Back in July I posted a piece about what I use to draw comics/illustrations with. In case you missed it:
I keep getting asked by people trying to get started in the industry what I would recommend to draw with.
Okay, you see an artist uses pure sable brushes or this tech-pen or that one -all very highly priced. The thing is that unless you are rich or have stepped right into a very well paid long term art job you are wasting money. For an artist every single penny counts and job security is …well, not something artists get very often!
I have used Rotring pens (over priced and not great -this was in the 1980s), Guillotte nibs, caligraphy pens and even the very cheapest fibre tip you can get. I HAVE used brushes and still do but mainly for inking in large areas or effects. I used to go to the old Westminster Comic Mart in London and visit China Town to buy cheap brushes and b-i-g bottles of black ink.
However, if you try Berol you can find Broad and Fine tips but also Handwriting pens that allow you to draw using an even finer line. You can do almost everything the very expensive pens can and quickly. The only thing I would say is, once you’ve inked art using a Berol pen give it time to dry and do not try to erase pencil lines straight away as it can smudge.
Since the 1980s I have (despite the fact they seem to be harder to find in Bristol) used various pens but the main ones have been Berol Fine and Broad -the line is so good (until the tip wears down) that other professionals have sworn blind that I am using brushes!And when I say “use” them I mean a lot -the last little stationer I used sold me the pens in the boxes at a discount after the owner saw me looking at the pens and said “You’re an artist, arent you? You can get a trade discount”!
You can also take Berol pens around with you for sketching.
The colour Berol pens I have had little experience with as they are harder to find. However, I knew one artist (Paul Slydel) who only used Berol colour pens to colour and when I first saw his work I thought he had been using brushes and colour inks.
At the moment there are a selection of pencils/pens on my table because I do like experimenting a bit -the joy of being your own publisher is that you can do this. However, the main items I use are these:
The blue pen is a Luxol Micropoint 0.5 but I’ve not seen these for a very long time and, oddly, for a 0.5 has a very fine line so was good for facial features and hair texture, etc.. There is the Uni Ball “Eye” whici is about 0.5 despite saying “Fine” and most “fine” pens you’ll find in stationary shops and W. H. Smith are 0.5 which is not what I call fine at all.
In fact, the Berol Fine is about 0.3 when new but after usage will get to a 0.5 line but the good thing is, if like me, you live in a cluttered working area with LOTS of brushes, pens and pencils, if you lose your Berol Broad -good for filling in large areas of solid black though BIG areas of solid black I still use brush-ink, then the Fine can handle the Broad’s job!
The effect? Well, I tried drawing with a migraine the other day (the current weather is **** up my head) and my eyes…yeuch. But I did a rough for a cover I wanted. Yes, I can see the faults in the illo but no one is perfect and I’d not use this one any way!
I posted it on Face Book and another site and then came the comments -was I using a “dip-pen” (Guillotte nib)? What type of brush was I using? I explained but some still think I’m joking. Seriously, this was all Berol Fine.
The following (unedited) page from the next D-Gruppe book was Berol Fine and Broad (not the spatter effect though!).
I did, at one point, use Papermate Rotring Tikky Graphic -these are designed by Rotring but came in a pack of three -0.3, 0.5 and 0.7 -a nice range of nib sizes though I would have loved a 0.1 and 0.2 combination as well. The three pens cost about £4.95 in Summer 2011 but have currently hit £7.90-£8.00 in Tesco and other outlets so, for me, that is getting too pricey.
There were problems with these pens. I bought about three packs in 2011 and I found pens from different packs began seeping ink from them -just by the red seals you can see in the photo below. Now, unless they are clogging like the old Rotring pens (and you wonder why so many artists stopped using them?) then there has been a problem in filling them during manufacture. Each 0.7 from two packs got two uses out of them and then…no ink. This also happened with all three 0.3s which realled **** me off.
For, now, £8 a pack of three I just simply would not recommend them. Put it this way, okay, they look sleek and well designed, but a Berol Fine, used properly can do the job of all three -skillfully used the Broad could replace the 0.7 if you had to.
Oh, that “Spatter” effect. No, I do not use a computer created effect (NEVER!!!) it is the traditional old way -ink on toothbrush and careful use of the thumb to get the spray right –experiment if you want to try this BUT make sure everything is covered up first and that includes other panels of art on a page you are trying it on!!!
Nice effects can be achieved with biro pens but that is something you’ll find out eventually through experimentation.
But as freelance artists tend not to make a lot of money they need to keep costs down so Berol pens are perfect -as are various nib sized gel pens.
Back in the 1980s-late 1990s you could not walk into a supermarket, newsagents or other store without seeing the tubs of Fine and Broad (black as well as the other colours) but today.. Saturday morning I went into W. H. Smith in Broadmead, Bristol and was astounded at what little selection in pens they have -all sorts of brands and prices but generally all 0.5! There was a big (b-i-g) box of Berol colour pens but at the price Smith’s were asking I didn’t even consider them. But Broad and Fine black? No. Not one.
In fact, I spent around an hour looking around City Centre shops -not one Berol pen in sight.
This is a great pity because I think that for a working cartoonist/ comics artist/ illustrator there are no better pens. I’m told Berol may no longer be making Fine or Broad pens but as this only came from two store owners who did not seem interested or, at first, know what I meant, I’m hoping they are wrong.