Rapidographs and Markers no more!

Sat 1/22/2011

Every time I finish a chapter of Basewood, I take a month off to work on a side project, to clear my head before I dive into another year (or more) of work on the next chapter. This month off is also a great time to experiment with my cartooning technique, since I strive to keep all of the Basewood pages consistent, which usually means drawing the same way I did when I started drawing the project, six years ago. Needless to say, when Basewood is complete, I will never draw that way ever again.

I've been having a really good time inking my latest pages (for a TOP SECRET project, which I will announce in a few months) and one of the main reasons, is that I have sworn off using rapidographs and markers!

I suspect, like a lot of cartoonists of my generation, I started using rapidographs after seeing Robert Crumb use one in the documentary Crumb. I thought it was a "real" cartoonist's tool that would somehow help me draw better. And granted, the first time you use a rapidograph, it is one of the best drawing experiences you'll ever have. But then you have to clean it. All the time. If you don't draw with a rapidograph EVERY SINGLE DAY you have to clean it again. There was even the phase where I got really GOOD at cleaning the rapidograph. I could take it apart, clean it and put it all back together blindfolded in just a few minutes, like an assassin cleaning his rifle. But eventually the high maintenance level of this tool drove me insane.

The first rapidographs to go were the small ones. I soon learned that it was much easier to crosshatch with a real dip nib, like a hunt 102 crowquill, or a 513 EF mapping nib, or a G-nib. And for REALLY small detail stuff, I started using a .01mm micron marker, instead of the super finicky .01mm rapidograph. But I still used the larger rapidographs for inking panel borders and speech balloons.

But I've now realized that with a steady hand, and a speedball B nib, I can get the exact same line with NONE of the rapidograph hassle. Plus a dip nib uses REAL ink, instead of the grayish watery ink of the rapidograph.

At some point I also started inking all my lettering with micron markers, which I do not recommend. Even using the amazing "Magic Rub" eraser, the micron ink lifts up and turns grey under erasing. It might be a little slower lettering with a real dip nib, but it looks better, and again, it's real ink.

So now everything I'm using to ink (#2 watercolor brush, 513 EF mapping nib, G-nib, B3 B5 and B6 speedball nibs) are all dipping out of the same ink, and I'm loving how it looks!

Anyway, the semester is already in full swing here at CCS and I'm doing my best to get back up to full speed with everything I have to accomplish each week. I've been feeling a bit under the weather, which is crazy, because the low for tomorrow is 23 degrees BELOW zero!?! Winter is going strong here in Vermont. Stay warm everyone!

20 comments on this entry

I noticed that about Micron inks, but I wondered if it was just me! I really need to do more with a brush and nib. One of these days...

Brushes rule! 000 for Life!

Neil Jan23

I made the same resolution for myself this year, it has been a fun experiment so far. Luckily I'm only pencilling this golden age mess, so I won't be tempted to use the fast rapidograph/pocket brush combo that I've used in the past.

I'm curious why you'd use the 513ef and the G-nib. This post caused me to dig up all the nibs I have accumulated over the last decade and toss the junk and test the leftovers. I've been using and loving the G-nib over the last month, and the 513ef just seems like a stiffer, scratchier version, but maybe I'm missing something.

I had a few Speedball Bs, but they all seem to have the edge of the brass part broken. I think I'll stick with the .8mm rapidograph for borders. The koh-I-nohr ink is plenty black for me, but I have an old, giant bottle of it, perhaps it's aged to perfection.

Nate, the 513EF nib gives a bit wider line than the G-nib, which I think is perfect for lettering. I also use it for cross-hatching in Basewood, but keep in mind, those pages are so big and reduce so much, I need a hefty line to survive the shrinkage.

Alec Jan24

Where do you buy your G Nibs (if online)? Which brand do you use? Some swear by Zebra, some Nikko. I'd love to ear more. Thanks!

StevenS Jan24

I use the Nikko ones, and I'm lucky enough to buy them at the convenience store on main street in my tiny town. But I also basically live in Hicksville. Anyone else know a good place to get G-nibs online?

Alec Jan24

Great info... I really want to start using nibs and real brushes but at the moment it's pocketbrush and microns for me. They're convenient and more portable. With a job, a part-time job a wife and four kids there isn't always time for the setup and cleanup. I'd rather get to the work faster, it's a trade off for sure.

Different strokes for different folks? Not really, if I was able to work at art full-time I would start heading towards more solid archival methods like you're describing.

I love it when you talk shop though, man. Thanks for sharing.

Jetpen and Wet Paint Art both carry G-nibs online. I've ordered G-nibs from Wet Paint, and have been happy with the service from both places for nibs and other items. Jetpen is the only place I've found 9 mm mechanical pencils and graphite, red, and blue leads to fit.
For the nibs, both places have different manufacturers and different quantities per packet, so browse a bit.

Al Wesolowsky Jan24

Call me crazy, but for normal line work, I use a Sharpie and even after erasing the stray pencil lines, the ink stays down on the page.

For large fill areas, I just use a fat black marker for the bulk of the area, then "go up to the line" for a Sharpie.

For fine detail like eyes, noses, etc., I have a fine pen (can't remember the name at the moment) and it seems to work just fine.

I commend you for using nibs because I know they can be a lot of work with all the dipping, etc.

Thanks for the post.

The problem with Sharpies and markers is that they are not steadfast or archival. In about 10 years all those areas of black will have faded to light grey, or disappear completely.

Alec Jan24

Even when kept in a box?

That's what I understand. It's more about the chemicals in the marker ink than the paper or exposure to light. I could be wrong! But that's what I was told in art school.

Alec Jan25


When you say:

"Needless to say, when Basewood is complete, I will never draw that way ever again."

...do you mean purely in a technical sense, or do you also mean in the style you use?
Just curious.

Jason Renzi Jan26

Hi Jason, I'm sure my drawings will still look like they are made in the same style, because they will still be MY drawings. I guess I just mean that I won't be doing all of the ridiculous cross hatching and pattens and textures that are all over Basewood.

Alec Jan26

i do alot of cross hatching and such in my work as well. i've tried moving away from it, or doing less of it, but it just doesn't look finished to me. i'm a slave to little lines.

zack! empire Jan29

Akadot is a great company for all types of manga nibs. On their site ther're detailed descriptions of each nib in many cases comparing them to their "Western" counterparts.

Rapidographs are great, just a different tool than the Crowquil, neither can do what the other does.

I'm not sure what you meant by the comment "a dip nib uses REAL ink, instead of the grayish watery ink of the rapidograph.".

I've been using Rapidographs since the 70's and I use the same ink as with a Crowquil. The Higgins Black Magic is ok, not as good as it used to be, but the Pelikan Black 17 Drawing Ink is the best I've found. The inks that came with Rapido's always sucked to me.

I have some Rapidographs that are decades old that still work.

But they don't suck, they just are what they are. There's no line variation. Does a Hammond organ suck because there's no velocity sensitivity? No. it's just different than a piano.

You can carry Rapidos around and use Pelikan 17 on a bus, try that with a dip pen.

Ian Taylor Jan09

Um given the quality of your comic books, Rapidograph is luxury for you...meaning you could draw it with a charcoal.

swen Jan05

What did crumb use for coloring?

Carlos Apr01

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