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Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Those who know me know that I've vented a fair share of vitriol at "Wacom jockeys," that almost incalcuable mass of (mostly) online cartoonists whose work is so obviously completely drawn in Photoshop, gradiented and textured to infinity, computer lettered, and shit up on Keenspace or wherevs. I thought that a digital pen was the biggest piece of shit shortcut fuckface limpdick lazyass tool in the universe and nothing good could ever come of using one. Sorry, Scott McCloud, I love you like an uncle but that's how it is.

And then I got my boss to buy me one for shits and giggles since we needed to spend money on computer hardware for our taxes. I figured I'd fuck around with it, see what I could do, maybe it'd speed my photoshop work up a bit.

Well, I really like it and it has a lot of potential as a drawing tool, surprise surprise. It's still really easy to make shitty drawings on. Because you can't "rotate the paper," drawing straight lines freehand is impossible. A lot of people recommend the Pen tool in photoshop but I can't get the hang of that thing. But it's really good for a lot of things.

Exhibit A. This is the first finished thing I drew with it. It's heavily photo-traced, obviously, but you can see a lot of interesting effects in it. The line width can be set to pressure sensitivity, giving a natural woble and variance to the brush tools. For coloring, you can set the opacity to pressure, giving you an easy watercolor effect. I used a ton of layers on this project - breakdowns, line art, flat color base, modeling, black shading, color shading, white highlighting, etc, which was tough to keep track of, but if you work from a traditional accretive model it gets pretty intuitive.

Exhibit B. Completely drawn digitally. Very satisfying. Did two panels a day. This kind of style is easy. Love the linework on the clouds. The pressure variation thing made this feel really natural.

This tutorial was on Brian Bolland's site until it disappeared. He draws everything with the Wacom, from breakdowns to finished inks. I still can't figure out how he freehand drawns naturalistic human figures, I just can't do it with this thing. I have to slowly work up from skeletal forms and even then it's hard. I think I'm probably just going to pencil normally and scan those if I ever draw a full comic digitally. I'm thinking about it.

You can get a Wacom Graphire 6x8 for like $150. If you do any kind of computer work on your comics, I highly recommend it. Just don't be lazy with it, like with any other tool, and it'll serve you well.


At 3:53 PM, Blogger CamChes said...

Thanks K. I saw the entry about Bolland's tutorials at TCJ message board, and downloaded them from the link provided. I enjoyed the 2nd one as well, which demonstrated the coloring process more. It's made me consider purchasing a wacom to give it a try. I'm still a hands-on paper kinda guy, but I'm up for giving it a chance. Is there a reason why one would get the Graphire tablet over the Intuos other than the fact that its cheaper?

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Wes Rand said...

Get yourself Painter and you enjoy the tablet a lot more. Then you can rotate the "paper" and draw with tools a lot more like real tools (I love the Sumi-e).

At 7:08 PM, Blogger Mikhaela said...

Yes, Painter vs. Photoshop definitely makes a difference. The digital strips I drew in PhotoShop with my Wacom embarass me so much now that I have removed them from my website.

Photoshop has a limited set of brushes, whereas Painter has a wide variety of brush and pencil/charcoal effects.

But I still draw way faster by hand, and reserve the Wacom for editing and coloring.

At 3:38 PM, Anonymous skullyflower said...

man, no, you've gone over to the dark side.
I've tried and I just don't like it. I just don't. It feels all wrong and I have less control. Besides I like having originals on paper with traces of my dna on them.

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Aaron said...

You should check out Alias's Sketchbook Pro too.

Works awesome with a tablet PC or the wacom Cintiq.

Of course, it's nice even with a traditinoal wacom like the intuos or graphire lines, but nothing beats drawing on the screen.

Camches - The graphires have 512 levels of pressure sensitivity and the Intuos line has 1024.

At 11:21 PM, Blogger Mal Jones said...

I love my tablet so much, but the appeal of ink on paper is just too much for me to ever go totally digital I think.

But god does my Tablet make adding colors and tones and textures exactly where I want them SO much easier.

At 11:19 AM, Blogger Tim said...

Got a Wacom for Christmas. Still can't draw anythng remotely presentable but it's fun to experiment with it. Nice Bolland tutorial, thanks muchly for that.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger Chuck Forsman said...

What about Adobe Illustrator? How does that work with a tablet?

At 11:53 PM, Anonymous Spubba said...

I'd just like to chime in with, I've been drawing comics digitally for a while now and I don't think mine look bad. I've done lineart in Photoshop, Flash MX, and Illustrator using my Wacom Intuos II 9x12 and I think it now looks better than my lineart on paper. It certainly goes faster.

A small example (drawn in Photoshop CS)

To answer Chuck's question, you can use a tablet with Illustrator, but the pressure sensitivity is just a little wacko for my tastes, so I don't do freehand lineart in it.


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