These are two questions that we’ve been asked a lot, so – here’s our look at the essential drawing tools that we use for our cartoons both on paper and on the computer. You’ll find everything here that you need to get started as well as recommendations on which tool, software or hardware you should be looking at.
Wherever possible we’ve tried to list the exact tool that we use along with a link to where you can find it online, and we’ve also tried to go and find the cheap or free version of these items as well to help you save some money. So – watch the video below that goes through these tools, and then you can read the additional information below with all the links and recommendations.
Recommendations: I personally really like the Mars Lumograph Staedtler pencils and pens, however they are fairly pricey, and as a cheaper (and cleaner – no need to sharpen) I also use Bic Mechanical Pencils.
While you can get a pack of professional art pencils with different types of lead in them, I’ve personally not used these types of pencils much since leaving art school because for cartoons and for work I haven’t had that much need for them. If however, you also enjoy life drawing, or just want to experiment, then I would suggest that even though it will cost you a little bit more you get a small case of these pencils like shown below that contains various different leads in the pencils.
Recommendations: Either book will do well for you to keep your sketches safe, and both have good paper, so it’s just a personal preference really. If you are into designer gear then you may want to spring for the more expensive Moleskine book.
Recommendations: If you want to draw on the computer, Wacom is the brand that is that all the pros use, and if you are just getting into digital art and don’t have a tablet yet, I would recommend the Wacom Bamboo.
If you are looking for something more professional then you can go for either the Wacom Intuos 4 or a Tablet PC. The Wacom Intuos is like a larger Bamboo starter tablet with more pressure sensitivity which means that it’s going to be a bit more responsive.
Tim and I both own and use the HP TM2 Tablet PC. In fact, most of the art and lessons on this site were put together with this computer. If you are in the market to get a laptop, and you also want a tablet, then I highly recommend this one to you. It’s nice and compact, and lets you draw right on the screen.
If money is no object then you can go with the Wacom Cintiq. I looked at these extensively, and decided to go with the TM2 instead of the Cintiq for a few reasons: It’s portable, so I can draw outside in the park if I like, it’s cheaper, and it’s a fully functioning laptop. The one thing that I will say about the Cintiq however, is that it is a very beautiful and dedicated tablet. It’s the best in the world at what it does – let people make great art!
Recommendations: The packages that I recommend here are:
Art Rage – The most recent version of this software is not free, but if you click this link you can find version 2 totally for free. Art Rage is very similar to Autodesk Sketchbook (Sketchbook is the software that most of the lessons and drawings on this site were created with).
Paint.net – This is a popular and free alternative to Photoshop.
Gimp – Another popular and free Photoshop alternative.
InkScape – This is a vector drawing program and you could consider it an alternative to Flash and Illustrator for creating graphics work like clip art and page layouts. One note however, is that if you want to make animation for the web, InkScape doesn’t have the functionality for that task – it’s just a drawing program.
Recommendations: If you’re just getting started and just want to draw you can’t beat Autodesk Sketchbook. It’s relatively inexpensive and gives a great result that you can use for drawing, coloring and sketching.
Photoshop is what I would recommend next for more heavyweight drawing work and photo retouching. It’s the industry standard for digital work, and if you want to work professionally, you will most likely need to know this software.
Painter 11 is a Photshop ‘alternative‘ that you can consider, the advantage of this software besides the lower price is that the tools and brushes in the software will behave more like you would expect them to in the real world. It’s hard to explain this in type, but basically if you use chalk in Painter it will look and feel like you are drawing with chalk.
If you want to make animation and cartoons for the web then Flash is the program that will give you what you are looking for.
Note: There are academic versions of all of these software packages, so if you are a student, a teacher or work somewhere that you can get an educational discount – look into those versions to save about 50% of the full priced commercial version. Educational versions are available from Amazon.com as well
Ok – that’s it for our gear guide! Let us know below if you have any cool tools that you use yourself that you think other people should know about.