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Traditional Art Supplies for Drawing Comic Books: Tools to Write and Illustrate Independent or Classic Comics

Sequential art can be created in many media, from stone friezes to digital comics. But when most people want to know how to draw comic books, they’re thinking of something like the classic comics of the twentieth century.

Comics are traditionally drawn in three stages: penciling, inking, and coloring. But color is optional, especially for independent comics artists and hobbyists, who lack the time and money for full-color artwork. The essential tools for creating comics the old-fashioned way have to do with pencils and inks.

Comic-Book Art Supplies for Pencilling

The pencilling stage consists of roughly drawing the parts of the comic book page – panels, pictures, and dialogue balloons. Essential supplies for this stage include:

  • Pencils. Standard pencils are HB, meaning they are of medium hardness, but art pencils can come in a range of harder or softer versions. Individual artists have different preferences. Softer (B) pencils tend to smudge more, while harder (H) pencils are more difficult to erase.
  • Erasers. Art supply stores carry different kinds of erasers used in comics. Larger art gum erasers (the kind that wear down into little crumbs) are ideal for erasing or revising large areas of penciled work. Kneaded erasers are cleaner, and can be molded for touching up or removing fine details.
  • Paper. Comics can be drawn on nearly any paper or board artists like best. Professionals tend toward thin boards like Bristol board. Such heavier papers are more durable, and take ink better. Larger board sizes (such as 10 by 15 inches) mean that finished artwork can be reduced to fit a standard comic book page.

Comic-Book Art Supplies for Inking

The inking stage entails creating the finished black-and-white artwork, ready for the printing press or photocopier. Finishing supplies include:

  • Pens. Pens used to draw comic books can vary widely, from fountain pens to felt markers. Usually, they are used to draw uniform, black lines for borders or text.
  • Brushes. A medium-gauge sable-hair brush is ideal for producing lines of varying thickness and shape. Most classic comic book art is done with brush work.
  • Ink. High-quality, black India ink is preferable for its darkness and fade-resistance. White opaque paint can be used to cover any errors in inking.

Drafting Tools for Drawing Comics

Of course, there are other supplies needed to draw comics, but these are common to other artists and designers. They might include:

  • Pushpins/Tape. Pushpins are good for securing illustration paper to a work surface. Tape is an alternative, although it shouldn’t be so sticky that it tears the paper when it’s peeled away.
  • Compass. The only tool to draw circles, short of tracing a round object. Compasses are available in both pencil and ink varieties, or ones in which pencils and pens can be interchanged.
  • Ruler/Triangle/T-square. These drafting tools are invaluable for drawing straight lines and right angles. In addition to using them for perspective techniques in comic art, they are also necessary for drawing panels and keeping hand-lettered text parallel.

Traditional comic book art supplies like pencils, erasers, brushes, and ink remain essential tools for drawing comic books. While some stages of comic-book drawing may be augmented by digital technologies, traditional methods should still be mastered by any aspiring comic book artist.

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