Ask a Cartoonist: Tech Invasion!
Every couple of years, I ask our cartoonists to talk about how tech has changed the way they work-- and every couple of years, the answers evolve as new digital ways of drawing, animating, and more, evolve! Here's what our cartoonists have to say about technology today!
Isabella Bannerman, Six Chix:
I now use a Wacom Cintiq for some of my drawing, coloring and clean up.
And here is a cartoon about robots, just for fun.
Bill Holbrook, Kevin & Kell, On the Fastrack, and Safe Havens:
I previously mentioned how I use Photoshop to create my strips, so this time I'll talk about Adobe's Character Animator software that allows me to create Dethany's Mailbox videos. It took a while to create the image of Dethany with multiple arm positions, and mouths for each vocal sound for speech, but once those were all in place it can automatically create the animation to the audio provided by the talented voice actor Amy Sweeney. As the video records, I just have to hit keys on the keyboard for the different arm positions. I then use iMovie to add the additional artwork for each video.
Dethany's video for May is now on YouTube.
She discusses Memorial Day, the company's toxic work environment and why I never draw the tattoos that mean so much to her.
Like many cartoonists, I use Photoshop for making sketches, and for coloring and adding text to scanned art (I still draw with ink on paper).
In addition to the usual digital art tools, I also use good old Excel to keep track of Bizarro cartoons. After a cartoon is written, I add a description of it to the "Unassigned" sheet in my Master List workbook. I give each cartoon a sequential Index Number, so I always know how many I've drawn. Then, each week, I lay them out and assign the publication dates as shown in the screen grab.
The column labeled "Converted" is where I keep track of comics that I've also arranged in the strip layout, for client newspapers who print it in that format. I check off the "Archived" field when all of my files for that day (black & white and color versions, for both panel and strip layouts) are complete and sent off. Finally, I have a "Holiday" column, in case I want to do a holiday-themed gag.
It's a software item that helps me with the record-keeping and scheduling parts of being a cartoonist. These are things that don't always come naturally to artistic types.
Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead:
I know the basics of Photoshop, but I still send color guides (colored pencil on photocopy) to King for my Sunday Zippy. It's just a routine I'm used to. By the way, whoever does the color on the daily Zippy deserves a Golden Ding Dong Award--he/she does great work and is clearly bringing much more than obvious ideas to the task.
I use Google and Wikipedia almost every day for something related to my daily. Sometimes, just for a spell check, others for historical references or images. I have a large library of books on my studio shelves, but online images are often quicker to find or more comprehensive. Doing a strip like the one below would only be possible with reference photos--in this case, ones I found online.
This strip (and a bunch of others of mine featuring NYC subways) will be part of an upcoming "Comics and the Subways" show at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn soon.
Alex Hallatt, Arctic Circle:
I love listening to music or podcasts when I’m inking. Digital downloads, or streaming has made that easier (my current favourite podcast is Fortunately…with Fi and Jane - very BBC British humour), but there are a few things I miss about analogue. I rarely listen to an album all the way through these days. However, I don’t miss cassette tapes. What a pain they were, especially when one side was much longer than the other!
Marcus Hamilton, Dennis the Menace:
John Rose, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith:
I really enjoy listening to podcasts about cartooning, animation and Disney while I am inking my comic strips. There are many that I listen to regularly. One of my favorite podcasts is hosted by former Disney Animators, Tom and Tony Bancroft. It is called The Bancroft Brothers Animation Podcast and features interviews with animators, cartoonists and many others in the industry. They have nearly 100 episodes in their archives. Check it out if you enjoy podcasts
Terri Libenson, The Pajama Diaries:
I’m a huge fan of my Wacom Cintiq (digital drawing tablet). I spend so much time with it, I call it my boyfriend. My husband is not amused.
I have another monitor next to that, and I use it for podcasts, Netflix, news, or music while I draw. For writing – everything gets turned off.
David Reddick, Intelligent Life:
I work entirely digital. I'm a total nerd (like Mike in my comic) for everything tech, next-gen and digital... which allows me to fly with more freedom (and even greater enjoyment).
I sketch, draw and ink everything on my 10.5" iPad Pro with my Apple Pencil (which allows me to work anywhere... while getting the tires rotated... Starbucks... the Dentist...) using my favorite drawing program "Procreate," for all of my personal sketches and drawings, as well as to pencil and ink all of my Intelligent Life and Blondie strips.
I'll take the finished work from Procreate on my iPad Pro and pull it into Photoshop via Adobe's Creative Cloud or Google Drive (where I store and maintain all my files in triplicate and which also allows me to always sync between ANY device, at any time, from anywhere, even my iPhone (I've even drawn an Intelligent Life panel on my iPhone with a cheap stylus) using either my Microsoft Surface Pro 5 (another portable tablet PC that allows me to work from anywhere and accommodates Photoshop and PC programs) or my desktop 21" Wacom Cintiq to finish it off. I've lately been teaching myself "Clip Studio," which allows you to run the full program on an iPad Pro as well as other devices, which is super cool.
I write and organize all of my Intelligent Life storylines, ideas, etc. in the Noteshelf 2 app (the BEST organizational "hand-writing" notebook app EVER) on my iPad, so I can sit in bed, sipping tea and hand-write my ideas. I also often type my strips from scratch right into their templates I created right in Photoshop on my Surface Pro or my Cintiq.
One of my most valuable tools is Audible. I love to read and listen to books incessantly whilst I toil away the hours doing what I love.
And one last note... I learned to draw comics looking at old early 20th century newspapers growing up in an antique shop and using old-school tools (dip pens in Higgins black ink bottles), and have used most of the art tools available, like Pigma Microns, et al... and I believe using and learning to draw with those analog instruments have absolutely informed the way I draw and ink digitally. I use the same techniques as I did with those tools. The programs I use are ones that allow for the greatest level of that... what I feel, for me, is more genuine drawing... that is to say, programs that don't auto-correct my line or clean things up, but rather leave them as they were drawn. I like that human, vintage analog look and feel... using modern, digital tools.