Sunday Mailbag

August 18th, 2013 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: ¬¨‚ĆI was wondering what brush setup you use for digital caricature line work. I have tried many different settings and no matter what I try it seems that my line work suffers in digital form. My caricatures seem to lose some “life” due to this.¬¨‚Ć I use a Wacom Cintiq tablet. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

A: I actually use the stock brushes from the PhotoShop brush palette for all my PhotoShop work. My needs are relatively simple since most of what I do is color scanned line art. I very seldom do line work in PhotoShop, much preferring the lines I get from old fashioned inking with pen and brush.

That said, when I do ink in PhotoShop, I use a simple, round brush with 100% hardness. I turn off the opacity control via pressure sensitivity, and only control brush size that way. Then I get a very brush-like thick to thin quality to the lines, but there are to tricks to it. First, you must develop a nice touch to the pen with your Wacom tablet or Cintiq, meaning you cannot be hesitant or too slow with your lines and must be confident to be able to do swooping strokes that begin lightly and end in a nice snap. Working too slowly will make your line wobble. Secondly, you have to work at the right zoom. Working too far zoomed out will give your lines that same wobbly look as if you work too slowly, so zooming in and out is something you have to do a lot. Best to have room for two windows with your art, one zoomed out where you can see the whole piece and one you work on where you zoom in and out as needed. Best to have a second monitor for that, but working live or not having the space/budget might make that impossible.

Many artists say that the program Manga Studio produces the best results with digital inking. Since I usually only do touch ups and the occasional redrawing of areas with digital tools, I haven’t bothered to try this out, but it’s worth mentioning.

Thanks to Eric Roark for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


  1. PicToCartoon says:

    Just wanted to say that you for answering my question in such a timely manner. I will defintily be utilizing the tips that you have mentioned here!

  2. Chris says:

    Manga Studio has a pretty cool brush stabilizer. I’d love to hear what you think about that feature if you get a chance one day Tom

  3. Although not an inker myself I find it considerably easier to get thin to thick lines with Ray Frenden’s Photoshop brushes – At $5 they’re a steal.

  4. PicToCartoon says:

    Just wanted to come back and give an update. I purchased Manga Studio, and I must say this was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you for the great tip Tom!


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