Tools For Creating Comic Books

A wide range of tools take comics through the creation process.

Comic books artists create books, strips, mangas and graphic novels in a few different phases: A penciller sketches out the page, an inker traces the penciled art to add detail and shading, a letterer transcribes dialogue and a colorist fills the art in with color—the latter processes are often done digitally. As far as hand tools go, comic book creators employ tools similar to other visual artists as well as tools specialized to their trade.

Paper

Comic book artists employ a variety of specialized papers to create comic books. Comic book paper stock is generally heavy, often printed on 150-pound smooth paper board stock suited for ink, markers, felt-tip pens and pencils. This heavy stock ensures that ink doesn’t bleed through. Concept sketch pages allow artists to plan out ideas before committing them to ink; these smooth pages come in pre-printed industry standard 11-by-17-inch sizes for comic books, strips and manga (Japanese comic books). Some strip board paper features non-reproducible blue guidelines for drawing panels and maintaining figure proportions. Cover sheets help keep pages from streaking or rubbing on one another.

Penciling Tools

Comic pencillers use pencils that run the gamut of tip sizes.

Comic book pencillers use both traditional wood and mechanical pencils. Wood, graphite and charcoal pencils used by comic artists come in HB, 2B, 3B, 4B, 6B and other sizes. Varieties include soft-tipped pencils, medium-tipped pencils, compressed graphite, charcoal sticks, layout pencils, flat sketching pencils and blending pencils. Fine-tipped blue pencils create lines that most photographic processes don’t reproduce; as such, pencillers often employ these non-smearing pencils for planning layouts or marking artwork. For fine detailing, mechanical pencils with refillable lead come in 0.5 to 4.0 millimeter sizes. Artists use soft kneaded erasers to erase mistakes and keep their pencils sharp with metal, plastic, electric and sandpaper sharpeners.

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Inking Tools

Many inkers make use of liquid drawing ink.

Comic book inkers employ a variety of methods. Some use very fine brushes while others employ nib pens with fine tips. Firm felt-tip markers create solid lines while long, flexible and soft felt-tips replicate the look of an ink brush, creating fluid lines. Most artists who use traditional pens with nibs employ black liquid India ink. Technical, artist and fountain pens create fine lines on the page.

Other Tools

Rulers help create the panel lines found in comics.

While each comic book artist creates art in a different fashion, many employ common accessories. Artists’ bridges provide a place for the non-drawing hand to rest, keeping the work from smearing and providing a straight tracing edge for increased control. Lettering tools provide guides and stencils for comic book letterers to transcribe the book’s dialogue. Many comic book creation tools provide guides and straight edges, such as rolling parallel rulers, cutting rails and parallel straight-edged boards.