The Tools Artists Use

Bob Flynn

Posted on August 10, 2009 | Comments

Bob Flynn is a cartoonist based in Boston, Massachusetts.


What are some of your favorite drawing tools (pens, pencils, markers, drawing tablet, all of the above)?

When I'm in the studio, I typically draw with 2B pencils, but any old pencil will do for doodling. I sometimes draw with a non-photo blue pencil when I'm really trying to work something out in a study. If I'm inking on paper, I prefer nibs to brushes, though I'm trying to transition to brushes by working with brush pens. I find the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen particularly fun to use. But lately I really only ink my comics on paper—most of the inking I do is done in Flash MX with an Intuos drawing tablet. People familiar with my work already know I'm a large proponent of using Flash as an inking and drawing tool. I grew accustomed to it through animation; it really creates a fantastic brush-like line once you get the hang of it. I've actually written a few tutorials on my blog, Drip!.

If you have a wide collection, how do you decide on which to use on a particular drawing, project, or day?

When it comes to comics, I always prefer working on paper with a dip pen. I really enjoy working with ink, and it's much easier to lay out a comic on bristol board than it is on a computer screen. Plus I like to work big, normally at 14x17—a screen can feel so tiny. I ink with an assortment of vintage nibs, the Subway Stub being my favorite. But when I'm working on an illustration or just doodling around, my instinct is to hop on the computer and draw in Flash. It's the quickest way for me to draw something that looks sharp and professional—so, speed and ease-of-use are deciding factors. I've mentioned this elsewhere, but in my opinion Flash MX (note, not MX2004) is the best version of the app for drawing and inking. They (being Macromedia/Adobe) screwed something up along the way.

If you prefer pens, is there any particular brand, color, or type of ink you like best?

I haven't tried too many inks, but Higgins Black India Ink seems to do the trick.


How do you like your color? Watercolor? Acrylics? Oil? Colored pencils? Markers?

I haven't used gouache or acrylics in awhile. I do most of my coloring in Flash or Photoshop. On a tip from friend and fellow cartoonist Sherm Cohen, I've been playing around with a fabulous digital painting app called ArtRage. It's basically an easy-to-use stripped down version of Painter, offering up only a dozen tools. I couldn't recommend it more, and its cheap. So, ArtRage for texture and Flash/Photoshop for laying in flat colors.

Is there any particular type of notebook or drawing pad you prefer? Or does any scrap of decent-sized paper work in a pinch?

Any kind will do—I keep a few sketchbooks at a time. One for jotting down ideas and working rough in pencil, and one that I do cleaner inked studies and doodles in. I've tried Moleskines, but they are a bit small and I normally feel inclined to dirty them up. I just got a new sketchbook that I'm breaking in. I keep a stack of 11x17 copier paper nearby for drawing because its fun to sketch big and loose.

Do you ever do any kind of post-processing (like adding color in Photoshop or similar tool) to your drawings?

When I begin on paper, my drawings always end up in Photoshop for coloring. I spend time tiling and cleaning up my scans, and I correct the few marks that need editing in my inks. I don't use white-out as much for corrections anymore, as it can be done just as easily in post on the computer.

Have you ever tried a new pen (or paper, etc) from reading about it, or seeing the results in another artist's work?

Yes, I've picked up tips from an assortment of blogs and on Twitter—a recent tool being the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. I just inked a comic with it. I'm looking to get my hands on a G nib, and Meg Hunt recently reviewed a Akashiya bamboo barrel brush pen. I love trying new tools, especially when it comes to working with ink. I was recently disappointed by my first chance to try a Cintiq. I like my Intuous, but something about the Cintiq really irks me. Maybe it's because they are so expensive, but I found it really distracting to have my hand in the way as I drew on the computer screen. Not to mention the gap because of the glass. There is something profoundly predictable and intuitive about working on paper that the Cintiq attempts to mimic (and fails at, in my opinion). We'll see—I'll might come around eventually.

Do you have anything you use out of the ordinary for making your art?

Not really. Though, I stumbled upon a box containing my father-in-law's writing pen from grade school (a dip pen). Drawing with it was what first turned me on to inking with pen nibs, and I seek out vintage nibs because of it.


If you create purely-digital art, what are the software programs you use? Is one used more than another?

Again, Flash MX, Photoshop, and ArtRage. But Flash is open most of the time.

If you work both digitally and non-digitally, which do you find yourself doing more? Is there a reason you would prefer one of the other? Is it because of the tools available in either space?

I work digitally when I want to get something done quickly and if I know I'll be making edits along the way—traditionally when the piece requires a certain amount of care. Comics, in particular demand a traditional touch, and I like to have the original piece to hold in my hands when I'm done. I've worked digitally for so long that I find myself wanting to do more on paper.

I asked about post-processing on a computer, but do you think the computer is a helpful tool for making art? Whether it'’s looking for inspiration online, or using it to build a weblog to promote yourself and your art, do you think a computer is necessary, helpful, or a distraction (or all of the above)?

I find it extremely useful—I'd be kidding myself if I didn't say so. But in addition to the tools I use (like Flash), the online community of artists is an endless source of inspiration and the Internet provides a wonderful way to connect with like minds. You need to know when and how to tune it out, but it's here for good...and I think for the better.

Thanks Bob!

You can find Bob Flynn online at his portfolio website, his weblog Drip!, Twitter (@bobjinx), Flickr (bobjinx), and contributing to the group weblog, Creative Juices.

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