On Maintenance (Tools)

There’s a phrase I once heard from a somewhat famous Navy Seal/Motivational Guru* online somewhere that I had never heard before, but it’s a phrase I’ve always kind of lived by:

“Two is one, one is none.”

I’m a firm believer in having both a “Plan B” and, where possible, a “Plan C” for my own creative work.  You will be hard pressed to find me without a pencil, a pen, or paper in a workspace, even in a workspace in which I normally don’t spend a lot of time. While I tend to keep a pretty tidy work area, I have any nook and cranny around stuffed to the gills with supplies…because you never know when you’ll need an extra board, or a specific kind of brush for your work.

It’s also advisable to have a cleaning protocol for your inking utensils, if you don’t already have one; for my brushes (a Raphael 8408 #4 Kolinsky Sable, a Windsor & Newton Series 7 #3, and a mini Windsor & Newton Series 7 #3), I clean each with shampoo (a suggestion I took to heart years ago from a printed advice column by Jimmy Palmiotti, if you’re curious as to why I started doing that). For my nibs, I use a cloth rag and water. I find the more care you take, like most things in life, the longer the tools will last you.

I also highly recommend keeping any extra board/paper you can, if only for testing materials, or for quick sketching.

As for digital tools…

The best advice I can give is to treat your PC/Mac/Tablet like gold. If you’re in a position where you can either save up to buy a backup machine, or buy one outright, make sure to do so (especially with Macs, as most repairs today are done either via the Apple Store or a licensed tech, and you’ll most likely be without a machine for a few days). I built my PC, so if something inside it does fry, I can pick up components at the local Micro Center, swap out parts, and most likely only lose a day of productivity (again, not everyone is lucky enough to have a PC components store nearby, which I acknowledge).

I will say this: this is probably the best time in the history of computers and components to buy a graphics tablet or a tablet monitor. Even though the cost is still high, one can get a highly sensitive pen tablet from a non-Wacom company for well under $100, and a non-Wacom tablet monitor can be obtained for under $500 (which, again, is quite expensive for one tool, but much less than the standard $1000-2400 that a Cintiq has historically cost).


*I’m not linking to him here only because I’m not familiar enough with his work/views to personally endorse him. He might be a great guy, or he might not, but unless I feel comfortable enough to fully endorse someone, I don’t link to them. He’s pretty easy to find online if you want to find him.