Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Tips for the budget studio :)
Evil_Hare at 9:50AM, Feb. 28, 2011
posts: 183
joined: 9-28-2009
Ok, so you're ready to jump into the fray of comic, webcomics in particular, and you don't want to just scribble away on that newsprint pad on your lap, but at the same time you're not ready to spring for a fancy drafting table or a $2000 digital tablet. You're on a budget, for now, at least, and that's okay. One of the things usually overlooked by comics creators is the need to have a budget, period. For a lot of us our budget consists mostly of ‘I don’t have the cash for this or that right now,' and we never develop the fiscal discipline that is conducive to good business practice further down the road. For the new or just-not-profitable-yet comic creator, a practical approach to cost-control is essential, and it boils down to 3 things:
1. Use what you've got
2. Be practical 3.
3. Be creative in your cost control.

When I first started my webcomic, I lived in a tiny apartment and my studio space consisted of a corner just a few feet from the kitchen. I didn't have the cash for a desk or drawing board, but I did have enough to buy a titling laptop tray on wheels. It was just big enough to work on, with a small side tray to put my pens/inks etc on. I also had my old easel, a big rubbermaid container, and a collapsible camp chair. I placed the container against the wall to my left, put my easel atop it, and clipped my lamp to the easel. Now I had somewhere to stash my supplies when not in use, a place to sit (I added a pillow for comfort), and a working surface. In front of the container was a dresser, where I kept my scanner. A humble start, but I managed to squeeze out 45 pages in 2 months. The material point here: before you blow a neat pile of cash on equipment, see what you have on hand that could be converted to immediate use.

My set-up wasn't fancy, but it kept all my supplies within an easy arm's reach. Whenever I needed to stop for the day, putting everything away took less than 1 minute to do. One thing that will make you more productive is making sure you don't have t spend a lot of time setting up and cleaning up. Another practical tip: clean up after yourself as you go along, and after a while it becomes part of your working rhythm. If lighting costs are an issue, set your workspace up near a window that faces south during the day for consistent sunlight (or east/west if you do your work in the morning or toward evening), and make as much use of daylight as you can.

You don't have to draw everyone on 400 lb 3 ply bristol board with pencils that cost 10 bucks each. In fact, some of the best drawing pencils I've ever used cost very little. Your no-name, dollar store variety of #2 pencils will run you a dollar a dozen, and they can at least serve for roughs and layouts. In my case, I went with Mirado Black Warriors, which I've found to be my favorite, and only cost bout $5-6 a dozen. I get them by the box from Staples, so a pencil that will last me a month costs me maybe 40 cents. As far as paper, I don't believe in skimping when it comes to the paper my comic is drawn on, but even then the Deleter paper I use is about $8 per pack of 40 sheets. Depending on your style, use whatever is comfortable for you and will show your work to best advantage. For rough work and just general sketching, I use children's newsprint pads that i get for $1 for 9x12 w/60 sheets, or $5 for a 12x18 with 200 sheets. So my yearly paper cost runs to about maybe $50-60, and I draw quite a bit. if I succumbed to the weekly flyers from the art supply store, my cost would be about 4-5 times that, or more.

Like the old saying goes, waste not, want not. Pencils getting short and stubby? Use one of the nice, inexpensive pencil holders you can get at any art supply store, and voila, you can now use your pencil till it completely wears out. Another cost-reduction strategy I've used, thought not deliberately at first, is using the back of old scripts as extra sketching paper. The image you see to the right started as a doodle, and actually became a page in issue 3 of my comic.

This is just a starting point, I'm sure once you start looking around and evaluating your own setup, you'll come up with more ideas.

1 Zarty laptop desk/tray. Usually about $35-50. The wheels make it SO convenient.
1 30 gallon plastic container with lid: $5 (I have several that I've been using for years now).
1 small clamp light - $5 or less if you hit the thrift stores.
1 old coffee mug - for holding pencils, etc. I refer something heavy so it's not easily tipped over.
1 chair, preferably with wheels. These can be had for cheap at garage sales, if you don't already have one.
1 scanner - $40 new, or $5-10 via craigslist/kijiji etc.
-newsprint pads for everyday sketching, layouts, and roughs.

Total cost for startup studio: $30-200, depending on what you've already got and where you get stuff.

Don't jack a rabbit, he might be an Evil Hare!
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:24PM
Genejoke at 10:18AM, Feb. 28, 2011
posts: 3,031
joined: 4-9-2010
In regards to paper/bristol board etc, I use pads that cost 60p from wilkinsons (a budget store in the UK) The paper isn't great but better than I have found for well over twice the cost elsewhere. I see no point using bristol board or such like as I scan the art and colour digitally quality of paper is largely irrelevant. Sure it's different if you are working professionally but for most webcomics it is likely an unnecessary extravagance.

I use cheap mechanical pencils and find other pencils cheap almost anywhere.

I have a large drawing board that cost £20 that I hardly use. I usually draw on my computer desk :)

I have a little plastic drawer unit filled with pens and pencils of all kinds, that was a couple of quid in wilkinsons.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:34PM
Hunchdebunch at 6:55AM, March 2, 2011
posts: 379
joined: 4-22-2009
My stuff isn't too costly :)

I use cheap mechanical pencils,
My scanner cost me nothing because I got it for my birthday,
I use cheap plain A4 paper,
And I work anywhere. On my desk, at my college desk, on the floor or my bed using a tray or book to lean on…anywhere lol.

The only slightly expensive thing I use would be my pens. They cost around £10, but they're good and I like to use them.

I also use some other less expensive pens, such as fiber tip pens and markers from WHSmiths which only cost £1 each.

I'm not too fussy, as long as I have decent pens of the right kind of sizes to ink with :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:51PM
Evil_Hare at 7:49AM, March 3, 2011
posts: 183
joined: 9-28-2009
I'm with Genejoke on the paper issue. I've gotten so used to the flimsy Deleter paper that I don't even like drawing on bristol anymore. The only semi-expensive stuff I use right now is my software, which I got for free for my bday :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:24PM
Genejoke at 8:55AM, March 3, 2011
posts: 3,031
joined: 4-9-2010
And for software you don't need to spend ANYTHING either. There is a whole thread dedicated to that thanks to Salsa. Gimp can do 85%(rough guess no facts there sorry) of what photoshop can. I don't think there is much that webcomickers will want to do that gimp can't do that photoshop can.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:34PM
Dodger at 9:45AM, March 3, 2011
posts: 200
joined: 12-23-2010
My absolute favorite paper for my comic pages is the kind that comes in the 8 1/2 by 11 spiral bound Art-Alternatives sketchbooks. The paper holds up ridiculously well, it has a VERY slight tooth (I dislike bristol because it's so smooth… but I think I'm in the minority there) good weight (75lb, not too think, not too thin) and holds up to all sorts of media.

I love the hard cover and back because I can lean on it and thus sketch anywhere, there's 80 pages per book so it lasts a while, and the paper holds ink really well.

My mechanical pencils have been free for the last few years, but they're pretty cheap ones to begin with. They usually hold up for a year or so until I have to replace them. I like using .05 lead… if you buy it in bulk around back to school time you can usually get a 3 pack for about a dollar.

I've been using sakura microns to ink for years and they're pretty cheap, $2.99 a pop at most art stores, but I splurged on two copic multiliners last year and they're still going strong. None of my microns have lasted more than a few months, usually the tip breaks. ) :

Also, I have a niiiiice drafting table that my father, a land surveyor, got for me from a drafting supply store when I was a wee youngen. I believe that he only spent about $50 on it, and it's much nicer and sturdier than most drafting tables I've seen for sale in art stores. If you're in the market for a drawing table, I'd suggest looking on craig's list for a legit drafting table, rather than the kind they sell in art stores, they're much more affordable. : B

Koji Takahashi Stops the World, full color, updating Mondays
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:13PM
skoolmunkee at 10:32AM, March 3, 2011
posts: 7,058
joined: 1-2-2006
When I worked traditionally I started out with Micron pens, bristol paper and prisma markers… the cost added up after a while. Eventually I figured out that disposable brush pens looked better and cartridge brush pens were even better and cheaper, bristol paper is easily replaced with heavy acid-free cardstock, and prisma markers…. well that cost never went away. I did cut some corners though by doing photoshop textured washes for solid background colors… but that was mostly because I couldn't get the pens to blend well enough in large swathes to use them for that.

Then I decided to do traditional on the cheap and use cheap sketching paper and crayons, which worked pretty good, but I had all kinds of scanning annoyances.

Then I moved to digital colouring, so no more colouring costs for me.

When I moved to England I missed my lightbox so I built a beautiful one for myself for about £50, and have since used it about 25 times all together, because other than the sketching phase I more or less work entirely digitally. Mechanical pencils on printer paper, scanned, ink in SAI, color in CS3. The only cost to me lately was replacing my tablet.

I do still enjoy using traditional media though, and have even used crayons and markers now and then. I keep them around (though I wonder if most of the markers will have dried up by now…)
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:44PM
Andre61 at 12:26PM, March 3, 2011
posts: 10
joined: 1-5-2011
Here in the USA we get income tax returns and some of that money can be used to buy art supplies, It's how I got most of my stuff
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:52AM
ShadowsMyst at 11:22AM, March 4, 2011
posts: 218
joined: 1-9-2006
I started doing comics with a non repro blue pencil, a mechanical pencil, computer/copy paper that I ‘appropriated’ from school, and three micron pens. I used the scanner at school, until I managed to buy my own. Eventually I got my hands on a copy of photoshop and started doing some shading in that, but all the art was done by hand for YEARS. I just carted my pencil/pen case and a clipboard with my paper and a plastic ruler in it everywhere, and drew where ever I was. Bedroom. School. Doctor's office, etc.

You don't need sophisticated tools and equipment to make comics.

At one point I was given a graphics tablet and it SUCKED. I never wanted to use it. It wasn't till nearly a decade later I gave it another go. The drivers had improved enough I could actually use it. My work flow is digital now, but I miss the portability the simple clipboard and pencil case gave me.

But ultimately you could do it on the back of recycled paper if you wanted. *shrugs* You don't need sophisticated paper or anything. I knew an artist who regularly used copy paper, a mechanical pencil and a sharpie marker.

I have a webcomic making blog! Check it out.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:32PM
Evil_Hare at 5:57AM, April 17, 2011
posts: 183
joined: 9-28-2009
My present gear setup is a bright green shoebox which holds my pencils, erasers, sharpener, ink, colored pencils, markers, watercolor pencils, and a drafting triangle. I am, for the moment, short on space, so I have a 20x20 MDF clipboard that cost me $10, which I prop up against my bed or a table.

I'd have to agree about GIMP, though I've never been comfortable trying to do dialogue balloons with it. For lettering and tones I'm using Manga Studio 4EX which my wife got me for my birthday, though lately I have lettered some sound effects by hand.

BTW… another tip for those who, like me, have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. You can get ginger cheap at any grocery… cut a 1 inch piece, dice it up and make some tea with it. It's a much more powerful anti-inflammatory than aspirin, motrin etc, and I've found it to really help.

(FYI: consult a doctor first if you have any bleeding-related conditions, as ginger tea is also a blood thinner)
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:24PM

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