Saturday, March 10, 2007

How to make comics

Obviously you like to draw right? I mean, you DO like to draw? If you don’t like to draw then screw you… do not make comics. Comics involve drawing and you should get something from the process of making them. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing better than having a finished product, finishing up a nice crisp page/strip/book and sitting back with a satisfied almost post-coital grin on your face but there’s a lot to be said for the actual deed itself you understand? Don’t make me drag out the sex metaphor any more than I have to.
So when you start out you’re going to need some stuff to draw with. It doesn’t matter what you draw with just as long as it makes a mark. There are a million “how-to make funny doodles” books out there and they all basically say “use what works for you.”
That’s kind of a cop out though right… I mean who buys a book so they can learn that they need to figure it out for themselves?
With few exceptions the pencil mark is not the mark that people will see. Cartoonists use a pencil to build a cohesive underdrawing and to figure stuff out on the page. These pencil marks will eventually be inked over and erased therefore the type of pencil to use is largely unimportant. Keep in mind that you’re going to need to erase the marks left by said pencil so you won’t want something too dark, don’t use soft lead, don’t, for christ’s sake, use charcoal or grease pencil.
Graphite pencils come in a range from soft to hard lead. Soft lead is smudgy and darker while hard lead is light and often hard to see. Since we don’t want to see pencil marks on the finished page I say the harder the better… uh, you know what I mean. You can tell the hardness of a pencil by looking at the end down where the eraser usually is. Those jive-ass yellow pencils we used in grade school were marked 2, the hard leads will have a number and an H, 2H, 4H, etc. the higher the number the harder the lead. Soft lead is marked with a B.
Do yourself a favor and get a decent eraser, it will save you much heart-ache and ripped pages. Those pink pearl monstrosities are for the birds. Either a kneaded rubber eraser like the ones I stole from the art-room in high school or the harder white plastic erasers. Magic rub is the brand name I prefer, I think Mars also makes some which, in my opinion, are of slightly less quality.
This I can’t really help you with. Everyone has their preference and everyone like different things about the paper they use. A lot of cartoonists today work on paper like they’re going to be hanging that shit in louvre. If your intent is to have people see the finished pages then by all means get a good quality illustration board and really work on that mother. If you’re going to be scanning the page in and printing it out in a book then the page only has to look good long enough to scan it. For a novice I’d recommend just working on bond paper like you have in your printer. For someone a little farther along I’d recommend some kind of cheap bristol that comes in pads. Bristol is a cardstock paper that is sturdy but still affordable there are different variances of smoothness and weight. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what would work best for you. Try out a bunch of different brands and weights, you’ll figure it out. I use cheap, smooth, 11X14 Bristol board from Strathmore.
Again, this is a tough one. Ink comes in a variety of types and flavors. You’ll want to find a good black India ink that doesn’t bleed out too much. I hear Dr. Marten’s super black is good as well as Windsor and Newton (the one with the dragon on the side I think) I usually just use cheap Sumi ink and let it evaporate a little. Note that sumi ink is non-water resistant so if you’re going to watercolor over the ink then you’ll be screwed… when I need a waterproof ink I use koh-i-noor rapidograph ink.
Pen and brush:
Generally people use a brush or dip pens to draw with. I like to switch it up and use different tools for different jobs. I usually use a big ol’ drawing nib (I can’t tell you the brand or anything because it’s so worn that I can’t read the side of it) I also tend to just beat the hell out of my pens until they are completely useless… I drew a bunch of pages not too long ago with a nib that was split apart like a piece of firewood. Just because I’m a lazy bastard when it comes to tools doesn’t mean you should be… take care of your stuff and when it does go bad, throw it out and get new stuff.
Anyway there are a few different kinds of nib, go for the kind with smaller points that can spread out a little and offer you some line density. A crowquill nib is a special, smaller, pen nib that fits into a different size barrel than the others. I think Hunt 102 is the standard. They take a little more finesse than the kind I normally use but if you can get it they give excellent lines. I’ve only recently been able to draw anything with a crowquill.
Brushes are another story. A brush gives a good line weight but can be tricky to master. Every cartoonist nerd out there swears by the Windsor and Newton series 7 sable brush… they are more expensive than your first child though. Many cartoonists I’ve talked to just buy cheap knock off synthetic brushes and throw them out after a few pages… this is also really expensive. Let’s face it, inking with a brush is for rich yuppy assholes… just kidding, brushes are great but they do put a damper on the pocket book if you want to be able to work consistently.
go to your local art supply store or here, buy some cheap material and start drawing.
More later.

1 comment:

N/A said...

Scotch (not fucking hooch) is an invaluable tool in making comics. At least 12 years old, but right now I am drinking 16 year old scotch. Blow whatever money you have after you buy art supplies. Drink and repeat. It makes me feel better about my own drawings. Or worse, depending on my mood.