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Digital Tools for Drawing Comic Books: Software and Hardware for Illustrating or Scanning Comic Art

Starting with experimental works like Batman: Digital Justice (1990), the use of digital techniques in comic books has become more common. This can range from computer-assisted lettering and coloring to fully computer-generated artwork.

Aspiring artists who don’t want to draw comics the traditional, pen-and-ink way may be drawn to the creative and commercial possibilities of digital tools. But these tools have their own peculiarities and learning curves.

Hardware for Drawing Comic Books Digitally

First, there are certain hardware components necessary for digitally drawing comic books. Which ones are needed most depends on how much of the creation and distribution will be done digitally.

  • Computer. Since high-quality graphics work is resource intensive, a newer computer with a powerful processor and a lot of memory is ideal.
  • Scanner. Artists who prefer to draw comics with traditional media, then augment their art on a computer, need a scanner to transform it into a digital file. The scanner glass needs to be big enough to accommodate the sheets or boards of original artwork.
  • Stylus and Tablet. Since fluid drawing with a mouse is nearly impossible, those wishing to draw freehand within a computer drawing program need a stylus and tablet. These come in models for various budgets – in general, the bigger they are, the pricier they get. Special screens that double as tablets for styluses are the most like drawing on a real page.
  • Printer. Printing is an important part of making comic books, though it’s not needed for comics that will be distributed digitally. Amateur creators can self-publish in small batches with any decent-quality home printer. As to whether an inkjet or laser printer is better, black and white line art is much cheaper to reproduce with a laser printer, but color art (or black-and-white washes) requires an inkjet for the best results.

Software for Drawing Digital Comics

Even the right hardware needs software to run. Some of the more common types of use to amateur or aspiring comics creators include:

  • Drawing and Painting Programs. Drawing comics directly on the computer requires specialized software. Depending on the style and preferences of the artist, this could be a drawing program, such as Adobe Illustrator, or a painting program, such as Corel Painter.
  • Photo-Editing Programs. Photo-editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, has tools that add extra effects to computer-generated and scanned artwork alike.
  • Comic Book-Drawing Programs. There are a number of computer programs that are specifically designed to help draw comics. They have panel templates and speech-balloon tools, for instance. Some, like Pixton, are designed to be used online, through a web browser. Others, such as Comic Life or Comic Book Creator, are standalone programs that are more fully-featured.

The Digital Needs of Comic Book Creators

Those comic book artists who draw and distribute solely through the computer might focus on using a stylus, tablet, and painting program. Those who prefer to make hard copies might have more use for a scanner, printer, and photo-editing software instead.

But whatever their choices, anyone wishing to incorporate digital tools into their comic book drawing should first get familiar with the available options.