I’m a total process nerd. As much info as I share here about how I make my comics, I soak up this same level of detail from anyone else who wants to talk about the specifics of their creative work. It’s fascinating to me that every creative person develops their own, very personal, set of tools, processes, schedules, rituals, and even superstitions around how they make their art.
I’m plugging away these days on my graphic novel, Taking Turns, and I thought I’d do a post to share the tools I’ve chosen to use for this project. These choices were made very deliberately, after much practice, mostly while teaching Writing and Drawing the Graphic Memoir at Columbia College in Chicago and working through nearly every exercise in Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice.
Okay, so here’s what you see up there.
1. Bienfang 11×17 Gridded Paper, non-reproducible blue, with one-inch and quarter-inch cross sections.
I use this paper as my base of operations, as opposed to the more traditional Bristol board most cartoonists report using, because I’m terrible at straight lines and measuring. With this paper, I can count out boxes and get consistent size panels. Also, built in are lines for spacing the text.
2. Staedtler Mars Technico lead holder, filled with 2H lead stick.
2H makes a mark dark enough to read, but light enough to easily erase. I like never having to sharpen the lead and that a stick of this lead may indeed last forever. We’ll see.
3. Paper Mate black marker by Flair.
Many aspects of this book’s process are silent homages to the woman whose work brought me to this world and continues to inspire me, Lynda Barry. This is one of them. Lynda teaches her students to use this simple, easy to find and affordable pen (we all had one when in fourth grade, right?) to make dark black lines that will scan well. I’m using this pen, have several boxes of them so they are always fresh-ish, to make the bounding boxes and hand write all the book’s text (another tribute to Barry.)
This is for thinner black lines and drawings. It comes in a set of six size nibs, of which I find I am mostly using .03. They are comparable to Micron pens, but these have a steel tip so the ink-delivery nib never crushes. The name above is a link to JetPens – the absolute best source for awesome drawing products from Japan. Can’t endorse that site strongly enough – affordable and great customer service.
I’ve mentioned this pen a few times here, nicknaming it “Perfect Pen” which I still do call it. I’ve said that the pen has “an amazing feel, a high performing nib, good mark predictability, and makes a great nib pen for cartoonists on the go. It’s amazing for drawing.” This is all true, but in the three years since posting that, I’ve had these pens spit ink on my fingers three or four times. Usually it’s tied to having opened them to work on a plane, and I’m assuming it has to do with cabin pressure. So there’s that caveat. And though I love them, I use these pens more for journal comics than this book, with the exception of actually that face mask I’ve drawn on the page above. If I want a nib-like line without busing out my nibs (with which I am terrible) I use the Perfect Pen.
6. Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser
Lots of these in various sizes around the studio. Erases best with lowest risk of removing paper with the pencil marks.
7. Cosmetic brush
Any decent-sized clean one will do. Use to brush the eraser shards away to prevent hand-oils from smearing ink.
This is a beauty, got it as a birthday gift last year. Thin, height adjustable, portable. Great for tracing previous drawings.
And that’s it. From here I have the inked lines for a page of my book, ready to scan into PhotoShop and colorize from a limited hue palate I’ve created for the book. Colors have names in my mind such as “hospital gown blue” and “patient room wall beige.” There will be a few select drawings that are watercolored, but overall I’m colorizing in PhotoShop.
Back to the drawing board.