs and paper badly. I make rain effects by dragging a razor blade across a drawing. Bristol will die if treated like this. I like Arches, but there's lots of good kinds.

Inks: This is where I get insane. Pens leave a thicker trail of ink than a brush. This means that with the same ink, a pen line will take about four or five times, or lobger, to dry than a brush line. So, I don't use the same ink. I use thin, quick-drying inks in Pens, which would clog and cripple a brush, and wet, thick inks in brushes. But it gets worse. Quick hatching and slow linework also have very different drying times. I have seperate inks for those. (My hatching ink is also runnier, so it won't skip if I move too fast.) And with brushed, the darkness and thickness needed to properly make a line is different from that needed to make a solid, scanner-proof black. Drybrushing also needs a good black, or else it will read as greytone in the scanner, and I'll spend a half hour in photoshop making it look black without losing any of it. Different inks? Right again. I letter with a bamboo skewer. Some inks don't flow off it. If you guessed I have a ink for that, you've caught on. (Actually, it's the same as my hatchink ink.) Oh, and I forgot panel borders. I have another, super-quick drying ink for that, which would mess up any other tool but my ruling pen, but which dries near-instantaneously, saving me a good ten minutes per page.

I told you I was nuts. My respective inks are:

Pen hatching: Black star High Carb/ new F&W/ deleter, wichever's available.
Slow Pen lines: Old F&W, or old Black Star High Carb.
Brush lines: Black star High Carb or Deleter
Big black areas/dry brushing: F&W which has been allowed to sit open for two days, until it takes on a thick, sauce-like texture. This will make your blacks ABSOLUTE black, but don't let this sit in a brush, it will kill it.
Bamboo skewer: only the Black Star High carb will flow off it. Other inks stop.
Ruling Pen: Doc Marten's Bambay Black. This is the fastest drying ink I've ever seen, so it's terrible in any other tool. It's a pen clogger and a brush killer.

Oh, and I just love Deleter White.

Color: I don't do much, but when I do it's photoshop.

Layout/Composition: I do my thumbnailing super-small, no more than two inches high. If a page doesn't make sense at that size, it won't make any sense large, either. I always draw panel borders first, then dialogue balloons rought, then super-rough layouyts, then finnished balloons/lettering, then the rough pencils, then the finnished pencils. then inks. When I ink I go in a similar order to the pencilling: Borders first always, then lettering, then balloons, then drawings. Because the page was planned around the balloons, they never look out of place, or like afterthoughts. They blend into the drawing more and participate in the storytelling.

Convention sketches: Pentel Pocket Brush, Some felt tip pen. Same in sketchbooks.

Tool timeline: I recall when I was very young I'd use a pencil like a marine trying to run someone throgh with a bayonet. I would leave dark carbon gouges in the paper. Later I seemed to like shitty black ballpoints, because no one taught me how to use dip pens properly and I couldn't make them do what I wanted. Sometime in High school I switched to drawing straight to ink, never pencilling. My composition got pretty lousy, but my inking got...a little better. In college I finally learned how to use a pen and a brush competently. I have no preference for either. I switch between them depending on the effect I want. I love my ruling pen best of all my tools, becasue it's an antique implement that hardly anyone uses, and because it eliminated all markers from my toolbox.

Tools I'd never use: Sharpies, because I used to use them and those pages are deteriorating like Dorian Grey's painting. Markers in general, because I hate their feel on the paper. Rapidographs, because they scare the crap out of me. Higgins ink. Could they put a thinner neck on those bottle, by the way? It's not hard enough to reach their shitty ink.

Advice: Don't become like me. No, really though, good tools do help. It's true that a great artist can make good comics with the worst pen available. But- I could never get the exact kind of line I get out of a good brush with a bad brush. Bad tools slow you down, break your rhythm, harsh your mellow. I pay good money so that I can know for certain that any problems I have at the drawing table are my fault and not my tool's.

November 7, 2006

Debbie Huey

Comics: "Bumperboy Loses His Marbles", "Bumperboy and the Loud, Loud Mountain"
Making comics since year of: 2002
Art education/schools attended: University of California, Santa Cruz, BFA


Pencils: I use Sanford Turquoise Drawing Leads in Non-Photo Blue and a nifty lead holder that I guess a lot of draftsman use. It is sort of a cross between a mechanical pencil and a regular pencil in that you use lead refills, but also requires sharpening. Lately, I've also begun to go back to using Col-Erase pencils for sketches and such.

Inks: Right now, I am using Speedball Super Black Ink. I used to use Higgins Black Magic for quite some time, but soon got fed up with the inconsistency of its quality. Speedball Super Black seems to have the right thickness and blackness that suits my taste very well.

Brushes: I've just started to use brushes more and more, so it is still a somewhat new tool for me. But ever since I got my Windsor Newton Series 7 #2, I am completely hooked. This brush is slowly becoming my best friend. I have yet to ink a full comic with it, but am eager to do just that very soon.

Pens: I have a number of nibs that I like to draw with, but my favorite is the Gilotte 170. It isn't too stiff and it isn't too flexible...just right! I also use a number of lettering nibs that have a flat and broad tip. I use these for drawing panel borders. When I am not at my drawing desk, I always carry around my Pentel Pocket Brush. This pen is great because the ink is waterproof, and it is also refillable. Definitely one of my favorite pens. I also like to carry around my Pitt artist pen variety pack that includes nice regular pens and a brush pen. I like their regular pens a lot, but I'll use the Pentel Pocket Brush pen over the Pitt brush pen.

Paper: I use Strathmore 400 Series Bristol (brown cover) that comes in a pad. I have been switching between the vellum and smooth finish but I think I like the vellum more. I have also been switching between 9x12" and 11x14" sizes, but at the moment I've settled on the 11x14".

Lettering: I have always hand-lettered my comics but I believe my arm is hating me for it. I might be switching to computer lettering in the future just to save my arm, but I would rather have a font of my own handwriting before I take the plunge.

Color: I color my comics on the computer. It's easy, quicker, and helpful when I keep changing my mind with color choices. I use a Wacom Intuos 2 tablet for all my computer work.

Layout/ Composition: The beginning stages of my comics always begin with rough ideas in my sketchbook. Once I have a general idea of how the story will go, I will script out all the dialogue. Then I will proceed into drawing thumbnails of each page. After the thumbnails are finalized, I begin to pencil and ink my pages. My layouts tend to consist of a pretty basic grid system.

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): I use my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for all convention sketches.

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: I use to often rely on my vector art because I wasn't as confident in my manual line quality. Slowly I would become more confident in my line work with the dip pens. Now, I am using brushes more because they help me with a line quality that I feel is richer, and they are quicker to use. Brushes also seem to put less stress on my arm that can easily get fatigued.

What tools you'd never use, and why: I will never use bad, watery ink ever again. I also won't use any kind of non-archival pen, such as Sharpies, that will change the image over time.

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: Be aware of how some tools may wear out your drawing arm/hand more than others. If your arm or hand begins to feel funny or a little numb from drawing, STOP. Take a break, and stretch everything out. It is a scary feeling when you realize what would happen if your arm gets messed up!

November 5, 2006

Ryan Dunlavey

Comics: Action Philosophers, Tommy Atomic, Prophecy Anthology, Royal Flush, Wizard, Toyfare, Disney Adventures, lots of minis.
Making comics since year of: just for fun since 1989, seriously since 1998
Art education/schools attended:
BFA in Illustration - Syracuse University
Animation classes - School of Visual Arts


Pencils: Col-erase pencils, Red and Blue. I started using these after I took some animation classes, they’re awesome, and draw well on just about any kind of paper from expensive bristol to cheap copier paper. I’m pretty heavy-handed and when I use regular graphite pencils it tends to smear all over the place. Col-erase are waxyier and you can build up lines over and over without having to erase or destroying the paper. A lot of animators use them – I love ‘em. I’m not a big fan of mechanical pencils, I like wood - I've got a Panasonic electric pencil sharpener that's 15 years old now and still works great.

Inks: I mostly use brush pens and markers, but I always try to get ones with permanent black ink - not water based. Japanese markers seem to have the best ink. When I use a real brush I use this Chinese calligraphy ink that’s really cheap and comes in big bottles. It’s made to be watered down, but I use it strait out of the bottle – it goes down very smooth and dark and it NEVER ruins my brushes.

Brushes: I mostly use brush pens – I’ve tried all the brands and my favorite is the farber-Castell PITT artist pen, it’s the closest I’ve found to a real brush and the ink is nice and dark. When I ink with a real brush I use a cheap synthetic’ #2 size and I save the expensive sable brushes for watercolors and dyes. I also have an old toothbrush that I use for spattering and other effects.

Pens: I only use markers. I like to switch up the brands I use from time to time - right now I use Alvin Penstix markers - .05mm and .03mm weights mostly. I like these for drawing a lot more than other markers because the ink is permanent and won’t “grey out” when you erase the pencil lines later, and the pen tip is flexible nylon so you can vary the line weight. They last a long time too. Copic multiliners are pretty good too, it’s a Japanese felt-tipped marker. I avoid those stupid Microns pens at all costs – the ink in them sucks and runs out too fast and they’re uncomfortable to hold. My tools are not glamorous or exotic. I don’t use dip pens or crow quills because I’m a total slob and always put down the line too thick and totally smear them. Markers are also easier to hold than a crow quill (no hand cramps!) and very low maintenance – no clean-up time, just snap the cap back on when you’re done.
To fill in large black areas I use chisel-tip Sharpie markers. I also use this thing "Sanford Peel-Off China Marker" to make rough textures and tones – it’s like a big black crayon pencil - it's perfect for drawing smoke clouds and rough rock, pretty cool.

Paper: Strathmore Smooth Bristol, 11 x 14 is pretty much all I use - it comes in pads of 20. I cut it in half when drawing mini comics and web comics, but I use the full page when drawing for print. I also use this stuff called "Paris bleedproof paper" that comes in big pads. I've only seen it at Pearl Paint here in New York City – it’s slightly thinner and slicker than Bristol and a LOT cheaper – the problem is that you can only really use markers on it - bottle ink will smear or just not get absorbed by the paper. Once in a while I have to draw traditional comic book size (11 x 17), for that I use a brand called Eon – - best comic book paper I’ve ever seen, and cheap too!

Lettering: I do all my lettering on the computer after I scan in the artwork. I actually prefer the look of my hand-lettering but I don’t do it because it takes too long and I always mis-spell words. I’m looking into getting a font made of my hand-lettering.

Color: Always on the computer – Photoshop - gives me way more control over color choices, saturation, etc. On the rare occasions when I do traditional color art I use a bastard combo of colored markers, watercolors, dyes, colored pencils and Chinese ink – I guess you would call it “mixed media”.

Layout/ Composition: I always have a full script, even the stuff I write myself, and I do thumbnail layouts right on the script pages then do the layout really loosely on the full-sized pages before I start full pencils. I draw in word balloons lightly in pencil so I know I have enough room when I letter it in the computer later, and so I don’t waste time drawing in unnecessary details that the lettering is going to cover up anyways.

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): I hate drawing at cons. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my convention drawings will never look as good as the stuff I do at home, so I only do sketches in Sharpie markers or with a col-erase pencil – in other words, as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes:
1989: Non-photo blue pencils, Speedball dip pens, brushes, bristol paper, sheets of zip-a-tone. Speedball pens hurt my hand like a mofo but I stuck with them anyways because I'm a moron. I was doing a lot of mixed-media painting at this point.
1994: Learned photoshop, use it for coloring and half-tone effects.
1998: Switched from crow quills to markers, production speed and enjoyment of drawing increased dramatically. Started pursuing cartooning seriously and getting more freelance work – not a coincidence. Stopped painting.
1999: Bought my first Wacom tablet, coloring skill increases dramaticly.
2004: I figured out how to “ink” using a Wacom tablet, only use it for small illustrations and corrections.
2006: Started using brush pens more, makes art look better and easier to use than a traditional brush.

What tools you'd never use, and why: Rapidograph tech pens – no variable line weight, hard to keep clean, just an all-around pain in the ass. I don’t sketch or draw on the computer because I find it takes longer and is much harder than doing it the old-fashioned way. Your mileage may vary.

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: Always look for new drawing tools that make things easier or faster or better looking than what you’re already doing. Use a Wacom tablet if you’re going to make art on the computer, even just coloring.

November 3, 2006

Liz Baillie

Comics: My Brain Hurts
Making comics since year of: I've been drawing comics since I was a little kid, but I've only been drawing them in any serious way with publication as the intent since 1998.
Art education/schools attended: BFA, School of Visual Arts class of 2002 (cartooning major).


Pencils: 0.5mm mechanical pencils with HB lead. I hate taking time to sharpen pencils over and over and mechanical pencils give a consistent line without needing to be sharpened, so everybody wins!

Inks: PH Martin's TECH ink is the greatest but also hardest to find ink. A close second is PH Martin's Black Star Hi-Carb, which is more matte and less shiny, but I like shiny things. Both can be very difficult to find, but worth the hunt.

Brushes: I don't use any traditional brushes at all, but I do use Faber-Castell PITT brush pens like they are going out of style. I'm just not a brush person.

Pens: I mostly use these Japanese nibs I get from New York Central Art Supply and the label is only in Japanese so I don't know what they're called. They are almost exactly the same as these other nibs I also use made by Deleter. They're the equivalent of Deleter brand maru pens and I also occasionally use the Deleter G-pens for fatter lines. The maru nibs are a lot like the traditional Hunt 102 nibs but they are a far higher quality and unlike the Hunt nibs, I have never encountered a problem with a random faulty nib. If you Google "deleter nib" you'll come up with a bunch of sites that sell them.

Paper: Using the pen nibs I use, I've found that a bristol vellum works well for me. I work on 9"x12" paper and it is eventually reduced to 5" x8.5".

Lettering: Faber-Castell PITT pens size "F". I prefer PITT pens to Microns because they do not bleed as much and the quality of the ink is much blacker and richer.

Color: I haven't done much color, but when I have it's been in Photoshop. I've also done a bit of watercolor and when I've done that, I've also used Caren D'Ache watercolor pencils in combination with the actual watercolor, for added texture. When I do that I use watercolor paper because bristol doesn't take the paint very well.

Layout/ Composition: When I am putting together a story, I always start with an outline that includes the beginning, middle, and end, along with any other pertinent details. From there, I write up a script and try to figure out how much information will be on each page so I know how many pages it will be. Then I do thumbnails in my sketchbook and when I finish those, I move on to the pencils and inks.

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): Always Faber-Castell PITT brush pens and/or regular PITT pens in sizes S,F and M.

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: The first comic I ever drew with the intent to publish it was (believe it or not) blue ballpoint pen on looseleaf paper. When I learned about Hunt 102 nibs I got some of those along with some Higgins ink, because both are the easiest to find and I didn't know any better. I had horrible luck with the Hunt 102 nibs (they would catch and splatter and other terrible things) but I kept plugging away with them until I gave up and submitted to Microns and Rapidographs. The Rapidos were too annoying to clean and the Microns bled and looked terrible, so I started using the Japanese nibs on a teacher's recommendation. I was never happy with the Higgins ink and experimenting with different inks led me to my love of PH Martin's TECH, which is a very rich, black ink that still runs through my nibs fairly well. I also use the aforementioned PITT brush pens for filling in blacks and for fatter lines on closeups. I started using those when I was experimenting with non-nib pens and wanted to get away from Microns and I've been very happy with them.

What tools you'd never use, and why: Sharpies (they are highly acidic and will ruin your paper over time, not to mention the black *will* fade significantly over not too much time and turn brownish. In short, they are totally non-archival. Also the line quality with a Sharpie is horrendous.), Microns (similar reasons, plus they bleed), Hunt 102 nibs (call me a heretic, but I've tasted the fruits of paradise with Deleter nibs and I'm never going back). Higgins ink (it's crap, plain and simple), any non-waterproof ink (you never know when water will suddenly spill all over your pages you worked on for days).

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: You may not think your pages are worth saving now, but you never know what the future will hold. Take very good care of all your original comic pages and try to use archival tools whenever possible. And don't cut up your original art for any reason (I made that mistake once... it's a long story, don't do it).

November 2, 2006

Grant Reynolds

Comics: Smaller Parts, To the Mouth of the Source, Orangedirt
Making comics since year of: At least since around 4th grade, sooo... 1989-ish. But I would say that I actually started self-publishing them as zines around 1995, and really started to take them seriously around 1998.
Art education/schools attended: School of the Art Institute of Chicago


Pencils: Non-photo blue. I've heard that there are mechanical blue pencils, but I have yet to find them. Well, actually, I haven't really looked, but they sound wonderful. My friend Ezra supposedly uses them.

Inks: As in brush and ink? No, not really.

Brushes: Brush pens sometimes, just to fill in large areas, or to sometimes get a rougher edge on something, but never really brushes.

Pens: I only use Alvin Penstix No. 3015-EF 0.5 mm. I discovered them quite by accident when cleaning out lockers at my school. At first Pearl Paints was the only place that carried them in Chicago, but they were always out of stock and refused to order them for me or tell me when they would be getting more in stock, so I ended up ordering them online from Dick Blick. Then a Blick store opened up downtown, and they always have them, so that's where I go now.

Paper: Vellum bristol cause it has a bit of a tooth, and I've found that the smooth kind will smudge a little with the pens I use. No particular brand, just whatever fits my budget.

Lettering: This is always on a case-by-case basis. I love to use cursive when I can, which is an influence from my Grandma Benjamin, whose birthday cards to me are so beautifully handwritten. Large blocks of text, like say for the liners of a CD are pretty awful to do cause I get hand cramps, but otherwise I feel that I have a pretty clean style. Sometimes I use different fonts, or just upper and lower case, to differentiate between characters' word balloons. I used to worry a lot about whether it was clean enough, or too sloppy, but after seeing some of Chris Ware's huge original pages in a gallery I realized that his hand was a little shakey, too, but that it still came out looking nice. Now I don't really worry about it at all.

Color: Color is something I'm still getting used to. I've always just sort of worked in b&w, but the more illustration and freelance work I do the more I have to dabble with color, because that's what people always want, so it's definitely something I know that I need to work on. It's very difficult to color my work on a computer because of all the detail and my hatching technique. Also, I often leave lines with little breaks in them, so whenever I try to fill in areas with color on the computer they leak out into other areas. It takes a lot of time, but the end result is always worth it.

Layout/ Composition: This is all very intuitive, so I'm not too sure what to say. I guess that lately I'm very drawn to symmetricality, so that's something that I'm very consciously playing with. Also, I'm extremely influenced by the Chicago Imagists/Hairy Who movement, and have subsequently inherited their horror vacui, which is a kind of fear of empty spaces. Basically, I'm always filling in every little area. Sometimes drawing a sparse panel is very difficult for me. Artists like Jordan Crane amaze me with their sparse yet affective panels.

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): I don't do too many sketches for comics, because I feel like it bloats the process of making them, although I do fill up my sketchbooks with non-comics related material rather quickly. Probably about one sketchbook every two months. I think I'm around like, seventy-five or so right now. Sometimes though sketches for a comic are a must, so in that case I usually just do a quick one that's really bad, that gives me all the details and dimensions I need. I really don't like redrawing something, because usually I get it the way I want it the first time.

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: I started out using a ball point pen and standard copy paper, then made the traditional evolutionary leaps that many seem to make to those V5 pens and Microns. But I'm very hard on my materials, so I would always begin to have problems, like the V5 would start getting leaky, or the Micron's tip would get bent. The Alvin Penstix seem to take my abuse rather well, but still I go through them pretty quickly so I have to buy them in bulk.

What tools you'd never use, and why: I'm not a big fan of computer graphics in comics. Like light spots and making things gleam. It's really quite like cheating, because if you look at the actual line work on a lot of the new superhero comics they're very badly drawn. It's just all the fancy computer magic that make the kids go ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh.’

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: When you're just getting started it's more important to make as much work as possible than to worry about whether that work is good or not. What I mean is, all the stuff like style and storytelling will figure itself out in time. The more you just do it the more quickly and easier it will come. Experience, more than anything else, is going to make you better -- not what pens or paper or other materials you're using. And when you're finished with it don't put it in your desk, put it out. It's important to get feedback, and to see your comic as a finished product. Put it somewhere like Quimby's Comics to sell. It'll make you feel good, y'know.

November 1, 2006

Hope Larson

Hope's studio

Comics: Salamander Dream, Gray Horses
Making comics since year of: 2003
Art education/schools attended: Rochester Institute of Technology, School of the Art Institute of Chicago


Pencils: All non-photo-blue, all the time. I never erase my pencils.

Inks: I'm married to my Pelikan Drawing Ink A (yellow label).

Brushes: Windsor & Newton Series 7 #2. I've tried a variety of synthetics, but none of them cut it.

Pens: Deleter G-pen nibs (steel Japanese nibs that give a brush-like line) and a variety of felt-tips for touchup. I also use a whiteout pen for corrections, of which there are many.

Paper: Smooth bristol board.

Lettering: For my next book I'm farming this out to a friend who's a whiz at hand lettering. Not my strength!

Color: A variety of colored inks, watercolors, or just Photoshop.

Layout/ Composition: I draw thumbnails on scrap with whatever pen or pencil is nearby.

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): I had a bad experience with spilled ink at a con, so now I use a Pentel brush pen for cons.

Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes:
2003: mostly vector art (Adobe Illustrator), and a synthetic liner brush for real media
2004: some vector, then a Series 7 #1
2005: Series 7 #2
2006: Series 7 #2 and G-pen nibs

What tools you'd never use, and why: I'm bad with fixed-weight pens.

And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: Never throw anything away. Tools that used to drive you crazy may prove ideal later on!

October 31, 2006

Jim Rugg

Comics: Street Angel, Outfitters, Handy Dandy Suicide Guide, anthologies – True Porn 1 and 2, Orchid 2, Meathaus 8, Typewriter, Porn Hounds, Project: Superior, Project: Romantic, SPX 2005
Making comics since year of: 1999
Art education/schools attended: Indiana University of Pennsylvania (BFA, graphic design/painting)
Pencils: I use a lead holder (I prefer how these feel compared with a mechanical pencil) and usually HB lead (or whatever I have handy 2H, 2B). Sometimes I use non-repro blue lead (not often though). I don’t care much about lead. I want something that isn’t too soft (to minimize smudging) and isn’t too hard (so I don’t make impressions in the paper).

Inks: For brushes I use Dr. Martin’s Tech Ink. I order big bottles of this stuff from some place in Tampa. I’ve never used Dr. Martin’s Black Star hi-carb ink, but I hear that stuff is pretty good. One of my friends prefers it to the Tech Ink. For pen nibs I use Higgins Engrossing ink. It’s a little thinner than the Dr. Martin’s and flows pretty well from a Hunt 102 nib.

Brushes: My favorite brushes are Raphael 8404s. I’ve tried other sable brushes including the much-heralded Windsor-Newton series 7s, and nothing I’ve tried compares to the snap and quality of the Raphael 8404s. I have a few sizes, but mostly use a size 4 for everything. A tip for using a brush, load the tuft with ink, then lightly drag the brush on a napkin, paper towel, or piece of scrap paper or cardboard. As you drag the brush, twirl it slightly and pull it away from the paper. You should have a sharp point on a brush loaded with ink.

Pens: Mostly a Hunt102. I’ll use rapidographs for panel borders sometimes. I’ve also tried lots of various pen nibs with varying results. The 102 is pretty good for lines of varying weight, cross hatching, whatever.

Paper: Strathmore Bristol Smooth. This is sold in pads of 20 sheets or so. It’s cheap paper but its surface works well with pen and brush. The thing I look for in paper is a smooth surface (hot press, plate finish). Surface is really a matter of taste so it’s a good idea to try a variety of papers and see what works.

Lettering: Speedball C-6 nib, Hunt 102, Hunt 107, Microns; I also use an Ames lettering guide.

Color: I tend to color very little. When I do, I usually color on the computer (Photoshop). Occasionally I’ll use a cheap watercolor set, color pencils, or scanned samples of something (for texture or color).

Layout/ Composition: I often do thumbnails directly on script pages or whatever is handy – scraps of paper, notebook, sketchbook. I don’t always do page breakdowns, but I should. I tend to work on layouts much smaller than they will be drawn or printed.

Convention Sketches (when different from illustrations done in the studio): I suck hard at convention sketching.
Tool timeline, starting from when you began drawing in any serious way until the present, and what spurred the changes: I used to use cheap nylon brushes for inking. I did this for a few years. I can’t remember what prompted the upgrade to sable brushes, but this started around Street Angel 3. I don’t remember when I started using pen nibs either. But a funny story about nibs. Hunt102s are really cheaply made. As a result like 1 out of 3 are garbage. I didn’t know this when I started monkeying with them. So I bought a 102 because I read that’s what someone used (Todd McFarlane?). I couldn’t use it. It kept snagging on the paper and ink would just splatter everywhere. I was frustrated and just gave up on pens for a couple years and only used brushes. Now I like pens a lot. So don’t get frustrated if a nib doesn’t agree with you. It also helps to have paper with a smooth surface. If the paper has a rough surface, fibers can get caught in the nib and then horrible things happen. I think I went back to pens after seeing work by Sammy Harkham, Anders Nelson, and Dave Cooper and falling in love with their pen lines.
What tools you'd never use, and why: Regular Higgins ink is terrible. Very inconsistent.
And lastly, any advice you'd like to give: Don’t get too hung up on tools. There’s no Holy Grail drawing tool that will make a bad drawing look good. Use whatever is handy, whatever you can afford, or whatever you just like to draw with. 
Disclaimer: There is no absolute one way to draw comics, and probably every individual person is going to do things their own way. I've met people who pencil with ballpoint pens, and their work looks beautiful at the end of the day. But then I've also met people who have only ever tried Microns and don't even try different brands of pens to see what the difference is. So half to be helpful, half to satisfy my own curiosity, here's a blog about stuff people use to make comics. I'm putting up one survey every weekday until I run out.
-MK Reed