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The Inkblot, Issue #009 -- The Flair Pen: Surprisingly Great for Cartooning
June 03, 2009

The Inkblot is your cartooning information resource. From art supplies to drawing lessons to tips from the pros, you'll learn what it takes to be a cartoonist!

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  • 1. Issue Recap

  • 2. The Marker that Doesn't Bleed

  • 3. To Smear or Not To Smear

  • 4. Tips & Tricks

Issue Recap

Hello out there, and welcome to another incredible edition of The Inkblot!, your online source for everything cartooning.

If this is the first issue of The Inkblot youíve read, hereís a quick summary of some of the things weíve discussed in past issues:

  • We talked all about how to think up ideas and jokes for Cartoons

  • We discussed the different art supplies used for cartooning, and which are my favorites

  • We spoke with professional cartoonist Brian Crane who draws the internationally syndicated comic strip, ďPicklesĒ, as well as cartoonist Frank Roberson, who draws the strip, ďBeen ThereĒ, and asked them about experiences and methods for cartooning

If youíve missed any of these wonderful issues, theyíre available on The Inkblot Back Issues page for absolutely no charge. Just go to

The Marker that Doesn't Bleed

Flair Pen

As a cartoonist, Iím always on the lookout for a pen that will give smooth, clear lines, wonít bleed through the paper, and is inexpensive. After all, Iím still a poor boy, and canít afford expensive equipment. Like Iíve mentioned in the past, over the 30-some years Iíve been drawing cartoons, Iíve tried just about every drawing instrument imaginable. But Iíve recently rediscovered the amazing Flair Pen!

The Flair is a felt-tip marker-like pen made by Papermate. Most of you have probably heard about this pen, because itís been around for, like, EVER. Itís everything I love in a cartooning pen, because its inexpensiveóit can be found in any grocery or drug store for almost nothingóit gives a strong, uniform dark line, and best of all, IT DOESNíT BLEED!

A pen bleeding through the paper is VERY annoying. The ink gets everywhere; since weíre generally drawing with waterproof ink, it also forever STAINS anything it touches! I still have stains on my drawing table that are more than 20 years old, from me learning this lesson the hard way. So many finished or almost-finished cartoons have been ruined through ink stains, bleeding from one page to another. Of course, nowadays, you can just scan your cartoon into Photoshop or something and erase any errors, but we didnít have that trick in the old days! Computer or no computer, itís still easier and takes less time if your pen does what you want it to do the first time!

To Smear or Not To Smear

Until recently, I havenít used Flair pens for a very long time. Iíd actually been avoiding them on purpose. Why? Well, for several reasons. First and foremost, theyíre cheap. I have a habit of automatically considering ďcheapĒ to also mean ďcrappyĒ. For many years Iíve been using the same two or three different types of pens for my cartooning, and was very happy with them, although each of them bleeds through paper, depending upon the type of paper used. Also, in the book I used as my cartooning bible since I was little, there is an entire section devoted to the reasons why the author feels it is a horrible idea to use ďmagic markersĒ for final inking. (ďThey smear,Ē he says) And, in the book, the ďmagic markerĒ looks a lot like a Flair pen!

Granted, some magic markers do smear, especially as youíre erasing your pencil lines, which is one major reason they have long been discouraged as a pen for cartooning. However, the Flair pen is different.

Flair pens may look like magic markers, but they donít smear, even when you drag an eraser across them. They dry quickly, and donít bleed through paperÖnot even through typing paper. Iíve even used the Flair for filling in large black areas in a drawing, and even that doesnít bleed through. The only time Iíve gotten a Flair pen to bleed through typing paper is when Iíve left the point sitting on the paper, but didnít move it. If you leave the point sitting in one place long enough, itís eventually going to bleed a bit. But it never does for normal drawing and inking.

So, the Flair pen is my new favorite pen for cartooning. You can get them anywhere, and you can use them anywhere. They work on a variety of different surfaces, without bleeding through or smearing (the only exception to this might be drawing surfaces that are extremely glossy or cold-pressed. I havenít used Flair on cold-pressed Bristol, for example, so I canít say whether or not it will smear. I also havenít tried it on tracing paper).

Go to your local grocery store or corner drug store, and pick up a few Flair pens! Youíll be pleased at the great-looking lines, and how easy the pen is to use. I guarantee you wonít be sorry!

Tips & Tricks

This is a new section Iím going to try to include in every future issue of The Inkblot. Each issue Iíll have a new tip or trick for you, gathered from my long and incredibly awesome cartooning career.

The tip for this issue is about making straight lines and borders. If youíre drawing a comic strip, comic book page, or panel cartoon, straight lines are very important. Straight lines make the entire cartoon look professional, and donít detract or distract from the artwork they contain. Straight lines also allow you to keep the lettering for your cartoon straight.

As important as they are, Iíve always had problems making straight lines. Iíve spent many long hours with my ruler, t-square, triangles, and other guides, trying my best to make straight lines for my cartoon borders. For some reason, no matter how hard I try, my lines are just a little bit off. Iíll think I have a straight line, but when I complete the cartoonís border, Iíll step back, and notice that my border looks frustratingly more like a trapezoid than a square!

So nowadays, when I have to make a border or a straight line, I use my computer! I scan the cartoon into my computer, and use either Photoshop or the Paint program that comes with Windows (MAC users have a similar program, I believe, but Iím not sure what itís called since I donít have a MAC handy). The computer is beautiful because it makes perfect lines and borders every time. You can instantly slap a border on, adjust its thickness, size, and color. Your lines are always straight, and your borders are always perfectly square and in proper proportion.

So, if you have a computer, use it for your straight lines and borders! Itíll save you a ton of headache.

If you donít have a computer, then get with the times, man! This is the 21st Century, for crying out loud! Get a cheap one from a thrift store if you have to, but get one! If not, youíll be doing it the old fashioned way. This is fine, if you are one of those lucky ducks that have a knack for making straight lines without thinking about it. (If you are, donít tell me; Iíll be jealous!) For the rest of us, though, the computer is the only way to go!

Thatís all the time we have for this issue. There is a lot more information about cartooning in the literally hundreds of cartoon books out there. Check out my new CoolShops page and buy a few!

Until next issue,

Happy Drawing!

Michael Richards
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