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Digital vs Traditional Comic Art


Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.



I tend to waffle back and forth between drawing my comics digitally and traditionally. Why? Because I just love working in both mediums. But, there are other real practical reasons as well. Read on.

Drawing Comics Traditionally is Awesome!

I drew the third issue of The Realm Ethereal: The Dream Awakens digitally and traditionally. I mean specifically that ten pages were drawn on my iPad Pro and twelve pages were drawn with traditional pencils and pens on paper. And just an FYI, all the coloring was done using Photoshop.

Can you tell the difference? You probably can’t, but I can tell you which method I prefer. First, I’ll break down the pros and cons of both.

traditional vs digital comic art
Artwork for “The Realm Ethereal: The Dream Awakens” issue #3 by Rene Arreola

Traditional comic art has a unique charm and authenticity from using traditional materials such as pencils, ink, and paper. It can evoke a nostalgic feeling in readers and can be appreciated for the artist’s craftsmanship and skill.

traditional comic book inking tools
Here are my traditional inking and drawing tools for my comic book art.

Comic art drawn traditionally produces a physical, tangible product that can be held and displayed in galleries, conventions, and museums. It also allows for using different textures and materials, such as watercolors and markers, for creating unique effects and styles. Also, it is easier to sell physical artwork. This adds additional potential income in the way of original art sales. A big plus is that traditional art doesn’t rely on technology, so there’s no risk of losing work due to computer malfunctions or software crashes.

original comic book artwork The Realm Ethereal
Original pen, brush, and ink drawings on paper for The Realm Ethereal. Artwork by Rene Arreola.

The Cons of Drawing Comic Art Traditionally

Traditional comic art can be very time-consuming. There are often multiple art tools to manage, such as pens, brushes, pencils, erasers, straight edges (rulers), and paper. A good drawing surface, a scanner, and adequate lighting are also needed. There are cleaning brushes, and storing them. You get the picture. It can also be difficult to make corrections once the ink has been applied to the paper.

Traditional comic art has limited editing capabilities. Corrections can be made, but they are often visible, and erasing too much can damage the paper or the inked artwork.

Traditional art supplies can be expensive, especially for high-quality paper, ink, and pens. However, the cost of materials can add up quickly, especially if an artist is working on a long project.

The Pros of Drawing Comics Digitally

Digital comic art allows for faster production times, with the ability to quickly make corrections and edits using the software. It also allows for easy copying, pasting, and resizing of elements, making it easier to work on complex scenes. My favorite apps for drawing digitally are Procreate and Adobe Photoshop.

Digital comic art offers more flexibility in terms of customization, with the ability to easily adjust colors, add special effects, and create different layers for more complex artwork.

Digital comic art can be shared instantly online, making it easier to reach a wider audience and gain exposure to your work.

And now, the Cons of Drawing Comics Digitally

Digital comic art can lack the charm and authenticity of traditional art, as it often relies on digital tools to achieve particular effects, and it cannot be easy to distinguish between different artists’ styles.

Working digitally comes with the risk of technical malfunctions, such as software crashes or hardware failure, which can result in the loss of work.

Working digitally requires access to a computer, software, and a stable internet connection, which can be limiting for artists who prefer to work on the go or in traditional environments.

I’ve had my fair share of the pros and cons. For example, most recently, I’ve switched to doing all of my Realm Ethereal comic art traditionally. When I’m traveling, keeping up with the work is impossible. I draw on 11” x 17” (or sometimes larger) artboards. This makes it hard to travel or fly with large drawing paper.

Conversely, if I am working digitally, I must constantly be aware of how much juice I have left on my iPad. At home, I use my iPad plugged into the electrical outlet. I also have to keep track of how much battery power my Apple Pencil has as I’m drawing.

So Which is Best for Drawing Comics: Traditional or Digital?

Overall, I prefer making traditional comic art. The main reason is that I am my client on this project. I won’t nit-pick my work to where I’m making constant revisions. I believe in ‘shipping’ and ‘finished, not perfect.’ For client work, yes, you better believe I work digitally. It’s just easier to make changes.

But when I work traditionally, especially in this all-too-digitized world we all live in, working with good old pencil on paper is just sheer indulgence. I can drown out the noise of the digital world around me and melt away into my art.

However…

My process is much faster when I’m drawing digitally. Especially using my iPad Pro and Procreate. The iPad Pro is small and lightweight and Procreate is such a wonderful drawing app to use, that I can churn out comics much faster. In the end, I will side with working digitally to ultimately produce the artwork for my comic books and paintings. This is especially the case when I’m printing comic books, art books, art calendars, etc.

In the end, as I mentioned at the top of this article, I still waffle back and forth between drawing my comics traditionally and digitally. And I will probably continue to do so into the foreseeable future. I say learn both, as I am clearly a proponent of using both methods. I believe in using whatever tools to get the work done.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Cliff
Cliff
3 months ago

Great article and some amazing drawing skills.

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