DickBlick.com: Where Are The Cartoonist’s Supplies?

By most counts, Dick Blick is about the most popular online art supply store around.  With their combination of rock-bottom prices, good selection, great customer service, and free shipping for orders $200.00 or more (a depressingly easy-to-meet threshold when dealing with art supplies) Dick Blick is hard to beat.

If you look through their printed catalog or through their category menu on the site, you’ll note that while they have store areas devoted to media from oil painting to “scrapbooking,” (now a verb apparently!) there’s no area set up specifically for us cartoonists.  Fortunately, cartooning is relatively low-maintenance when it comes to supplies, and most of the basic stuff can be found in the general drawing or painting sections: bristol board, erasers, watercolor brushes, India ink, etc.

Cartooning does, though, have a number of popular tools that Dick Blick really should carry, but doesn’t–forcing folks like myself to have to order these items one at a time from other vendors… and given the extra shipping entailed to do this, I actually wind up buying even less stuff from Dick Blick.  So, here’s my plea to Dick Blick: You carry a great selection of materials for professionals who work in pretty much any medium other than cartooning.  Why not do the same for cartoonists?  Finding a product like this when entering a search for “cartooning” is like finding a listing for a plastic dime-store ukulele on a serious music supply store:

Here are a few items that any serious art supply store should really be carrying in order for us cartoonists to shell out some of our vast, vast wealth at said establishment:

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen

You can’t swing a dead cat at a comics event with an “artists alley” without hitting one of these things.  They’re incredibly popular with cartoonists because they operate almost like a real watercolor brush that one would normally ink with, but don’t require a bottle of ink, since they’re self-feeding and use replaceable ink cartridges.  They also yield a great dry-brush line when brushed quickly across the page.  To see what one of these things can really do, check out some of Craig Thompson’s work.

Wanna try one?  You’ll have to order one from WetPaintArt because Dick Blick doesn’t carry them.  At one point I contacted their ordering department and said basically, “Everybody and their brother is buying these things from your competition; Why not make it easy on those of us who are already Dick Blick customers and stock this thing?”  I got a reply directing me to some disposable brush pen things that they carry, and when I pointed out that those are in fact different than the item I was suggesting, they just stopped replying.

Their loss… I, and everyone else, just buy them elsewhere.

Ames Lettering Guide

OK, it’s not like you need to buy a ton of these things over and over, but given that even the lamest Michael’s-type arts and crafts store carries these things, why not stock them–particularly since Dick Blick carries The DC Comics Guide to Coloring and Lettering Comics, which is going to tell you to buy one of these things right off the bat.  In the meantime, get yours at ArtStuff.net.

G-Pen Nibs

Whether you’re into Manga or not, the recent availability of professional cartooning supplies from Japan (as a result of the popularity of Manga in the US) has been a fantastic blessing.  American inking nibs, lacking any real competition until recently, have become the cartooning equivalent of the mid-80s Ford Mustang: they’re cheap, perform poorly, and break readily.  But, if you’ve ever tried a G-pen nib (or any of the other great Japanese dip-pen nibs now widely available domestically) you’ll likely never go back to that fussy, fragile, cantankerous Hunts 102. But, you’ll have to order yours from WetPaintArt or Deleter; Dick Blick’s got a whole lot of nothing in this department.

Sanford Col-Erase Non-Photo Blue Pencils

These guys are about as standard an item as the lettering guide above–and similarly unavailable via Dick Blick.  Yeah, I know since pretty much everything’s done with Photoshop today that using blue for under-drawings is fairly arbitrary.  One could use red or green, or pretty much any other color distinct enough from black to be eliminated via the Hue/Saturation control, but for whatever reason, NP-blue is still the preferred color for under-drawings on bristol.Blick’s got regular NP-blue pencils; they’ve got Col-Erase pencils in various other colors; but no NP-blue Col-Erase pencils. Get yours from Utrecht or DiscountOfficeItems.


  1. Josh Latta says:

    You know, I never learned how to use an ames letter guide.

    In fact, I just do all my lettering on a grid paper and trace it onto the art with a light box.

    So yeah, basically i letter everything twice.
    Three times if you count inking( I don’t, it’s too depressing)

  2. Ben says:

    I only really know how to use the pretty basic row of holes… the rest of that stuff is pretty much a mystery… and the instructions that come with it are more baffling than the guide itself. There is, though, a really good explanation of how it works in the new book “Drawing Words/Writing Pictures” by Matt Madden and Jessica Abel.

    I used to do something similar to what you describe: I’d scan my pages without any lettering, then lay in the lettering with Photoshop… then print that out and use the printout to lightbox the lettering onto my “real” pages. My thinking was that this way I’d take advantage of all the typesetting stuff in Photoshop, but the actually lettering would be hand-drawn on the page. In actuallity, it was a collosal pain in the ass.


  3. brian says:

    I was just thinking the same thing! I only order my paper and copic multiliners through dickblick.com.

    Most of my pens come from jetpens.com. A Kuretake brush pen with a Lamy converter is heaven. Plus they just added a triple function pencil which has blue lead. Changed the way I work for the better!

  4. mahendra singh says:

    Very good posting, it sure hit a sore spot with me.

    My #1 problem is getting the 8-0z bottles of FW Steigs Acrylic India Ink.

    Does anyone know a reliable online source? I have heard that Steig (or whatever they are now) is discontinuing the big bottle.

    About nibs, I strongly recommend switching to the English brand, Gillot … or Brause, the German firm …

    here is a URL (swedish) which has lots of nibs:


    cheers! mahendra

  5. Ben says:

    That link has some great info, thanks! Too bad the store portion isn’t up and running.

    Ink-wise, I recently switched to Sennelier ink from W&N because of the same issue: no more big bottles. ( http://www.dickblick.com/zz211/26/ )

    Your work looks great, BTW…. All that hatching! I’m sure you know your nibs.

  6. Dan Reynolds says:

    I have bought some of Blick’s starter kits for my kids. They have an instructional video as well. I definitely recommend them. Very user friendly.
    Good pick, Mike.
    Dan Reynolds

  7. danielle corsetto says:

    Oh, you’re SO not alone.

    I REALLY wish they’d carry those Pentel pocket brush pens. Wet Paint sells them, but I hate paying for shipping twice, y’know?

    I also use Pentel fountain pens for all of my comic strips these days, and I have to order them all the way from the UK (still waiting for a shipment I ordered two weeks ago).

    If Dick Blick would buddy up with Pentel, I’d finally be able to GET that free shipping. As it stands I seem to make an order of $199 every month. ;)

    Thanks for the comisery! (Not a real word, but it fits.)


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