blog, comics, Making Comics

Digital Drawing

Time rolls on and the seeds I planted two weeks ago have finally grown. Last week I took a singular look at traditional drawing, so this week, I dive into the world of digital drawing.

I don’t really know how long people have been drawing on computers, but it’s been around for a while. And drawing this way makes sense to me, because that’s how technology works. It evolves to give us more tools, to make life and work easier for us. Thus, when I began seriously making comics, I used the computer. There were a couple of reasons for this, one being my scanner is not good and makes life very hard. The other big reason was that, when reading about making comics, it seemed that all of the professionals were drawing digitally. So I thought that I would jump into the world of digital drawing, no problem. Of course, I’d drawn by hand for my entire life up to that point, so there was some learning to do.

Digital drawing is, at first, like exploring new land. As I said last week, it’s intuitive to draw by hand. But on the computer, you have to learn how everything works. Sure, you can put pen on screen, but what happens after that? If you use Photoshop, like I do, then you have to learn all the commands, shortcuts, and what every icon means. I don’t mean for that to sound terrible, you have to do that with a lot of technology. However, there are some trade offs. Photoshop possesses a lot of tools that can help you draw and make your work really stand out. You can add textures, patterns, or use special brushes. A few weeks ago, I used a brush that simulated a coffee cup circle, like someone had set their coffee on the page. That’s pretty neat! And for a holiday story about Christmas sweaters, I was able to add real sweater texture to the drawing, making them look like actual sweaters.


It can be a little daunting to learn everything you need to know to draw digitally. I mean, I’m still learning every time I sit down to draw. Sometimes I hit a key and things go horribly wrong, and I have no idea what I pressed. However, the more you use a program like Photoshop, the easier it becomes. Especially when you memorize shortcuts. As I’ve said in the past Ctrl+Z is a miracle. This expedited process is one of the biggest strengths of drawing digitally. If a mistake is made by hand, it takes more time and effort to fix it, especially if it’s done in ink. However, mistakes can be undone with great ease on the computer. You can change the size of your brush with a keystroke, select any tool you need in a second, and save in half a second so you can try something stupid to see if it pays off. There is far less permanence in your actions. This is also aided by the layers function in Photoshop that keeps parts of your image separate. This means you can draw and erase the foreground on one layer, without causing problems in the background layer.

The other really nice thing about digitally drawing is it skips the scanning process altogether. If you are drawing on large Bristol board, it can be hard to find a scanner big enough to get your page scanned. Then, you have to clean it up or darken the lines (this has been my experience, anyway). However, once you start drawing on the computer, obviously it’s already there. You can ink it, color it, letter it. Again, this saves time. Also, physical copies can get damaged, whereas those digital files are safe, unless something terrible happens! And my physical drawings often get covered in marks and don’t always look good after erasing. With digital files, I can just make the pencil layer invisible and move on. Personally, I like working digital these days, with all the drawing and file transferring I do via Photoshop and the Google Drive. I feel like everything is backed up and secure.

This is not to say that the digital method is perfect either (neither method will ever be perfect, I’m sorry to say). There are problems I’ve found. Like I said, physical drawing is far more intuitive. While you can learn the ways of Photoshop with time, there is still that sharp learning curve. And I would wager to say that not everyone feels like they can successfully master the program. Plus, you actually have to get Photoshop, as well as a tablet to draw on. These things can be expensive, and are far more expensive than pen and paper. There is a much greater start up cost for digital artist. But, these are the things you need. It also takes some time to get used to drawing on a tablet. When I began drawing, my lines were far more shaky and it felt wrong because I didn’t feel the paper under my pen. It can feel unnatural at first.


The other negative is linked to a positive. And that’s the permanence I mentioned above. Like I said in my entry on physical drawing, once you put the line down in ink, it’s down. However, when drawing digitally you can draw and undo the line fifty times before you’re happy. This can be a good thing, sure. But it can also lead to obsessive behavior, and the artist must know when to move on at some point. This may, sometimes, lead to less work getting done, even though you have all the cool tech tools to help you. It can be a double edged sword. There have been many comics that I’ve drawn, undone, drawn, undone, until I hated myself. It’s a temptation that you have to be careful with.

Something else I run into is the convenience of being able to zoom in to a panel. Often this is actually a great help. However, sometimes I zoom in too much, and lose perspective of the whole panel/page. I think it’s very important to see the whole picture, or you might forget just where you are, or how much space you have, which is essential in constructing a panel.

So, pros and cons, just like last time. There is a lot of convenience with drawing digitally, both with your tools and if something goes wrong. You can also add some flair that would be harder to do physically. Plus, working digital is the thing these days. But, there’s the high start up, the learning curve, and the chance to use the tools too much. So, when drawing digitally, you have to find your own method and remember its there to help you, not do the work for you. I really enjoy working digitally, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for this method.

Of course, I enjoy working physically, too. Sometimes you need to feel the paper. As I said weeks ago, I won’t say which is better. They both have their good and bad. You have to choose what works best for you. Some people do a hybrid; drawing physically and inking/coloring digitally. Find what works for you. Be it on paper or on a screen, the only way you’ll make comics is if it’s right for you.

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