Step One: Tools

Here’s what I use:

Following in the footsteps of the classic comic book artist, I use bristol board cut to 11”x17”. When I first began, I used a standard smooth white bristol, which was fine for Micron pens, but not up to the job when I made the switch to dip pens. The ink tended to bleed on the surface of the page, making the final line quality unsatisfactory.*

After some experimenting I discovered I could get superior results with Strathmore vellum bristol. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come in 11”x17”, so I have to trim it to size using a paper cutter.

*It’s possible that I wasn’t using the best ink at the time.


Pencils & Erasers:

  • 5mm generic mechanical pencil
  • H, HB, 2B wood pencils
  • Pentel “Clic” eraser
  • Staedtler Mars plastic eraser

For pencilling, I use H, HB, and 2B wood pencils during the layout phases, but usually finish the drawing using a generic .5mm mechanical pencil. I use Pentel “Clic” erasers for general erasing, and a big Mars block eraser for large areas plus clean-up when I’ve finished inking.

I get the best results from soft white plastic erasers like these.


Ink Pens:

  • Higgins Waterproof Black India Ink
  • Small & Large Hunt Nib holders
  • Hunt 108 Flexible point nibs
  • Hunt 56 School Round point nibs
  • Hunt 101 Imperial point nib
  • Sakura Pigma MICRON disposable technical pens

When I first started drawing PS, I inked exclusively with Sakura Pigma MICRON technical pens because they were cheap and mess-free. As time progressed, I began experimenting with more varied line weights and the MICRONs just weren’t cutting it. So, I took the plunge and started playing with old-style dipped nib pens.

I went through several different nibs before finally settling on the Hunt 108 Flexible nib. With it, I can get everything between really fine to really fat—it’s perfect for my character inks. The 108s eventually do clog up, though, so I replace the nib every few pages. Also, for things like “starburst” effects and like, the Hunt 56 School Round Point nib works great, as does the Hunt 101 Imperial point nib.

Word to the wise, dip pen inking is not for the faint of heart. When first starting out, be prepared to deal with drips and smudges before finally getting used to handling the pens. However, short of a complete disaster like spilling the ink bottle all over the page, there is little whiteout or an image editor like Photoshop can’t fix. In terms of line quality, I find dip pens to be unmatched—even by my Wacom drawing tablet. I still use the MICRONs for my backgrounds. I’ll probably go the rapidograph route eventually. I like the fluid lines that free-flowing ink produces.**

**In fact, I have. Though, I still keep a supply of MICRONs around.

Straight Edges


  • 24” T-square
  • 12”x6.785” 30º/60º triangle
  • 10”x”10” 45º triangle
  • 8”x4.65” 30º/60º triangle
  • 12” ruler w/ raised inking edge

You can’t do without some sort of straight-edge. I use the big T-square and triangles to do initial page layout, and everything else comes into play when dealing with perspective for the backgrounds. The ruler is good for inking lines with the dip pens.

Digital Production Tools:

  • Apple™ PowerMac™ G4 Quicksilver (867Mhz, 640MB RAM, 80GB HD)
  • Adobe™ Photoshop™
  • Adobe™ Illustrator™
  • 8.5”x14” (legal) Flatbed Scanner
  • 8.5”x6.25” Wacom™ Tablet

When doing artwork on a computer, make sure you have a machine that can handle the job. Luckily, these days most computers have plenty of horsepower. Although, I would recommend having lots of RAM and HD space over a beefy processor. As a professional graphic designer and illustrator, I prefer the Macintosh environment for my digital production, but I know plenty of artists out there who do fine work on equivalent Windows PCs. I also highly recommend Adobe products if you afford them, but there are other inexpensive apps that can do a decent job in the right hands, too.

The Wacom tablet isn’t necessary, but boy does it take the pressure off in the drawing stage. If you screw up, it’s really easy to fix on the computer when you can draw in your image editor.

Step Two