Before we begin, let's quickly go over the gear needed to do the job. I'll try to distinguish the "must have" items from the "administrative stuff" and "extras"!

The basics

You should have most of these elements (or something similar) to work efficiently. The items on this list are basic drawing tools and some other key tools that I personally use on the job every single day:
  • Drawing board/table with comfortable chair
  • Desk lamp
  • Lightbox (home-made - thanks Uncle Bob!) --SEE BELOW
  • Pencil - 0.7mm mech pencil, HB lead (Pentel)
  • Pencil - 0.7mm mech pencil, 2H lead (Pentel)
  • Pencil - 2H Turquoise drawing pencil (Berol)
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Eraser stick - with non-abrasive eraser (Pentel clic eraser)
  • Soft white vinyl eraser (Magic Rub)
  • Erasing shield
  • Draftsman brush (to clear away all the eraser shavings!)
  • Triangle - 45/45/90, transparent, beveled edges
  • Triangle - 30/60/90, transparent, beveled edges
  • French curve set, transparent, beveled edges
  • Ship curve set, transparent, beveled edges (for gentler arcs)
  • Circle templates - raised is preferred (mine arent't tho!)
  • Ellipse templates - raised is preferred (mine arent't tho!)
  • Straight edge (at least 18 inches long)
  • Blow Dryer (to get rid of moisture in the art boards)
  • Calculator (to calculate the enlargement percentages)
  • Tape dispenser (to mount layouts on art board)
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife (Xacto - for trimming boards for dbl-pg spreads)

Administrative stuff

You should have these things to manage your work and paperwork efficiently. You will accumulate vouchers, shipping airbills, pay stubs, misc. contracts and forms, etc., that need to be organized. You will also need to organize art supplies and shipping supplies. Further, many of your design drawings and reference material need to be organized. Of course, you need to organize your actual work-in-progress. Here are the things I use to organize all of this material:
  • Filing cabinet (a small 2-drawer model is great)
  • Hanging file folders - organize by company, job, etc
  • Manilla folders - organize by company, job, etc.
  • D-ring binders - for copies of work, reference material
  • Bookcase - for your growing library of reference books
  • Sturdy boxes for art supplies
  • Closet for shipping supplies
  • Flip calendar - stay on schedule!
  • Cork boards - pin up useful info
  • Stapler
  • Staple remover
  • Paper clips
  • Binder clips
  • Highlighters - multicolor pack (I use them to mark up scripts)
  • Post-It notes
  • Rolodex - for your growing list of contacts
  • Mug warmer - invented by a GENIUS! Hot stuff stays hot while you work!


These items are simply "extras"- they aren't needed, but they make life easier and a lot more fun:
  • Computer - I have a PowerMac, but a PC is great too
  • Printer (I have an Epson Stylus Color 600)
  • Scanner (I have a UMAX Astra 1200S)
  • Fax machine (I have a Brother MFC 1950MC plain paper fax)
  • Copier - handles 11"x17", enlarge/reduct (this is STILL on my wish list!!)
  • Art Caddy - wheeled, 5 drawer mini-cab for art supplies
  • TV - AMC and Fox News are great to simulate office noise
  • Stereo - music to inspire the artist within (actually, music distracts me!)
  • Inking supplies - it's fun to ink in your spare time!
  • Painting supplies - it's fun to paint in your spare time!

That's it! Don't despair if you don't have everything listed here! Remember, you really only need the "basic" stuff to get started! Most of the basic drawing tools aren't too expensive, and the others can be picked up as time goes by. I've been working as a full-time comics artist for nearly 10 years now, and that 's a long time to accumulate "gear"!

So, let's get pencilling!

Batman #593 Cover Color
My Lightbox
Click pic to open a large version in a separate window!

My Lightbox!

You may or may not be aware of the value of the Lightbox!

A lightbox is simply a box with a light source INSIDE it and a clear working top surface. There are many advantages to using the box, but for this our comic book work, the important advantages are:

  • You can see through a clean art sheet to view a drawing positioned underneath the clean sheet, using the underlying art as a guide.
  • You can flip over a drawing, and see it in reverse. You'd be surprised at how unseen errors leap off the page at you once you see your drawing in reverse! You can even make spot corrections on the back side of a drawing instead of redoing the entire drawing.

Light Box Schematic
My Lightbox Schematic
Click pic to open a large version in a separate window!

My Lightbox!

You may or may not be aware of the value of the Lightbox -- they are EXPENSIVE!

In fact, they are so expensive that I couldn't buy one when I first started in comics. I was doing layouts in my sketchbook, then trying to reproduce them on the full size board.

The problem was, I could never make that reproduction accurately! Cool body positions I created in my layouts eluded my grasp during the transfer to the larger sheet. Perspective became essentially unsuable as most of the vanishing points were 2, 3, 4 or more feet off of the drawing board! It was VERY frustrating!

Uncle Bob Fisher to the rescue! For about $50 in materials, he made the lightbox you see in these pics. I have used it everyday of my professional career!! It literally could be the best $50 I have ever spent!

My theory is... EVERYONE has an "Uncle Bob!" So, find your Uncle Bob and get him to build your lightbox!