Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Comic Artist Starter Pack

I thought I'd written this list at  least a dozen times, but checking my archives, it's nowhere to be seen.  I've probably written it as a draft a dozen times, and through various computer deaths, have lost it a dozen times.  So by popular request, here are my recommendations for those interested in making comics.

There's no 'gimmick' that will make you a better artist, let alone a better comic artist.  I refuse to promise easy steps, or that these materials will change your life for the better.  What matters most is the time YOU put in to improving.

These are, however, materials and methods that work for me.  These are the tools I use regularly, the books I've learned from


Nonphoto blue lead- I like Color Eno Soft Blue in .7
HB and B Graphite lead- I prefer Pentel Hi Polymer leads in .7
Mechanical Pencils- I have at least 2- 1 dedicated to holding non photo blue lead, 1 for my H lead, 1 for B lead.  The metal bodied drafting pencils look legit, but after years of using one, it's wrecked my hand.  For regular sketching, plastic is more than fine, and if you can find something you like with a good grip, all the better.  You can always buy different pencils, but you've only got one pair of hands.

Blick Sketchbook or Strathmore Sketchbook- I use 9"x12" top spiral bound sketchbooks

Color pencils or china markers for quick studies

Recommended colors:

Terra Cotta
Tuscan Red


Kuretake Fudegokochi
Sailor Mitsuo Aida - Double sided, waterproof and alcohol marker proof on most papers
Creative Mark Rhapsody Brush Size 1 or 0
Waterproof India Ink

Tech Pens:
Budget:  Prisma Illustration Technical Pens (they're really very good!)
Copic Multiliner SP (refillable and replaceable nibs, metal bodies)


Signo White Gel Pen
Copic Opaque White
Synthetic brush for application


I invested in a 24" Alumicolor aluminum ruler that has lasted me half a decade with no signs of deterioration but honestly, even cheap rulers are fine.  I would stay away from wavy metal yardsticks.  12" and 18" clear plastic rulers are fantastic and very affordable
School compass for circles

Comic Paper:
Strathmore 500 Series Vellum and Plate Bristol- For your finished pages.
Neenah Cardstock
Canson Montval Watercolor Paper or Blick Studio Watercolor paper (budget)

Budget- Sakura Koi or Marie's watercolors
Midrange: Kuretake Gansai Tambi (if you don't plan on traveling with it)
Favorite: Winsor and Newton Half Pan Set


Cotman Mop Brush
Cotman Flat Brush
Creative Mark Rhapsody Brushes, Round- 2, 4, 6

As you paint, you'll discover what brushes you need, but these will help you get started.


If you're serious about getting into markers, I've written a buying guide that you can read here

Blick Studio Brush Markers 

Recommended Reading on Storytelling and Drawing

  • Story (Book) - Robert McKee
Temple of the Seven Golden Camels

Reference Sites:

Humans of New York
The Sartorialist
Senshi Stock (stock poses) Senshi Stock (figure drawing study tool)
Pixelovely- figure drawing tool, nudes (NSFW)
Google Sketchup

For even more great recommendations, please check the sidebar on the blog.  You can also check out this fairly comprehensive list.

You learn the most reading other people's work and analyzing what works and what does not.  You cannot write/draw if you don't consume the works of others, so read avidly!

If you're broke and JUST starting out, I highly recommend you purchase a sketchbook, a copy of Glen Vilppu's Drawing Manual, and some color pencils/wooden graphite pencils and get to sketching.  Those items, your time, and sincere dedication to practice and improvement, are some of the best investments you can make in your artistic development.

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