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Penciling – Tools and Equipment 1 Tutorial
Tools and Equipment

Penciling – Tools and Equipment 1

1. Tools and Equipment
Sometimes you will be inking your own pencils. Sometimes you will not. This particular page is being written with the assumption that you are not. If you are, then any passage that involves communicating to the inker, just assume that you're talking to yourself.

Like many things in this industry, there is no hard and fast standard rule for the tools and equipment you use. You could hang by your feet from a trapeze, draw on tree bark with a burned stick, ink with a toothbrush, and color with Crayolas TM, but it would be pretty difficult to reproduce and you might fall off the trapeze and break your neck after all the blood rushes to your head. After over 60 years, there has been some consensus about at least what selection of tools and equipment to chose from.

When you are penciling, you will probably need to supply your own tools and equipment. With this freedom, you should try to find the tools and equipment that is right for you.

2. Furniture
You will probably find it best if you work in a position that enables you to sit up straight and see your work well. I recommend a chair and drawing table. These two items should be considered as a unit. You will be sitting at the chair while working at the table.

I like a chair that allows the forearms to be horizontal to the floor when the hands are resting on the table and my back is straight. I also like it to have a high reclining back so I can lean back and rest my head on occasion. If it can roll and swivel as well then I don’t have to get up to reach things around the room.

The table ideally should have a tilted top or a drawing boar that is tilted on it. This is so that you can see the entire page you are drawing at more or less the same angle. If you have to hunch over your work you will get tired and fatigued.

You should also consider where you place the stuff you will be using around you. You don’t want to have to get up out of your chair just to sharpen a pencil, for instance. Try to put all your pencils, erasers, pens, inks, paper, reference material, etc. within arms reach of your work station. There are varieties of doohickeys made to sit on or stand beside a drawing table with receptacles or drawers for all sorts of tools and things. With a little bit of creativity you might even be able to design and build something yourself.

Don’t forget to provide a space for food and drink. If you really have a passion for this field, you may very well not want to stop working just for nourishment.

3. Paper
After your furniture, the main tools as a penciler you will use are pencils and erasers. You should also consider that the inker will probably be using pens and brushes. All these items come in direct contact with your drawing surface. It is therefore important that you chose the right drawing surface, that is, the right kind of paper.

In time, I hope you get every pencil on earth, every eraser, talk to every penciler and inker who exists, and try every kind of paper known to man. Then you should be able to find the right combination of tools. Until that day consider the following things:

You want a paper that is sturdy enough not to tear through when you erase on it. You want just the right balance of what the paper will absorb and what will just sit on the surface. You want a paper that will not curl up when it gets large areas of ink on it. You want a paper that has a consistent finish, not smooth in some spots and rough in others.

Some artists like paper that has a "plate finish." that is a surface that is smooth as ice. Graphite and ink just sits on top. Pencils and pens just roll over it. Other artists like a bit of "tooth," that is, some resistance to their pencil or pen. There is a variety of finishes, from smooth to rough. Nobody really likes a paper that is too absorbent; then the ink bleeds.

There are pre-cut, pre-printed “comic book pages” that can be found in many comic book shops and some art supply stores. These papers are the same size as is usually used by the comic book companies and have non-reproductive blue lines defining the drawing area. They come in 2- and 3-ply sheets. These have been found to be convenient and good for pencils. Unfortunately the surface is of uneven quality. Though in some spots it takes the ink nicely, in others it bleeds terribly. It is also susceptible to eraser tears.

You will probably want to limit yourself to looking at paper no less thick than 2-ply Bristol board, or 80 lb. Anything lighter just won't stand up. I really recommend nothing less than 3-ply, or 100 lb.

Next: Penciling: Tools: Pencils and Erasers

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

    Online Resources

    Cartoonists Materials FAQ

    Comic Art Tool Talk

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

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    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

    Forward to:
    Penciling: Tools: Pencils and Erasers
    Penciling: Tools: Straightedges and More
    Penciling: Creating Characters
    Penciling: Character Sheets
    Penciling: Costumes
    Penciling: Locations
    Penciling: Props and Vehicles

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