Monday 2 July 2007

About drawing paper. (part 1)


ince this is the kind of question a beginner always wants to ask, I thought a few posts about drawing paper, or 'art board' might be fun. In fact, I think it's best to stop thinking of it as 'art board' right from the outset; just think of it as the paper you draw on, as opposed to the paper it will be printed on. I drew the entire 48 pages of my masterpiece, Graffiti Kitchen, on ordinary typing paper because I wanted to remove all thoughts that I was wasting expensive paper while I merrily inked on it without pencilling and shredded it and threw away three times as much as I kept. In fact it doesn't even need to be paper. You could draw on your bum and photograph it if you thought that would make your work any funnier.

A young guy phoned me out of the blue once for the purpose of finding out what kind of board he needed to use to draw comics. When I told him what I myself use, he went away very disappointed. Either that or he thought I was pulling his leg, or even protecting trade secrets from being purloined by outsiders. I believe he wanted me to tell him the secret of obtaining that paper with all the guidelines already printed on it in blue, as it seemed to be his belief that his drawings could never be considered real comic book art without it. I've used the official Marvel and DC boards at least once each in my life, as evidenced by the image at left, part of my very first panel of the two issue Captain America job I drew in 2004. It's usually a good idea however to use DC boards for Marvel, and Marvel boards for DC. I used to think it would screw with their minds, but since everybody does it, they never even noticed. My assistant on the Cap job is one of those dedicated comic book aspirants who gets his own blue line boards made up, with StewART in bold across the top in proud cyan, so when we I ran out of both Marvel and DC boards (we were spoiling a lot of them in our desperation) I just used some of StewART's.

The type of paper discussed above is called bristol board, and if you are a young artist with no job and no money you will be alarmed at how expensive it is, even without the samples with a publisher's bluelines on them that you may have stockpiled by pretending that you spoiled a lot of them. For my own work however I very early, for reasons of economy, got into a habit using what is called ivory board. I don't think it was ever meant to be an art paper and I deduce it's used for making printed cartons or other design purposes. Note that I'm not recommending it to you by any means; my purpose is to show that there is no single answer to the question, 'what board?'. But it was always cheaper than bristol board and its glassy surface made it good for the kind of fast pen work I had turned into a speciallty. The board also comes in a couple of other styles made by embossing a texture onto it in the manufacture, such as a linen effect which I used for two whole chapters of From Hell (#2 and #10). Here's an example from the Bacchus story Afterdeath. I would use a crayon across the surface so that where it touched the raised parts it was black and where it didn't, in the depressions, it remained white, making a halftone effect. I've scanned this from the art, but it usually printed more or less accurately, tending to be darker, but since I usually used this board on stories where I wanted a bit of murk, that was fine. The nice thing about it was that this toothy surface never arrested the nib, so I could use fine lines on it also. ( a certain yellowness you can see on this scan is caused by a layer of sticky-backed transparency I'd lay over the crayon areas to avoid smudging. Theoretically that should be a bad idea, not unlike all my other ideas, but it has served me well).

More silly art-papers next time.
Back on 13 May I mentioned Sarnath Banerjee’s The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers, and a fellow just linked me to his article on The Plight of the Indian Graphic Novel
You may enjoy it if you like delightfully impenetrable references without any links to pictures so we could get a grasp on things:
"We are talking about the Baboo Bankim Chandra of the Indian graphic novel..."
"And even when you have plentiful instances of intellectual foppery and postcolonial spin offs, our graphic novelist writes 'Nuncoomar' like a pucca sahib"

But the poor chap thinks it's necessary to erase all yer pencil marks. he obviously isn't familiar with Campbell's works:
"The Indian press is all praise for Sarnath, whose illustrations, simply put, are horrible! In some frames, you'll see that the artist in his hurry to fame has simply forgotten to erase his pencil-marks from the paper... a criminal offense I never found repeated in the comics and graphic novels he tries to emulate!."
in other news:
In Yangon, Burma, thieves are taking advantage of outages often lasting for more than 20 hours a day to steal the copper power cables, police said on Friday. "The thieves are risking their lives as it is impossible to know exactly when the power is going to be restored."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to buy Daler paper for all drawing purposes although I've also been known to use anything to hand. I've also had the same earnest enquiries about materials as though the purchase of the right kind of pen guarantees a better end result. One of my favourite drawing instruments has been the humble Bic biro (medium, black).

Bryan Talbot used to enthuse about very expensive CS10 paper which has a smooth surface that can be scratched away if necessary. I never liked that, it felt like drawing on the side of a fridge or something.

2 July 2007 at 04:31:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Christopher Moonlight said...

I do like that cover.

2 July 2007 at 10:02:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

Back in the day, when I had comic artist pals, I used to sometimes tag along with some of them on trips to the art supply shop. One thing I noted about most comic artists I knew was that few of them used the paper provided them by Marvel, DC, etc. unless they were ordered to use it by their editor. Most of them would go to an art supply store and have it cut to order from some type of Bristol board/paper with which they were comfortable. I'd hear comments about the fact that such custom paper didn't "suck up" the ink or "smear" the ink or cause the ink to "fade", etc. Since I'm not a comic artist, such information tended to soar over my head or go in one ear and out the other.

2 July 2007 at 16:52:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Ian T. said...

Lately, I've gotten hooked on using bleedproof paper, for similar reasons to those you gave for using typing paper. It's cheap, works well for both pencil and ink, and you can trace roughs onto it easily. There are different qualities though, which is important if you're scanning in pure b&w and don't want pixel holes appearing (a rougher surface will do this). I can't seem to get my favourite bleedproof paper (made by Impact Art) anymore.

Bristol Board is still fantastic, but nowhere in Australia seems to keep it in stock, so importing adds to the expense.

2 July 2007 at 19:42:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Jack Ruttan said...

I was always browned off at "pros" who wouldn't tell you about their techniques, like it was some kind of trade secret, and they were afraid of you taking their jobs, or something.

So you ended up trying to do watercolour washes on typing paper or cardboard, or you hear that the Windsor Newton series 7 is the brush to use, but never hear about how much ink to put into it, or how to keep a point. (even how to clean it!)

I actually like black ballpoint, and typing paper gives me a freedom that bristol, or $45 dollar a sheet watercolour board won't let me have. Still, I'm amazed when my washes go right, or I paint some tapered lines rather than feel like I'm using a mop. A lot of that's tools.

So, you'll see portfolios with pages done with blue ballpoint ink

3 July 2007 at 14:10:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Anthony Woodward said...

I've ordered some 'Bristol' type paper from eckersly's in Brisbane before. I think they package it themselves or atleast someone local does.

9 July 2009 at 09:21:00 GMT-5  
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21 November 2009 at 23:02:00 GMT-5  

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