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How a cartoonist makes digital art

There’s a ton of tools for digital art on the market — tablets, styluses, drawing apps — but it can be hard to make sense of it all if you’re just starting to explore all the options available. When I first started drawing comics for my college newspaper, I had no idea what I was doing. I drew with a ballpoint pen and scanned it, and it looked truly awful. Then I got a Wacom tablet, and my art was still awful, but there was room for growth! With my newfound ability to work in layers and smash that undo button, the only way to go was up!

To illustrate my point, here’s a comic I drew in 2010:


And here’s the same comic redrawn now:


Eight years later, my process has stayed pretty much the same. I still use my cheap Wacom Bamboo tablet connected to my MacBook Air with a USB cable, and I draw on Clip Studio Paint. I resisted getting an iPad Pro for a while because I couldn’t get used to the feeling of drawing on glass, or find any drawing apps I liked. Then, last year, Clip Studio Paint released an iOS version that was nearly identical to their desktop version, and combined with artist Ray Frenden’s review of the iOS app, I was sold.

Working with a program I was used to helped me adjust to drawing on an iPad, and adding a matte screen protector from PaperLike made a huge difference. Using an Apple Pencil on the iPad is just way more pleasant now, and it reduces glare.


Image: PaperLike

I also got a Bluetooth keyboard, thinking it would help me with shortcuts, but it felt like it was defeating the purpose of why I got an iPad Pro in the first place (to draw in bed and on the couch). There’s definitely a learning curve to drawing on an iPad, which I was initially reluctant to embrace. But with more and more drawing apps like Procreate optimizing their software for iOS (including the new $329 iPad), it’s worth learning all the gesture controls.

Adobe still doesn’t have a full-fledged Photoshop and Illustrator apps for the iPad, which can be a deal-breaker for some artists who might be on the fence about getting one. If this is an issue, you can always try out software like Duet Display (Mac and PC) or Astropad (Mac only), which let you use your iPad as a second display. And if you don’t want to deal with having to use both a Mac and an iPad, and you prefer to have all your files in one place, you can always try 2-in-1 tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro.

These are just some of the digital art options available that I’ve personally tried. You can watch the video above for some ideas to get started, and there’s even a quick little tutorial about my drawing process. Depending on the type of art you want to make, every artist’s process and preferred tools might be different, so make sure to try as many tools as you can to find your favorite.


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