Sunday Mailbag

July 22nd, 2012 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: As at Comic-con sometimes you have to work when you’re away from your studio. What is in you traveling tool kit? Do you keep an always loaded briefcase or tool box that you can grab and have what you need with you? Do you have an iPad or laptop with the tools you’ll need? Lots of us have day jobs that require traveling, and we have to choose what to take to serve our creative needs.

A: I am notorious for bringing work with me on trips. Sad, but sometimes unavoidable. My logic is that I can either take work with me and still go on a trip, or not go on a trip at all. The Lovely Anna likes to joke that I have “inked in the bathrooms of some of the finest hotels in the world”. 🙄

So yes, I do have a traveling studio of sorts. I’m always looking for better, more efficient and convenient ways to travel with the tools I need for work. Here are some of the key things I have for that purpose:

Big-Ass Portfolio:

This is my X-Port 23x31x6 inch travel portfolio. I actually check this at the airport and it goes through the luggage grinder in one piece. Not ideal, but it works. It’s less than ideal because it doesn’t really seal up all the way. . . the flap is secured by velcro and remains open on the top edges, so if it’s raining when it’s loaded/unloaded there could be a disaster. It’s also not rigid so there is limited protection for the work inside. On the plus side, it’s big and has plenty of room for drawing boards, large illustration boards, etc. I use luggage strips to help secure it. I am always on the lookout for a hardsided, 21″ x 30″ x 4-6″ case that would be more protective and enclosed. I carry all the big stuff in here, as well as various rulers, triangles, french curves, etc.

Drawing Board:

I have several of these. My favorite is a hollow core 18 x 20 board with metal edges, as it’s tough but very lightweight. I like the thicker, plain boards as opposed to the thin ones that have cut-out handles, clips and sometimes a heavy rubber band along the bottom to hold the paper in place. That stuff gets in the way because I rotate my paper about when I work and never clip in down.

Containers and Tupperware:

Bringing inks along on a trip is problematic, as you need foolproof containers that won’t leak or break. The kitchenware aisle at your local discount store has every imaginable size of sealing, plastic container, and that is the least expensive option. I have a store near me called The Container Store that sells all kinds of weird plastic bottles, jars, etc. It’s expensive but I have found some small Nalgene jar-like containers there that are great leak and shatter proof inkwells. I have an assortment of pencil/pen holder boxes as well. I place these smaller items into one larger plastic container for organizing and extra protection from leaking.

Digital Tools:

At all costs I try to avoid having to do digital color work when traveling. Drawing and inking is no problem, but setting up all that computer stuff and trying to work on a small screen is a real pain. I can do it, I just don’t like it. I have a Cintiq 12wx for this purpose. I have a review of it here.

I also have a nifty portable Canon flatbed scanner that runs on USB for power and everything. Very easy, lightweight and convenient.

I grab what I know I’ll need, plus some extra stuff if I have room. Invariably I forget something. . . usually socks.

Thanks to Milton Blood¬¨‚Ć for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar,¬¨‚Će-mail me¬¨‚Ćand I’ll try and answer it here!


  1. Justin Robertson says:

    Hey Tom! Which Canon portable scanner do you use? I’ve been looking for a decent one that I can travel with. Thanks for your great blog!

  2. a.t says:

    Thanks Tom … thanks so much
    I thank God for your presence :X


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