tool talk


In response to one of the most frequently asked of questions, here’s my list of “art tools”. My apologies to those
bored with shop-talk… I pencil with any ol’ HB pencil — these “Berol Turquoise” will do. Erasing courtesy of
“Staedtler Mars Plastic”. The text lettering in the balloons is casually dashed off with a .05 or .08 MICRON felt-tip.
For inking, I dunk a watercolor brush in a well of India ink – the old fashioned way. SPEEDBALL “Super Black” makes
me happy with its soulful darkness. CHUNKY RICE and BLANKETS were inked up with these cheap Winsor Newton
Cotman III number twos — a synthetic/sable blend. With my new book, Farel Dalrymple turned me on to this
upgrade brush — the Raphael series 8404 size number four. It’s quadruple the price, but it’s debatable if my line
has improved at all. While on the go, the Pentel “pocket-brush” is certainly handy. Another frequently asked question;
“How do you get that dry-brush effect?” Answer: Vellum finish bristol paper. Its toothiness combined with an abused brush
caked up with gunky ink.

The dimensions of my pages has fluctuated plenty. The live art area of CHUNKY RICE is 10.5″x14″ reduced for print a whoppin’ 48%. That’s admittedly too much shrinkage. While all the details are sharpened in the reduction, some of the integrity of the original is lost. The Pantheon edition of the book is smaller than the Top Shelf one, but the details are sharper, because I finally scanned the pages at 1200dpi from the original art. The older edition was simply 600dpi scans from Kinko’s photocopies! BLANKETS is drawn far smaller and reduced less — 7″x11.25″ / 70%. HABIBI is in-between; 8.75″x12.5% reduced 63%. (Sorry, this isn’t metric!)


One last goody. On this page of BLANKETS, you can see a paste-up correction. Just a slice
of typing paper glued atop the bristol.


42 thoughts on “tool talk

  1. Craig, thank you for leting us know your artistic secrets! I´ve always wanted to know some of the tricks you use in your drawings, I love the way your line moves.
    It´s nice to hear that you´ve done with almost 20% of your next book.
    Keep on doing what you do!
    Greeting from Buenos Aires, Argentina!

  2. Craig, thank you for leting us know your artistic secrets! I´ve always wanted to know some of the tricks you use in your drawings, I love the way your line moves.
    It´s nice to hear that you´ve done with almost 20% of your next book.
    Keep on doing what you do!
    Greeting from Buenos Aires, Argentina!
    PS: Check my drawing in my flickr website ( and tell me what do you think about them.

  3. Thanks for the awesome Tip on the bristol board. The Pentel Brush is new intel for me. I have used a Marvy Le Plume brush tip. Not a bad pen if your starting out.

  4. never leave the house without my pentel pocket brush. Its a really amazing tool. (although its hard to make a thin line when I’m in a really warm/humid place). I bought one based on seeing it in Carnet…Thanks for the tip!

  5. hi craig, i was wondering if you could help me out, i was wondering how you ended up drawing cartoons for nickelodeon magazine? did you just mail them your resume with samples or what? thanks alot, -ben

  6. I know this is kind of dumb because I don’t know if you even read all of these… But it would be neat if you did more bookstore tour type things. I’d love to go to one, but alas, I’m in Chicago.

  7. When I was a kid my father would take me out for drives in the car and he’d talk to me about the important things I needed to know:
    – why politicians aren’t to be trusted
    – why you should pay your bills on time
    – how to pick out the bargains at the grocery store
    – why you should use Staedtler Mars Plastic erasers 🙂

  8. i find the “shop talk” very interesting in “yeah,-but-it-still-won’t-make-me-be-able-to-draw” kinda way. if one needed art supplies to sing, i’d post at length about them so i could feel better about myself. 😉

  9. Thanks for humoring us fans and posting info about the tools you use! This totally makes me want to head to the nearest craft store and stock up. Ia lready have about five billion Sakura Microns, but those Pentel Pocket Brushes look great! It’s also neat to see the different sizes of paper for each work. I usually buy Deleter comic book paper for my comics and save the Bristol board for special stuff!

  10. Hey Craig,
    Just stumbled across “Blankets” at the library the other day and I couldn’t put it down. Loved “Carnet” too. Just letting you know you have a fan in Calgary!

  11. thanx so much for posting this. it’s helped me alot. I’ve decided I’m going to have to start using a brush to improve my lines and needed to know what kind…. i love your linework in blankets.

  12. Good evening Mr. Craig. Regardless of whether I’ll sound, golly gosh forbid, like a fan I’d just like to say that Blankets is a major inspiration for little old me. I’m roughly of the age Mr. Craig was then…ish…an A-Level English art student. Seeing your style made me want to develop my own etc.

    And, of course, Steadler Mars Plastic is actually the best rubber in the world.

    Many thanks, and the best of luck to you. Cheers!

  13. I adore your work, you where an inspiration for what I’m drawing now. And yes I am curiously goinig to try the “pocket brush” too.
    Greetings from Belgium

  14. Hey!
    Who knows if you’ll get this, but! I am new to Portland and can’t find a Pocket Brush at any store in town. Any suggestions? Thank you! And, hopefully see you tomorrow at PAINTALLICA! good luck!

  15. Wow! I’ve loved your writing and your work since Carnet de Voyage, and its funny to see that I use just about the same materials and get nowhere near the same results!

    I’ve a question about your Pocket Brush.
    Do you trim the brush portion? I only ask because onscreen, yours looks shorter than mine does and I tend to get a little warble in my linework sometimes, which I’m attributing to the length of the brush, rather than how crappy my inking handiwork might be.

    Thanks for your help!

  16. Funny, it EVEN looks like I use the same Art Pro brand spiral bound sketchbooks that you do. Those things have a pretty good plate on them for the price, don’t they? I find the hard part to be scanning the pages if you use both sides and not picking up the sketches from the opposite sides in the scans. Any tips?

  17. Haha way to get tens of obsessed fans searching their copies of ‘Blankets’ to see if they can find a trace of the paste up correction!

  18. Thanks for the tool talk! I bought my first Cotman III brush because of this blog–I’d been using the W&N Series 7 fellows–and I liked the line much better! The lines always came to a nice curly point, instead of rounding themselves off. I did my first line and thought “oh, my! That looks like a Craig Thompson head! I’m on my way!” Then I finished the picture and thought, well, maybe not. But thanks for the tips! They’re cheaper, too.

  19. Hello,

    I am also a fan of brush and ink. However I always seem to have trouble with the thickness of the ink. The higgins brand is very fluid but too watered down for my liking, the Speedball it darker yet I constansly have issues with it clogging up the brush so the brush cannot come to a sharp point (i use the brush for fine lines and thicker ones). Do you have this issue? Any tips on how to fix it?

  20. Every time I read this post I feel excited to draw and paint.
    Your artwork is very amazing, soft, natural and extremely real.

    Thanks for share your behind the scenes.

    See you.

  21. What aspects of the comic did you use ink and brush for and what aspects did you use the microns and pentel pocket brush pen for?

  22. Hi Craig,

    I love your art. Is it possible to buy any sketches from you? I just love you art. Can you send me an email and we reach a quick agreement?



  23. Hi!
    I just read “pieces” in Portuguese
    I’m in love
    Describe in words .. HQ various feelings like mine …
    I identified several situations in the church….heheh
    You’re amazing
    I turned your fan here in Brazil ..


  24. About the paste-up correction. At the studio where i used to work we pasted a new page (for example Bristol) behind the old one. Cut the bad scene out. With (through both pages with a cutter) The new part fit exactly in the old one and is taped on the back from the page. Works great! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *