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Updated September 21, 1997
Some of us actually don't fall asleep when a comic artist
starts talking about what kind of ink he uses, or how he gets those fine
lines, or how he plans his page breakdowns. If you're one of those,
who actually enjoys such sutff, then this page is for you.
Let's talk tools!
My section on books of use to the creator of comics was getting unwieldy,
moved it. C'mon back when you're done!
The best advice I ever got on pencilling seems to be little-used
by the industry as a whole, and I have no
use blue pencil for everything. I use Col-Erase
brand erasable 1298 non-photo blue pencil for my rough sketches,
for tight final pencils I use Illustrator brand blue Mirage 1360
XX-Fine Pt non-repro blue marker. That way, you can erase the
if you wish, or not... but by the time you're ready to ink,
you never need to erase anything! No more
worrying about ink smearing or graying down. I never use a black
pencil or an eraser anymore: what a relief!
Another great thing about Illustrator Mirage XX-Fine Pt markers is that
they fit into the holes of an
Ames lettering guide!
So you can rule your lettering lines in non-repro blue and not have
to erase them either!
Note: I've heard unconfirmed rumours that the
Illustrator Mirage 1360 is no longer being made.
[Yikes!!] And my supply is getting
dangerously low, too... if you see some, grab 'em!
Update: I've found a workable substitute for
the Illustrator Mirage 1360! [Go me!!] I have to credit the good folks at
Wyndham Art Supplies for not only keeping
in stock for me , but also hipping me to
Staedtler Mars Special 12 #0.5 non-photo blue technical pencil
leads! These leads are even finer than the Mirage, so they fit
into an Ames guide with ease! And, while not all non-photo blues are
created equal, I'm pleased to report that the Staedtler leads are especially
However, you do have to buy a mechanical pencil that can
hold fine #0.5 leads (I'm using a Staedtler GT 0.5), but this is a one-time
expense of two or three bux, so not a huge problem... I still
recommend the Mirage, though, if you can find it, cuz its point doesn't break --
the potential downside of mechanical pencils.
Pens and Ink
Inking with a brush is still the mark of a real pro... (guess
that counts me out!). There are pens that will
get you that same smooth, flexible line that you get from a brush: a
lot of guys use the Gillott 170, 290, or 1290 nibs. All
of them are tough nibs to control, but easier than a brush and well
worth the effort. I, however, am still working on them.
Furthermore, word has it that the Gillott nibs are less well-distributed
in North America than they used to be: many stores no longer carry them,
even if they want to. But the good folks at
run an efficient and friendly mail-order business that provides Gillotts
as well as tons o' other sutff. Tell 'em I sent ya!
I picked up something else highly recommended
for those of us who "aren't man enough to handle a brush" but still want that
fluid line: check out the amazing Staedtler Mars Graphic 3000 Duo
marker! This is a two-headed jobbie: one end is a regular, firm-tip,
fine-ish-but-not-too, fibre tip marker, the other is a long, sharp,
incredibly flexible marker tip that makes a line indistinguishable
from a brush! Micro-thin hairlines, half-inch fat swatches, and everything
in between! It's like a brush whose point can't split on ya, and never needs
dipping or cleaning.
I've tried other faux-brush-tip markers, but nothing that compares to
this one. Too soon for me to say how long the tip holds up before wearing out,
and granted you are kinda stuck using Staedtler's ink [like it or not],
but at three bucks or less for one o' these babies, it's worth a look...
Everything I've ever had published was inked with yer basic
crowquill: in my case, a Hunt 102. When it's new, the 102 is
a bit scratchy and can make lines too fine for repro. However, they
break in quickly and thereafter are smooth to work with,
and more flexible than you might think at first. Really easy to
Jaime Hernandez has said in an interview that he uses a
Hunt 22EF nib. I've tried it, and found it so stiff it was like
inking with a stick. Maybe I didn't break it in long enough? Anyway,
if you admire Jaime's inking, you might wanna try it....
Like Jaime, I tend to use
Hunt Speedball Super Black ink,
but have also found
Pelikan to be
Up until now, I haven't mentioned any particular brand of white-out
for corrections, white lines on black ink, etc. Mainly because I couldn't
find a brand I'd particularly recommend. Most opaque whites are either
a) not opaque, requiring several layers -- which is pretty
darn hard to do with a fine line! -- or b) fussy, messy, and hard to
control -- too thick, won't co-operate with a pen or brush, requires thinning
with special liquid, blah blah blah.
But now our lives have been blessed with the BIC Wite-Out
correction pen! I just got this and can't believe it. This thing has a metal
ball-nib for uniform line thickness, and a white fluid flows out like fresh
Liquid Paper. Unlike Liquid Paper, though, this sutff
comes out 100% opaque and stays that way when it dries!
One small warning: the fluid flows a little faster than might be expected, so
you get a line a bit thicker than the nib looks like. But that line is
[as I said] truly opaque white, dries pretty quick, and it's as easy to control
as a ballpoint!
Rule #1 with paper is: find something you like and stick with
Rule #2 is: a lotta the time you can't follow Rule #1. I
tend to draw on cheap but perfectly acceptable white bristol
you can find in office supply stores or even drugstores for 99 cents
a sheet or less. Trouble is, office supply stores and drugstores
are none too particular about always stocking the same brand of
something as "irrelevant" as bristol. You can buy from the same place
for ages, only to find that one day they suddenly have a new kind of
bristol that clogs your pen with fibers and turns every line
you draw into a blurry hairy mess. Well, what can ya do? Look
elsewhere, and when you find a bristol you really like, buy up
a big batch of it while they still have it!
Of course, the pros buy brand-name bristol (most often they
Strathmore), so they always know what they're getting.
I've used Strathmore bristol, and I personally find it a lot like
renting a limo: it's obvious you're with top-of-the-line quality,
and you feel pampered, and everything is smooth and perfect... but
who can afford to do it all the time? It's important to bear in
mind that you can buy bristol much cheaper than Strathmore
that is every bit as good to draw on, and gives you finished art
that's [here's that phrase again] perfectly acceptable. Whoever reads
your printed comic will not be able to tell what kind of
bristol you drew on, as long as you don't use hairy-line crap, okay?
Update: A number of you have written in saying
that Strathmore isn't all that expensive, but everywhere I ever saw it up
here it was like seven bucks a sheet [22 by 28]. Well, recently a few stores
in my region have started stocking Strathmore bristol in 11 by 14 pads, which
I'd heard of but never seen -- 20 sheets for $10 and change. Do the math,
that works out to about two bucks per 22 by 28 instead of seven bucks.
Note, however, that the same store still sells a sheet of 22 by 28
Strathmore for seven bucks! [??!!??]
So: depending on your luck, Strathmore may be an
affordable and superb-quality bristol, or it may only be available
at exorbitant prices, or both! Wotta nutty business, huh?
When I'm working on small originals, like for small press
publications, I use an
Ames guide set at 3.08 for the lettering
and do the actual lettering with a technical pen. Staedtler-
Mars has been
my personal technical pen of choice for over 20 years now, but I note
they're getting harder to find. For me, a #1.5 nib is
a good size for lettering on small pages.
However, on larger, "professional-size" art, (9 by 14, 10 by 15,
whatever), the 3.08 setting is a bit too small, so I go up to
4 on the Ames. But as a result of this, the 1.5 nib is then a bit too
fine; the lettering comes
off weak and spidery when stretched to that height. One option is to
use a larger technical nib, but I recently ran across a much cheaper
(and equally effective) solution: the BIC Roller medium-point
plastic-tip marker. This gives a great strong line for lettering
even at 50% reduction, and it's a dawdle to work with.
Warning: the BIC doesn't work equally well on all papers!
it'll give you a hairy bleeding line, so test it on scrap first! And
the BIC is slower to dry than a technical pen, so watch for smudges
and give it lots of time to air.
For bold lettering, emphasis and whatnot, I find a
Speedball B5 or B6 works well on either size page!
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