Digital Drawing Tools For Comic Artists
Digital Drawing Tools for comic artists abound in 2018!
I have been drawing comics ever since I can remember. This culminated to my self-publishing a comic book with my brothers in 1991.
While this sounds exciting, I still consider myself very much an amateur.
When we published our comic book, digital drawing tools for comic artists were simply not available to us. It wasn’t in the cards for me to pursue a career in comic drawing, so I stuck with it only as a hobby.
During this time, I have had an opportunity to try a host of digital drawing tools for comic artists in my pursuit to satisfy my need to grow artistically.
Armed with this experience, I am going to share with you all the tools I have used and let you know which I prefer. Many of the products I discuss in this post are listed and available for purchase through our Recommended Digital Drawing Tools page. Purchasing any of the tools through this page helps support my website and is much appreciated!
What Constitutes A Digital Drawing Tool for comic artists?
I want to include as much as possible in this post on what supports, inspires and improves my comic art when I am drawing.
With this in mind, I am providing a glimpse into the following:
- Pen Displays
- Drawing Software
- Drawing Apps
- Educational Books and Tools
In addition, I want to talk about the different comic drawing styles, well-known artists and online resources for more inspiration.
Comic Drawing Styles
American comic style is the standard and began in the 1930’s. Marvel #1 was released in 1939. This style is dominated by semi-realistic, but exaggerated lines and proportions generally focused on superheroes and westerns in its early days.
Jack Kirby was the father of modern comic art. He did the most for the art form and, to this day, his work is easily recognized.
Comic art has evolved over the years gaining detail and complex movements and action.
Joe Madureira is one of my favorite American comic artists. He mixed popular styles with awesome results. His manga inspired American comic book art brought a new and exciting look to some of our favorite characters and books.
Speaking of the Manga style, it was the Japanese that brought this art gem to the world in the 12th century. Manga easily identified by its depiction of female and male characters that have similar features, the biggest draw (pardon the pun) is the liveliness and soul in the images. They seem to be alive. Movement is a focus of this art style.
The Animation/Anime art style is a highly stylistic, almost cartoon and simple art style, with similar movement focus as Manga. Serious comic readers are fans of the anime style.
I love Bruce Timm’s artwork and style that combines this comic art style with the noir look having dark shadows and contrast.
It is beautiful!
The characters are larger than life with the overtly exaggerated upper bodies and smaller torso and legs.
This is so very powerful!
The Digital Drawing Tools Of Professional Comic Artists
Speaking of artists, there are a lot of them using digital methods for creating their work. Some transitioned from traditional methods and others are young enough to have been professionally drawing digitally since the start of their careers.
Todd McFarlane primarily uses the Wacom Cintiq and a computer for drawing these days. The co-founding owner of Image and his own toy company, McFarlane Toys, explains his preference for digital art in this video interview from SyFy Wire.
Todd primarily uses Adobe’s Photoshop with his Cintiq. His technique is a big part of his efficiency in drawing and he uses the lasso tool extensively.
Todd has been drawing digitally for some time and in 2011 he created this video on his YouTube channel to show how he sets up his Photoshop page for comic sizing as well as how he sets up his brushes, and much more.
Todd does a regular video stint teaching and showing off his drawing skills on his Facebook page.
Rob, another co-founding member of Image Comics, began his career at a very young age, as a professional. Around the age of 18, he was published by Megaton Comics shortly before they shut down. Attending a con in San Francisco he was discovered by DC Comics and Marvel almost simultaneously.
Rob’s career took off and he was one of the 7 or 8 artists that ditched Marvel comics in the early 1990’s to begin Image Comics.
Rob certainly began as a traditional artist and now also uses digital methods in the process of drawing a comic. Rob mixes his process with traditional and digital drawing techniques. He uses Apple’s iPad to draw rough layouts and print bluelines using the Sketchbook Pro app. He completes his work on Bristol board in a traditional manner.
I learned of Joe Quesada, personally, from a comic published by Event Comics in the 1990’s called Ash. I met Joe at a con in north central Florida. He signed my copy of Ash #1. I don’t think I have that book anymore – wish I did.
Many years later, there’s Joe again! He was the Editor-In-Chief at Marvel Comics. I remember watching some of the Saturday morning episodes of the various Marvel character cartoons on Disney XD.
I caught a glimpse of an insert just before a commercial break. It was a little break where the host was introducing Joe, who was seated at a Wacom Cintiq and he was walking fans through the process of drawing Captain America.
I was in awe! Joe uses a Cintiq! It was my first time seeing a pro use this digital drawing tool to sketch a familiar and famous character.
1990’s comic art influenced me a lot. I really enjoyed the work of Joe, and the others, and found it to be quite inspiring.
I have been out of traditional comics for some time, as a fan. I have been concentrating on my daughter’s art and my career (which has nothing to do with comics) and have lost sight of the trends and artists.
Looking for a Jim Lee artbook, recently, I discovered an artbook of an artist with which I was unfamiliar. Mike Deodato’s art is amazing. After I stumbled upon his work, I Googled him in image search and found an awesome Old Man Logan black and white he did. It was amazing. I love the dark noir look and Deodato is the master at this.
I did some research and found Mike has a YouTube channel. He uses a Cintiq from Wacom, as well.
His work on Old Man Logan is worth taking a look at. It is absolutely amazing.
I enjoy using Instagram specifically for looking for artists and their work. I follow a bunch of them and I am impressed with a lot of them as they are quite active and share a lot of their process. Very neat stuff.
I came across some of Sean “Cheeks” Galloway’s work and I was blown away.
I recently ordered four of his books. Due to a delivery issue I was compensated by an unexpected addition of a few extra books, which was very generous on Sean’s part and very much appreciated on mine.
Sean uses a Wacom Cintiq 24HD for his work. He also uses Photoshop. He has his own studio called Table Taffy and he self publishes a couple of books there. I recommend checking these out. He also has an active presence on Facebook.
Ray is an illustrator and artist that I found on the web when looking for assets related to my favorite drawing app, formerly known as Manga Studio Pro. (Manga Studio is now distributed by CelSys and has been renamed to Clip Studio Paint. We discuss it later on in this article.)
Ray has a lot of top brands as clients and has worked at Nickelodeon as an artist on Teenage Mutant Turtles and Spongebob Squarepants.
Ray prefers traditional over digital drawing tools, but he has invested in the digital arena extensively.
He offers a set of brushes for Clip Studio Paint. You can check out Frenden’s custom brushes at this link (Not an affiliate link).
Ray has a Wacom Cintiq 27QHD, but he has purchased and reviewed several alternatives. These include:
- Bosto 22U
Frenden has a blog and he appears to keep it updated regularly. He has several YouTube videos on his channel, they seem to be between 2 to 11 years old. Some are reviews and others are of him inking various works, etc.
Digital Drawing Tools For Comic Artists And Art Technology
Digital drawing has been a dream of mine since the mid 1980’s. At 16 years old in 1984, I was drawing with charcoal on paper and was interested in using more mediums to experiment with my art.
Meanwhile, my father purchased a Commodore 64 computer and I found some art software. I was immediately disappointed because I expected more. I think I was a bit ahead of my time with the whole digital drawing dream.
Fast forward to the 90’s and even then the technology was not prepared to offer an experience even close to drawing on paper.
By now, I was dabbling with sketching in pencil on Bristol board and using Higgin’s Black Magic ink with a paint brush and a mechanical pen I could refill.
I used the penciling and inking method to create our self-published comic book in 1991, with my brothers.
Around 2005 I bought my first Wacom tablet. It was great and I used it coupled with Photoshop. The experience wasn’t optimal for me and it felt a bit awkward.
At this point, I was looking for the perfect software to couple with my Wacom tablet. It wasn’t until 2012 that I discovered the Manga Studio Software distributed by Smith Micro here in the US.
Today, there are a slew of options available for artists wanting to draw digitally. There is a learning curve and it is not always easy to pick up. Some give up as the feeling is quite different. However, Wacom has been working on their technology and has released a tablet that has texture overlays to simulate the drag of a pencil across textured paper. It does a pretty good job of it.
Pictured: Wacom Texture Samples
I have a lot of various products I have picked up over the past few years to help make my process more efficient. Even though this is a hobby for me, I take it very seriously.
So, I decided to share my research and purchases with others to help them make their choices. I hope this information is helpful to fellow artists looking at digital drawing tools for comic artists and the available options.
To kick things off, I want to start with the hardware. This can range from the tablets themselves to mice, PCs and much more.
I am a laptop guy. This allows me to be somewhat mobile. I am an SEO and CX/UX executive at a large firm and I have been known to pop open an HTML/PHP/CSS IDE and type up some code on the fly. A portable, reliable computing system is important to me and my career.
Of course, any computing device has to be able to support my software choices. That includes my drawing software.
I started my web career in 1993 and have been working with it since. Back then, an IBM PC compatible was the tool of choice for web based work. The Mac simply did not have the tools and options necessary for the technologies I was working with. I was a Windows user on a PC for about 20 years.
Habits are, sometimes, hard to break.
In the past three years, I have owned two Macbook Pro computers.
Not because they only last that long, but because I bought a new one for myself and handed down the other to my youngest daughter.
We love our Mac’s. Why? There are a lot of reasons and many are listed here:
- Operating System
- Wake from sleep
- Low Malware and Virus Susceptibility
I recommend the latest Macbook Pro that includes the touch bar. Plenty of drawing apps are compatible with the touch bar.
I have tried several mobile tablets and found most of them to be majorly lacking, with the exception of one.
I have never tried the Wacom Cintiq Companion or MobileStudio, but I have heard a lot about them from others. The price for the Companion is definitely in range when compared to the Surface or iPad Pro – so it could be a viable consideration.
I never considered it, so you won’t see it on my list below. Probably the biggest reason I didn’t consider it is because of reviews from artists I trust.
I purchased the Microsoft Surface 2 a couple of years prior the release of the iPad Pro. The Surface allowed me to use my Manga Studio software on it and it worked just as it had on my Windows PC.
The problem was that the Surface 2 screen size was less than optimum for drawing. The resolution on the screen caused the tools and menu options to be so small that it was somewhat unusable.
The pen to screen textile was also not desirable. It felt similar to other solutions I have used, but it did not have the feel of a Wacom tablet. Wacoms are simply the industry leader and it is hard to find anything with a similar feel.
Nearly 3 years ago, I bought my first iPad Pro 12.9” tablet with Apple Pencil. I bought mine the first week they were released, in November of 2015, at my local Best Buy.
I began to review all the compatible apps to see which would work best for my digital drawing needs.
At the time, Procreate was the leading drawing app for the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. We’ll talk about the winning apps in the next section, but for me, the Apple iPad Pro and Apple Pencil are the perfect, mobile, digital comic drawing combination for the comic book artist.
If you are looking for the perfect device, with the right apps and screen size for mobile drawing – look no further – Apple has it.
Certainly, Wacom has the market cornered here. I have tried some of the alternative, “knock-off” tablets and was disappointed with the results every time.
My recommendation for a standard drawing tablet is the Wacom Intuous Pro Medium. My daughter uses this tablet. She has had one for the past 6 years and only recently did we have to replace it due to the USB cable port on the tablet itself, broke.
The replacement tablet was entirely redesigned by Wacom and while the drawing space itself perfectly matches that of the previous medium version, it is a smaller footprint overall.
In addition, the tablet is now capable of being charged and then used without the cable via wireless Bluetooth connection. On a Mac, this is a VERY simple process. You can use the tablet while its charging which is definitely a good thing.
Wacom’s Cintiq is the dominate market leader for pen displays. The Cintiq line has been popular with professional artists for some time. There have been a lot of alternatives popping up on the market.
I tried one called the Yiynova.
The Yiynova MVP20U+FE is a Full HD pen display that works with Windows and Mac. I own the previous version, which was not full HD.
I like the Yiynova, but there are some things that are a little annoying after having used a Wacom Pen Display.
First, the Yiynova drivers for the previous version of the MVP20U+FE were a little particular when installing them for the Mac. This annoyance and extra effort are not enough that I wouldn’t recommend the device. In fact, in spite of the issues, I would still recommend it for budget conscious artists.
Another issue is that the pen requires a battery. It adds weight to the pen, and while many say this extra heft adds to the experience, it can get old when you are in a 4 hour drawing session.
The Yiynova screen is bright and reflective. Room lights can cause glare on the screen and this can become annoying.
Finally, the feel of the pen on the screen is slick. It’s difficult to get a steady line and you really have to concentrate and work in short line bursts. Some say in their reviews that there is a “gap” between the screen surface and where the line is actually being drawn.
Some artists find this distracting, but I do not see it as an issue for me. However, I am right-handed and this might be more of an issue for a left-handed artist.
I can see how my daughter draws (she is left-handed) and she has a direct view of the pen and tip, so she might see the gap more readily than I would.
Wacom is the flagship offering of the digital drawing tools for comic artists. They are definitely innovative and I have seen their products improve exponentially over the years.
At all levels of their tablets and pen displays, it is clear they are working to provide the very best experience to their artist community of buyers.
The Cintiq Pro was recently released. You can now purchase a Cintiq Engine to add to the Pro Pen Displays that will turn your Cintiq into a standalone workstation.
Of course, these systems can run several thousands of dollars. I wasn’t quite ready to spend that, so I bought the Wacom Cintiq 22HD.
The Cintiq is not light. It is quite heavy, actually. You’ll need a desk. The Cintiq 22HD has an awesome rig that attaches on the back to rotate and adjust the screen for different angles from flat to standing and degrees in between.
The rig/stand is made of metal and the whole unit feels quite solid.
I seriously have not found a negative to report on this display. The screen has some sort of anti-glare built in and prevents annoying glare.
The pen requires no battery and no charging. It just works. The screen textile when drawing with the pen is perfection. It doesn’t look as though there is texture, but it certainly feels different than the non-present drag of the Yiynova.
The weight of the pen is excellent and my 50 year-old hand can steady the lines. I don’t suffer wrist fatigue hefting it.
Software-based Digital Drawing Tools For Comic Artists
Oh! Now we are getting to the good stuff! Software and Apps make the digital drawing tools for comic artists truly masterful. Without the right software or app, the devices are useless. It’s all in the software.
While Procreate for iOS is fantastic for drawing and painting, it is not my top choice for the best comic book producing software.
No, not at all – in fact, here are some of my favorites:
iPad Pro Apps
Clip Studio Paint
Clip Studio Paint, formerly known as Manga Studio here in the U.S., has been distributed by Smith Micro for many years until recently. Celsys now handles the U.S. distribution and they have renamed the product to Clip Studio Paint.
Until November of 2017, there was no version of Manga Studio or Clip Studio Paint that worked on an iOS tablet. Clip Studio Paint is one of the very best digital drawing tools for comic artists, on the planet, hands down.
I was always looking for a suitable iOS app to live up to the capabilities of the Clip Studio Paint desktop software. I am listing out the others, below, that I found to be acceptable alternatives but they are not up to par with this awesome program.
The Clip Studio Paint software is very powerful and I am surprised that it has been effectively ported to iOS, as I thought it would be near impossible to do so.
Boy, was I wrong! Not only did Celsys pull it off, they did so beyond my expectations. Looking at the app on the iPad versus the desktop software I cannot see a difference between the two.
Clip Studio Paint is available on the desktop, for a one-time cost.
However, the Clip Studio Paint iOS app is only offered as a monthly subscription. Some artists have drawn the line in the sand (pun intended) and won’t purchase a subscription to use the app.
I recommend the app for any serious artist wanting a mobile solution for drawing when away from their pen display at home.
Comic Draw For iPad
Comic Draw is a solid entry into the digital drawing tools for comic artists collection. It is a great app for digital drawing enthusiasts. Available in the App Store, it has a one-time fee. It’s pretty pricey, but it is worth it if you don’t want to subscribe to Clip Studio Paint.
The lines are smooth and taper with pressure, well. The tool selection is great and it is pretty intuitive. If I didn’t have the funds to pay for the monthly subscription for Clip Studio Paint, this would be my app of choice, for sure!
Medibang is one of the free digital drawing tools for comic artists in the group. This app is extremely powerful and it puzzles me as to why it is still free. My daughter still uses the desktop version of this app as her primary drawing software.
Like Tiger Woods and Annie Lebovitz, my daughter believes the clubs and cameras don’t make the professional – it’s the talent! Medibang has all the necessary tools and ease of use of many of the others in our toolbox. The difference is that it is free. When comparing it to the others, it lives up to the features, tools and options very well. From that perspective, you’d have no idea it is free. It is simply near perfect.
Clip Studio Paint
Clip Studio Paint is the leader in digital drawing for comic art. I have worked with a lot of various software solutions designed to help digital drawing comic artists with their craft.
Clip Studio Paint was first developed in Japan under the name Comic Studio. It is ported to English for the US and distributed by Celsys.
I have tried both Mac and PC software marketed for this purpose and have found none to match the capabilities of Clip Studio Paint.
There are two versions of Clip Studio Paint. The Pro version is the least expensive one, but with limited features. The EX version is more expensive and is a full-featured solution.
Both versions have a lot of the same features. However, these key features are missing from the Pro version and can be found only in the Clip Studio Paint EX version:
- Support for drawing a multi-paged comic or manga
- (The Pro version only supports a single-paged comic or manga)
- Professional Animation features
- (The Pro version only supports short animations up to 24 frames in length)
- Printing and Exporting multi-paged books
- Convert 3D and 2D images to manga drawing outlines
I love this software for the intuitive features such as comic/manga page layout, word and thought balloons, customizing brushes and pens and much more.
Clip Studio Paint comes with materials for drawing objects and working with 3D. It also provides “dolls” to pose and use for reference for various body shapes and actions.
Sub tools for drawing speed lines and other techniques are included. The ruler supports perspective lines and perfect circles among a host of other possibilities.
Medibang for the desktop is full-featured. The iOS version does not have all the available tools that this version has. This software is complete in every way, though it does not support animation like Clip Studio Paint does.
Though this version is also free, it comes off as a well developed solution in this round up of digital drawing tools for comic artists.
The tools are intuitive and the brushes are fantastic.
Medibang’s email subscription providing community information from other artists and software update news is all in Japanese and virtually unreadable (unless you can read Japanese).
Inspiration Leveraging Digital Drawing Tools For Comic Artists
I am always looking for art from various artists with styles that inspire me. I am regularly scouring Instagram and Pinterest for new art from my favorites, as well as those I haven’t stumbled across before.
Also, I am always looking for books, accessories and other tools to help inspire me or to improve my work. Practice makes perfect, but so does looking at others’ work and leveraging certain tools and tutorials.
Below are some of my favorite drawing supplements and digital drawing tools for comic artists:
Body Kun Manikins
These are definitely some of my favorite traditional and digital drawing tools for comic artists, of the bunch. These well designed and manufactured manikins are extremely flexible and posable. You can get them in a variety of colors and featured packs. Some come with various hands with fixed poses and others even include various weapons with which to pose them.
The Body Kun Manikins can be pricey and they are a bit small measuring around 5 to 6 inches in height. They typically come with a posing stand. The good ones are manufactured by Bandai. Be careful because there are knock-off versions available and from the reviews I’ve read the quality is questionable.
I tend to use reference images, like a lot of other comic book artists, when I draw. These are a great tool for that purpose. I shoot photos of these with my iPhone or iPad after posing them. I, then, use these images in a background layer and draw on top of them as a pose reference. These manikins work great for this use.
Kubert Correspondence Courses
I have been a comic fan since the late 1970’s. My older brothers liked to draw, and my oldest brother was very good at it. In fact, he submitted a lot of his work to Marvel back then, but it was always rejected.
As a kid, I picked up a lot of Western-themed comic books. I also enjoyed the comics about the army and war. One of my favorite artists of the time was Joe Kubert.
When I was married in the late 80’s, I often told my wife I wanted to go to the Joe Kubert School of Comic Book Art in New Jersey. Of course, this wasn’t possible for us.
As the internet started to take hold, I would watch the school’s website for any sign of an online course or correspondence course.
For Christmas 2017, I received 6 available correspondence courses that the Joe Kubert school had available. They were absolutely amazing. They were so good, I decided to order all the remaining books.
I definitely recommend these books to any comic book art enthusiast.
Masters Of Anatomy
Kickstarter is one of my favorite sites for seeking out new comics and illustrations. I am inspired by all the creativity.
One such Kickstarter was funding a book on anatomy by famous, professional artists in their own style. Each page was adorned with an artist’s rendition of a female and male representation in three states. Front, back and 3/4 views.
This book was fantastic and its successful Kickstarter spawned another couple of books from famous artists. One book presented the various characters of the Robin Hood story by various artists. This was awesome to look at as we could see their independent visions for the characters.
The other book was of various male poses. It too, is an interesting book and inspires a lot of creativity.
These guys didn’t stop there. They have created a fourth book of poses – this time for women.
Udemy Drawing Courses
If you are a tablet or smartphone user, I recommend looking at Udemy. As digital drawing tools for comic artists go, this is one of the better solutions in supporting and inspiring an artist by other artists. The app is easy to use and most of the courses are reasonably priced.
Of course, Udemy is for more than just instructional videos for drawing. There are video courses for a multitude of topics. If learning is your thing, this is an excellent resource.
Bridgeman’s Drawing Book Of Anatomy
When I was 15 years old, my grandmother bought me this book. I still consider it the main reason I am drawing today, even if only as a hobby.
Of all of my favorite digital drawing tools for comic artists and supplementals, I credit this one for instilling some sort of anatomical accuracy within my figures. However, like most artists, I still struggle with anatomy a whole lot. It is my primary issue when drawing.
This is by far my favorite book for assisting with drawing anatomy, even with the exaggerations I use, to some sort of reasonability.
I recommend this book for anyone wanting to improve on their anatomy drawings.
Artist Art Books
The artbooks for various professional comic book artists are one of the prize digital drawing tools of inspiration of my collection. Some of these books are highly informative and comprehensive and include completed works, as well as pencil sketches for new characters, designs and scenes.
Flipping through the pages of these books help motivate me as I prepare for a few hours in front of the drawing display.
These books represented below are just some of my favorites.
I discovered Sean’s work on Instagram. He has a style that is easily recognizable, full of life and quality. He is not only a great penciller, but he can ink and color. Sean is the total picture.
I bought several of Sean’s artbooks and they are a gem.
Sean is best known as the Lead Character Designer and Supervisor for “The Spectacular Spider-Man” animated series on the WB (CW) from 2008 to 2009. Sean is also known as an artist on various titles for both DC and Marvel comics.
He has his own studio where he has developed books based on his own, original characters.
Jim Lee is a serious comic book artist. His work is dramatic and brings realism and classic tradition to the art form.
He started his career at Marvel where he pencilled and co-wrote the best-selling comic book of all time, X-Men #1. Jim was also one of the founding members of Image Comics in 1992, along with Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld and others. There, he created Wildcats and a host of other original characters and runs.
Jim is now the co-publisher at DC Comics. His artbook, “Icons: The DC & Wildstorm Art of Jim Lee”, is a tremendous inspirational book of Jim’s career. The works span the various projects he has had a part in and it was well put together.
Todd’s art book is one of my favorites in the digital drawing tools for comic artists archive of inspiration. He put a lot of his personality in this book and he had a hand in what appeared. It was definitely a personal journey from him and it shows.
I recommend this book in hardcover, if you can find a copy.
Pinterest is a veritable feast of drawing inspiration. Just use the search to enter “comic book drawing art inspiration” and see what you can up with. It is packed with resources.
My instagram is packed with some awesome follows that you might be interested in. These men and women keep me motivated, inspired and practicing with every post they make!
Here are some Instagram accounts for you to check out:
I watch a lot of YouTube to gain inspiration and ideas. There are many artists on YouTube providing support to fellow artists and they are very good at teaching their craft. Out of the many that I watch, these are my favorite:
Digital Drawing Tools For Comic Artists Wrap Up!
This has been quite a ride. I hope you gained as much from reading, as I did writing it. Oh! Did I missing something? If so, hit me up in the comments. Thanks for the read!
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