Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Abby Howard

Abby Howard

Cartoonist (The Last Halloween, Junior Scientist Power Hour)

Posted in cartoonist

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Abby Howard and I draw comics! I currently have two different comics running, and I put them up on the Internet for free.

What hardware do you use?

For my lineart, which is any black and white art I do, I use pen and paper. For the pens, I tend towards Microns, which are a little pricey but well worth it for the line quality. The paper varies on how clean and polished I want the finished piece to be. One of the best papers for line quality is smooth Bristol, which is stiff and durable and very, very smooth. That's what I use for my more linework-heavy project, The Last Halloween. But for my goofier comic, Junior Scientist Power Hour, I just use computer paper, which goes to show you really don't need a bunch of fancy stuff to make comics!

Of course, with pen and paper, you have to somehow get the finished product into your computer, so you'll need a scanner or some amazing photography skills. For pages sized 8.5 x 11 or smaller, any old standard scanner should do nicely. But if you're working larger than that, which I do often, you'll need a bigger scanner! I use a Mustek A3 2400S, which is the most affordable high quality oversized scanner, capable of scanning up to 11x17. It's awesome.

Sometimes I use color, which I always do digitally (colors don't scan well), and for that I use a Wacom Cintiq 24HD, which is one of the pricier tablets. I like it because it's big! But if you're looking for a more affordable tablet of the same quality, I've heard excellent things about the Surface Pro 2, which is far more portable, as well. You can hang out in coffee shops with your tablet, looking like the coolest cat in the crib.

And what software?

Once I have the comics on my computer, it comes time to edit them! I use regular old Photoshop, and usually I only have to rotate and adjust the levels so the darks are darker, but sometimes I have to clean them up with the eraser tool and fill in big black areas. A question I tend to get a lot is how I manage to make my comics look clean and crisp, and that's all to do with adjusting the levels! You can also adjust the threshold and get the same results, but I use levels. You can find the tool by selecting Image > Adjustments > Levels. A window pops up and you move the little arrows closer together until the art looks awesome.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup is basically what I have now! I have a massive tablet, a massive scanner, a lovely drawing desk, and a desktop to handle my giant files. My chair is terrible, though, so maybe I'd swap it out for a more comfy one! Oh, and maybe an EVEN bigger scanner. Maybe one that could scan up to 18x24, so I could do full-size posters. I think that doesn't exist, but a girl can dream.

And a robot to clean up my eraser shavings for me. Those things tend to pile up.