Sunday Mailbag

November 5th, 2006 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: When you transfer drawings from your sketches to the “official board” MAD sends you… do you just redraw the whole thing or what do you do?

A: I physically redraw it, but considering I don’t draw the roughs very detailed it’s more of a tightening and completing than it is total redrawing. Here’s the process:

I do the sketches at print size, directly on the MAD layouts like so:


Then I scan them into PhotoShop. I enlarge them to 200% of the original size, which makes them the exact size of the boards MAD sends me. I print them on my Epson Color Stylus 2200, which is an oversized printer that can handle large paper like Super B (13″ x 19″). In the case of a splash page, I print it in quarters and tape them together. In the case of a regular page, each row will fit on a Super B page.

I have a homemade light table in my studio. I made it out of a large overhead fluorescent shoplight I bought at Home Depot. I built a frame for it and turned it upside down, removing the flimsy plastic cover. I bought a sheet of Plexiglas cut to just bigger than the edges of the shoplight, and sanded one side until it was milky white. I placed it over the light with the sanded side down. I had to add an outlet plug to the end of the wires, as these lights are made to be hard wired in and not ‘plugged’ in. Presto! A large (24″ x 48″) light table!

Using the table I place the MAD boards over top of the enlarged sketch prints, line them up properly and sketch in the images. I do this lightly and without adding detail, except in the rare cases where my rough sketch happened to turn out really nicely and I don’t need to work it up any more than I already did. In most cases, I just put down a quick impression of the roughs.

Once I have that done, I drag out my reference. I always work out the faces and caricatures far more completely, and will also add in the background details and flesh out the rest of the art. Sometimes this means a lot of work and sometimes the rough sketch will serve just fine for the basis of the inks. I always want to leave room for interpretation with the inks, or else the inks will just be “tracing” the lines and it will lose life and spontaneity.


  1. Trevour says:

    Tom – it’s a new thing you should market – inexpensive light tables! Or at least an instructional booklet on what parts to buy and how to build one. I think I might do something like this now, after reading this. Surely it was much less than something like this!

    Currently I only have a 20″ plexiglas animation disc that I bought from Chromacolour, and have it mounted on a homemade wooden enclousure that my friend built, with a circular flourescent light inside, that’s hardwired with a lightswitch on the side. It’s perfect for animating stuff, but there isn’t much area to work with if I want to trace something for other projects. Plus it’s rather awkward working around the acme pegs.

  2. giangia says:

    Hi Tom, do you use light blue pencils in the tranfering process? my problem when someone else is going to ink my work, they have a lot of sketch lines.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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