A Quick Guide To The Best Comic Book Paper For Drawing Comics
ARTIST, ILLUSTRATOR WRITER
Finding the right comic book paper can be a tough thing for a beginning or even a pro artist. Paper quality changes when the paper companies update their product, or companies go out of business. Sometimes new products come along that just are better and sometimes they are worse. To top that off, every artist finds their comfort with tools and paper. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. That’ being said I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the four main brands of comic book art boards and how I rank their quality and ease of use.
In this I’ll talk about a few main criteria.
1. How well they pencil, i.e. how easy they take pencil to surface. Some paper you can pencil easily on, sometimes it feels inconsistent or doesn’t take the pencil well.
2. How well they take ink. Some papers take ink brilliantly. The ink dries fast and looks nice on the paper. Some paper the ink dries poorly and puddles, and sometimes it just looks flat and grey on the paper.
3. Is the paper pre-lined with comic book templates.
4. Is the paper easily fed through an 11x17 printer.
All four of these things are qualities I look for in my paper. So with that let me get into this…
Pros – Eon boards in my opinion are the gold standard for quality when discussing comic book art boards. I started using this stuff in the late 90’s and the pencilling quality of these boards was stupendous. Inking wise they were the best. They were so good I was willing to wait a little longer in some cases to get these boards back when they were hard to come by. At some point in the early 2000’s they changed paper and the pencilling quality seemed to suffer a little bit but they were still heads above the rest in quality.
Cons – My big frustration with these pages is that I like to print blue pencils from digital sketches onto boards to save time. I can’t do that with the boards I have. The thinnest size paper is 120lb which seems to be just a bit thick for my printer to take. For me it’s all about saving time and while these boards make great boards to draw on they just aren’t made for me to push through my process. I did draw one page of my comic Moon Hunters on these boards and it drew great but I noticed that while the inking on it was fine, the black from my Higgins Black Magic (my favorite ink) came out very flat looking and grey on the surface. It flowed well just looked flat. It’s a very minor thing and wouldn’t hurt scanning and the final printed art but I can be a little nit picky and I like how the black magic looks on other papers.
Pros – Strathmore 300 Smooth is probably my favorite paper to ink on. This isn’t to knock the Eon Boards as they take ink brilliantly but the Strathmore 300 Smooth makes my inks look aesthetically how I like them to look. I said above how I get picky with how my Higgins Black Magic Ink sits on the paper, especially when doing large areas of black. Well, with this paper I get what I want. The black is black enough but I can also see the brush strokes. I like that.
The Strathmore 300 also works in my printer. As mentioned above I use a Brother 6490CW that can print at 11x17. I print my blue line pencils straight onto the board which saves me the time of having to lightbox my layouts. This paper works fabulously with my printer and it’s easily one of the things that saves me tons of time. I can also print out outlined typography if I want to included typography in my layout so all I have to do is ink it up.
Cons – The Strathmore doesn’t like pencils as much as other boards. I don’t get a good feel out of penciling when I use this paper. That’s why I typically print my blue lines and just use the pencil or blue pencil to hammer out a few details and then just ink. I don’t do full pencils anymore. A big reason is to save time but also because this paper just doesn’t handle pencils well. If you are a penciller and don’t like inking or have no desire to ink then just stay away from this paper altogether. It’s not meant for that in my opinion.
The Strathmore 300 doesn’t come pre-ruled. It’s sized to 11x17 but no blue lines on it. That means you’ll have to either rule it yourself or do as I do and use a pre-ruled template in photoshop. I have a template for all my pages and draw my digital layouts on it then print to the board.
Pros – This is a good starting comic board to use. It pencils decently and it inks decently. It’s not too heavy for a printer and it comes pre-ruled. Blue Line has been the go to board for many years as I think they were one of the first companies to make a comic paper the public can buy. Most artists started out drawing on Blue Line Art Boards. They also usually have a pretty sizeable product line. It’s hard for me to make too many statements about their products though as I haven’t used them in quite a while.
Cons – As I said I’ve not used their paper in a while so they could have gotten better or perhaps worse. The pages I have done on thier paper however do tend to seem to yellow pretty fast. Both the plate and smooth are fine but the smooth has a bit of a waxy surface which can lead to pencils being a little inconsistent, but overall Blue Line has a good product.
Pros – If you find the pre-ruled paper at Michaels you can get a good price on it sometimes. They often have buy one get one half off sales. The paper is excellent for pencilling. I really love pencilling on the paper. If you are simply a penciller you wouldnt hurt to buy this stuff at all.
Cons – This is the worst paper I’ve inked on out of the lot. I use quite a few brush pens in my inking and they all seem to have a little fraying when the ink hits the paper. It makes the line not near as sharp as it could be. I did draw and ink an entire book with this paper and I really could only ink with a brush. I tried using a Pentel Color brush and the ink just wouldn’t dry on it. It smudged like crazy. I just stay away from this paper for that reason alone. Again it’s great to pencil on but I just can’t ink on it at all.
Got a comic art board you think I might like better or want me to try? Shoot me a comment below and I will try to give your board of choice a chance.
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