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Pencils – Tools and Equipment - Rulers, Straightedges, and Triangles Rulers, Straightedges, and Triangles
Other Stuff You’ll Want
Suggested Reading
Online Resources

Pencils – Tools and Equipment 3

1. Rulers, Straightedges, and Triangles
I have seen people with such steady hands that they can actually draw a straight line. For the rest of us, modern technology has provided us with precise instruments for this task.

There are the old-fashioned rulers and straightedges. Basically anything that has a hard, straight edge can help you draw a straight line. A plastic or metal edge is less likely to chip or wear down than a wooden one.

You will need to measure the length of your line sometimes. Draftsmen use a scale for that, that’s essentially a three-sided ruler with different scales of measurement on each side. Draftsmen don’t use this as a straightedge. It’s OK for a comic penciler to do so, because the pencil line will be inked over later.

Some drafting tables have sliding rulers. These are long straightedges hooked to wires on the opposite sides of the table that slide up and down the board over the drawing. If you have one, you will never want for a perfectly horizontal line again, provided you line up your paper properly. Setting up a triangle on it can give you the vertical line.

Without a sliding ruler, for right angles and lines that are certifiably parallel with the edges of the drawing board, there is the T-square. This is a tool that looks like the letter “T”, with the top cross piece edged so that it can hook on to the side of your drawing board. Then you can line up a triangle on the long part of the T-square.

Quick and easy radiating lines at precise angles can be created with a drafting machine. This is essentially a sliding ruler with a smaller ruler attached to a wheel that can slide the length of it. Because of the alignment o the smaller ruler on the wheel, the radiating lines don’t all come from the same focal point, but most of the time it’s close enough.

Triangles are just what they sound like, three-sided straightedges. You can get them both ruled and unruled. The most useful triangles are the 90-45-45 and the 30-60-90. Note that both of them include a right angle. This enables you to draw lines perpendicular to each other.

2. Curves Sometimes you will want to draw a very precise curves, the kind with no bumps or irregularities. There are things called French curves. They are basically abstract looking shapes made up of curves. There are a variety of them, allowing you to draw an almost infinite variety of precise curves. Get as many different styles as you can. Be sure to get the ones that have beveled edges.

For regular shapes such as ellipses and circles, there are templates that you can get, plastic cards with shapes cut out of them.

A compass will give you a perfect circle of any size, and if you remember high-school geometry, you know there’s lots of other things that can be figured out with a compass.

A protractor will measure angles.

One rule about using these tools, try to find the ones that you can use where the edge that is ruling your line is not flat on the paper. If the edge is flat, there’s a fair chance that your line will smudge.

3. Other Stuff You Will Need (or at least want)
Drafting tape or thumbtacks will keep the paper stuck to your drawing board.

Tracing paper is great stuff. It’s cheap, so you can use a lot of it. If you’re working on a drawing and it’s just not right, lay a piece of tracing paper on top of it and draw over it, trying to get it right this time. Not right yet? Put another piece of tracing paper on it and fix it again.

Light Box This is essentially a glass-topped box with lights in it. You can lay a picture down on it, put a piece of paper over it, and trace. Using this method you can ink on Bristol board without having to go over your pencils. You can also trace over photographs or drawings that you had previously done.

Pencil Sharpener An electric pencil sharpener next to your paper can really add to your efficiency if you like using sharp wooden pencils. Hand-crank sharpeners like you used in elementary school are a little slower, but do give a good point. Those little pocket sharpeners never give an ideal point for me.

Sandpaper Pad If you use wooden pencils or thick lead holders, this is a convenient way to put a custom point on your graphite.

X-acto Knife You can use this to sharpen pencils, shave erasers, cut paper, etc.

Photocopier It’s great to be able to copy your work, reducing it to published size to see how well it reads. You can also resize your work, cut out pieces of it, movie it about on the page, and so forth. You can also send copies to your writer, editor, or inker.

Computer with Scanner and Printer See photocopier above.

Adobe Photoshop or any similar image-manipulation program. With this you can manipulate your images. Sometimes a wonderfully drawn, otherwise perfect panel may wind up just the wrong size, or on a page that otherwise needs to be completely re-done. You can save that panel and, without necessarily having to draw it over, re-size it or transport it to another page (of course, if you are going to ink on the same paper as the pencils, you will have to draw it over, but at least you will have the new image as a guide. This is where tracing paper can help). Sometimes a panel may need to be copied several times in a story. Sometimes a special effect is really what would make a page perfect.

Portfolio You’ve got to carry your art somehow. Look for one that is attractive, sturdy, and just big enough to hold your largest pieces. One that has a loose-leaf spine with plastic-covered pages and a zippered closure makes an attractive presentation case. Some have a handle that allows you to carry it with the spine on the bottom. This model is easy to open without resting it on a table and easy to slip things into, for instance comics picked up at a convention. Another style has the handle attached to the spine. This allows the art to hang from the spine when carried, avoiding the potential curling of the art that may occur when it rests in the other kind of portfolio.

Sketch Book As a penciler, you’ve always got to keep your drawing skills sharp, and you never know when you’ll see something you want to draw. There are more details on things to do with a sketch book in other tutorials in this series.

Internet Access There are plenty of on-line resources for comic artists. Hey, you’re here, aren’t you?

Next: Penciling: Creating Characters

Suggested Reading
Cerebus Guide to Self Publishing, Dave Sim; Format: Paperback, 96pp.; ISSN 0712-7774; Publisher: Dave Sim.; Pub Date: 1997

Comics & Sequential Art cover

Will Eisner; Format: Hardcover ISBN: 0-9614728-0-4 and Paperback, ISBN: 0-9614728-0-2; 154pp; Publisher: Poorhouse Press; Pub. Date: 1985

Graphic Storytelling cover

Will Eisner; Format: Hardcover ISBN: 0-9614728-3-9; Paperback, ISBN: 0-9614728-2-0; 164pp; Publisher: Poorhouse Press; Pub. Date: 1995

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way cover

Stan Lee, John Buscema (Illustrator); Format: Hardcover, ISBN 0-671-22548-0; Paperback, ISBN 0-671-53077-1; 160 pp; Publisher: Simon & Shuster, Inc., Pub. Date: 1978

How to Draw and Sell Comic Strips for Newspapers and Comic Books , Alan McKenzie; Format: Hardcover, 144pp.; ISBN 0-89134-214-1; Publisher: North Light Books, F & W Publications, Inc., Pub. Date: 1987

Go to a thorough list of books and videos for comics creators

Or yuou can search for more books on how to draw comics on

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Comic Art Tool Talk

Dandy Don's Cartooning College: Cartooning tools and art supplies for comics

Back to:
Pg.1: Definition and History of Comics
Pg.2: Comics Today
Pg.3: Terms of the Trade
Writing: Story and Plot
Writing: Script
Sample Script
Penciling: Tools: Short Answers
Penciling: Tools: Furniture and Paper
Penciling: Tools: Pencils and Erasers
Penciling: Tools: Straightedges and More

Forward to:
Penciling: Creating Characters
Penciling: Character Sheets
Penciling: Costumes
Penciling: Locations
Penciling: Props and Vehicles

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