The tools for a cartoonist are very simple. The reality is that you can draw a cartoon in so many ways. You could draw a cartoon using a crayon and a paper place mat from your neighborhood diner or draw with drops of blood on a suicide note. (That’s a bit graphic and should not be tried at home.)
In this article I just want to share with you if you are a beginning cartoonist what type of materials I use to hand draw my cartoons. One major cartoonist tip is that I signed up for Amazon Prime which cost $75 a year and you get free shipping. Amazon has most of the art supplies you could ever want and the prices are very similar to online providers like Dick Blick, but if you order as much as I do saving on shipping is huge! It’ll more than pay for your $75 per year on the Amazon Prime. So in this article I’ve linked the items to the product on Amazon.com but you can find these items in most art stores and online art stores too.
I draw my cartoons by hand so I choose to use Strathmore Smooth Bristol Board. I like the Bristol Board because it takes ink very well, and I like how it feels when I draw with pencil. The Bristol Board is good for a lot of detail and since it’s a heavier stock than typing paper it feels more valuable. Strathmore Smooth Bristol Board is more expensive than regular old typing paper but since I sell my cartoon originals for $150+ I feel that my cartoons need to be drawn on something more than just typing paper. I got the idea to draw on this material from a book I read from my idol Bill Watterson called The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book. In that book he shares a bit on how he works and the materials he uses.
Any paper is fine. There is no right or wrong paper. I know many cartoonists that use typing paper. Like all tools of the trade its important to find the tools that you feel most comfortable with.
I use a Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencil blue to sketch out my cartoons. I buy them by the box. Many times I sketch out my composition onto note cards or typing paper using the Col-Erase Blue before I go to my final drawing on Bristol Board. I started using this type of pencil back in college while I was taking some animation classes and I just got really comfortable using them. You’ll also hear cartoonists say non-photo blue pencil. This is basically talking about the quality of this pencil is that the blue doesn’t show up when the drawing is photocopied. I don’t really own a photocopier but I find that when I scan my final drawing that has my blue under drawing with my final ink over it, the blue will disappear in Photoshop with some minor adjusting with the contrast.
Another note on pencils is whatever pencil you use if it be graphite or colored pencil, you should note how heavy you draw. If you are heavy handed than a harder pencil might be better for your under drawing as a hard pencil like a H2 or H3 will have a lighter stroke. If you are more gentle in your drawing than you can get a way with a H or HB softness with your pencil. For under drawings I would not use a soft pencil like 2B or 3B.
A cartoonists best friend is sometimes the eraser. So many times you have saved my life eraser! The eraser that I have fallen in love with is the General White Tri-tip Triangle Eraser. No real science here. Its a rubber eraser and I like the triangle shape for ease of gripping in my hand. I feel the narrower erasers are hard to grip. I don’t want to keep buying batteries so I don’t do the electrical erasers. I’m not a fan of eraser pens either.
There is a whole mess of ways to ink your cartoon. Markers, ink pens, ball point pens, etc. I’ve spent more time trying to find the right pen to do the job. I’ve tried crow-quill pens, Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph stainless steel pens, felt tip, permanent markers, calligraphy pens, India ink and paint brush. So far I bounce between crow-quill pens and the Sakura Pigma Micron. The reality is that I’m usually paid per cartoon so I can’t have my cartoons taking me 8 hours to finish. The faster I can pump out the cartoons the more I make per hour. There is time saving ways to ink by using the Micron pen vs a ink pen with a nib that you dip into the ink well. The biggest is that it takes little time for the ink to dry on a Micron pen. I can draw fast and not be afraid of my palm smearing wet ink all over my drawing. The biggest draw back is that the micron pen is very limited in stroke width so broad areas of black you are better going to a brush or a fatter marker.
I do love the crow-quill pen though. The character it gives a line really makes organic shapes some life. If you have time and skill use the crow-quill.
No matter what tools you use I believe in always testing out new ways of drawing. You never know when you might find that one pencil, or that one type of paper or that right kind of ink that will make your drawing life better. The goal is make drawing cartoons fun and easy. If its fun and easy you’ll do it even more. Technology changes and pen and paper get better. And if you draw all the time you will get better too.