Art Tools

This collection of art blog posts is about the art tools used to make Survival Anxiety Comics. My favourite pens, inks, paper, pencils, templates and other fun things. And a plastic crow named Helen. Is that an art tool?

Making Comics – Graphite Pencils, Blue Pencils, Get Yer Own Pencils

July 13, 2021
Pencils for Pity Party Page 4.

Pity Party – Page 4 is well under way. The pencils are done, and I’ll start inks tomorrow. The Ideas Room is about to get a bit more dangerous, as some old and bitter ideas are released! Yikes! Be careful what you think.

My pencils are a mess, but I don’t like to think too much when I start inking. I want all the visual math to be sorted out in pencil. I have a rough version of this page sketched on a comic template I print on letter sized paper. I copy that sketch onto bristol, add all the missing detail, sleep on it, add some more detail, line up the lettering, sleep on it some more, then boom! Ready for ink. Comics are easy!

I pencil with 4H graphite in an old mechanical pencil. It’s a very light line. I darkened this image in Affinity Photo so you could actually see the pencil. I prefer a harder graphite for this stage – there is less smudging, and it erases easily. For lettering I pencil with non photo blue, also in a mechanical pencil. The ink I use for lettering fades too much when an eraser is applied, and non photo blue pencil doesn’t need to be erased. I could just use non photo blue for all the lines, but I do a lot of thinking in pencil, and blue is harder to erase. You can probably see that in this scan. It would just be a blue page. Like looking at a summer sky.

If you aren’t familiar with non photo blue pencils, the primary benefit of them is they won’t be seen by the scanner, when scanning line art in black & white. After scanning the artwork, I apply a threshold adjustment layer in Affinity Photo. This effectively removes any line lighter than the black ink lines – so I don’t have to spend much time erasing graphite lines before scanning, either.

This Thursday is another Throwback! See you then!

Making Comics – Imaginary Creative Spaces are Messy

June 29, 2021
Detail from Pity Party page 3, the cartoonist examines ideas in his Ideas Room, and doesn't think highly of them.

Pity Party Page 3 is nearly finished. A bit of clean up and scanning left to go, as the cartoonist’s characters get into mischief in the cartoonist’s Ideas Room. Read the completed pages of Pity Party in the Survival Anxiety comic archive.

I like to imagine that this Ideas Room space changes all the time. Like if I came back in a year, the door could lead to a desert island. Or an ice cream parlour. Or a black void. Your imaginary creative space is no doubt very different.

It’s unclear at the moment if our imaginary creative work spaces are eligible for work from home tax breaks, but I’d go ahead and claim them anyway. I’m sure it’s fine.

I’m laying off the sponge effects a bit on this page. I got a bit heavy with it on the last page, and tried to dial it back on this one. I realize I need to start creating texture in different, and in more specific ways. For example, the shelf wood grain above, or the book cover. A little sponge goes a long way.

Making Comics – Enter the Ideas Room

June 15, 2021
Detail of comic Pity Party page 3, Death and the crows review some relevant Ideas Room shelves.

Pity Party page 3 is under way. Our motley crew has relocated themselves into the cartoonist’s Ideas Room, with, spoiler warning, predictable results. Read the completed pages of Pity Party in the Survival Anxiety comic archive.

One of my favourite things about making comics is the tools I get to use. I moved drawing comics off the computer a couple years ago, because I wanted to experience that tactile feeling of the paper, and ink, and pens again. I love the tools, and I wanted to learn how to be good with them.

I use a Rapidograph .8 for panel borders. Thankfully it’s the one in the set that gives me the least amount of grief. The .5 gums up endlessly. I recently cleaned them all out with 70% rubbing alcohol. It did a great job, but I may not refill some of the pens. I have a small set of Copic Multiliners that I recently outfitted with new cartridges that I keep around for when the Rapidographs need a night off. They don’t make the same lines – the plastic tips on the Comics have a little bit of give to them that the metal Rapidographs don’t have. They have different uses. Rapidographs for ruled lines, Multiliners for circle templates. Rapidographs for throwing across the room in disgust, Multiliners for asking the kids what did you do with my pen and why is it not at my desk GO GET MY PEN.

I don’t have lots of time every day to work on my comics. I get maybe a half hour on a week night, a few hours over the weekend. That’s why it takes me a month from script writing to posting a comic page online. And while I love the pens and brushes and ink, when any of them don’t work, it’s infuriating.

I’m still learning. At times it’s very frustrating. But the feeling of finishing a comic strip is still the best thing.

Making Comics – I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This

June 9, 2021

More detail from page 2 of Pity Party! Read Pity Party – Page 1 here.

I did a lot this week, and this comic is nearly finished. I centred the Ideas Room sign on the door. While doing that, I also changed the style of lettering I used for it. I finished inking almost everything, but the Ideas Room panel has some work yet. You can see a bit of it at the bottom. It’s the reason this comic wasn’t done this past weekend. It has a lot of detail, and it made me nervous. I wonder if I should have used a simpler perspective as well.

Lettering and word bubbles are all done. I applied the sponge effect to all the panels that needed it. I got a bit sloppy with it on a couple of panels, but it will be fine overall. I like the effect when it works – it’s unique, kind of like an organic tint. It’s a nice mid-tone. But it’s time consuming, it involves a bit of masking. I found myself wondering this week if I should keep doing it after this story is finished, or at least maybe use it more sparingly.

I figured out too late how I want to draw glasses on my cartoonist. I’ll need to go back to the first page and make them match this one. I’m much happier with the glasses on this page now, and it will make the next pages easier to draw as well. Better late than never!

I also made the mistake of trying to refill my Copic Multiliner cartridges, and made a real mess of those pens. And my hands. And everything near the pens and my hands. It was an experiment. They aren’t meant to be refilled, and I’m fairly certain I overfilled them, so it’s entirely my fault. But still, I won’t do it again. Curry’s in Toronto carries the refill cartridges for a fraction of what Amazon charges, so I ordered replacements from them (along with some new Bristol so I could get the free shipping). I’ve found the brick & mortar art supply stores are often cheaper than Amazon, by a large margin, so it’s worth shopping around for your supplies.

That’s my update! Pity Party Page 2 will be ready next Wednesday. See you then!


May 30, 2021
Detail of comic in progress.

Here is a bit of detail from page 2 of Pity Party. And, yeah, I also just noticed the sign on the door isn’t centred. And, yeah, it’s making me angry, too. That’s what paper and glue is for.