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[Tutorials] Work Space Tips & Tricks

0 Ish Good!

Today, I'll be covering my work space tips and tricks!

Below, you can see my little corner of the world:

Thankfully, I have a wide desktop that allows for me to house both my 24" iMac and Cintiq 20WSX retracted while I draw. This allows me to have a dual monitor set up so I can spread my applications between the two screens. Unfortunately, my iMac doesn't have enough video RAM to power both screens at DVI (digital) output, so my Cintiq is currently running in VGA (analog) mode. (Next time, MacPro!)

On to some of the equipment:

1) myBook External Hard Drives
- No matter what you do - be it writing, photography, art, music, etc... One thing KS and I cannot stress enough is to make sure you BACK UP ALL OF YOUR WORK. I have 3 external drives on my desktop. My black 500GB myBook is my active update drive. It's currently partitioned so one half is my Time Machine drive, the other is my SuperDuper scheduled backup drive. I run my backups every day so if something goes wrong, I have a duplicate of my drive ready to go. The other two are my static backups - one has all my illustrations and comics, the other is my miscellaneous backup (music files, photos, notes, reference images, etc.) Neither are plugged into my computer at the moment. They just act as a nice shelf for Gloomy Bear. :D

We actually take our backups one step further and burn our work files to DVD and store them in a safe second location. It's always better to be safe than sorry - especially if your livelihood depends on it!

2) Apple Aluminum Wireless Keyboard
- KS received this as a Christmas gift from friends, but I appropriated it immediately. XD; I was originally using Apple's slim keyboard, but the cord was too short to go around my iMac and Cintiq. For a short time, I was using a USB extension cable, but even that didn't quite allow me to work comfortably. This keyboard was a great solution to the space problem!

I should note that the keyboard feels very much like a laptop keypad and some of the keys have been shifted around, so if you are someone who uses a lot of hotkeys (like me!) the layout might take some getting used to.

18x24" Drawing Board

The Binder Trick

Working "large" can be a real pain for those who don't have a nice angled artist's desk, drafting table, or easel. Working on a flat surface often results in skewed perspective - bigger heads, smaller bodies, etc... It also forces your arm to sometimes uncomfortably reach or stand up to draw. By elevating the drawing plane like a drafting table, you can get a much more comfortable drawing angle.

When I first started working on nemu*nemu, I purchased an 18x24" drawing board. They're hollow on the inside, so they are very light-weight and ideal for drafting. Artboards with the giant clips and elastic bands work great too! I elevated my drawing board by using a 1.5" binder. It's cheap and most people have binders handy.

I liked how this worked so much, I started using it for my tablet as well!

Elevated 9x12" Intuos3 Tablet

Prior to my Cintiq, I had a 9x12" Intuos Wacom tablet - which is wonderful for getting long sweeping strokes without the need to zoom in and out in your applications. However, the tablet itself is HUGE. It takes up a lot of table space and can be uncomfortable to work on for long periods of time. Elevating it not only makes it more comfortable to use, but it also takes up a little less table space. I usually roped my cords through the binder rings to keep them out of the way.

I think this binder trick can easily work for slightly smaller tablets as well!

Lastly for today...

Inking Tools

I'm no big fan of inking, but I totally understand the reason why artists insist on doing things the "old-fashioned way". There's a line quality with nibs that's very difficult to match with multi-liners and rapidographs.

For a beginner, handling a bottle of india ink and a nibbed pen is pretty daunting. There's so many to choose brands and types to choose from. To simplify matters, I've come across a great alternative for beginning inkers: Tachikawa New School Pens

The difference between the School & School G pen nibs

Tachikawa has 2 versions of these pens, the New School Pen, which emulates a Maru pen nib's (seen above) and the New School G-pen, which emulates a G-pen nib (seen below). The pens are fed ink through a replaceable cartridge.

The difference between the School and School-G models comes down to nib flexibility. The G-pen is more flexible and allows for thicker lines when pressed down, ideal for drawing things with a lot of line variation like face outlines, hair, and clothes. The Maru point is stiffer and maintains a better, controlled fine line - great for the thin lines of a mouth, eyes.

However, it all depends on your style of inking. If you have a heavier hand, the School pen's maru point may be better for you. If you have a soft and light hand, the School-G pen's flexible point may feel much more natural.

I enjoy using these pens as they are portable, affordable, and easy to use. They're a great way to get your feet wet when inking without investing too much in the supplies.

But! Don't toss out those multi-liner microns and rapidographs just yet! Having a variety of tools is sometimes essential to getting the job done!

Share your thoughts

12 Replies

  • JGarrington

    Thats a brilliant tour of your workspace guys.
    I wish external HDs weren't so expensive to buy over here. I keep thinking about buying myself one, but at the mo the price is still putting me off. Maybe need to make it an idea for my next birthday/xmas present ^_^

  • Shawn Robare

    Capitol "A" wesome! I so need to make the plunge to nibs. I've been playing around with Micron brush pens for awhile, and though I like them a bit, the brush dies quick (gets all tattered at the end) and they tend to stink for finer lines. I think I'm going to track down the ones you mentioned and see if I'm ready for something like that. Thanks for the tutorial...

  • kitsy

    J: The price point here is still in the $100-150 for a 500GB external HD. Pricy for us too, but I just think about the cost of lost data and current rates for retrieval. X_X;;
    We double back up most of our most important things, because I've had an external drive go bad. Thankfully, nothing important was on it at the time. ^^

    Shawn: I hope the Tachikawas prove to be a good starting point for you- I use them for most of my broader inking lines. I still have my reserve of Microns and rapidographs for all the tiny details.
    I just can't bring myself to loosen up enough to really enjoy brushes. I'm also looking for a better brush pen. If I find one, I'll be sure to let you know. ^_^

  • Amber

    Can you recommend a good/affordable tablet for someone who isn't going to use it professionally?

  • nunuu

    Ah! You have the baby Gloomy Bear too! ^O^

  • kitsy

    Amber: From what I've seen of the Wacom tablet family, they've created different levels of tablets for different types of users. For the casual and curious beginning artist, I would suggest the Bamboo line.

    They are very affordable and available at many computer stores. The difference between the regular and "Fun" line is the added software, mouse, and optional colors and sizes. The basic Bamboo model is good for people who already have programs loaded onto their computer. The Bamboo Fun is better for those who are hoping to get their feet wet in graphic art without investing too much in the expensive programs.

    Here's a link to a variety of Wacom Bamboo Products to choose from! For more information about Wacom and their tablet lines, simply visit! They even have some comparison charts for easy review.

    Kou: Yes! We have baby Gloomy Bear! He's always hungry, so the little felt pups hide behind him in his box. XD

  • Amber

    Thank you very much! :D

  • Ayaka

    Thanks for taking the time to type all this stuff up (and take pics!). I'd been wondering about some of this re: your personal preferences, actually, I'm always curious what people use. Not that I think "OMG if I buy ___ I'll be awesome!", it's more the same reason I like seeing other people's houses XD; *is odd*

    Now I finally know the difference between the Tachikawa pens D: I was confused by that. Jealous of your Cintiq! Maybe someday. I have an Intuos2 (6x8) which is still quite nice, though I'll have to try your art board trick - it's awkward holding it against my knee lol. (Must also make mental note to get another external HD/software? and *actually* back up on a regular basis. :X)

  • zane

    nice work space . i cant seem to find a place that sells the tachikawa g pen in the uk .iam a beginer manga drawer .if u know of ne place that does sell or a web site pls reply ,ty very ,much


    Lol, nice how you have a hiragana and a katakana chart in the background there.
    Also, 2 ipods? One isn't enough? (I like my ipod too, so it isn't like I'm disagreeing with owning 2 of them.)
    Wish I had a tablet =P

  • GooManTyler

    Sounds like you've got quite an amazing set up there! Unfortunately, I don't think I'm ready to start investing heavily in the digital equipment.
    What are your thoughts on Rotring Art Pens? My uncle gave me two to work with on my webcomic, but my quality is not very good. I also don't have a good art store near me, so my only option is to use printer paper. Any tips or am I a lost cause? haha
    Thanks in advance!

    • Audra Furuichi

      Rotring Pens are actually quite decent -- Scott prefers them over the standard Koh-i-Noors, but they take some getting used to. (Same with rapidographs) It's a good way to get started with the tools and get comfortable with them.

      However, the paper you work on can make quite a difference. Standard printer paper can shred, and may not absorb the ink as well as something thicker like bristol board, but it's great for practice. Learning how to get line variation by exerting pressure on the tip is key -- it doesn't necessarily come right away. You also have to clear a large working space so you can turn your paper to get the curves and strokes you'd like -- especially since the nib doesn't roll around like a ball-point pen.