Look Ma, No Paper!

December 20th, 2013 | Posted in MAD Magazine

The Swallowing 1-2 finalClicky to embiggen…

The answer to yesterday’s question as to what I did differently than usual in my art for the parody of “The Following” in MAD #525 is that I did the entire thing digitally. No pencils, no pens, no ink, no paper. Start to finish on the computer.

It was an interesting experiment, but I will never do it again.

I’d been thinking of giving this a try for a while now, just to see how it turned out and to see if it was a time saver of any kind. In this particular case I was a bit behind on getting the project done and I thought this might be a good time to see if doing all the drawing and inking digitally made the job go faster. I experimented with some different setting with the tools in Photoshop, including using some Ray Frenden digital ink tools. Eventually I just used a paintbrush with opacity set to 100% and pressure sensitivity only for brush size.

My verdict is a gigantic meh. While the end results were satisfactory so far as they went, I felt like much of the life and warmth of the lines were missing from the finals. The benefits of being able to zoom in to microscopic levels for detail, not needing to be concerned with the physical limitations of inks and the surface of the paper, no erasing, etc. where outweighed by the general stiffness of the results. I think the lines lack crispness. The tapers at the ends are dulled and rounded. It just looks thick and heavy to me. Don’t write me telling me to try Manga Studio either, much of the problem is rooted in the digital conversion of hand movements and pressure, and that’s a hardware issue. More truthfully, it’s a wetware issue… my brain just not wanting to work that way.

Here are some close ups of some area (Clicky to embiggen):

The Swallowing closeup 1

The Swallowing closeup 2

The Swallowing closeup 3

And these are the “pencils”:

The Swallowing 1-2 pencilsClicky to embiggen…

It actually took longer than doing it the traditional way. Too much detail, too easy to get caught up in the little stuff. Finally, with my luck I’ll be getting a call from Kevin Bacon this week offering to buy the original art for a million dollars.

No, I don’t think digital inking is for me. I’m already back to the brush, nib and inks.

EDIT: Based on the comments both public and private I’ve gotten already, I think some people have gotten the idea that I am condemning digital inking as a worthless enterprise. That’s ridiculous, and very far from the truth. I have seen some incredible digital inkers and artists, and I have as much respect for their work as I do for anyone who works the old-fashioned way. As always, it’s all about the final results. I don’t care how you do what you do, if your work is good then it’s good. Who cares if you do it with paint or pixels?

All I am saying here is that I’ve tried it and it’s not for me. More power to you if it’s your medium of choice.


  1. Rob Hensby says:

    Way to go Tom! (I have been faffin’ about drawing on me Wacom for a while now) but you really can’t beat the fun of wiping the eraser dust off the page, dipping the brush and sharpening ya’ 2B’s!!!

  2. Bill says:

    I agree with you Tom (pencil, paper, and ink), but it was an experiment, and even though it didn’t meet your expectations, it was still brilliant!

  3. Even if you could master your real-life techniques digitally there will never be an “original” and that is the sad part. Great piece!

    • Tom says:

      This is true and honestly one of the factors that keep me working the ink and paper. There is a market for MAD originals, and in order to sell them you have to have some.

  4. Ramin says:

    Since I was the first to guess the answer, I suppose I win the original to this piece… haha!

  5. Ryan says:

    Well, I think it looks incredible. I do everything digitally myself, but I do like sketching on paper first. Mostly because I only have the smaller Cintiq, and I can’t see enough of the image to get proportions right while sketching. I do kind of hate being chained to my computer desk while working, though. But the trade-off for me works the other way: the malleability and flexibility of working digitally outweigh the headaches I get from working traditionally.

  6. Frank Dawson Jr says:

    I totally Agree with your assesment, Tom. I have been drawing traditionally for ever, But in the last few years have tried to do the digital thing off and on and always go back to traditional methods. To me there is no better feeling than pencil to paper, ink to brush! While i am ok doing digital pencilling and inking, there seems to be a disconnect with the art for me. I know its silly, but it doesn’t seem like my work. and i am slower doing it digitally. Only problem with the traditional way is were to put all the paper when i am done…DIgital is a little neater in that respect.. 😀

  7. frenden says:

    Try Manga Studio. The tools I make for Photoshop are a stop gap effort attempting to combat its terrible brush engine.

    My Manga Studio tools are made for an app that is dedicated to lineart and has a much, much deeper brush engine.

    Photoshop is an awful app to make comic art in.

  8. I bet if you had used Paint Tool Sai software would have been much easier.


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